31 May 2011
By Brendan O'Keefe

Can tablets help revolutionise education?


There’s no doubt there is more than a murmur regarding a revolution in education all over the world. Led by activists, thought leaders, teachers and courageous students this change is beginning to demolish the walls of our old school system, and redefine what it means to learn and teach.

Reinventing School - Students learning outside the classroom

To name a few, people like Sir Ken Robinson, Richard Gerver, and Rogan Jacobson are all leading the education revolution which will come in many forms in order to fit the many different needs of students today. I’ve even started to lead my own little revolution called Reinventing School with a bunch of like-minded individuals from all over the world.

I’ve spent a great deal of time exploring online technologies designed for learning and played with many myself. This week I published my very first online course using Udemy in the form of a Design Thinking Challenge for students all over the world to participate in.

One interesting hot topic is blended learning. Blended learning encourages a good mix of different learning environments and uses multiple mediums like  mobile technologies such as smartphones, along with blogs and video conferencing like Skype Education. Blended learning is exciting and often includes hybrid courses to improve the quality of learning, making learning independent, relevant, generative and collaborative.

Another topic close to my heart  is ‘opening the gates’ of the school to make school a community hub. Teaching and learning in out-of-school contexts, and exploring opportunities to make real contributions to community tied to learning outcomes has great potential. Young people want to understand that what they are learning has relevance and meaning in their lives and one way to show this is to inspire them to find ways to connect with their community and learn at the same time.

Organisations Like Future Lab in the UK and our local Ideas Lab are looking at some exciting alternatives.

All this revolution stuff got me thinking about how I might engage youth to lead an education revolution from within and what tools they will want to use and need to use to make this effective.

What if we could equip them with a set of tools to advocate for change and help shape how they learn, communicate and connect in and out of the classroom?

What would be the most useful of all?

Motorola XOOMThe one single tool I think they will get the most benefit from is the tablet computer. I had the opportunity to play with the new Motorola Zoom (running 0n Android Honeycomb) this week and I think it is built and priced to be perfect for students. Tablets have come so far in the past 24 months and there are even companies like BrainChild learn creating Android tablets for educational purposes.

Top 10 reasons tablets can help revolutionise education

  1. Every kid wants a cool device that can free them up to work on assignments, homework and other cool stuff where they want, when they want
  2. Students will be able to interact with sound, video, touch content and connect with other students, teachers using streaming video
  3. Tablets are great for collaboration while on excursion and to remotely generate content, reports and share in real time
  4. Tablets are idea as an in between device, the screen size is larger than a smart-phone and similar or a little smaller than netbooks or laptops
  5. Many tablets are available without mobile network connectivity at a reduced price and this means young people (and parents) can manage their data spend and use WIFI instead
  6. Tablets will certainly assist in reducing paper waste and are potentially more environmentally friendly
  7. E-books are now very popular and available widely, in fact there are many public libraries now letting you loan/rent e-books. Amazon is about to introduce the EPUB format
  8. Academic book retailers are all coming on board to electronic book format. Electronic text books are now costing much less than paper text books and can be accessed in the cloud from any device
  9. Tablets now have an Android version made just for Tablets and are now widley available. Tablet manufacturers have go to great efforts to make the operating system free and encourged the development of educational apps.
  10. Possibilities for growth are endless

What do you think? Are schools broken, is there a need for new approaches to learning?

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Posts: 36


  1. Graham Mitchell says:

    Tablets? Why don’t they try reading a BOOK once in a while? I am appalled at the attitude and ignorance displayed by school age people in Australia; dumb and dumber.

    • Hannah says:

      they can read books on tablets, better to be using them to read a book then helping to destroy more trees by buying bulk amount of text books and stuff if they all just be loaded onto laptops or tablets

  2. Hi Graham & Hannah.
    Thanks for your input. Geoff, while I agree it would be wonderful for students to read more books, I think any opportunity to find inspiration to read electronic or not is pleasing to parents and educators. Many new readers are being inspired by the new devices and formats they can read on these days.

    I think kids these days are far from dumb, they simply display skills that are different to generations before and that is part of the reason we need to reinvent school to reflect the world today and skills required to succeed in it.

    Hannah, Agreed, ebooks will have some positive environmental impact.

  3. Gavin says:

    Recommend you visit the Blog of Fraser Speirs. He has implemented systems in his school using iPad’s and written extensively about the experience and the benefits.
    There is a series of posts starting here: which document the outcomes

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