Since the Apple iPad was released in 2010, the ACT Education and Training Directorate has spent $2.5 million on the tablet computers.
There are now 5160 iPads in ACT public schools, representing an average of one iPad per eight students, although the actual ratio varies by school.
“Some schools have made significant investment into the use of iPads and other more portable devices. Other schools have focused on desktops, projectors and interactive whiteboards,” a spokesperson for the ACT Education and Training Directorate said.
“Schools have flexibility and choice to purchase various supported devices.”
Professor Robert Fitzgerald, the director of the INSPIRE Centre at the University of Canberra, which researches and designs new ways of working and learning digitally, said tablets had “a lot of potential to transform the way we do education”.
“They certainly allow a high degree of customisation – we can personalise learning much more to students’ needs and interests.”
Professor Fitzgerald said iPads could bridge the gap between formal and informal learning, keep kids engaged in learning outside of school, but most importantly they normalised technology, showing it as part of the everyday fabric of the way people work.
But he stressed that their use needed to be part of a broader digital strategy of teaching, learning and school administration.
“The risk with iPads and tablets is … we just leave it with those tablets and don’t do anything else and I think there’s much more work to be done around ensuring that a school is agile and ready for the challenges of the 21st century.
“There’s not a choice these days about whether we use technology or not, it’s how we use it in the most effective, most appropriate way and that’s a conversation that we need to be having across the school community.”
While apps for spelling and maths are commonly used, Professor Fitzgerald said there’s education potential still to be tapped by technology.
“I think about the applications of augmented reality to [learning] history – to understanding the past, the present and the future … [I] see this general area of simulation and gaming as being maybe an unrealised potential in education.
“Games and simulations are complex and often expensive to develop and while I think they have very significant benefits, we’re often cash strapped in education.”
And with the rapidly changing technology, the next investment is around the corner for early adopting schools.
“I think it’s the wearable computers that will be another wave which will need to be acknowledged in a school’s digital strategy,” Professor Fitzgerald said.
“The whole wearable technologies area is rapidly expanding, everything from Google Glass to wearable devices like fitbits.
“There are schools, teachers and students using digital eyewear overseas and it’s only a matter of time before we’ll start to see that here as well."