In 2002 I was so enthused by the idea that a school could provide one desktop computer for every child, that I launched a research programme to study one of the first schools in the UK to achieve that goal for each of its 41 Year 6 pupils. We placed a research assistant in a classroom for several hours each week, over an entire term at Broadclyst Community Primary School, near Exeter in Devon, to observe and record what happened. The results were later published in the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, and the 1:1 ratio certainly made a difference to learning engagement, but not necessarily to learning gain. Our major findings were that the 1:1 ratio of laptop provision encouraged greater creativity from the children, and improved their levels of engagement and enthusiasm across subjects.

Now, ten years on, more and more schools are finding the resources to offer their students a laptop each, and some schools are trail blazing by providing iPads for each of their learners. One such school, Cedars School of Excellence, in Greenock, Scotland has discovered that providing an iPad for each of its children has many benefits. Fraser Speirs, the teacher primarily responsible for the roll-out almost two years ago, argues that what attracts children to using the iPad to learn is its portability, accessibility and intuitive touch screen interface. The touch screen enables users, teachers and students, to get very quickly to the heart of learning by using natural gestures, without having to spend time discovering which key to press, how to navigate around, or start up a particular software tool. The school treats the iPads as 'everyday' rather than special, because when students leave school and enter the world of work, technology will surround them. Speirs claims that the iPads facilitate learning that is 'more flexible, engaging and interesting.' He says that it is too early in the project to report if the iPads have made a significant difference on achievement. You can read more about the Cedar School iPad project on Fraser's blog.

Another school taking the plunge into 1:1 iPad provision is Mounts Bay Academy, a secondary school near Penzance in Cornwall. Headteacher Sara Davey is a visionary who wants to transform learning in the school and facilitate world class learning. She is not short of critics, many of whom claim the scheme, costing just over £300 for each of its 900 students, is little more than a costly gimmick. She counters these criticisms by arguing that in the long term, iPads will be more cost effective than purchasing expensive books which go out of date. It will also be an improvement on the ICT suite, which takes up valuable space and resources and can only be used by small groups of students at a time. She sees learning on the move for all as preferable, because each child can take their iPad into lessons, use them across the curriculum, and take them home to continue their learning seamlessly.  Similarly to Speirs, Davey argues that the iPads will improve student engagement and make learning more interesting. Again, this project is at an early stage and time will tell whether there is a direct impact on the quality of learning.

What are your views about one iPad for every child? Is it innovative and far-sighted, or just another gimmick with little evidence to justify the cost?

NB: You can read more on the debate about whether every student should have an iPad here.

Image source

Creative Commons License
iPad or iFad? by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at steve-wheeler.blogspot.com.
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