iPads in the classroom: a positive outcome for edtech

A new report from Stranmillis University College finds that iPads have a positive influence on Early Years learning

Charley Rogers reports;

The use of technology in the classroom has long been a point of contention amongst education professionals. Although many individual teachers and schools have been keen to adopt digital devices to enhance the classroom experience, incorporating various elements from instructional YouTube videos to fully immersive VR experiences, the systematic approach to edtech has been somewhat lacking.

But for the first time, it seems there may be some research to support the use of technology in teaching and learning. A new study published by Stranmillis University College in Northern Ireland has found that the use of iPads in Early Years learning may actually enhance rather than hinder learning and concentration.

The pilot project ‘Developing the use of portable devices in early years learning’ investigated the long-term implementation of iPads in five Northern Ireland primary schools located within the Belfast Education and Library Board 1 (BELB) area, and associated feeder nursery/pre-schools. The primary objective of the study was to assess the impact of the use of iPads on children’s learning in the Early Years and Foundation Stage of education. It focused on the impact upon literacy and numeracy, as well as examining the extent to which iPads can support other areas of the curriculum.

The report states that ‘For the most part, principals and teachers in the participating schools believe that the introduction of digital technology has had a positive impact on the development of children’s literacy and numeracy skills.’ Despite fears from many across the UK that technology will either distract the children from their studies, or may even make teachers obsolete, Strathmillis academics found that the introduction of the iPads actually complemented existing teaching, rather than replacing it, and increased the children’s confidence and ownership of the learning process.

Digital devices have a huge potential to impact on children’s numeracy and literacy in the early years, when teachers have adequate training, and when teaching is intentional and well-planned.

Talking to ET, Dr. Jill Dunn, Literacy Expert for the study, said: “Digital devices have a huge potential to impact on children’s numeracy and literacy in the early years, when teachers have adequate training, and when teaching is intentional and well-planned.”

Despite the overall positive results recorded during the experiment, some recommendations for the monitoring of the use of tech were also included. The children involved largely adapted very well to digital learning resources, however it was recommended that teachers monitored the use of apps for the level of difficulty especially, to ensure pupils did not become frustrated and lose interest. Other recommendations included systematic and ongoing training for teachers in incorporating such devices, and parental training in child protection and safeguarding for children with open access to tablets at home.

However, the overwhelming evidence provided by the report shows an encouraging future for edtech. As well as the specific learning outcomes, the experiment also revealed interesting data on the social behaviour of the children, and of the effects on management and leadership. For instance, the report states that ‘The majority of children expressed a preference for collaborative use, claiming that it was “more fun” or that it was “kind” to share,’ and that ‘Recording and monitoring children’s progress directly onto a tablet device had proved beneficial, particularly with regard to teacher workload.’

This is certainly a positive research outcome for the future of edtech, and will hopefully lead to similar studies across a range of teaching demographics.

The full report can be found here.