Author: Corey McKenna
Publication Date: 2012, 2(5): 136-142, published online at http://journal.sapub.org/edu
This study looked at the use of iPads in two classrooms in a small, Central California school district. One of the classrooms was a first grade, and one was a second/third grade blend. Both of the teachers participating in the study were first year teachers. Both teachers were enthusiastic about using the class set of iPads during some reading and math lessons. NETS*S 2a-d., 4a-d., and 5b., were addressed by these teachers as they incorporated digital tools, provided a technology-enriched environment, customized learning, modeled digital citizenship and demonstrated a vision of technology infusion at their school. Some lessons were conducted with traditional methods, and some were conducted using the iPads. This study was of interest to me, because I work in elementary classrooms, and mostly primary classrooms. Our school has some iPads available for use through the learning center, but does not have classroom sets. I have used iPad applications with individual students, but was interested in reading about the results of using iPads with a whole class.
The authors noted a need for more research in this area of using iPad apps in the classroom to further develop a pedagogical framework for the use of this technology. The classrooms in this study were observed for a 3-month period. These digital natives were observed by their teachers, as noted in their observation logs, to have more engagement in the lessons which were taught using the iPad than with the traditionally taught lessons. I have also noticed this increase in engagement when using iPads with students. As noted in the study, and also in my personal experience, it doesn’t take long for students to learn their way around the apps. Both classes made gains in reading accuracy and speed. They also made significant gains on the three math standards that were assessed.
The teachers in the study spent a significant amount of time finding appropriate apps, loading them and synchronizing them. NETS*S 3a. is demonstrated by their transfer of knowledge in the teaching of reading and math to new technologies. In my experience, it does take time to find appropriate apps to use with students. The apps need to fit what you are trying to teach, who you are trying to teach, and how you are trying to teach. The teachers in the study had no staff development prior to using the iPads. In my personal experience, I have found the staff development to be uneven as well. IPads appear on the scene, but training on apps is often done on your own. Some staff have their own iPads at home to experiment with, but some don’t. Another issue that was noted in the study was the importance of having the infrastructure for wireless connectivity that is powerful enough to connect the whole class at one time. At the school in the study, connectivity was an issue. I have not found connectivity to be an issue at our school, but there is occasionally a problem with this. This would highlight the need to have backup plans for when internet connectivity might fail. I have found it important to have a good working relationship with the technology person at your school. This can decrease your frustration level significantly, by having someone to ask advice and get technical support from.
I found this study to be supportive of the use of iPads for whole class instruction and small group instruction in reading and math. This is of interest to me, because I think that iPads will become more prevalent in schools, as additional grants make them available. I did find the study lacking in the area of discussing the usability and productivity of particular apps. Indeed, the only app sited was the use of Ibooks for reading. I think that as I read more research in this area, I can be more articulate with parents about the importance of using these new mobile learning technologies and learn which apps are most useful.