Schoolchildren using an iPad

Tablet devices in schools beneficial to children

School children who use a tablet computer benefit the most when allowed to take it home, rather than just using it in school, reveals research from the University of Hull.

The iPad Scotland Evaluation Study set out to establish the impact of handheld computer tablet devices in schools, and found that personal ‘ownership’ of such devices is the single most important factor for successful use of the technology.

The study is the largest of its kind ever conducted within the UK, covering students from eight schools across six Scottish Local Authorities over a six-month period.

“We saw very early on that the biggest impact came from personal ownership of the computer, and being able to take it home,” said Kevin Burden, principal investigator on the research project.

The research focused on four central themes in order to evaluate the overall effectiveness of these devices in assisting with learning, and was carried out by researchers from the Technology Enhanced Learning Research group at the Faculty of Education at the University.

The first theme – how tablet devices impact on teaching and learning generally – found that benefits included greater motivation, engagement, parental involvement and understanding of complex ideas.

“Pupils were more engaged and were able – and willing – to finish off work at home, then email it back to their class teacher so there were no ‘dog eating homework' excuses,” said Burden.

Leader and management issues (stemming from a deployment of devices) was another theme, and the study found that teachers are ‘equally engaged’ by the use of such a device, which has a low learning curve enabling them to use it immediately as a teaching tool and a learning tool for themselves.

Professional development of teachers and how teachers cope with using new technology was another theme, and the research found that ‘use of the device is contributing to significant changes in the way teachers approach their professional role as educators and is changing the way they see themselves and their pedagogy’.

“Teachers started to use these devices in more and more creative ways to enhance the learning of their pupils,” said Burden.

Parental engagement was another key issue, and the study showed that parents become more engaged with the school and their child’s learning when the iPad travels home with the student

The study resulted in 18 recommendations for using these devices in schools, with specific comments aimed at government, local authority and school level.

Recommendations include a wider roll-out of devices on a one-to-one level, pricing considerations – including leasing schemes – need to be considered carefully, and further studies should take place to continue evaluating this kind of technology.

In May 2012, Michael Russell, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning in Scotland, launched a series of pilots to assess issues associated with personal ownership of technologies for learning.

Russell confirmed at the time that there was no budget to purchase iPads for students across Scotland, but said he wanted to “drive forward a culture change in Scottish education”  and ensure new technologies can be embedded into learning.

Further information

The full iPad Scotland evaluation can be downloaded:

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