Our goal for the literature search was to figure out if there’s enough information about the topic to actually write about it. We also wanted to find out what the major challenges and benefits are after the introduction of tablets (iPads) in elementary classrooms. How has the information flow between teacher and student has changed and in what way can it be improved?
The keywords we decided to use were:
iPad, Student, Teacher, elementary school, classroom, information flow, homework, learning, communication, creativity, tablet, educational, education.
We used Google-scholar, Google news search, Web of Science, Education Research Complete and Eric as search engines.
We divided the group into two parts, one group searched in scientific search engines and the rest did searches in news articles and from other, non-scientific sources. In this way we wanted to avoid getting the same search results. In our literature research we have focused on iPad over other touchpads because iPad has dominated the education market starting early with a 75% worldwide and 90% control in Canada in 2013. Norwegian schools has also chosen iPads as the platform to use in classrooms.
During our search we found a lot of interesting articles that appealed to us, both scientific and from media sites. We also realised that most of the research about tablets, and especially iPads in the classroom, isn’t about information flow directly. Although much of the information we found can be relevant for our project because it describes different challenges and or situations where flow of information is important and can be improved by new solutions.
While teaching previously was passive and based on receiving information from the teacher learning today is about interaction, creativity and participation in the classroom. The introduction of digital platforms such as the iPad helps to reinforce this trend, according to a report from Telemark University College. Here scientist followed the introduction of iPads to all the pupils in 6th grade at Stathelle Primary School. Among the findings made during the two-year pilot project was that students through the iPad became more active in their own learning process. They could search the web for sources themselves and evaluate the sources’ relevance to the task. It also became easier for the students to organize and take care of the learning material, which was a great help for the students’ overview. On the basis of this, the researchers who followed the project concluded that this contributed to better adapted education and that the students got more benefit from the training provided. The researchers also found that Ipad made it easier to fully integrate all students into the classroom. Those with special needs got more organized for this with the help of the iPad. (Kongsgården, Midtbø 2014).
In Bærum, every pupil in elementary school has their own iPad. According to a report published on the municipality’s website the effort to give every pupil a Ipad isn’t about technology. Its about new ways of learning. According to schools enrolled in the pilot program the relationship between pupil and teacher has changed. Communication has become more imminent. They can give feedback to the student almost in real time. The teachers can also adapt and differentiate teaching based on each pupils special needs. The teachers also see more motivate and creative pupils who gets more learning outcome. (Bærum municipality, 2015).
Project leader for iPad in Bærum municipality, Christian Sørbye Larsen, says to the Norwegian daily Aftenposten that there were protest from both parents and teachers before introducing the device in the classroom. Among the positive elements are more efficient students, better collaboration and better feedback. (Nipen, 2019).
The reason why iPads has become popular in educational is how it makes for new ways of communication between students and between student and teacher. By using the built in communication possibilities the teacher can have a face-to-face with students who are sick or away from school. (Apple support pages).
There are challenges to the introduction of technology in classrooms. Education are based on a constructivist approach (Henderson, Yeow, 2012). It’s based on the idea that knowledge is not a substance that is transferred from teachers to students, but that knowledge is constructed by students themselves when they interact with objects in their environment. Children learn by doing and construct their own knowledge by actively performing a task.
Educational technology as iPads and tablets, on the other hand, is based on behaviorist perspective. It posits that learning is manifested by change in behavior and that the environment determines these changes.
“It is only relatively recently that educational technology has been able to support a constructivist approach. Smaller devices are better able to facilitate social collaboration than PCs which users must use singly, and the rise of more social application software enables much better opportunities for collaboration than were possible in the past.”
The size of the iPad promotes collaboration. It stimulates to face-to-face social interaction between children (Hourcade, Beitler, Cormenzana, Flores, Druin, 2009). (Leichtenstern, Vogt, 2007).
A school in New Zealand was one of the first to start using iPads in education. Scientist did a case study to understand their experiences (Henderson, Yeow, 2012). According to two of the teachers the iPad has allowed learning to become more accessible and productive. They found that it allows information to be easily searched and accessed quicker at any given location in the classroom. For example, as described by the teacher and senior teacher, students will not need to wait for the desktop computer or netbook to boot when they log in as they previously did, but simply press the iPad’s button and tap on the web browser. Accessibility has also empowered students through not only allowing them to view a wider variety of information to enhance their learning and productivity, but also provides students with a sense of pride in their work, as the teacher explains:
“The ease of access to information makes a huge difference… The standard of their presentation has hugely improved. They have a lot more pride in it so they’re putting a lot more time into it… The presentations most students created I was amazed, they just looked so impressive… and the information was of a higher level as well” (section 5.3, Henderson, Yeow, 2012)
One issue brought up by the senior teacher is that they are aware that the iPad is a difficult tool to be used for creating content but easy to consume, due to the nature of it. However, it was made apparent by the senior teacher that the iPad should not be used as an exclusive tool in education but to be used alongside others:
“It’s difficult to create content, it’s easy to consume… I’m not convinced yet that typing out a big document is easy on the iPad as it is on a computer… I don’t think it couldn’t replace everything we certainly wouldn’t ditch everything in place of the iPads” (section 5.7. Henderson, Yeow, 2012).
