I think therefore iLearn: using iPads effectively in the classroom

 iLearn Anywhere identified ways of enhancing student learning outcomes in literacy and numeracy

The argument for and against the use of technology in the classroom has been heating up in the media recently with some schools even banning the use of devices on certain days.   While there is always the potential for technology and other tools to become a distraction for students, Catholic Education’s iLearn Anywhere program found that technology can be a great tool to support student learning.

 Since 2014, eight primary schools in the Diocese of Parramatta have been engaged in a one-on-one iPad program to support student learning. The project commenced with Year 4 students being provided with individual access to an iPad Air for their educational use at home and school and the program continued into Year 5 and Year 6 with the same group of students. Now in its final year, the program involving 500 students has enabled a personalised approach to learning, provided equitable access to technology and greater flexibility with students learning anywhere and anytime.

iLearn Anywhere identified ways of enhancing student learning outcomes in literacy and numeracy when using iPads as a digital learning tool in English, Mathematics and other key learning areas. It also informed best practice in learning and teaching in technology-rich environments in primary classrooms and the potential value of extending digital learning to the home environment.

 Teaching Educator Nicole Sprainger said one of the key benefits of the program was the ability to personalise learning.

‘Teachers can more easily allow students to access learning content using video and audio applications as well as via textbooks,’ Nicole said. ‘Students with particular learning needs can utilise a diverse range of applications to create products of their learning for example movies, podcasts and screencasts, which is of benefit, for example, to those students who find it difficult to communicate in writing.’

Although the students have remained fairly constant over the program there have have been many new teachers joining the program each year. Research into the effective integration of ICT into classroom learning programs suggests that professional learning support is essential to help teachers know how best to use technology effectively in the classroom.

During the program, teachers were provided with professional learning support and resources to assist them to successfully incorporate the use of the iPad into classroom learning and teaching, including face-to-face professional learning, in-classroom support and an online course using iTunesU. Teachers also participated in a professional learning community where they shared their strategies and experiences with each other through interschool visits and blogging on the iPads in Learning Blog.

Nicole said that as part of the the iLearn program about 30 teachers per year have benefited from a variety of professional learning opportunities including face to face days, in-classroom coaching, collegial visits and a ‘teach-meet’.

‘We found that even with considerable ongoing professional learning support, many teachers take about 12 months to develop the skills and confidence to recognise the powerful ways the iPad can be utilised to transform learning and teaching,’ Nicole said.

Parents also had opportunities to be engaged with their child’s learning and how they could support their child in using the iPad appropriately at home.

Catholic Education’s Librarian at the Learning Exchange Lisa Nash said the program also helped students develop their Cyberwise skills and knowledge.

‘Students regularly demonstrated mindfulness and ethics about privacy when taking photos or video or re-purposing other people’s information,’ Lisa said. ‘There has been a significant shift towards students creating original content rather than merely being consumers of other people’s content and are learning new ways of communicating respectfully and responsibly as digital citizens.’  

Nicole said the iLearn Anywhere program showed that equitable access to technology for all students was welcomed by both teachers and students.

‘Classroom organisation is enhanced as there is improved continuity and less fragmentation of learning,’ Nicole said. ‘Students no longer have to wait for their next turn to complete tasks.’

The results also indicate that there has also been a blurring of boundaries between home and school with homework becoming an extension of classwork rather than seen as a separate activity. Students also found they were easily able to share what they were learning with their parents.

Initial concerns over whether the iPad could become a distraction to learning were eased with less than 10 per cent of students reporting that they were distracted when using their iPads.

‘Teachers also report that students are generally motivated and engaged, especially if they are given choice in the ways they can communicate their learning,’ Nicole said. ‘The opportunities for peer collaboration provided by the use of Google Drive, and the range of Google Apps for Education also contribute to task-persistence, learning and engagement.’

Posted By Catholic Education at 5/08/2016 10:41:39 AM

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