• France edition
 
British School of Paris bets on tablet technology
Students using tablets at British School of Paris (Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP)

British School of Paris bets on tablet technology

Published: 07 Dec 2012 09:03 GMT+01:00
Updated: 07 Dec 2012 09:03 GMT+01:00

A verb chart, posters and pupils' work adorn the walls. The children lean over their desks, seven and eight-year-old brows furrowed in concentration.

In its essence, it is a scene that could have been recorded at any time since Shakespeare was at school.

Except it isn't. Instead of textbooks, the pupils are pouring over tablet computers linked in to a wireless broadband network.

There are still pencils in their hands but for how much longer?

In an age when toddlers learn to use touchscreens before they can speak, tablet technology is about to take teaching into a brave new word, and McCluskey's students have been invited to the preview.

In September, the British School of Paris (BSP), where McCluskey teaches, became one of a handful of schools across Europe to take the plunge and decide to restructure their teaching around the technology that is already integral to its students' lives.

Every pupil at the international school on the outskirts of Paris, from four-year-olds to university-bound 18-year-olds and every member of staff, was issued with an iPad at the start of the autumn term.

Not everyone was convinced. Parents fretted that their children would be on Facebook as soon as their teachers' backs were turned, or that an iPad in the bag would make then a target for mugging.

Three months on, everyone involved is still adapting and the experiment has not been without hiccups. Surfing on the move during break times, for example, had to be banned after a few children took a tumble.

But overall, the verdict is positive from both pupils and staff like McCluskey, who lights up when she talks about an upcoming project on maps.

"Normally it's quite a drabby kind of topic but it's brilliant now," she says. "We're going to be taking birds eye view photographs with the iPad and then were doing a (virtual) tour of the school."

Like most European schools, the BSP was already linked into a virtual learning environment, with resources increasingly drawn from the Internet and classrooms equipped with interactive whiteboards. But a traditional computer room arrangement meant even a well-resourced school like BSP could only get its pupils online for as little as two hours per week.

In that context, giving each pupil the means to access the available resources at their own pace, was a no-brainer for Steffen Sommer, the headmaster of the school.

"Unlike us adults, today's children are natives of this technology," he says. "They have an urge to communicate, they have an urge to research.

"It is very different from what education used to be like, It's wrong to ask the children to learn in a 20th-century style when they're clearly living in a different world."

The tablets did not come cheap. Wear-and-tear and the pace of technological innovation mean they will last only two or three years.

The school has also had to shell out 200,000 euros ($256,000) to upgrade their wireless network, which uses a "smooth wall," to keep students off inappropriate websites.

But savings on ink and paper, which alone was costing the school 100,000 euros ($128,000) per year, and the lower price of e-textbooks, means the new technology should pay for itself in the medium term, as well as being more environmentally friendly.

In McCluskey's classroom, students follow along on their tablets as she guides them to online math worksheets tailored to their individual abilities.

Her students come from all over the world, some initially speak little English, and a few have learning difficulties. Across that spectrum, she
reports improved motivation.

"When they have to do something on the iPad they really can't wait to get started —  if it's in their book it takes them about 10 minutes sometimes just to get the date written," she said.

The time saved by the devices is a recurring theme. Older students play games on them and access social media (outside class, of course) but they are also used to snap photos or record audio of their homework assignments, gaining precious minutes in the end-of-lesson rush.

In the evenings they can ask each other questions or work with other students on group projects using video chat.

"Quite a few people lost their homework last year because we had so many papers and things that we had to give in," reports 12-year-old Mia Lawson.

"It's quite fun because you get to make different things on it and there are loads of different apps that you can get."

BSP's initial plan was to ask parents to ensure each student brought their own tablet-style device but it was decided that operating on different
platforms would be too complicated.

Apple's iPad was chosen partly because its extended battery life suits the school day and, for the moment, gives it an edge over rivals, but also because of resources available through from the world's most valuable company.

With programs for creating interactive resources, a huge number of textbooks available for download, and more than 20,000 educational apps, Apple has spent years positioning itself in anticipation of an explosion of sales of mobile internet devices in the education sector, according to tech website Wired.com's Tim Carmody.

"It's not just about engaging students. It's about engaging everyone in the education and publishing industries," Carmody wrote.

At the release for their textbook apps in January, Apple's Phil Schiller said that 1.5 million iPads were currently being used in education. The new mini-iPad, launched last month, has been designed specifically with the education market in mind.

BSP headmaster Sommer says its up to each teacher to decide how much use they make of the device at their disposal. What matters is creating active learners.

"The notion of problem solving is a most fundamental 21st century skill, much more so than detailed knowledge which might be obsolete tomorrow," he says.
 
"They're given a task and with the technology they are working out by themselves how they can solve that task."

