Young students using iPads: App design and content influences on their learning pathways

The past few years have seen an array of new technological gadgets arrive on the education scene, perhaps the best known of these being Apple's i-Device range, particularly the iPad. Such devices have been described by some as ‘game changers’, and promoted as a key component to stimulating much-needed educational reform. However, history suggests the hype and rhetoric surrounding these technological innovations has failed to match the reality of their performance, in action. Some have attributed this failure to a lack of alignment by teachers of pedagogical models with the potential of technologies, while others argue that claims made are simply unrealistic sales hype. Regardless, schools continue to be seduced by these new technologies, purchasing ever increasing amounts based on the alleged learning promises they offer their students. This study presents an innovative approach to exploring student interaction with iPad apps, and is an attempt to begin to unpack factors that affect their learning pathways, in an effort to improve the educational potential of these popular devices. It focuses specifically on design and content features of apps selected by an experienced teacher to enhance literacy, numeracy and problem-solving capabilities of her 5 year old students. Findings reveal a complex matrix of influencing factors. These include the effect of embedded pedagogical scaffolds (eg., modelling, reflection time), corrective and formative feedback, text-to-speech functionality, imposed interaction parameters, impediments (eg., web links, advertisements, buying content) and the entertainment/education balance. Arguments are made for researchers, teachers and developers to work together and adopt methodologies such as that introduced in this article, to gather data to radically improve the design of apps used by young students for learning.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Falloon, G. (2013). Young students using iPads: App design and content influences on their learning pathways. Computers & Education, 68, 505-521.
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