Digital Strategy: Using tablets to support teaching and learning

Our school aims to gradually become an environment in which all teachers and students have access to tablets on a one to one basis over the next 2-3 years. This objective has arisen mainly from our research into how effective teaching and learning takes place (see previous post), which helped us understand that every aspect involved in both teaching and learning can be supported by the effective use of technology in the classroom and at home, but also from the realisation that attempting to rationalise why we shouldn’t use tablets had become much more difficult than trying to justify why we should.

The focus of our digital strategy therefore takes into account how lessons are most effective and aims to put in place the means and support to enable teachers to use technology, when it is possible and appropriate, in order to support and improve the quality of the teaching and learning that starts off in their classrooms.

It is to my mind undeniable that tablets are a formidable teaching, learning and communication tool. Their ability to be preloaded with and allow instant access to engaging, interactive and multimedia content is indeed one of their main attractions. However, as well as means for content consumption, tablets incorporate software, cameras, microphones and other sensors that allow teachers and students to create and instantly share their own media-rich content, all the while helping to keep compelling records of learning and progress.

Nevertheless, the adoption of tablets can feel enormously demanding and daunting for both students and teachers who are often unfamiliar with and/or unaware of the new opportunities and challenges presented to them when tablets are introduced into the learning environment. So, in order to inform our digital strategy and think ahead of our plans to roll out tablets to staff and students, we decided to carry out a SWOT analysis on the perceived the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats by asking the members of our Digital Strategy Steering Group (18 staff) and our Digital Council (23 students from Year 6 to Year 13) the following question: how can tablets be used most effectively to support teaching and learning?  Below are their responses:

SWOT – Student Responses


  • Helps you to research topics – internet
  • More organised filing system
  • Keeps you updated on news – personal message system?
  • Can link subjects Quick and easy to check MIS messages and emails Saving documents all into the same files and easy to access at home
  • Only need iPad and don’t need all the books which make bags really heavy
  • Don’t have to get out laptops for research
  • Will motivate students more
  • It is easier to carry around, and you have it all the time
  • You would have your planner and calendar etc so it will be easier to use
  • You can take screen shots of your homework so you don’t lose it
  • Saves paper
  • Don’t have to get laptops out – quicker
  • Access files from school at home
  • You can watch educational videos
  • Digital text books
  • Suits more ways of learning Use in English lessons – possible to have books on tablets
  • Helps with homework management
  • Online planner
  • Things you can do on iPads not computers
  • Don’t have to carry around books and loose sheets
  • You don’t have to worry about losing sheets and homework


  • Over-reliance on tablet – not using books, library, other resources
  • How will teachers mark the work?
  • Autocorrect and won’t know about spelling
  • Makes things harder when doing a test because of switching between writing and typing
  •  A disadvantage of mobile technology outside the classroom is that you may not have any WIFI
  • Running out of charge iMessage and FaceTime
  • Can just slide it up and take pictures
  • Sometimes quicker to do something with pen and paper
  • May not be locked
  • Technology needs constant maintenance – updating and short life spans
  • Notes could get wiped
  • Technology can be temperamental
  • Whether they’d get their use
  • Technology needs constant updating
  • Will teachers use them?
  • People cheating on tests
  • Temptation and using them inappropriately
  • Some subjects lend themselves more naturally than others
  • May become a distraction during lesson and homework time


  • Interactive learning
  • More organised – an online planner?
  • Dictionary
  • PowerPoints for classes
  • Online diagrams for sciences
  • The opportunities for teaching and learning across different subjects are that, for example, you do not know the meaning of “anti-social” and neither did your teacher; you could use your phone, iPad or tablet
  • Educational games
  • Listen to music
  • Links to School system
  • Some people work better on iPads as they are more used to them at home
  • You can access all your work anywhere
  • Timetable/homework diary
  • Homework
  • You can take it home
  • Textbooks on iPad
  • Independent learning and research
  • Independence – find things out for yourself
  • More creative ways to present ideas
  • Suits a wider variety of learning skills
  • You might save time
  • Checking emails and pupil messages
  • Sharing resources
  • Easy access to online materials


