The need to help schools at each stage of their mobile journey is an absolute must for successful implementation. Schools around the world face similar issues when it comes to developing a holistic tablet program. We met up with Marcos Garasa, Pedagogy Director at InnovaSchool in Madrid, to ask him a few questions about how they help schools integrate tablets into teaching and learning.
InnovaSchool is there for schools at each stage of implementing mobile technology in classrooms, believing that technology (particularly mobile devices) plays a crucial role in the evolution of education. They see a number of implications of this evolution, including:
- Pedagogical changes
- Changes to educational content
- Infrastructure and technical implications
- Need for effective teacher training
InnovaSchool aims to meet these technical, pedagogical, and management requirements with three services called InnovaCare, InnovaEduca and InnovaGestión. Find out more at www.innovaschool.es
Interview with Marcos Garasa – Pedagogy Director at InnovaSchool
1. Your mission is to “integrate mobile technologies in schools”. Do you have any success stories highlighting your role in helping a school achieve this goal? In other words, why do schools need Innova to implement tablets?
When a school decides to go “mobile”, issues arise weekly, even if you thoroughly prepare the school, the staff and the facilities for the 1:1 program. Because of the numerous factors included, a failure scenario can arise even with a slight variation of 10% of our estimated 150 actions involved along the pilot project and the project itself.
School projects are mostly launched by the hardware companies. Once they are in they offer a training program which does not meet the needs of the teacher, and do not help create the structure that these sort of projects need.
One of our challenges has been a well-known school, Colegio Brains, in Madrid. The project involves three schools belonging to the same group – classified as 23 in El Mundo’s yearly ranking of Spain’s best 100 private schools (12 March 2014). After receiving the hardware company’s training, the schools have been working hard, but on their own. After three months, the school board and the teachers did agree on external support. That’s where we came in. Our role is to coordinate the staff, evaluate their practice, supervise the lesson plans and train teachers in effective learning with the tablet.
Technology is the tool, which can facilitate learning when used properly because it is definitely engaging, and therefore motivates students.
2. Reliable connectivity is essential to realizing the educational advantages of mobile technology. Do you find that schools usually understand this infrastructure issue at the outset? What sort of advice do you give to make sure they are prepared?
Yes, schools are aware of the basic needs. When we start working with a school, our first step is dimensioning their technological infrastructures. We interview teachers, technicians and members of the school board, taking time to evaluate their real needs according to location, size, methodologies and different factors converging in the project. With this data, we build the project together with the school and design a specific project for every school we work with.
3. Choosing an operating system can be a minefield for schools. Any views on the pros and cons (education-related) of Android, Windows RT and iOS?
We take the needs of each schools into account when recommending one device over another. These needs include technology, connectivity, online/offline, objectives, student age. It is a complex decision, and always subject to device cost.
The amount of tools available nowadays allow working with any device following the right methodology. Monitoring tools, MDM’s, apps, LMS, workflows are all similar but different.
Apple has a friendly environment. Android has better technology and philosophy, and Windows is the last to come. The market develops very quickly so what now is a standard can change in just one year to become the opposite. For example, iBooks author and epub3, or Flash and HTML5. However, the cloud tools are so useful that in two years we will be in a completely different scenario.
4. Tablets can lead to new classroom management issues (for example, filtering distracting and risky content). Any resources you can recommend for classroom management in general?
Not all students will find the lessons as interesting as we do. Teachers must constantly emphasise creation and motivation. The content is in their hands through a search engine. So we need to vary how we work and redesign our activities to engage the students.
There are several monitoring tools depending on the device. Lanschool mobile for iOS, Samsung’s Smart school for Android, and Teacher dashboard (Google add-on by Happara) would be my choice as it is the holistic response for teacher needs. The MDM (Media device manager) is the last option to execute control over student devices.
5. A teacher is facing their first day of teaching with tablets. They only have time to download three cross-functional apps, such as mind maps, Dropbox or Google Docs. Which ones would you recommend?
The best option without doubt is Google Docs. It allows you to design classes, activities, timing and workflows. It achieves collaborative learning and teamwork since it allows several students to work on a document at the same time. There are so many free hidden tools in Google technology (for example, Office suite, drive storage, web apps, google sites). It all starts with a dedicated Gmail-based account for education having the holistic impact in the design of the project.
6. Learning “in the cloud” has become quite a buzzword. How does learning in the cloud such as contribute to student productivity and engagement?
Binding tablets with digital media and digital tools creates an environment where it is possible for that transformation to take place. The right connection can transform curriculums, pedagogy, assessment, infrastructure, and learning environments. Mark Warschauer explains in Learning in the Cloud: How (and Why) to Transform Schools with Digital Media how “flipped classrooms” help teachers and students make the process of learning more efficient.
The student’s digital portfolio can now be tracked everywhere and anytime. Teachers are no longer the center of this environment because students as “content generators” is something that simply occurs. This is how your school will transform.