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France's jobless rate hits new record high
France's jobless rate just keeps creeping up. Photo: AFP

France's jobless rate hits new record high

The number of people out of work in crisis-hit France hit a new high in July, official statistics published on Wednesday showed, in another blow for President Francois Hollande. READ  

'I love business': French PM woos employers
French PM Manuel Valls is applauded by employer's union chief Pierre Gattaz. Photo: Eric Piermont/AFP

'I love business': French PM woos employers

A day after naming a new reformist cabinet French PM Manuel Valls faced members of the country’s powerful employers' union, who gave him a standing ovation after telling them "I love business" and that France and Germany needed to stay close. READ  

IN IMAGES: Artists unveil mechanical dragon
A famous French arts troupe has unveiled its 'dragon'. Photo: Jean-Sebastian Evrard/AFP

IN IMAGES: Artists unveil mechanical dragon

A legendary French artistic collective has raised the curtain on its latest outlandish creation: a massive fire breathing mechanical dragon that is headed for China. See photos and video of the beast here. READ  

Ebola: Air France stops flights to Sierra Leone
Air France has suspended flights to Sierra Leone due to the Ebola outbreak.

Ebola: Air France stops flights to Sierra Leone

France's flagship airline Air France announced on Wednesday it was suspending flights to Sierra Leone from Thursday because of an Ebola outbreak that has killed at least 1,400 people in West Africa. READ  

Paris set to welcome four new tourist attractions
What is it? A spaceship? No it's an art-gallery. Photo: Louis Vuitton Foundation

Paris set to welcome four new tourist attractions

The Local takes a look at four Paris attractions that are set to open or be completed in the coming weeks. There's plenty for art lovers, shoppers and those with a good head for heights. READ  

Opinion - France and Germany
'Merkel now needs to meet Hollande halfway'
That's close enough. Merkel needs to meet Hollande half way to help him Photo: AFP

'Merkel now needs to meet Hollande halfway'

After the French president ousted his rebel Economy Minister for an outspoken attack on Germany and replaced him with a social liberal ex-banker, political commentator Stefan Ulrich argues that Chancellor Angela Merkel now needs to repay the favour. READ  

IMF chief Lagarde 'charged' in French probe
Christine Lagarde, who revealed she had been charged on Wednesday after being questioned as part of a corruption investigation. Photo: AFP

IMF chief Lagarde 'charged' in French probe

The head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde has been placed under formal investigation in France on allegations of "negligence" after a probe into suspected corruption dating from her time as French finance minister. READ  

Emmanuel Macron
Ten facts about France's economics whizzkid
Here are ten things you need to know about the man in charge of France's economy. Photo: Eric Piermont/AFP

Ten facts about France's economics whizzkid

From his elite education to a scandal involving a married teacher 20 years his senior, here's are ten things you need to know about France's 36-year-old Economy Minister, Emmanuel Macron. READ  

France sees steep rise in deaths of street children
Homeless children pictured on the streets of Paris. Photo: Joel Saget/AFP

France sees steep rise in deaths of street children

New figures released this week laid bare the problem of homelessness in France with 454 people living on the streets having died last year. That total included 15 children, which was a steep rise on the previous year. READ  

France's New Government
Hollande plays final card as he splits from left
Presidnet François Hollande and in the background his new Economy Minister - the former Rothschild banker, Emmanuel Macron. Photo: AFP

Hollande plays final card as he splits from left

France's embattled president played his final card this week in naming his third government that included a former Rothschild banker as Economy Minister. The move was a clear, but potentially hazardous break from the left of his party. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Ten things you need to know about France's economics whizzkid
International
VIDEO: Watch the top five street scams to avoid in Paris
Politics
Take a look at the bulging to-do list that awaits France's new government
Politics
Six questions for France after Hollande ousts rebels
International
Choosing schools in France: Do you go international or French?
Gallery
From kissing to bad-mouthing: Ten ways expats in France drive you mad
Culture
Ten things you need to know about the Liberation of Paris:
Travel
Watch this impressive time lapse video and you'll want to move to Paris
National
Veiled Muslim woman on a French beach prompts politician's angry rant
Travel
Forget Paris and Provence where are the least touristy areas of France?
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The battle to liberate Paris from the Nazis
National
What France means to you in just one tweet
National
15 French 'false friends' you need to watch out for
International
12 reasons to invest in Paris and seven not to
National
French hamlet 'Death to Jews' mulls name change
National
French tourist caught in Pompeii brothel romp
International
'Forget the Anglo-media's image of France, the reality is much different'
Culture
VIDEO: Francophile Robin Williams enjoyed poking fun at the French
Travel
Six reasons why France is the world's top tourist destination
International
Remembering the 'forgotten campaign' in the liberation of France
Gallery
VIDEO: French bucket list - The 12 best things to do in France
International
Do three French cities deserve to be in top 10 "World 's Most Unfriendly"?
Gallery
Don't make a faux pas! Ten things not to do when working in France
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se