• France's news in English
 

British School of Paris bets on tablet technology

Published: 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."

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
French man calls in bomb alert to delay plane
Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP

French man calls in bomb alert to delay plane

French police have arrested a man who called in a false bomb alert to an airport to delay his girlfriend's flight because she was in danger of missing it, prosecutors said on Sunday READ  

Cannes race wide open on eve of awards
Cate Blanchett in Cannes. Photo: Valery Haché/AFP

Cannes race wide open on eve of awards

The competition for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival wraps up Saturday with a clutch of favourites jockeying for one of global cinema's most coveted prizes. READ  

Waterloo: Why is it still taboo for the French?
A Waterloo reenactment. Photo: AFP

Waterloo: Why is it still taboo for the French?

France stood accused this week of "sulking" because it failed to nominate any high-ranking official to attend the gigantic commemoration for the 200-year anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. READ  

France's cheapest holiday spots revealed
Holidayers in Nice, southern France. Photo: AFP

France's cheapest holiday spots revealed

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that Paris is the most expensive region in France to spend a summer holiday... but where is the cheapest? A new study has found the answer. READ  

France pulls up sunken tyres from artificial reefs
The tyres are hauled up from the seabed. Photo: AFP

France pulls up sunken tyres from artificial reefs

Tourists and film stars hitting the beach at the French Riviera resort of Cannes may be blissfully unaware but lurking beneath the sparkling waves are tens of thousands of now troublesome scrap tyres, sunk deliberately to boost marine development. READ  

French films
The best French films you've never heard of
French actor Tahar Rahim in a scene from A Prophet. Photo: YouTube/Screengrab

The best French films you've never heard of

With the Cannes Film Festival nearing its end and with everyone talking about everything film - we take a look back at the best ten French movies you've probably never heard of, thanks to French cinema expert Judith Prescott. READ  

Tourism in Paris
Eiffel Tower shuts as staff protest pickpockets
Tourists at the France's iconic Eiffel Tower. Photo: AFP

Eiffel Tower shuts as staff protest pickpockets

The Eiffel Tower was closed on Friday morning, as workers protested over the scourge of pickpockets around the famous monument, who they say have threatened and attacked them. READ  

Paris couple found in flat with throats slit
Photo: AFP

Paris couple found in flat with throats slit

A woman, who was reportedly pregnant, was found dead with her throat slit in a Paris apartment on Friday while her partner was left in a critical condition. An electric sander was found running beside their bodies. READ  

Cannes Film Festival
Sophie Marceau: Queen of baring all at Cannes
Sophie Marceau is a member of the Feature Film jury this year at Cannes. Photo: AFP

Sophie Marceau: Queen of baring all at Cannes

French actress Sophie Marceau is surely the undisputed queen of the Cannes wardrobe malfunction after her plunging jacket gave photographers more than an eyeful once again this week. And it's not the first time she's given the paparazzi palpitations. READ  

Cameron to visit Paris to push for EU reform
UK PM David Cameron will hope to convince François Hollande that Britain should be allowed to renegotiate its relationship to the EU. Photo: AFP

Cameron to visit Paris to push for EU reform

UK Prime Minister David Cameron is to visit Paris next week as part of his charm offensive as he tries to persuade European leaders to allow Britain to renegotiate its ties with the EU, ahead of a planned In/Out referendum in the UK. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Features
Take a tour of the best Metro stations that Paris has to offer
National
Soon there'll be a fixed fare for a taxi ride from the airport into Paris
National
Drug dealers in Marseille are offering customers loyalty cards
Soon there'll be no minimum for using your bank card in France
Features
Eurovision is around the corner - and we don't fancy France's chances
Features
Fancy starting a business and living in Paris? There's help available
National
Are you fearing a Brexit? Maybe it's time to become a French citizen
How hard-up French are tempted by money to take migrants to the UK
Bupa
Sponsored Article
Healthcare: 9 questions every expat should ask
Education
More English words (including 'le selfie') sneak into French
Charlie Hebdo to give €4.3m to attack victims
National
French Protestants bless gay marriage
Opinion
Why elitism is dragging France down
Features
RECIPE: How to make your own picnic-perfect meringues
Business & Money
French tax declaration deadline: Key things to remember
VIDEO: Can YOU pronounce the trickiest word in French?
France tops holiday wish list for children
National
Study: Women do bulk of housework in France
National
VIDEO: Police use force on Calais migrants
National
This man is France's Instagram king. But who else makes the top list?
Features
Free museum entry, film festivals, sports... see What's On this in May
Culture
Behind the curtain: A closer look at the Cannes Film Festival
National
It's a boy! Baby born on Air France flight to Paris
Features
Love-locked: Whatever happened to Paris's beautiful bridges?
'Forget the UK election, expats should be able to vote in France'
Thomas Piketty backs Miliband for Britain but not Hollande for France
Gallery
The most spectacular sunset pictures from around France
National
France tells migrants in Calais to 'forget the UK and stay here'
Who's to blame? Trial after Frenchman dies downing 56 shots
Society
VIDEO: See what's beneath the surface of the French Riviera
National
French teen suicide after sex video web bullying
France launches bid to buy Europe's biggest and most spectacular dune
Business & Money
Why May 2015 is the best month in years to work in France
Five great outdoor bars in Paris to check out this summer
Double standards? French Muslim barred from class over long skirt
National
France goes on the defensive after UN experts say 'racism is trivialised'
Five reasons we should be worried about France's new snooping laws
International
The French don't seem to care about the UK election and that's normal
Culture
Only in France? Naked comedian stuns French culture minister
Migrant camps spring up in the heart of Paris
International
France bags another fighter jet deal but should Paris thank the US?
Society
French elevator protocol: Greeting, flirting and yes, even sex
Travel
Getting from CDG airport to Paris by road should now be a lot quicker
Politics
Why all the dodgy ties? A French view of the UK general election
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