  • Students could get distracted during lessons
  • Internet sites could be irrelevant
  • Classroom management
  • WIFI signal
  • When connected to Surbiton WIFI, block Facebook, Twitter etc. But please don’t do the educational filter on YouTube as you can literally watch no videos!
  • You can set up their FaceTime account and contact people
  • Battery life
  • Social media sites – though they can be be blocked
  • Get distracted during lessons
  • Can be broken or lost
  • Using iPads at break can be anti-social
  • If too used to typing –what will happen in exam?
  • If we’re too dependent on technology what will happen in exams when we have no auto-correct?
  • English spellcheck/grammar
  • Camera used to take ‘mug’ shots
  • Cheating in Google Translate
  • Classroom management – increase in sanctions
  • Plagiarism: People cheating using website answers iMessage

SWOT – Staff Responses


  • Spontaneity (snatched moments)
  • Resource and content creation
  • The immediacy of imagery and examples
  • Instant access to online communication tools
  • Contact with students post-lesson
  • Dynamism/adaptability
  • Student motivation
  • Developing Staff ICT Skills
  • Freedom to move around the classroom
  • Share pupils’ work immediately
  • Student access to email at all times
  • Easy access to school network outside school
  • Mobile access to resources (roaming)
  • Single device for all content in school and at home
  • Reduces paper and printing use
  • Information-rich/Media-rich
  • Access responsive resources/auto-marking
  • Improved workflow from home to school
  • Additional methods of learning
  • Additional resources in and out of classroom
  • Engagement
  • Instant research
  • Potential for improved differentiation
  • Easy access to internet and apps
  • No need to carry heavy text books
  • Allows access to resources that would otherwise be inaccessible
  • Less of a need for ICT rooms


  • Data input difficult
  • Behaviour management in initial stages
  • Technology breakdown
  • WiFi reliability
  • Charging and power
  • ID management
  • Need for training for staff and students
  • Students outpacing teachers?
  • Can you annotate on screen as effectively as you can on paper?
  • Increasing reliance on network
  • Identifying individual iPads
  • Distraction during lessons/revision/learning
  • Challenges well-established learning practices
  • Over-reliance on technology
  • Slow uptake for non tech savvy uses
  • Workload to transfer to system
  • Access to web is open to misuse
  • Choice of software /apps
  • Photos/videos of staff being shared on social media
  • Cheating – screen shot and sharing
  • Does not support hand writing skills
  • Exams are paper based. They will still need to practise on paper e.g. A2 essays


  • Easier shared learning (Social learning? PLN?)
  • Capture moments and share real experiences via social media
  • Facilitates cross-curricular work
  • Multimedia editing and content creation
  • Broadcasting on YouTube etc.
  • Supports internal and external collaboration
  • Showing student work – taking photos, displaying on board
  • English – quick search text / key word search. Effective finding of quotations
  • Media-rich, interactive resources
  • Audio books
  • Potential for students to respond with a variety of different formats to match their learning preferences – could set homework to produce a response in a form that best suits them.
  • Allows feeding back in new ways, such as audio feedback
  • Pupils will use their school email account more
  • New possibilities will result in different lessons
  • More interactivity
  • Home learning
  • Teach in ways not originally considered
  • Project based with continuous delivery via blogs etc.
  • Share content and ideas with ULT
  • Storage of work
  • Books and texts online
  • Greater interaction between departments
  • Share content between departments/students
  • Wider range of potential outcomes for student work (media projects)
  • Smoother flow of info/work


  • Storage (future proofing) video/media
  • Child Protection Issues
  • Unawareness of potential
  • Privacy/social media
  • Monitoring student behaviour/engagement
  • Blurring of links between home/school or homework
  • Cost
  • Theft, loss or damage
  • Security
  • Personal safety risk
  • Attitudes of staff/students
  • Each iPad needs to be individualised so “swapping” can’t take place
  • Safety – street – internet – hacking
  • Misuse
  • Teachers passwords shown on screen to pupils by accident

Although the scope of this initial consultation is limited (further, wider consultation is planned), we can already see how the perceived advantages of both staff and students, perhaps unsurprisingly, boil down to the access to and the creation of multimedia resources, whereas the perceived disadvantages mostly revolve around practical issues (such as charging, breakages or loss) and behaviour (such as disruption, plagiarism and distraction).

I’m not drawing many conclusions at this stage, but, as all of the disadvantages can be greatly and effectively mitigated by the raising of awareness around the potential pitfalls and the introduction of a comprehensive Responsible User Agreement and subsequent application, when appropriate, of a robust rewards and sanctions policy (I am firmly of the view that most reported problems with technology are, at their root, a behaviour problem that must be tackled as such). The picture painted by this initial sampling of staff and student responses is very positive and encouraging. The potential of tablets as a learning tool is as evident to them as it is to me.

Your views on the implementation of 1:1 projects such as this one are always very welcome.

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