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The only way to use Android in Education?

The few weeks sandwiching the beginning of the new school year are always hectic for us to say the least. We work with and in schools up and down the country configuring and deploying new technologies purchased over the summer. When all is set-up, we then train staff in classroom usage and advise on the most effective methods of strategic implementation, all focused on enhancing teaching and learning.

This summer, we’ve seen a big growth in the amount of schools purchasing the LearnPad system and are now well-versed in their set-up, from network to classroom.

When thinking of tablets in education, most would think of the iPad and it certainly true that there is significant growth in the education being realised by Apple. However, the design of iOS and the iPad was done for a 1:1 home-based environment. Apple are becoming aware of this and have begun to allow third-party systems to adapt the iPad for education, such as the Meraki MDM. This is largely a case of playing catch-up.

The LearnPad system has been designed and developed ‘from the ground up’, specifically for an education environment. Its’ ease-of-use extends from student and teacher to network team. LearnPad also removes the burden placed on the network team in terms of day-to-day management, and the traditional teacher reliance upon the network team to enable and release applications for teaching and learning.

Effectively, LearnPad is a layer which sits on top of the Android OS on a tablet device, although an iOS version is soon to be released aswell. As such it allows learners to access apps and websites stipulated by the teacher, and only those stipulated. Although working on an Android tablet, learners are locked into the LearnPad environment which is designed and controlled by the teacher. For their part, teachers can ‘Unlock’ the tablet out of LearnPad and use it as an Android tablet within the vast Android eco-system.

LearnPad is built around Profiles. These are screen-views into which learners are locked, and can be designed by teachers to suit the specifics of their subject, curriculum or key stage. Within Profiles sit Categories, which contain Activities:

  • Activities – apps and icon-based weblinks

  • Categories – a selection of Activities built around a theme

  • Profiles – a selection of Categories, again built around a theme

For example, a Profile might be created called ‘GCSE History’. Within this Profile might sit Categories called ‘USA 1919-41′, ‘Germany 1918-39′, ‘Britain 1895-1918′ and ‘International Relations 1919-39′, reflecting in this case some of the options within the OCR GCSE History specification. Each of those Categories would then contain Activities (Android apps and weblinks) specific to the study of each area. Of course a Profile could be created called ‘EYFS’, with Categories named to reflect each of the key Early Years areas and so on.

They key is that it is the school that decides on the set-up, and the teacher who creates the Profiles and Categories, and then populates them with the Activities they wish to use. If a learner then moves from a History lesson to Maths, they scan a QR key and the Profile immediately changes to ‘Maths’, giving them access to the Activities relevant to the new subject.

The LearnPad store contains around 800 Android apps and weblinks, although it is incredibly easy for teachers to create their own weblinks; once done, the learner clicks on the icon in LearnPad to go straight to that webpage, and is unable to navigate to any other page. If the teacher wishes them to navigate around a website, the web address prefix is added into the ‘Whitelist’ option, enabling the learner to access any, and ONLY, webpages contained within that site using the stipulated URL prefix.

If a teacher uncovers an Android app which isn’t contained within the LearnPad Store, they can add it to the school LearnPad system quickly and enable learners to use it – this extends the 800 available apps to around 1million!!

Teachers teach using the tablet within LearnPad, and Manage Profiles, Categories, Activities and Users within the web-based LearnPad DashBoard on any device. With the ClassView add-on (a £499 one-off extra) they can monitor and broadcast learner devices onto the classroom AV system, enabling learners to demonstrate their learning seamlessly, with the teacher remaining in full control.

In short, with devices starting from around £149 each LearnPad is a viable, cost-effective competitor to Apple in schools. We deliver Training on their use to teachers and network teams which enables full working understanding for classroom implementation within a half-day session. LearnPad has recently won a number of awards, notably the BETT 2013 Digital Devices Award and the ERA 2013 Innovation Award, as well as the Education Investor 2012 Technology Supplier Award.

If you are considering tablets for the classroom, or if you already have them but are looking for an intuitive way of teachers managing day-to-day teaching and learning through them (LearnPad can sit on top of existing Android devices), then LearnPad is worth looking at.

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