Are Our iPads Making a Difference in Student Learning?

ipadsThe iPads themselves don’t make a difference in learning – how they are used certainly does!

We only have 36 iPads dedicated for Lower School use by about 300 students. That’s certainly better than nothing and there’s a very good chance that next year we’ll have a set of 21 for each grade level.

My goal over the past few months has been to demonstrate how powerful an iPad can be when used as more than a consumption device. Instead, the iPad should be thought of as a tool for creation, innovation, collaboration, communication.

Beth Holland wrote a thought-provoking article titled iPads: From Pedagogical Crutch to Education InnovationIn it she compares the iPad to a crutch which provided support, access, and mobility for months after she broke her leg. Beth says the iPad is much like that. However, as she states, “The ultimate goal is to walk without the crutches.” In the same way, the iPads can provide a support for teaching and, just as time strengthens a broken leg, the use of the iPad can lead to stronger teaching and learning through new and innovative ideas.

With that in mind, I deliberately chose apps that are open-ended for our iPads. During the time the students come to the lab, I’ve been introducing some of the apps and modeling for teachers how they might use them in their classes.

1st Graders on a Noun Hunt

1st Graders on a Noun Hunt

I can’t quantitatively measure what is occurring with iPad use, but I can definitely observe excitement and students taking charge of their learning. From 1st graders snapping pictures of nouns and labeling them in Pic Collage to problem-solving with Math Ahoy!, the children are planning and making decisions on how to create.

Problem-solving with Math Ahoy!

Problem-solving with Math Ahoy!

Fourth graders are combining writing skills with the Tellagami app to share BioPoems about themselves. (Listen to Ellie’s BioPoem) As I am not their writing teacher, it’s sometimes difficult to get them to write for me. Not this time! I had the students embed their “gami” into their blog and, on their own, they began to listen to their classmates’ poems and leave comments.

Third graders are using Explain Everything to document what they are learning about landforms. Their teacher was amazed that some of her students quickly figured out how to record and email their completed project to me then began to help others who were still in the process of finishing!

My favorite, though, was a third grader who had just finished recording his book review in the Tellagami app, announcing to the entire room, “This is the most AWESOME app ever. I just have to get it when I get home!” And later, I received the following email from another 3rd grader’s mom:

email from Luke's momWithin minutes of responding with information about Tellagami, Luke’s mom sent me a link to his newest gami. (Luke’s gami)

Yes, iPads are definitely making a difference in student learning. One just has to take a look at the excitement, the planning, the leadership, the communication, the sharing, the creating, and so much more that is occurring!


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