Genevieve Vieira
3 minute read
16 Oct 2013
6:00 am

Teaching with tablets

Genevieve Vieira

Many parents know that an iPad or tablet can be a good babysitter. Children with their eyes glued to screens, playing games for hours, are not uncommon in the 21st century.

This however, has created much debate around the impact of these devises on children’s cognitive development. Whether you subscribe to the positive or negative schools of thought, electronic devices form a large part of the work environment, meaning at some point in time, an understanding of digital technology is needed.

Before Steve Jobs passed, he envisioned a digital world where technology would revolutionise education, bringing radical change to schools and textbook publishers. Today, many schools have introduced the use of iPads into classrooms as a teaching aid. The question is: does it work?

The most important thing to note is that these devices are not teaching alternatives but rather substitutes for blackboards, chalk and books. While the act of writing can never fully be eradicated, exposure to interactive apps has proven to engage and motivate children’s learning. If you consider this story’s opening statement to be true, then it’s easy to see how such claims can be made.

The iPad brings education to life as witnessed by the iSchoolAfrica programme, which supplies schools in both rural and township areas with iPads for learning. Each participating school is issued with one or more mobile iPad labs containing 10 to 20

iPads according to objectives and budget. The machines are kept in secure mobile cases that offer flexibility and an efficient way of deploying scarce resources. Since there is no infrastructure needed, as in the case of computer labs, integration into daily teaching and learning is made easier.


With over 100 000 quality controlled educational applications, teachers are able to select what works best for their individual objectives. Since connectivity is often a problem in many of these areas, it is important that the teachers or the iPad suppliers themselves download these apps before implementation of the device into schools.

iPads are currently being used in 60 primary and secondary iSchoolAfrica schools in South Africa with more than 1 970 devices reaching the hands of students. The technology allows the student to become independent in their learning and provides personalised content for students’ interests and needs.

While one-to-one deployment is not a realistic goal at this point, the sharing of devices assists with team work building. It is also not viable for the iPads to be taken home which means that afternoon homework clubs need to be implemented.

According to Managing Director of Think Ahead Solutions, Michelle Lissoos, children take pride in their school and take accountability of the iPads. Each class has a team of iPad “prefects” that clean the devices and ensures that they are packed away into their protective cases. Since its inception, Lissoos says that there has only been a 5% theft rate across the schools they deal with.

As with all educational initiatives, iSchoolAfrica realises the need for balance, so that interpersonal and group communication is not hindered in any way.

“We take a blended learning approach with no more than 30% of the school day spent on iPads,” she says. If used correctly, there is no doubt that these technologies will become an effective part of the education system.

iSchoolAfrica works in partnership with corporates, foundations and government departments. The programme addresses the key challenges faced by teachers and students and creates a sustainable impact on education.

For more information on the iSchoolAfrica programme, visit