Making a direct link between technology and attainment is not easy. There are just too many variables in teaching and learning, and working with young people. Reports have been published both in favour, and against the impact of technology in schools. Some make the headlines, but most do not. For us, finding the evidence of impact requires looking much deeper than superficial data analysis. It is really about whether technology has an impact on the learning journey, not just the learning outcomes. At our school we see young people really engaged with learning when we watch them use computers. When used effectively, with a focus on the learning experience, and not the technology itself, we believe, and witness that it can have a profound effect on learning.
Our students tell us it makes them more efficient, more independent, and more interested in their learning.
We have spoken to many students and teachers, up and down the country who have embraced tablet technology in their schools, and have been impressed with how they articulate the new range of opportunities technology has provided them.
Clevedon School, in Bristol, tell us:
With the introduction of mobile technology for learning, it has ensured students are able to access their learning anywhere and at any time. Students have been automatically empowered by the removal of space or time restrictions and as a result, completion of homework has increased due to ease of access to electronic submission and the variety of ways in which the work can be presented. In addition, the technology has had an effect on attitude to learning levels (effort, organisation and behaviour). Data from 2013-14 (the first full year with iPad) shows an increase of 64% growth in green ATLs and a 31% decrease in red ATLs. This data shows how the iPad is complementing the ATL system in that it provides a range of opportunities to show the very best approaches to learning, meeting such criteria as ‘modelling leadership’, ‘demonstrating creativity’ and ‘extending learning beyond the classroom’. In addition, it is helping other students to move out of the red levels through encouraging active participation in lessons and acquiring a positive approach to learning.
Current data shows how the iPad appears to be having a particularly noticeable impact on the current Year 11 cohort who will have used the technology throughout the whole of their GCSEs by the end of 2015. Predictions show a growth of 11.1% in the number of students achieving 5A*-C grades when compared to the previous Year 11 cohort.
In addition, within the subject of Science, where iPad technology has developed hugely since the initiative was first launched, actual grades from core GCSE Science have risen dramatically. In the year before the iPad was introduced 51% of students achieved A*-C, rising to 56% the following year when students had experienced 6 months with the technology. Significantly, for the most recent cohort who have had the iPads for the length of their core science course, the figure rose to 67%. The iPad strategies used within the subject to support the students’ learning has included independent and personalised tasks within lessons and the use of electronic text books, immediately accessible to all students both in and outside of the classroom.
Hove Park School
At Hove Park School, they tell us:
It is a game-changer. It is clear that the use of iPads in lessons very quickly had a positive influence on students’ collaboration and sharing of work.
In classrooms across the school the iPads provided new opportunities for the students to learn and express their understanding in ways that were most personally relevant to them. Students with learning difficulties have been able to use the accessibility features of the iPad to facilitate greater independence and access to learning than was possible beforehand. Teachers are now able to build in many more opportunities for students to respond to challenges and tasks with greater freedom: a factor that has increased motivation and engagement. In particular, the ability of students to express understanding in a broader range of ways; in books, audio, films, music and multi-media presentations has enriched the learning experience at Hove Park.
Of course, this is just the story from two schools, but due to the way the strategy is being implemented, we are hearing similar stories from other schools too. Where the case is less evidential is where there is no clear strategy focussed on the pedagogy. Simply putting technology in school will not have any impact as recent studies have shown.
de Ferrers Academy
It’s not about the technology, it’s about the learning!
Just throwing technology at a problem does not and will not have any impact upon teaching and learning. Technology is an enabler. Some reports warn that “classroom technology can be a distraction and result in pupils cutting and pasting prefabricated homework answers from the internet.” This is a typical example of IT not being used properly, and frankly, if it’s used in this way we’d agree.