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Is an iPad a technological tool that enhances learning or just a distraction for students?

FUNCTION: 10.02.20 – Technology is changing the way teachers instruct their students in the 21st century, but while some schools are making full use of technological tools like the iPad in the classroom, others who have previously used Apple’s tablets are doing a full 180 ° and getting rid of the device completely.

At a school in the USA, the students get close to nature this autumn thanks to the iPad. Their teacher is no stranger to the use of technology in the classroom because? For the past six years, this teacher has been using Apple tablets in his classes to improve learning.

Stayton Slaughter, an eighth-grader at Coppell Middle School East in Dallas, Texas, uses an iPad to track the growth of crops grown in the school garden as part of the gardening subject he is enrolled in for the 2020-21 school year. (Photo: Apple, Inc.)

Meet Jodie Deinhammer, a science teacher at Coppell Middle School East in Dallas, Texas, who also has the prestige of being an Apple Distinguished Educator and was featured on Apple’s website as a story about returning to school in September.

Traditional learning looks very different in this science teacher’s classes, partly because of the iPad. Deinhammer – whose teaching career spans 25 years – has long embraced the use of technology in the classroom and believes technological tools such as iPads can help motivate each student to develop independently. The unit has also fostered creativity, encouraged students to grow, and allowed a flexible environment to learn in.

Ever since the Coppell Independent School District went one-on-one with iPads in 2014, this science teacher has been teaching using a practical approach to learning by integrating the device into the classes she teaches. According to Deinhammer, there is much more of an individual component in education through technology, and this has been evident with the use of the iPad.

“With the iPad, each student can design their own learning path and use resources that meet their individual needs,” says Deinhammer.

This year, Deinhammer Coppell Middle School East’s first gardening electives will teach students how to study everything about the school next fall and explore everything from how to plant the plants to the ideal moisture levels needed for the soil to grow them successfully. They will examine the current conditions of the crop using school-available Apple tablets to track plant growth and to collect data. Together with a third-party iOS app called Seek and the iPad camera, they will also classify and identify weeds from plants as well as insects from harmful pests, and then record the findings in a digital field guide directly on the device.

The challenge for every student, according to Deinhammer – who was the adult co-leader of the sustainability club that originally planted the school’s community garden last year – will be to think of the garden environment as a place for learning and to apply their problem-solving skills to expand and improve outdoor space. .

“The iPad lets kids see a world literally through a new lens … they can capture a world around them that they may not have noticed before. I want the children to notice and appreciate the small details that they can otherwise overlook, ”says Deinhammer.

One of the students enrolled in the elective subject gardening is Coppell Middle School East eighth grader Stayton Slaughter. During a recent visit to check how the crops for this year’s harvest followed, he demonstrated on his school-issued Apple tablet computer how to take measurements using Apple’s Measure app and then record the information directly in the digital field guide directly on the iPad. As a fan of Deinhammer’s teaching style, this student leader for the Sustainability Club believes that learning both digitally and physically has given him the tools and resources needed to do things like create original content – as exemplified by an infographic he draws on the iPad screen for an upcoming assignment due – as well as making their own decisions and observations in their classes.

“It’s a more enriching learning experience,” says Slaughter.

As enriching as it can be, but at another school (this one below), after five years of students learning digitally with e-books on iPads? The school’s administrators have phased out the use of Apple’s tablets in the classroom, and have instead gone back to regular textbooks.

Last year, Sydney Morning Herald reported that as classrooms across Australia embraced digital textbooks, Reddam House Private School – an educational institution located in the eastern suburbs of Sydney – declared e-boxing time on campus and returned to using old-fashioned paper versions because teachers found it improved comprehension and reduced distractions such as messages or alerts that appeared on the screen during the hour. In addition to being distracting, teachers said iPads hindered students’ ability to learn in the classroom. Furthermore? It was found that the devices did not contribute to their technological skills.

The Australian newspaper also reported that the consistent feedback from students has, surprisingly, been that they preferred print pages to digital, which led school administrators to announce to parents that regular textbooks would be used again.

And while iPads with e-books had been issued to elementary and middle school students since 2014, according to principal Dave Pitcairn, the school had not completely abandoned the paper versions of these books. The traditional format was kept for grades 11 and 12, and when a student came to grade 11 – and had a comparison between digital and regular textbooks – the latter preferred.

“Easy navigation through the textbook was easier with the paper version. I think they learn better the more abilities they use, the more senses they use in research and reading and taking notes, ”said Pitcairn.

A 2017 study conducted by the University of Maryland that was cited by Sydney Morning Herald found that there was little difference in the two formats. However, the printed version made the students better able to answer specific questions regarding a textbook they were reading. The study authors suggested that print is preferred over digital when a task requires more engagement or deeper understanding.

But what does science and research say about iPads being used in the classroom as a technological tool to enhance learning?

Jenn Ryan, a contributor to the health and wellness blog “The Hearty Soul”, which last year cited a 2013 study conducted by several universities in Canada, which studied schools in Quebec where more than 6,000 students use the Apple tablet. computer for learning on a daily basis. The research – conducted three years after the 2010 debut of the original iPad – highlighted the pros and cons of using iPads in the classroom. Researchers noted that access to information and student motivation (as mentioned by Coppell Middle School Easts Deinhammer in the United States) were among the advantages while writing skills and distraction (found by teachers at Australia’s Reddam House Private School) were among the disadvantages.

The study, which asked what students do with iPads every day and what benefits this technology has for education, found the following:

  • To answer these questions and to shed light on this new educational trend, we decided to conduct one of the largest studies to date of the use of iPads in education in collaboration with 18 primary and secondary schools in the province of Quebec, Canada
  • In the same way, we wanted to help teachers, students, principals, parents, teachers and other education stakeholders use iPads to learn in more reflective and educational ways.
  • the results show that the benefits outweigh the challenges
  • it seems that the integration of the iPad in education poses a necessary risk for schools, and that this technological tool has fantastic cognitive potential
  • at the same time that introducing it in the classroom does not necessarily provide a smooth transition
  • on the contrary, this new technology can pose challenges that teachers may find difficult to deal with if they become ignorant.
  • The key to the successful integration of the iPad in education is therefore to provide teachers with the right training

Other years-long studies, also cited by Ryan, say that the use of iPads in the classroom increases student engagement, but another study requires more data and says that the pedagogical benefits of using such devices for learning have not been formally evaluated yet. .

According to “The Hearty Soul” contributor, while there is a lot of research on learning digitally when it comes to a device like the iPad, it is far from crucial. There must also be more data to show that students actually benefit from these devices.

“It is clear that the data for the use of iPads has been somewhat mixed and must be more specific before we can say with certainty that the use of these devices in classrooms actually helps children,” Ryan said.

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