Tablets and education

Ayrshire College recently added to its stock of tablet computers with 30 new iPads to support learning and teaching across the College through the Learning Resource Centres on the three main campuses. The Learning Technologies team will be providing training in the practical use of the iPads, as well as how each curriculum area can use them for excellence in learning and teaching. Learning Technologist Bill Lennox explains.

Rise of the machine

In recent years information and communication technologies (ICT) have gained significant ground, both in the day-to-day lives of the young and not-so-young, and in schools and colleges around the world. Indeed, many believe they are the future of education. According to some experts technology has transformed society from top to bottom and changed public expectations on what education systems should deliver and how.

The use of conventional computers like laptops and netbooks is well established in schools and colleges, with a considerable body of literature to confirm their value and impact. Although the integration of tablet devices such as the iPad is still very much at the innovation stage, there is already published research on the impact of these devices on learning and teaching which demonstrates the benefits and innovative practice engendered.

In barely a handful of years, the tablet has appeared in educational establishments around the world as no previous innovation has succeeded in doing. The exact figures are difficult to pin down, but it is certainly the case that the integration of tablets into education is proceeding at an exponentially faster rate than previous technological advances like the personal computer. In the UK, around 70% of primary and secondary schools use tablet computers, and almost 10% have an individual tablet for every pupil. Around the world, several countries have introduced individual tablets for every pupil at every school. Statistics like these are rising all the time with more and more schools and colleges introducing tablets in one way or another.

Benefit of tablets

To see why tablets are enjoying such a meteoric rise in education, we need only look at the academic research which has been undertaken on their use and the many benefits identified, eg iPad Scotland Evaluation. A University of Cambridge study provides evidence that they help to motivate pupils who might otherwise be disengaged.

A separate study from the National Literacy Trust and Pearson suggests that tablets are particularly useful in helping students from deprived backgrounds improve their literacy skills more effectively than other traditional methods.

Several studies, including one from Bond University in Australia, have shown that using tablet computers increases student motivation in class and lectures. A large number of the studies from institutions such as MIT, the University of Hong Kong and the University of the West of Scotland have also shown that the use of tablets supports student learning and performance, as well as improving computer literacy skills. Even more significant benefits have been shown in studies which focus on the impact of tablets for students with learning difficulties or additional support needs (see University of Madrid study).

These benefits, and more, are driving the expansion of the tablet in education. At Ayrshire College, the Learning Technologies team looks forward to supporting our students and staff with the use of this powerful educational tool.

If you want to find out more, check out this literature review on the use of tablets in education.


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