Every week, I share a website or product that inspires better learning. Here’s one I think will be the future of tech-in-ed:
Let me list your biggest educator concerns about technology in the classroom (for a summary list that grew out of a Texas school district’s 1:1 initiative problems, click here)–
- its complicated to use–you need training
- its confusing for students
- students have access to non-age-appropriate information/websites
- students get easily distracted by the plethora of activities available
- its difficult for the teacher to supervise
- I want a device focused on Science for STEM (school/district wants ‘realistic, measured goals’ rather than one-solution-fits-all)
- software doesn’t align with school curriculum or Common Core (well, it can, but requires significant work on the teacher’s part to locate resources for such an alignment and I just don’t have time)
- wireless connections for digital devices are glitchy
I have to say–even though I teach tech and am reputed to wear a cape and leap tall buildings–I agree with you, but Common Core is forcing the issue by consistently throughout their one hundred-page guidelines mentioning ‘technology’ as the tool required/suggested to fulfill standards.
Technology in the classroom is not working as hoped. In fact, The Wall Street Journal reported (Oct. 15, 2013):
“As schools rush to embrace computer tablets as teaching tools, glitches have officials … rethinking the usefulness and even security of the latest technology trend. The highest-profile snafu came in Los Angeles, where a $1 billion program… to provide …iPads for K-12 students came under fire after some students sidestepped the security system and accessed social media, online games, and other [blocked] content…”
For those of you who are also worried about security, I think I’ve found a solution.
It is–in a nutshell–a computer with focus. It’s considered ‘purpose built’, that purpose being to fulfill specific needs of education rather than the generalities addressed by iPads, laptops, Chromebooks, and desktop computers. Using it’s admin functions, each teacher can program LearnPad groups–or individual devices–to do pretty much anything they need done in the classroom by uploading or sharing materials via the internet–not the school’s server–even if it’s in the middle of a class.
Here are some details that caught my attention:
- LearnPad is from Educational Resources, a 25-year sister company to Sunburst–creator of the popular Type to Learn keyboarding program. Its focus is instructional technology solutions.
- I asked their people specifically about dependability (I’d just read about a North Carolina school District that returned10% of their tablets to the supplier due to hardware problems). Educational Resources says 99.82% of all LearnPad 😄 and SD tablets shipped out are functioning efficiently. They credit this to the idea that the tablets are built with the demands of children in mind. They seem to understand that if a teacher is going to build a lesson plan around technology, it has to work.
- It’s built on the Google Android operating system, which means it supports Flash. Over 90% of educational content requires Flash.
- LearnPads are user-friendly and often intuitive. Additionally, the company has free online Professional Development as well fee-based seminars through suppliers on a large mix of topics.
- Teachers can easily access files on the school network servers.
- Students have access only to what the teacher programs to be available. Students can’t get distracted by non-academic material, nor can they stumble over anything inappropriate for their age group.
- Teachers can access individual devices to assist students when needed. Where this is fairly complicated to accomplish on traditional computers, it takes seconds on the LearnPad, which is wonderful for differentiation of instruction.
- Students can save work to the LearnPad, to a USB drive or an SD card.
- The teacher can pause all class LearnPads at once. Students can turn them back on at the right time (or not–that’s up to the teacher).
- The teacher can message individual LearnPads (maybe students are using them in the library or science lab) with updates or a request to return to class.
- If you want to focus tablets on one topic (say, STEM), it’s easy to set up LearnPads with access to programs, online tools, websites that revolve around one theme, then reprogram them when the class changes topics.
- LearnPads are easily configured to a specific set of standards (say, Common Core or state standards), allowing students and teachers to drill down into the learning objects that match (I haven’t tried this. Anyone with experience in this are? Sounds valuable).
- Many schools allow students to take digital devices home where it is challenging to protect privacy and security. With LearnPads, content is deployed from school. Students can’t access any content that the teacher didn’t roll out.
- LearnPads have USB ports–I love them just for that.
- LearnPads carry no access, subscription, renewal, download, installation, or reoccurring costs beyond initial cost.
- LearnPads exceed all requirements for the PARCC and Smart Balanced Assessments.
Reading these bullets, it won’t surprise you LearnPad has earned four prestigious awards:
BETT 2013 Digital Devices Award
There are many, but the most outstanding educational application to me is LearnPad’s facility with differentiating for student needs. Where adapting lesson plans to particular learning styles is usually somewhat complicated, it becomes easy when the teacher can access the student’s digital device, make available applications particularly suited to their needs, and message the student discreetly when s/he has problems. Yes, it takes some preparation, but less than the teacher is used to when preparing for unique student needs. This–even more than having Flash and USB drives–I love about the LearnPad.
Need more information? Click here. There are videos that cover all the basics.
If you use a LearnPad, please share your experiences in the comments. I’d love to chat with you.
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. She is webmaster for six blogs, CSG Master Teacher, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, a columnist for Examiner.com, IMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.