Shock finding: kids enjoy using iPads in the classroom

ipadsinclassKids enjoy using an iPad to learn maths is the stunning result of research carried out by Macquarie ICT Innovations Centre.

I had high hopes for this study when I saw it had been carried out, sadly though the results tell us little more than your intuition would tell you if you thought about the subject for a few minutes. The Year 1 kids who got to use iPads in maths for a few weeks had a good time, were engaged, and could learn at their own pace. I found it hard to read the report and not think that any other shiny technology would have led to the same result – there was nothing intrinsic in the use of an iPad as opposed to another piece of exciting kit.

As an example the study makes much of the fact students worked in pairs to make a movie on the iPads showing strategies for sharing some paddlepop sticks. They clearly enjoyed doing it. But there are numerous other tools that could do that task and numerous other ways of making that learning exciting. And it’s important to think that in a study like this where there’s a nice new toy and lots of attention it’s not only the kids who are excited and engaged – it’s the teachers too. That teacher egagement is going to make a big difference to the kids’ day.

Certainly the study provided no control and no comparison with other approaches. It’s a small study leading to some anecdotal observations – which was probably its brief so maybe I’m being unfair in hoping for more. However, it would, I would argue, have been more fruitful to look at some of those classes that have been using iPads for a year or more and see how they are being used and to what extent they are making a real difference. Teachers I know who are close to that sort of situation have very mixed feelings.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing against using iPads in the classroom. I’m simply saying that this study does not provide a compelling reason for doing so.

For some thoughts on iPads or other technologies in classrooms see here; for a far more interesting report on the use of digital technologies in classrooms see here.

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