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Why are we giving every child in Year 3 – 6 an iPad?

This is a question we asked ourselves at the initial idea of the programme and took us 1 year 6 months to answer. We conducted research for and against 1:1 device programmes in schools and took results from over 150 studies including those within our own Nord Anglia Education family. The research showed us that the advantages 1:1 devices can bring to the learning of our students, outweighed some of the disadvantages.

Read a summary of our research findings here.

It is important to note that some schools have adopted no technology policies that include teachers and other schools have adopted 1:1 technology policies that allow students to bring their own devices from home or collect devices from school. Suffice to say that we are in a time of change in education and indeed the greater world, and schools are responding to this in different ways. As with many scenarios such as this, we found there to be no perfect system and we need to be prepared for changes that present themselves with new policies schools as schools are adapting to tackle the technological need our world is creating – ours will be no different.

Our consultation looked at the pros and cons of 1:1 devices from an educational, social, health and technical point-of-views and included the following sources:

  • Pew Internet and American Life Project
  • Pearsoned.com
  • TechCrunch
  • BESA
  • Apple
  • Education Week
  • Durham University
  • Grey Nun Acadamy
  • SecurEdge Networks
  • Edutopia
  • Schoolyard School Specialty
  • National Center for Education Statistics
  • FOBIT
  • Nord Anglia University

Nord Anglia Education and international schools from:

  • Beijing
  • Singapore
  • Houston
  • Oxford
  • Ho Chi Minh
  • Guangzhou
  • Warsaw
  • Shanghai
  • Pattaya
  • Bangkok
  • Doha
  • Grantham, Lincolnshire, UK

The process also included an ongoing large Nord Anglia Education (NAE) consultation called the Educational Technology Strategy.

Through this physical and virtual collaboration, these were our raw findings both positive and negative:

