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Are iPads essential for learning in New Zealand classrooms?

Eight projects have been selected for funding in the Teaching and Learning Research Initiative (TLRI) 2014 funding round, and will each receive a segment of $1.7 million.

One of the projects is ‘Exploring student thinking and problem solving in iPad-supported learning environments’.

Dr Greg Falloon of the University of Waikato who specialises in e-learning in schools, leads the investigation and has partnered with Leamington Primary School. Falloon will receive $129,975 over two years from the TLRI.

Ultimately, the project will look at how teachers can use iPads and apps for thinking and problem-solving capability development. On top of this, it will identify specific teaching and curriculum designs and strategies to enhance the technology and make use of them effectively.

Falloon has developed a purpose-built digital data tool that provides unique insights on how students learn through iPads for literacy tasks.

He will work with students and teachers in the primary school, and three different learning areas will provide context for his study.

In 2013, Elaine Khoo of The University of Waikato, along with other researchers, studied how iPads are used in early childhood education for learning and exploration.

Four particular iPad supported practices were observed - the iPad as a recreational tool, a communicative tool, a documentation tool, and as an informational tool for supporting child led learning.

Khoo found teachers used the iPad in similar ways to serve multiple functions and provide different opportunities for learning and exploration.

For instance two teachers used the internet but one used it to build a stronger relationship with students through acknowledging personal interests and emailing parents, while the other used it as an informational resource tool about particular topics.

Ultimately, the findings indicated iPad use can complement and expand teaching and assessment practice, adding to educators’ ability to use technology for teaching as well as supporting peer to peer learning.

However Khoo says, “We recognise that teachers need to be aware of the opportunities that iPads offer.”

She says, “We acknowledge that teachers need time to explore and experiment with the iPad’s different functionalities and possibilities in order to develop the skills and confidence to incorporate it in their practice.”

Overall, research in on iPads in the education system is limited, which is what Falloon’s investigation can begin to rectify.

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