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Enhancing teaching and learning through the use of iPads

Tags: English | Mathematics and statistics | 1-1 Digital technologies | BYOD | iPads | Lower primary | Primary |

Students at Tauranga Primary School used iPads to consolidate their knowledge base, and reinforce learning intentions.

"Our school regularly reviews the way technology is embedded in effective learning and teaching."
eLPF 2014

This snapshot describes how iPads can be used in junior numeracy and literacy programmes, and offers practical suggestions on how to manage this technology in classrooms.

Teaching as inquiry

A major priority for Tauranga Primary School was to create 21st-century learning environments as part of their future-focused strategic direction. Teachers blended traditional teaching practices with digital technologies to meet the needs of their students. 

The school explored how different year levels could use iPads as teaching and learning tools with:

  • a class of year two students trialing five iPads in their classroom
  • a class of senior students trialing iPads for learning. 

iPads were chosen because they:

  • cater for a variety of learning styles and create interactive classrooms
  • provide an engaging learning environment that can hook in reluctant learners
  • are considerably cheaper than desktop or laptop computers but still provide excellent learning opportunities
  • are portable so students can move around the classroom and find a work setting that is suitable for them
  • feature large multi-touch screens that let students use their fingertips. This is particularly beneficial for younger children.

Using iPads

Students used the iPads daily, particularly during numeracy and literacy sessions.  

Students used maths applications to consolidate their knowledge base. They adjusted the settings depending on their ability.

Favourite maths apps include:

Students used iPads during reading time to work on focus areas such as reading fluency, comprehension, handwriting letter formation, and grammar. A task board outlined the apps they needed to work on. This promoted self-management and allowed the teacher to fully focus on her guided reading group.

The iPad activity that had the greatest impact on achievement involved students using the inbuilt camera to record themselves reading out loud and watching it back. They self-assessed their reading to identify future goals. This activity led to increased fluency and expression.

Favourite reading apps include:

  • A camera (to record fluency)
  • Bluster

iPads were used to publish work in a fun and visually appealing way. An example of this came about when the students wrote a report in their books about the ship Rena hitting Astrolabe Reef at Mount Maunganui, and then used the iPads to publish their work. They used the app, Puppet pals – Director's Pass .

Handwriting apps on the iPads helped students to practise the correct formation of letters. Spelling apps were used to teach spelling conventions. 

Favourite handwriting and spelling apps include: 

Advice for classroom teachers

Implementing iPads in a classroom

Less is more 

You don’t need to find lots of applications. Work out what fits your classroom programme and get students confident with those apps.

Meaningful uses

Make sure that iPad use is meaningful for students. Don’t force iPads into your programme for the sake of it. They may not enhance student outcomes in every curriculum area or topic.

It won’t happen overnight 

Setting up iPads requires passion and patience from the teacher. You have to recognise that it takes time and work to get them set up so that they can play an effective role in your classroom programme.

iPads and student management

Pre-teaching apps

Spend a few weeks at the beginning of term demonstrating how to use the apps. This is crucial for focused work that will enhance learning outcomes. 

Use of task boards

The management of iPads needs to be well structured and organised. Task boards can be used to direct the students. Rules for using iPads are helpful.

Teaching practice and student outcomes

iPads did not replace traditional teaching practices but were used as a tool to provide accessible, relevant, and high-quality learning opportunities. The iPads enabled the teacher to reinforce classroom learning, and hook reluctant learners into the programme.

Student engagement and motivation increased through the use of iPads. A dramatic drop in classroom noise level was noticed when students used them.  

Students’ reading fluency and expression improved, as well as their writing ability, and confidence in mathematics.