  • 43% of teachers already allow tablet use in class
  • McGraw-Hill, Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (produce 90% of textbooks available to schools) are producing digital versions
  • 82% of all web traffic is generated by tablet devices
  • 82% of teachers surveyed said students have an interest in using tablets
  • In the USA, over 2,300 school districts are using iPads in the classroom
  • 1:1 programmes “on average had a statistically significant positive impact on student test scores in English/language arts, writing, math and science”
  • Often leads to increased frequency and breadth of student technology use, typically for writing, Internet research, note-taking, completing assignments, and reading
  • Students can use devices extensively throughout the writing process, expanding the genres and formats of their work to include writing for email, chats, blogs, wikis, and the like
  • Student-centered, individualised, and project-based learning appeared to increase in at least some instances of 1-to-1 rollouts
  • Student-teacher communications (via email and Google Docs, for example) and parental involvement in their children's school work increased in some instances
  • Students expressed "very positive" attitudes about using laptops in the classroom, as findings consistently showed higher student engagement, motivation, and persistence when laptops were deployed to all students.
  • Students' technology and problem-solving skills improved, and their ownership of their own learning increased, according to some evidence.
  • There were mixed findings on whether 1-to-1 laptop programs helped overcome inequities among students and schools.
  • In response to a research focus on personalised learning / differentiated instructions; 1:1 technology makes it possible for teachers to differentiate content delivery and student assignments, using a variety of teaching methods and tools. EG: video, electronic and online resources can be selected and shared at the appropriate student level or learning style, ensuring that the content is being delivered, in a way that can be best understood by all students
  • In response to a research focus on enhancing student engagement, motivation and ownership for learning; in a 1:1 environment, the learning shifts from the more traditional instructor-led model to a more student-centred focus. Accessibility to online learning tools gives students options that naturally engage them in the learning process. Technology is one tool that provides effective differentiation, while increasing student engagement and motivation
  • In response to a research focus on how accessing student work facilitates ongoing formative assessment; when students completed written work and presentations can be submitted through Cloud-based systems, teachers are able to view student work in progress. This facilitates ongoing feedback to students from teachers and formative assessment opportunities; both of these are considered best practice in assessment and will lead to improved student outcomes
  • In response to a research focus on opportunities for group and project-based learning; in a 1:1 model, it is possible to shift from traditional 'lecture-based' learning, to more student-centred research projects and project-based learning. Not only does this model provide a variety of ways to deliver content, it offers a wider range of opportunities for students to show what they know and understand about a topic. Project-based learning is typically framed by a 'real-world problem' that requires students to work in groups, gather and utilise information, think critically, and apply this knowledge. The teacher becomes a facilitator helping to frame student questions
  • In response to a research focus on using technology as a tool for teaching & learning; a 1:1 program has the ability to scaffold student tasks and assess what they are learning along the way. Project-based learning supports 21st Century critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity—which are essential skills required in secondary, further, higher education and the workplace. A student can choose from a plethora of technologies to implement effective research strategies, to collaborate with peers, and publish findings
  • In response to a research focus on opportunity for collaboration, within & outside the school: when provided with a device, students have a sense of ownership and are more apt to take charge and become more invested in their own learning. They have access to resources not confined by the classroom walls or the school day. Students are able to collaborate with their peers through tools such as Office 365 for Education, blogs, Web 2.0 tools, etc, as they communicate and problem-solve. Personal devices will also enable students to access, manage, integrate, evaluate and create information in all their subject areas
  • In response to a research focus on ease of accessing primary source information; the best schools envision students accessing primary sources of information from multiple sources in order to broaden meaning and understanding - a key element of higher level education and career success in the 21st Century. On-demand access to a reliable device makes this possible for students and allows teachers in the classroom to plan around this opportunity
  • In response to a research focus on student workflow: this is perhaps the most commonly cited finding from schools using 1:1 technology; students experience greater independence, greater task completion, and more efficient workflow with the ability to electronically manage and share tasks in a single environment (as opposed to across multiple binders, notebooks, etc) that travels easily between school and home
  • There also found to be decreased emphasis on technology as a discrete topic or subject
  • Concerns raised about 1:1 technology programs making a school become overly-focused on technology and connecting students to devices. However, ironically, making devices ubiquitous across the school day may actually have the benefit of minimising technology as the focus of learning; instead of learning about technology, students learn with technology. Teachers are better able to use technology as it is literally intended, as a tool for achieving work and goals we already have, such as student learning, collaboration, access to information, and engagement in problem solving
  • 1:1 programmes found to minimise the use of traditional natural expense resource as students require fewer equipment such as binders, calculators, and some traditional textbooks
  • Problems can occur where classroom technology was used for practice of basic skills far more often than for design and creation
  • Teachers can be slow to transform their practice
  • Technology is not used to its full potential when used primarily to make administrative tasks and existing forms of instruction more efficient
  • Exposing students to an increase in screen-time raises concerns over addiction and social health
  • Concerns about security of the devices
  • Concerns about the ability to change mind-sets from game-centric devices to productivity devices

In regard to the important concern of screen time:

  • Common Sense Media reports: If they're using high-quality, age-appropriate media; their behaviour is positive; and their screen-time activities are balanced with plenty of healthy screen-free ones, there's no need to worry and to limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs for children age 2 to 5 years.
  • Verywell Family reports: The new recommendations are that electronic media use for entertainment be limited to one or two hours a day. Parents should focus on ensuring that the entertainment is of high quality.
  • CNN Health reports: "It doesn't make sense to make a blanket statement [of two hours] of screen time anymore," said Dr. Yolanda Reid Chassiakos, lead author of the "Children and Adolescents and Digital Media Technical Report" and assistant professor at UCLA. "For some children, two hours may be too much."
  • APP reports: For the new guidelines, the AAP identifies screen time as time spent using digital media for entertainment purposes. Other uses of media, such as online homework, don't count as screen time. The academy recommends that for children 2 to 5 years of age, screen time should be limited to one hour per day. For kids ages 6 and older, parents can determine the restrictions for time spent using screen, as well as monitor the types of digital media their children use.
  • Raising Children Network reports: The latest guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggest that children under 18 months should avoid screen time, other than video-chatting and children aged 18 months to 2 years can watch or use high-quality programs or apps if adults watch or play with them to help them understand what they’re seeing. Children aged 2-5 years should have no more than one hour a day of screen time with adults watching or playing with them. Children aged 6 years and older should have consistent limits on the time they spend on electronic media and the types of media they use.
  • The Guardian reports: Many parents will be relieved to hear that recent research suggests that it’s not so much the length, but the nature of the screen time that matters. Whether it’s passive TV or social media monitoring, active video game playing, socialising with WhatsApp, or getting creative in iMovie.

