Net worth of the iPad

Much interest was shown in yesterday's post iPad or iFad? It focused on whether schools should provide iPads for all their students. In the UK several schools are already doing this, and all have received great criticism from pressure groups who claim that it is an expensive gimmick. All down through the history of technology, as each new tool is introduced, there are those who will resist and complain, usually without any real evidence to justify their complaints. The main objection against one iPad per child projects is that there is little evidence to show that the new devices actually improve learning gain. The schools counter this argument by saying that with projects in their infancy it does take time to set up research and gather data, interpret it and discover whether an affect is in evidence.

The discussion on iPad or iFad was very interesting and thought provoking and I would like to express my thanks to all those who participated. The gist of the discussion centred not so much on the technology (and rightly so) but more on the pedagogy. You can follow it for yourself here, but generally, those participating agreed that if a new technology such as the iPad is introduced into the classroom it will only be effective if the the teaching and learning changes to harness the power of that technology. Too often we have seen new technologies placed into the classroom, and then used in exactly the same way as the old technology they are meant to replace. This video shows what not to do with an iPad:

One school I featured in yesterday's post was Mounts Bay Academy, near Penzance, Cornwall. Mounts Bay is one of the secondary schools in the UK that has adopted one iPad per child, and at the cost of over half a million pounds, has been the target for a lot of flak from groups such as the Tax Payers Alliance. Sara Davey, head teacher of Mounts Bay was yesterday interviewed on BBC radio, and reported an initial set of results from their school-wide iPad project as follows:

In a recent student survey 90% of Mounts Bay students agreed that iPads were very useful for their learning, especially in Science, English, Religious Education and History.  They reported that they made personal learning gains by working faster and getting more done. The students found the iPads very useful for their research and homework and they liked the fact that it is inclusive with a personal device for every student. Teachers observed that there were gains in Literacy learning, with communication now excellent between staff and students and improving greatly with between the school and parents.  There is a report on the website of a visit by teachers from nearby schools Penrice and Callington yesterday with comments, and an iPad showcase section. Data collected by the school indicate that Year 11 achievement looked very promising this year with a possible 10% increase in students gaining 5 GCSEs (including English and Mathematics).

As Sara Davey herself warns, these results cannot and should not be solely attributed to the introduction of the iPads. Yet it is significant that students have reported that they revise earlier because they are more interested in studying using the iPads than they are using text books.

Image courtesy of Fotocommunity
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Net worth of the iPad by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
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Remi Tremblay said…
I wonder if this type of intervention would be subject to a "Hawthorn effect", that is a teacher will invest more time and effort into a class that now has ipads because others are watching and expecting a change. The mere act of more closely observing what us going on in the classroom more closely may impact overall student attainment.
Steve Wheeler said…
Good point Remi, but I guess we have to speculate, not haveing been in the classroom of that school. We know that the 'observer effect' does have an influence over participant behaviour, but we also know that over a prolonged period of observation, behaviour becomes more naturalistic.

The Pygmalion in the Classroom study (Rosenthal and Jacobson) in the 60s showed similar influences, but these were provoked by the researchers indicating to teachers that certain students (randomly chosen) were above average intelligence. The teachers subconsciously invested more time in those specific students, and learning gain was seen to improve dramatically.

I guess this is yet another really interesting research project for some post-grad student to make a PhD out of. Anyone interested? I'm a cool supervisor :)
chrisrat said…
I think you'd also need to take into account the'Shiny Factor' (Ratcliffe, 2012). What happens in two or three years time when things aren't new anymore?
It would be fascinating to see if children who had an iPad since launch had as much improvement in the same time as those children who had never used one before.
Simon Ensor said…
Cool! Do we get a set of ipads to lead the study? I am game ;-)
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks Chris. Yep, that would be the acid test.
Steve Wheeler said…
We have just purchased 15 iPads for our undergraduate ICT specialist teacher trainees. Everybody's doing it ;)
Andy Griffiths said…
As a developer with a few iPads lying around the house and a couple of toddlers, my own view is that it's not necessarily innovative and far-sighted for schools to introduce them, but more that it's an absolute imperative. How we interact with and consume content is changing rapidly, and either education keeps up and stays relevant or it doesn't. Could you imagine a situation in 5 or 10 years where the only place a child might encounter printed media is at school? At home everything is digital. Rather sad, I'd say (as a book lover), but it may happen.
My wife and I have been very impressed with what our eldest daughter (3.5 yrs) has learnt from the iPad, and she's so at home on it now that I'm having to lockdown the web. iPads / tablets really are much more natural devices to interact with than desktops or laptops, and education needs to reflect that reality if it wants to keep up.

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