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Mobile devices in the classroom? It’s necessary, says Peel school board CIO

Mobile devices in the classroom? It’s necessary, says Peel school board CIO 

Technology is everywhere in our society – everywhere except in schools, that is. Some educators are beginning to view this as a problem; it only makes sense to bring technology into the classroom, where children spend a large chunk of their time, so they can receive the quality of education needed to snag fulfilling careers in high-tech when they reach adulthood.

“Having technology in the clasroom is pivotal,” said Mark Keating, CIO, Peel District School Board. “It’s pivotal to engage students and to support 21st-century teaching and learning.”

The initiative allows students to bring mobile devices – including phones – into the classroom for use as a teaching aid. To support the initiative, Keating and his colleagues selected Microsoft Office 365 as its cloud platform. There were several reasons for this choice: first, because it supports a number of mobile devices; second, because its flexible support gives parents a wider range of choice when it comes to purchasing devices for their children; and third, because it enables “anytime, anywhere” productivity.

It also helped the school board tackle one of its primary challenges: the need to keep students engaged and interested in their schoolwork.

“If you look at 2003 to 1903, the classroom really didn’t change that much: students sitting in seats, looking at the chalkboard, the teacher at the front of the classroom,” said Keating. “But what’s happening outside of the classroom is a completely different experience – people are tweeting, people are chatting, they’re moving at 1,000 miles a second. But they come into the classroom, and there’s a person at the front, teaching in a very standard way. But with Office 365, we’re bringing all those social elements into the classroom and we’re engaging students.”

Since its inception, Keating and his colleagues have seen changes in the learning environment of their schools: “We see students helping students. Teachers can help other teachers, teachers can help students, students are helping students. So it’s a really socially-immersive environment.”

Some might argue that tablets in the classroom are more of a hindrance than a help; there are, after all, an amplitude of stories about cell phone confiscation by frustrated teachers. But Keating disagrees with this mindset. He believes that technology is the best way for students to obtain the information they seek.

“A vast amount of information lies outside the classroom. I think technology is the conduit to access that information,” he said. “So if you don’t have technology in the classroom, you’re doing students a disservice. You need to be able to access the information that’s outside those four walls. It doesn’t replace good teaching, but it enhances it.”

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