These points resulted in a research report summary as follows:

Each of the research articles suggest that giving each child in a school a computer will not only increase academic achievement, but it is becoming an absolute necessity due to the nature of an ever-changing technological society. 

In addition, however, they speak of a generally accepted myth that computers are somehow necessary to achieve academic success. There are countless examples of varying levels of academic success within schools implementing 1:1 computer usage programs, and because of this it seems very safe to come to the conclusion that simply giving a child a computer will not automatically guarantee academic improvement.

Ultimately, a piece of technology is a resource and how that technology is embraced and utilised by the teachers themselves is the ultimate variable of success.

This is an ongoing process, and as such, we have had the opportunity to listen to other schools within the NAE family who have had 1:1 programmes running already. Here are some of our findings from them:

‘It has been two years since we began our 1-1 device program and there has been significant progress made by staff and students in understanding the role of technology within the learning journey.

It is very easy for people to use technology to only consume information. However, we believe that technology can be leveraged to place our students as creators and controllers of content. [the 1:1 programme is], one way of doing this.

Although our students are often referred to as ‘digital natives’, they don’t necessarily always make the right choices when using technology. In addition, they may not know how to use technology effectively to support their learning. It is the responsibility both in school and out of school to educate students about appropriate and safe technology use. 21st Century skills can be developed with, and supported by, the use of [1:1] technology.

It’s not about the technology. This is our overarching belief when it comes to the use of technology in our school. Digital Agility focuses on the what, why and when of technology use. Learning always comes first. Following the ideas of the SAMR model and other similar education technology philosophies, technology should be used to support, transform and enhance the learning taking place.

At a younger age, the teachers will guide and teach the students more to gain the understanding, but as students get older we would expect more independence, autonomy and reflection on their use of technology.’

 

The report cited below, Decoding Learning: The Proof, Promise & Potential of Digital Learningfrom Nase contains over 130 research papers and references and due to the depth of which it looks into the pros and cons to education technology and indeed, 1:1 programmes, is the core document in use by NAE in establishing their own education technology policy. We took this very seriously with some of the key points highlighted below:

“Digital technology can support two kinds of interaction between learner and teacher. The first is the dialogue between learners and teachers. This is referred to as tutorial. A seminal paper by Benjamin Bloom suggested that one–to–one teaching is the most effective way to learn. He found that children who were taught individually performed significantly better than children who were taught in a conventional classroom setting. Technology can support dialogue between learner and teacher, particularly when they are not in the same location; or when they are unable to communicate with each other at the same time. Technology can enhance dialogue with visual aids, such an interactive whiteboard. Technology can even simulate the role of teacher, as seen in intelligent teaching systems.”

“We need to change the mindset amongst teachers and learners: from a ‘plug and play’ approach where digital tools are used, often in isolation, for a single learning activity; to one of ‘think and link’ where those tools are used in conjunction with other resources where appropriate, for a variety of learning activities.” – something we are very passionate about in changing this mindset by exposing students to a device within their daily routine.

"A tablet, mobile device or an augmented reality environment won't improve learning on their own". – we completely agreed with this and is a primary reason why the process has taken so long, to ensure the training infrastructure is in place before devices are launched.

“However, the role of the teacher in supporting strategies for transforming that information into knowledge should not be underestimated.” - these 2 points suggest that more hardware is not the only solution, but that teachers will need further training and support if technology is to be effectively implemented.

“Common errors have included putting ‘technology above teaching and excitement above evidence.’” – again, something we are very aware of and have put in place planning that allow learning to come first and highlight where 1:1 technology can aid this.

