Will schools be tempted to buy tablets to use Windows 8?

Is the launch of Windows 8 affecting the purchase of tablets by schools?

It wasn't so long ago that interactive white boards were the new novelty of the classroom. Now, with an emphasis placed on apps for education and the possibility of "revolutionizing education" promoted by Steve Jobs, some schools are considering jumping from desktops to tablet devices.

A new survey, conducted by the British Education Suppliers Association (BESA) in May, suggests that schools who have the means to invest in such items are holding back until Windows 8 is released -- if it meets expectations, then a number of integration concerns could be wiped out.

The research included 500 schools, of whom 90 were primary (Elementary and Middle school ages) and 310 were secondary (High school) in the UK.

The BESA report indicates that 6 percent of all "pupil-facing computers" will be tablets that do not run the Windows platform by the end of the year -- a figure predicted to climb to 22 percent by 2015 according to the schools included in the research.

82 percent of teachers felt that their students were interested in the idea of using tablets in the classroom, and many of them were already familiar with a number of applications that are available on these kinds of devices. Unsurprising when you consider the average age of children with access to tablets and mobile devices is decreasing, and mobile integration becomes more firmly integrated into daily life.

However, schools are now more wary about investing in classroom technology, especially considering the economic climate, large class sizes and budget constraints -- 72 percent stating they wanted substantial evidence of a device's classroom value before purchases are made.

If a tablet computer offers nothing new to a class in comparison to a cheaper netbook or desktop model, it is unlikely a school would want to commit to the investment required -- from training staff, maintaining the tablets, downloading apps and putting security measures in place.

In addition, 61 percent of schools that cater for younger children and 39 percent of establishments for teenagers still believe it is "important" or "very important" to receive governmental approval before investing in tablet computing. Despite governmental policy awarding schools the autonomy to choose their own technological requirements set in place two years ago, these findings suggest that educational establishments still want to be given direction by a higher authority.

Caroline Wright, director of BESA said:

"This is a very exciting time for schools and education technology providers. We see that, in the absence of DfE directives, schools are becoming increasingly savvy in their ICT procurement and also taking their time to make the right desicions fo their pupils based on research evidence, financial and educational value-for-money considerations.

Schools increasingly support the view that they need to consider ways to integrate the technology and learning that pupils' experience inside the classroom with their use of IT outside school."

It's not just the issue of unifying platforms on tablets and desktops that schools are concerned by. Windows 8 may offer the opportunity to better manage and secure tablet use, but funding constraints are also a worry -- 82 percent unsure if modernizing classrooms in this way could even be afforded.

How to manage and secure these mobile devices concerned 85 percent of schools, three-quarters were unsure if it added value enough to learning to make the investment worthwhile, and 71 percent said that the initial setup and payment for the tablet and required apps was also a significant barrier to tablet adoption.

Image credit: Johan Larsson

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