More and more we are seeing iPads being used as a learning center in K-3 classes. Typically, a teacher will have four or five iPads all linked to one iTunes account. Apps can then be bought and shared between the iPads and organized into thematic folders. (It is important to note here that unless the teacher is using Configurator, this practice violates the iTunes Store Terms and Conditions – section MAC APP STORE PRODUCT USAGE RULES). As these iPads are not set up for individual students, most of the educational apps used do not collect learning data and tend not to be collaborative.
One solution that has promise is the SMART Table, where students can use it as a center to collaboratively solve problems and learn through playing. The idea of immediate feedback and the potential for the collection of learning data is excellent.
However, before we get too excited, there are some fundamental problems with the table. The first is cost. They run between $7000-$8000 CND, which might be worth while if the table managed learning analytics, but doesn’t, at least not yet. Also, in order to set up the table for students to play on, the teacher needs to insert a USB key. It makes sense to have a lock on the teacher screen, but a USB key seems a bit 2003. The resolution is good, but the screen would occasionally disappear for a second or two.
Finally, and most importantly, it is difficult to see how the learning is improved through the use of the table. If the goal is to improve collaboration, the table is an expensive alternative to manipulative and games already in the classroom. As well, some of the learning activities immediate feedback told students they got the answer right, even though they selected the wrong answer.
There remains a lot of potential in a SMART table in the K-3 classroom. Unfortunately, the price point and the lack of an improvement in learning puts this device in the “Maybe in the Future” category.