In the "Connected Kids" project, which focuses on classroom learning with tablet PCs, elementary and middle school classes and a center for special education had the opportunity to test learning with the aid of digital media.
Between November 2013 and April 2014, a total of 16 classes were equipped with an Internet hot spot (HOME NET) from T-Mobile and individual tablets for the students. With the support of a team of digital tutors, headed by Paul Kral, former director of the Pedagogical Institute of the City of Vienna, teachers and their students were able to explore the opportunities for the acquisition and generation of knowledge that digital media present. Learning in connected classrooms Each project phase of "Connected Kids" – supported by a case full of tablet PCs, some 90 apps and a HOME NET box – started with a teacher training session. The hands-on activities were preceded by learning the gestures and commands for the settings and apps. Three groups of apps were used: apps as learning programs, apps as a knowledge pool for situation-specific lessons and apps as creativity drivers. "Our formula says: learning, classroom, tablet PC and Internet are the future of the 'connected kids'. We were amazed by the high level of motivation, the increased willingness to learn and to do "something" that isn't very popular otherwise, the boosted concentration and the ability to stay focused. It was as if all the discipline problems were simply erased," says Paul Kral. Professional management and digital tutors The "Connected Kids" project was developed in collaboration with T-Mobile. "The team succeeded in getting a foot in the door to digital learning and then holding it open with a doorstop," says Paul Kral. "Integrating tablet PCs in lessons opens up opportunities for successful individualization, successful learning and the incorporation of the students' own digital worlds (BYOD - bring your own device) in the classroom." T-Mobile CEO Andreas Bierwirth says of Connected Kids: "We want to support schools in taking advantage of the wide range of opportunities that digital media present to our children. Our involvement focuses on the elementary school and middle school level, because smartphones and tablet PCs open up entirely new opportunities here that deserve to be explored." The project is to be continued in the 2014/2015 school year. Field reports as blogs The project blog collects field reports, practical tips and resources – such as reviews of apps for teaching and learning – and networks with other initiatives. The projects were documented on video by a class of the middle school Neue Mittelschule Loquaiplatz, Vienna.