We also noted school reactions to the document, with particular reference to Chapter 5:

“Improve Assessment

As noted, assessment has never been a very popular topic with students, as well as with a growing number of educators. With the use of technology, assessments can be just another tool in a teacher's tool belt that informs instruction, rather than the thing that everyone is striving toward to determine if a student is actually learning. If formative checkpoint assessments are used and monitored along the way to guide teachers and students as they develop student lessons and outcomes, then the need for a formal final assessment may be null and void. Which leads me to the next point...

Learn by Making

The Maker Movement has gained traction for a reason...it is the way of the future. Asking students to apply the knowledge and skills that they've obtained to actually create something new is, in my opinion, a much better assessment of learning than taking any kind of test. And, how much more valuable a skill is it to be able to say that you've created a new thing as opposed to saying you are a good test taker? I believe that this reaches beyond just digital tools, but even into building any sort of thing that applies learned skills, not regurgitating facts. For instance, I don't necessarily see making a model of an ancient village making something new of value. I would view it more as solving a problem that was evident in ancient times and then building the solution.

Upgrade Practicing

I interpret this as a piggy-back off of differentiated and personalized instruction. In short, don't just ask students to use a basic technology tool to check a box of teacher to-dos...it should be effective, useful, and beneficial to that student and where they are in their realm of learning. This is best supported in the SAMR Model of technology integration and how teachers should strive to move their practice into modifying and redefining of tasks and products through the use of technology.

Turning the World into a Learning Place

If we want our students to view themselves as "life-long learners" as we so often say, then we need to give them the opportunity to learn outside of the classroom. In the 21-st century, students can learn anywhere they choose, but it is up to us, the educators, to make them want to use their devices for this purpose. How will we encourage them to close their video game and open their school app to read a book or finish a project? That is up to us, and it is a tall order; however, I believe that it is an achievable task. As much as it's ever been, our biggest job as educators is to instill a love of learning in our students, and now we have their favorite things, their beloved devices, to help us do it. What are we waiting for?

Making Learning More Social

This ties in tightly to the previous point, in that there is a wealth of information in the world that students should, and do, have access to; but we, as educators, need to encourage and facilitate these interactions. Within the school's walls and because of technology, collaboration should be seamlessly woven throughout every classroom from the EY on. This is a real-life skill that can be developed beginning with the first day of school. Beyond that, I believe that we should encourage publishing student work to the world through blogging, Youtube channels, and more. In today's times, knowing how to market your personal brand is almost as important as knowing how to write a resume and search for a job. If a job applicant doesn't have an effective online presence, it's almost suspicious to a potential employer. As edtech enthusiasts, we should be encouraging healthy, safe, productive online learning and publishing for all of our students aged 13 and older.”

 

Finally, “There is no such thing as a silver bullet.” – what this sentence means is that there is no right or wrong system found to be at work here when it comes to educational technology. We cannot ‘sell’ the 1:1 programme as the answer to all our educational problems; it needs to be our response to the clear need of a new way of preparing our students for the future world.

Technology itself is not a poison that we need to cure ourselves of, however continuing with the same analogy if we treat our technology like a diet, there are some lessons we can take. In any diet we have good and bad food choices, and we have controlled our behaviours and diets to be more balanced. With students we aim to take digital activities and create a 'food pyramid' of technology, where using Netflix is akin to the fats and sugars which should be used sparingly, whereas word processing and online research are the carbohydrates of a healthy 'digital lifestyle'.

Again, we try not to blacklist a lot of websites and applications and instead show healthy use. Watching recommended videos on YouTube for hours on end, students know this is not productive, but get 'caught', instead we need to show them that they are literally wasting time, and in some cases where technology is used for homework, a child can procrastinate to no end. Having them be aware of this and correct their own behaviours is an important part of their personal growth. If we were to use a final analogy, not exposing students to devices would be like saying that we are expecting a children to know how to drive a car, without ever giving them a car.

The programme will be under continuous review as with all new systems, and will adapt and modify to work best for our priority, which is of course, the students.

Nesta, Rosemary Luckin, Brett Bligh, Andrew Manches, Shaaron Ainsworth, Charles Crook, Richard Noss (2012), Decoding Learning:  The Proof, Promise & Potential of Digital Education, London: Nesta