Recently I read a reblog by Primary Blogging which was entitled Thoughts on edtech and iPads which was written in doubt of using edtech and iPads to deliver a quality curriculum and that the money spent should be used on other strategies, such as more staff and books etc.
I want to be clear straight away that this response is not to argue against this view. In fact, the blog posted has a number of important points. I agree – too many schools have jumped too quickly onto the iPad bandwagon and as such there are a number of these devices sat as expensive decorations in safes in a number of schools – I have seen it!
The only direct response I will make will be to one comment that was made. The blogger makes mention that he would rather his children be in a school that employs a ‘properly decent teacher’ rather than an NQT who can use iPads in lessons. As an NQT myself this was intriguing to me – I’m hoping the school I just got my first full-time job at feel I have the potential to be a properly decent teacher. A query I would pose would be that is the blogger suggesting more experienced teachers should be considered to NQT’s in general, or just those who are able to showcase a stand-alone lesson with an iPad?
Anyway – on to my general thoughts on iPads in education.
I studied my Initial Teacher Training with a specialism in Computing. The ironic thing is that this was not my first choice. I wanted to specialise in Mathematics. However, the demand for that selection was high and so I was placed in my second choice in that string – Computing. Honestly, it was probably the best thing that happened to me in the University-based part of my course. Not only was I alerted to the massive changes in the ICT/Computing curriculum that my colleagues are only vaguely aware of, but I was also shown effective ways of delivering other areas of the curriculum, including iPads.
At first I was skeptical. Sure using iPads was a fun gimmick for the classroom but how could it be used for quality learning? I decided to have this as a focus for a Literature Review, which formed part of my final assessment. The title was ‘An investigation to determine whether the use of iPads and similar mobile technology in the classroom could improve children’s writing.’
Now of course, with the the actual act of forming handwriting, I’m sure many would agree that the iPad is not the most effective tool for this, as I found with the research (Heinrich, 2012 being an example). However, when used as a tool to provide stimuli for children to compose writing, the iPad comes along leaps and bounds.
Getting and Swainey (2012) researched a project which found that using the iPads in class gave the teachers power to provide enriching learning experiences that would not have been possible without these devices. Henderson and Yeow (2012) presented a case study where, in one of the first primary schools in the world to utilise iPads for educational purposes, they found that these devices fostered collaboration between the children. Not only this, but Harmon (2012) found that as a result of having iPads integrated in their learning, the children studied were far more critical of their level of writing and, in most cases, a lot more accurate with these self-assessments. On a personal note, if you are in doubt of the iPad’s ability to enhance a whole unit of work, rather than a stand alone lesson, I would look at this blog by Lee Parkinson (who I first began to recognise the power of mobile technology from). Some of this stuff will wow you!
Why stop at improving children’s writing? The connectivity to a global audience that the iPad offers should not be underestimated. Only today I was supplying for a Year 2 class who had an excellent morning presentation by ‘Key Strings‘ – a musical company who linked their knowledge and expertise of music to the FIFA World Cup – they were there for almost an hour and the entire KS1 were in awe and amused! We decided to write thank you letters to them later. The children were then told some would go on their website and some on the school website. That was the clincher! Every child wanted to get started and publish their letters to – in effect – a global audience. iPads open a window of opportuntity. One click and their work can be uploaded to the class blog, school website or even in an email home – showing their parents INSTANTLY how proud they are with their work (Beschorner and Hutchison, 2013). Yes, this may not raise levels on it’s own, but children will be engaged with the experiences that can improve their knowledge and skills.
A cynical point – I am aware that there are many times that teachers may use the iPad to the detriment of the learning objective (Culen and Gasparini, 2012). Staff need to be trained and have time to become familiar with this technology. Being honest, I am still cautious about the value of having 1:1 provision in schools considering the cost. It is also important for Senior Leadership Teams to recognise the other costs that will be necessary, for example, if the iPads are to be able to function properly the Wi-Fi will need to be improved. These points must be considered and planned for if introduction of this technology is to be at all successful, otherwise they will indeed be very expensive notebooks.
A final question is the role the iPads will have in the learning. If they simply substitute what could be accomplished on the Interactive Whiteboard, laptop or even on paper, it will be a wasted cost. This is why training and understanding among staff must be developed as mentioned before.
However, I feel, after doing the research and witnessing good practice for myself, much more strongly that at least a class set of iPads in a school can improve enthusiasm but, more importantly, the quality of learning in a school. Despite the training and purchasing costs, they can enrich learning through innovative teaching, if the considerations are addressed.
Beschorner, B. and Hutchison, A. (2013) ‘iPads as a literacy teaching tool in early childhood.’ International Journal of Education in Mathematics, Science and Technology, 1(1), pp.16-24.
Culen, A. and Gasparini, A. (2012) ‘Tweens with the iPad Classroom – Cool but not Really Helpful?’ Paper presented at: 2012 International Conference on E-Learning and E-Technologies in Education. Technical University of Lodz, Lodz, 24-26 September 2012.
Getting, S. and Swainey, K. (2012) ‘First Graders with iPads?’ Learning and Leading with Technology, 40(1), pp.24-27.
Harmon, J. (2012) ‘Unlock Literacy with iPads.’ Learning and Leading with Technology, 39(8), pp.30-31.
Heinrich, P. (2012) The iPad as a Tool for Education: A Study of the Introduction of iPads at Longfield Academy, Kent. Nottingham: NAACE: The ICT Association
Henderson, S. and Yeow, J. (2012) ‘iPad in Education: A case study of iPad adoption and use in a primary school.’ In IEEE. 45th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences. Grand Wailea, Maui, 4-7 January 2012.Sprague, R. H. Jr. (ed.) New Jersey: IEEE Computer Society Conference Publishing Services, pp.78-87.
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