The effectiveness of personal devices (e.g., tablets) on learning outcomes is a heatedly debated issue among education professionals. A recent report by Ine Consulting offers some positive insights into the matter. Studying a high school in Kent, UK, whose curriculum was heavily incorporated with iPads, researchers interestingly (yet not all surprisingly) discovered how the iPad assists learning in classroom.
According to the report, the top 3 subjects to learn on the iPad are English, math, and science. Although the researchers didn’t give detailed explanations as to why these subjects are the most popular to learn with the device, we could probably find some clues by simply doing a little research into education apps on the iTunes store. Compared to other subjects like arts, humanities, music, etc., the number of apps in English, math and science is much higher.
How are iPads used?
The survey revealed that students used iPads in class to get involved in various activities. Among all, the iPad is most likely to be used by students to conduct online research, create presentations, develop mindmaps, and participate in group work. One interesting point that can be drawn from the report is that the use of iPads in the classroom supports “the development of higher level thinking skills and better analysis of information and connectivity of ideas and events.” Among four top activities associated with the iPad, two of them (creating presentations and mindmapping) refer to creating, analyzing and evaluating, which are higher learning levels suggested by Bloom’s Taxonomy.
It seems that students are more likely to feel that they have better learning performance with iPads, whereas teachers appear to be more conservative. Nevertheless, most teachers think that using iPads in the classroom could effectively improve students’ learning motivation.
What other learning behaviors can be expected from using iPads?
The report also describes other ways in which students imagine using the iPad. Answers include making music and videos, writing stories, creating art, using iMovie for photography, etc. It is not hard to see that most of these activities involve creativity which, coming back to a previous point, the iPad easily supports. This result also indicates a broader horizon of iPad usage in terms of subjects and activities that can be conducted in the classroom.
Reflection: Issues and Debates
Though there are numerous reasons to justify why iPads should be used for learning, issues and debates still exist. One of the biggest issues is related to an increased cost in purchasing devices and who should be responsible for that cost. Some people are in favor of BYOD (bring your own device) yet it brings about some other issues. But then, should schools increase the budget to fulfill the needs? Rather than making learning affordable, does this iPad-in-classroom project turn out to benefit no one but Apple? We don’t know the answer yet. Hopefully educational practitioners and researchers can discover (or refute) the true benefits of tablet-backed education technologies in improving learning outcomes.