Is the Pencil mightier than the ‘Tablet’?


It is a true testimony to modern technology that the question even exists. Many schools make superb use of tablets as a means of developing research skills, word publishing, graphic design and reading. The website below has many useful and exciting links to support schools and teachers in promoting the use of tablets in School whether it is an Android or Apple product. Their study of the BBC Trust report indicated quite clearly the popularity of tablets in the home. t4slogo12 Research released this week from the BBC Trust illustrated the huge growth in children’s use of mobile technology. Two out of three families with children own a Tablet, and mobile devices are increasingly used to consume media. One in seven children aged 5-15 owned a Tablet in 2012, which is a threefold increase from 2011, and requests for children’s programming on the iPlayer increased by 65% over the same period.

When I carried out similar research but based on smartphones for 5 – 8 year olds, one in three pupils had a high spec smartphone with many features similar to those that feature on a tablet. In our current economic situation and with Christmas approaching the choice of a tablet over a laptop or netbook makes sense especially when a company with the selling power of Tesco comes onto the market with a highly competitive option at only £119. The Hudl will be a very attractive offer to many parents.


Yet does all this technology imply that we no longer have a role for pen, pencil and book research? All schools concentrate on developing both gross and fine motor skills. This is essential for all children and a crucial aspect of this process is pencil control. We still develop handwriting as a scheme of work. In the Foundation Phase in Wales or Stage in England, many activities are aimed at developing this control and it also involves letter recognition, number formation, hand and eye coordination but does the pencil belong in a modern classroom?

In the above clip, Clive Sheperd discusses exactly what is a virtual classroom. Is this the way forward? When computers became popular in the home and at School many people including myself thought that virtual learning would be the main teaching resource, thankfully I was wrong but modern technology does have an essential role to play in the classroom today. Yet to dismiss the pencil is to ignore the importance of developing a number of key skills. Keith Rispin explains clearly one reason why the pencil is still required. The link below will take you to the full article.
If the teacher takes on the role of the “director of the device” the classroom simply becomes a Twenty First Century version of the teacher centered classroom. If the purpose of BYOD is to help students become more independent learners, then the device needs to fit the learner, even if that device is a pencil and a piece of paper.
Another artcle on the web describes perfectly that in reality, it is not the technology but how you use the technology that makes the difference,
The Role of Emerging Technologies
Education is being partially transformed by new technologies. At one time students could learn a small, but fixed body of knowledge. However, today, the enormous amount of available information, coupled with the fact that the amount of knowledge in the world continues to double at an increasingly quick rate, requires a transformative approach to education. It is imperative that the student of today learns how to be an information manager, rather than in information regurgitator (Mann, 1994).In a technology-rich environment one must remember that the educational focus is on learning and instructional goals instead of the technology itself, because technology are merely tools or vehicles for delivering instruction (Campoy, 1992). It is not what equipment is used, but how the equipment is used which makes it relevant to a constructivist classroom (Strommen and Lincoln, 1992). .
This is quite an old article when tablets didn’t exist yet the point still stands. It is not the technology but how we use it that will make the difference.
I’m sure many people would disagree but I still believe that paper and pen remain essential classroom tools. The ability to connect letter recognition to a written task, the ability to develop handwriting are part of an important learning journey. The pencil has a role in the world today.
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As mentioned earlier, Christmas is fast approaching and I hope that pencils, pens, crayons, colouring books still have a place on the Christmas list. To draw, to write, to colour can provide children with great fun and many enjoyable and incidental learning experiences.
Balance is therefore the key. We need to embrace modern technology, to develop new skills, different learning techniques as well as developing motor control, handwriting and the freedom to doodle.
I have used many different apps in the classroom some of my favourites are ‘Guardian Eye Witness’, ‘I trailer’, ‘Comic life‘, ‘kindle’ and many more. It is ultimately not the app that made the lesson successful but how they were used by the pupils. If you put the wrong information into a sat nav then you will be lost and that is true of all modern technology.
My first computer was a Dragon 32,
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Made in Wales with the best graphics available. One of the greatest joys was trying to write simple programmes. This was also true in School where logo was the language of the computer club.
Technology will continually develop and we must embrace the future but we must also remember that we are nurturing the inventors of the future, The next Steve Jobs, Clive Sinclair, Tim-Berners Lee, Bill Gates etc could be in our classroom.
Ultimately no matter the tools or technology used it is about engaging pupils in their learning and that can be achieved by a tablet or a pencil.

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