Not all students readily adopt the iPad. In the interview it was discussed by the teacher that there was a case where a student chose to use the school’s netbooks rather than the iPad:
“I’ve only got one student in my class who if there is a choice will go for the laptop … its new technology, she’s a bit scared” (section 5.7. Henderson, Yeow, 2012).
Report by the Canada Research Chair in Technologies in Education based on a survey of 6,057 students and 302 teachers in Quebec, Canada. With this survey they wanted to gain a better understanding of how students and teachers use the iPad in class, as well as the associated benefits and challenges. To limit the scope of the survey other touchpads were not included. This is because iPad is the most used and developed platform in the education market controlling 75 % of the education market worldwide and 90% in canada in 2013. The study found that “On average, the teachers felt that they were moderately satisfied with using the iPad in class (average score of 3 out of a maximum of 5). The students felt that they were moderately to very satisfied with using the iPad in class (average score of 3.6 out of a maximum of 5).” When students were asked for words describing the experience of using ipads the main responses were “Fun, useful, useless and portable”. They note in the report that one one answered that it helped them learn.
In addition to finding out how satisfied the students and teachers were using the ipad they wanted to understand how the ipad was used in the classroom and outside it to improve learning. They found that for a 60 minutes lecture 88.5% of students reported using the ipad for 30 minutes or more. This varied based on the subject with math and science seeing less use. Part of understanding how ipad can improve learning is to look at what applications the students use. The most used apps were eTextbook, text processing and not taking apps. Later teachers were asked to suggest improvements and many wanted a list of useful apps and training in using the apps.
When asked how the students were using the iPad for educational purposes doing school work was the most popular answer mostly interacting with eTextbooks. Internet searches were also frequent and students said that they appreciated being able to decide how they search for information they needed. Despite being asked about educational purposes the third most frequent answer was games. Some students said it worked as a reward for doing work and motivated. At the same time this speaks to the distraction the ipad introduced.
Outside of school, the most frequent uses were social media (facebook, iMessage). Second most frequent answer was homework. Some students said that using iMessage made it easier to ask other students about homework. One student said that before he never took out his school books when he had finished homework but now the ipad is always out.
When students and teachers were asked about challenges using the iPad the most frequent answer was distraction. A lot less frequent was difficulty writing, difficulty organizing and unsuitable textbooks. The extent to which the ipad was a distraction became clear in interviews with teachers and students. Students found it hard to pay attention when receiving messages on facebook and seeing other students playing games. The limitations of the eTextbooks was another point of frustration with problems such as needing to be online or exercises that did not work.
In a study of young children using multimodal devices to help them become literate in the 21st century it was found that tablets help children thrive in their learning.
Since children responds very well to change and adapts quickly, as well as they’re easily intrigued by new ideas and forms of learning methods, it makes the tablet an excellent addition to teaching. There’s evidence that the quality of learning increases when children use tablets as they collaborate and communicate with one another, as well as the independent learning thrives.
Teachers are eagerly using tablets in their literacy programs. It seems to be easier to tailor a solution to a single students learning difficulties, as the children can use different apps, i.e. LetterWorks to help enhance their struggles with reading. This broadens the specter of possibilities and resources for both teacher and student. (Nicola J. Yelland, 2018).
The digital abilities of teachers are not equal, which may have a significant impact on differences within students learning environment. A study showed that the abilities differed so much as it gave a result of 65.9% teachers belonging to the intermediate level. 26.1% were placed below, and 8% above intermediate.
The teachers with higher understanding of tablets spent more hours to support and develop their subjects, as well as higher usage of tablets in the classroom itself. The tablets may therefore be difficult to incorporate and use in classes depending on the each teachers digital abilities. (Cantú-Ballesteros, L. Urías-Murrieta, M. Figueroa-Rodríguez, S. Salazar-Lugo, G. M., 2017).
