1. They’re intuitive
Even if you have a pupil in your class (or a colleague in your staffroom) who has never used a computer before, they should have no trouble at all working out how to use a touchscreen. The lack of a mouse or any other add-ons lowers the barriers to entry, simply because there is less they need to get to grips with.
2. They’re everywhere
Part of the reason for touchscreens being intuitive, of course, is that they are ubiquitous these days. You’ll find them in the station when you want to buy a ticket from the ticket machine, in the shopping centre when you are trying to locate a particular shop on an interactive map, and in the bank when you need to withdraw some money from a cash machine. So why not in school, too?
3. Apps are right there on the screen
Another great advantage of this kind of device is that the apps or programme can be found on the screen itself. You don’t have to delve through menus and submenus, an activity that can drive you insane, even if they do happen to be arranged logically.
4. They don’t require great coordination
When anyone uses a mouse for the first time, the pointer goes all over the place. So, if you have a pupil who has only ever used a tablet, or an older colleague who has so far managed to avoid using a computer of any description, having a touchscreen device is a blessing – not least for your blood pressure.
5. There’s less to cause mayhem
I’m sure this would never happen in your classroom, but when I was teaching I would sometimes discover that someone had done a bit of mouse-swapping, so that Bob’s mouse pointer would move the cursor about on Joanna’s screen. Hilarious, but infuriating too. Sometimes, the mice would disappear altogether. So a touchscreen device with no moving parts? What’s not to like?
6. Field work is easier
Taking a laptop and mouse out on a school trip to do field work isn’t a trivial matter. In fact, if you’re serious about getting students to experience taking measurements and collecting data in situ, whether that is interviewing shoppers in the town centre or going out into a local nature reserve, a touchscreen tablet or smartphone really is the only feasible solution these days.
7. They are faster to use than other devices
Why? Because there’s less faffing about. No fiddling about with a mouse, and much less time spent looking for items, as mentioned earlier. They tend to boot up faster as well. In the classroom, your most precious commodity is time, so the more of it that is spent usefully the better.
8. Storage is easier
You need space for just the device itself, not any add-ons. Simple.
9. They can be future-proofed
If someone comes up with new functionality for the software on a nontouchscreen computer, the chances are you will have to buy another mouse or other add-on with the requisite buttons on it. Touchscreens don’t suffer from this drawback because the extra functionality can be assigned to a virtual button on the screen.
10. It’s easier to keep them clean
Touchscreens can, it’s true, get pretty grubby if you don’t clean them every day. However, you will at least be spared the problem of dust, food and heaven knows what else accumulating in the crevices between keys on a keyboard. For me, I think that might be the most convincing reason of all…
About the author
Terry Freedman is an independent education technology consultant and writer. He publishes the ICT & Computing in Education website at www.ictineducation.org.