Tribune de Genève.
Since the beginning of the new school year, Geneva’s education authority (DIP) has been experimenting with tablets in the canton’s primary schools.
Manuel Grandjean, school media director, is happy with the move. “Tomorrow’s school is already here” he said. In addition, he hopes that within a few months, all of the canton’s schools will have the digital devices.
Some might wonder if this is a positive move. In 2015, an OECD report showed countries that had invested heavily in school technology had seen no improvement in pupils’ performance. In some cases it was counterproductive.
According to Grandjean, when the focus is on buying new equipment instead of on training and supporting teachers, this is what happens. Handing a teacher a tablet won’t automatically make teaching interactive. It is vital to show how it can be used and what can be done with it. Teachers need a lot of guidance, and we are putting a lot of effort into training and assistance.
In Geneva, the results so far are encouraging. Tablets have been used to teach geography, mathematics, oral expression, writing and art.
The devices have made learning more fun. And because the they are small, easy to move around the classroom, and have touch screens, they make learning more collaborative. Computers on the other hand, sit away from the class, and require everyone to take a turn on the keyboard. This can often be uncomfortable for shy or introverted pupils.
Vanessa Lalo, a clinical psychologist specialised in the impact of digital devices, confirms these observations. For example, allowing small groups to do independent research can have a very positive impact on a child who is struggling or a bit outside the group, who turns out to be great at doing research. Valued by the rest of class, he regains his confidence.
There are no plans to give every student a tablet. “We plan to provide one tablet for every four pupils on average, to improve collaboration” said Manuel Grandjean. And despite what many believe, our objective is not to use tablets as the only tool for learning. They must be used as a complement to other forms of teaching.