There was a project that investigates if tablets can enable students with additional needs to access the curriculum in Australia. In many situations some apps were specifically selected for individual children. One app might gave motivational value to a specific student, meanwhile that may not be as relevant for another student. The reason for the difference of relevance had to do with the student’s interests. (Watts, Brennan & Phelps, 2012)
«Much of the success of iPad integration was felt to depend on the enthusiasm, creativity and pedagogical skill of the TA and teachers involved as they needto be able to identify how they can use the iPad productively to support individual students’ learning. If this ‘spark’ isn’t there the educational effectiveness of the iPads is not maximised. «(Watts, Brennan & Phelps, 2012, p. 8)
At MHOC the TA’s got access to a Ipad before the project. They were more responsive and familiar to be able to suggest apps in class, then the TA’s at JPC who did not get access to a Ipad before the project. (Watts, Brennan & Phelps, 2012)
«A key learning, then, was that TAs needed good access to the iPads to become familiar with them and to help identify apps that would be most suitable for individual students and to be able to respond quickly in a classroom setting to identify the best app tosupport learning at any particular time.» (Watts, Brennan & Phelps, 2012, p. 8 )
Two teachers took on the challenge of improving elementary reading. They decided to use Ipad’s to reach this goal, though it was a step into the unknown.
There were some noisy apps that made some distraction from the learning environment. They solved this by purchasing headphones. (Getting & Swainey, 2018)
Last year New York Times (Bowles, New York Times 2018) had an article about digital gap between rich and poor kids. But not as you would expect. While America’s public schools are still promoting devices with screen, private schools for rich kids are banning screens from class altogether.
“Silicon Valley’s parents increasingly panic over the impact screens have on their children and move toward screen-free lifestyles, worries over a new digital divide are rising. It could happen that the children of poorer and middle-class parents will be raised by screens, while the children of Silicon Valley’s elite will be going back to wooden toys and the luxury of human interaction.”
In the article, Kirstin Stecher and her husband, who works as an engineer at Facebook, are explaining how they raise their kids almost completely screen-free.
“Is this coming from a place of information — like, we know a lot about these screens,” she said. “Or is it coming from a place of privilege, that we don’t need them as badly?
Challenges and what needs to be improved
From the different articles we have found some challenges has become apparent. Some of the challenges have already been worked on and the information flow has been improved.
One challenge that was mentioned many times was the teacher and the students lack of experience using the touchpad. Teachers wanting more training and guidelines for using ipads in class and developing assignments that is designed to be done using an iPad. Since the individual teachers has different experiences with tablets, it should be required to take annual courses so that all the teachers and therefore students will have the same starting point.
For many students the iPad can be a distraction with access to games, videos and social media. It can also be distracting for the rest of the class if one student watches a video or play games. This was described in older articles and one improvement in the experience using iPads was to give the teacher more control of the students iPads. Today there are available apps created by apple to give the teacher the option to limit what the student can do on the ipad during class and many other improvements in creating a more efficient experience.
Another challenge that has become apparent is the need for a framework designed for teaching pre installed on the devices. Today many hybrid solutions make many of the tasks more complicated and time demanding than necessary. A solution designed for information flow, cooperation, sharing and feedback between teacher and student, and between the students themselves, would be a great contribution to promoting better learning and interaction with technology in classrooms.
There are multiple solutions for the use of tablets, especially iPads. Apples own app-store offers many different apps for teaching, from reading digital school-books to solving math questions. Apple has also launched several projects that has as a main goal to introduce apple products in the earliest stages of elementary school, such as specific features like Guided Access or Apple’s own apps Shared iPad, Apple School Manager, ClassKit and Schoolwork. All these apps does only work on Apples own devices and is under Apple control. The Norwegian school system should consider to atleast make some own solutions that doesn’t depend on Apples framework. Considering Apples price range, som schools may prefer tablets using the Android software. These tablets includes Google’s answer to Apples imperium of school-related content, such as Google Classrooms which now connects with all Google-apps like Google Spreadsheets, Google Calendars, Google Docs and a diverse array of other apps.
Even though Apple and Google both have their own solutions to make the teacher and pupils learning experience easier, the goal is the same. The apps and software lets teachers limit the available apps, keep track of the pupils progress, share documents and send notifications to the entire class.
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Bowles, Nellie (2018). The New York Times. The Digital Gap Between Rich and Poor Kids Is Not What We Expected.
Bærum Kommune (2015). Digital skolehverdag. https://www.baerum.kommune.no/tjenester/skole/digital-skolehverdag/
Cantú-Ballesteros, L. Urías-Murrieta, M. Figueroa-Rodríguez, S. Salazar-Lugo, G. M. (2017). Journal of Education and Training Studies. Teacher‘s Digital Skills in Relation to Their Age, Gender, Time of Usage and Training with a Tablet.
Getting, S. Swainey, K. (2012). First Graders with iPads?. Learning & Leading with Technology, 40 (1), 24-27. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ991227.pdf
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Nipen, Kjersti (2019). Aftenposten. Nettbrettene rykker inn i klasserommet. Ingen vet helt hva det gjør med læringen. https://www.aftenposten.no/amagasinet/i/OpaaqO/Nettbrettene-rykker-inn-i-klasserommet-Ingen-vet-helt-hva-det-gjor-med-laringen
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