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What's going on behind the screens?

Researching young students' learning pathways using iPads

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Abstract

Since their introduction in 2010, much has been said and written about Apple's iPad (Apple Inc., Cupertino, CA, USA) and its potential to transform when and how students learn. Much of this hype has focused on attributes of the device such as its touch screen interface, light and portable form factor, easy-to-use operating system, and large array of apps. Emerging studies mainly report positive outcomes for students from using iPads in specific learning situations. These studies have cited enhanced motivation and learner engagement, often linking this with improved learning outcomes. However, there is a dearth of research exploring how students interact with these devices, and the factors that affect the quality and learning value from that interaction.

This article reports on the use of an innovative recording solution to capture video and audio data of young students using iPads to develop literacy, numeracy and problem-solving/decision-making skills. The study offers insights into how students go about solving problems within apps, and highlights the importance of knowledge, affective and dispositional elements, and good app design to profitable interaction. It also flags considerations for teachers embarking on initiatives involving iPads, and suggests app developers need to work more closely with teachers to improve the learning value of their products.

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