This guest post by Steve Wheeler was previously published in his blog, Learning with ‘e’s.
Since the introduction of the iPad and the subsequent parade of similar touch screen tablets, there has been much speculation about exactly what impact the devices might have on learning and teaching. A lot has been written about the potential of the devices, and much has been purely anecdotal. Clearly tablets are easy to use and have potential to revolutionise the way people access information. But what about formal education? I have contributed to the dialogue on my blog and there is much to discuss in relation to pedagogy, teacher roles, assessment and curriculum issues. There are also huge potential benefits in untethering learning – allowing students to roam while using the devices as mobile learning platforms. Recently a book was published with the title iPads in Schools, and several conference papers and articles are emerging which debate the place of touch tablets in formal education. Will they be a welcome addition to formal learning, or will they be a distraction? The intuitive design of touch screen tablets and their usability serve to fuel the hyperbole. But what impact are iPads really having on learning in formal education?
Until very recently, little empirical evidence had emerged to demonstrate clear learning benefits from tablets. The publication by NAACE (authored by Jan Webb) will add to our knowledge. Entitled ‘The iPad as a Tool for Education‘ the report is one of the most comprehensive yet on the impact of tablets in schools. It is a case study conducted at Longfield Academy in Kent, one of the first schools in the UK to adopt a school wide roll out of iPads to all of its students. Results of the study were mainly positive, showing that iPads were instrumental in encouraging better collaboration and increasing the motivation for learning. The tablets were used to develop beyond school activities and for supporting homework, and the quality of student work and learning outcomes has improved. This will be the first of a range of studies that will emerge in the next year or two, as more school adopt one iPad per child strategies, and time is taken to realise tangible and measurable outcomes from embedding the tools into daily learning and teaching.