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inspiring learning through technology

The evidence – an introduction

Learning

 

Because there is so much information covering such a wide range of issues we have endeavoured to break this into more manageable chunks for you. So – depending on what you’re looking for you can find it more easily. Whether this is “topline” information or in-depth research we aim to find it and make it available here.

In order to inform the development of the new Digital Learning strategy in Scotland, the Scottish Government commissioned ICF Consulting Services to undertake a full literature review. This review was published in November 2015 and is therefore the most up-to-date review we are aware of; and, having considered nearly 1,000 documents worldwide, is also the most comprehensive. We will publish a full precis of the review later. The review found overall that, as long as certain criteria were in place, that there was “strong evidence that use of digital technologies can aid learning and teaching, as well as enhance the ability of some children to learn effectively.”  In particular the review found that there is:

  • Conclusive evidence: that digital technologies can support educational attainment in general;
  • Indicative evidence: that it can support educational attainment in literacy and help close the gap in attainment between groups of learners; and
  • Promising evidence: that digital technologies can provide assistance to overcoming the challenges faced by some learners; improvements in employability skills and knowledge of career pathways; improved communications with parents; and time efficiencies for teachers.

The full Scottish report can be read here.

Download the file

 


 

Before you move into our library of research and supportive evidence the information below looks at the topline areas of Benefit, Challenges and Considerations and particularly those identified by Techknowledge for Schools through their research.

Benefits

Research developed by Techknowledge for Schools (T4S) highlights many benefits of learning with 1:1 mobile technology. Amongst these are:

Engagement & Motivation

Schools reported genuine excitement over the introduction of mobile devices which in their opinion led to increased motivation to learn. Pupils were reported to be more creative, independent and engaged with their schoolwork. The T4S research showed motivation was due to three things: interactivity, speed, and range of access to information.

Creativity

The research schools that were involved observed an increase in creativity almost as soon as personal mobile devices were introduced. Students started using their devices to create, present and share work in a variety of ways, not possible before. At all of the Research Schools this process of familiarisation and discovery appeared to enhance teaching style and the ability for students to use their device in innovative and creative ways.

Independent Learning

Independent learning is one of the benefits that teachers, parents and students have been most excited about when considering implementing a mobile learning strategy. Of the reasons to introduce mobile devices, 90% of the research schools stated “to support self-led research and problem solving’. Students are more willing to explore,  engage and go beyond their current understanding of a subject and are not restricted by the learning styles of others in the class.

Collaboration

Collaboration is extended beyond the classroom and enhanced by instant communication, via email, instant messaging and video chatting. The gap between home and school is thus receding. Pupils are able to work on the school bus and in the car, and pupils who are away from school can keep up with schoolwork. Collaboration within the school environment seemed to increase with 92% of students saying  “I can share my work and collaborate with others in my learning session”.

Special Educational Needs (SEN)

1:1 mobile learning allows teachers to differentiate between different learning styles and abilities making them a perfect learning tool for SEN schools and students. Students who ordinarily struggle with traditional ways of accessing and presenting knowledge now not only have more options, but can use the same device as everyone else and are not set apart in class. Mobile devices enable students to present information so that it is easily understood, providing a more accurate picture of their abilities and progress.

Challenges

There are a number of challenges to overcome before the proven benefits of a whole-school mobile learning strategy can be realised.

Teacher Integration

Integrating mobile devices into teaching and learning was one of the main challenges raised by schools, and they met the challenge in a number of ways. Some decided to clarify their desired learning outcomes at the outset. Others made sure to embed the device as a learning tool. One school  introduced a new curriculum and an entirely new approach to learning. Most schools planned to achieve integration through initial and regular training: a strong learning ethos was seen as the key.

Distraction & Addiction

Distraction was indeed an issue when students were first given mobile devices, however the novelty very quickly wore off and distraction quickly reduced and dissipated altogether over time (particularly since the first term of use). Some teachers did install apps such as Screen Time Parental Control, but most told us that they saw distraction as no more problematic than note-passing or window-gazing.

e-safety

With mobile technology, students have constant access to social media and other communication tools. So, there are obviously concerns that despite the benefits, cyber bullying and harassment is more likely to occur. Significant research has been carried out by T4SW and others for Safer Internet Day over the last few years looking at how young people are using the internet.  Whilst there are some statistics that are alarming, testimonials direct from students show that they are aware of the need to stay safe online but need to be reminded regularly. Parents, too, need to be actively involved and informed.

Reliable Content

Mobile devices are simply a tool, just like a pen or a ruler. Teachers recognised that if they wanted to make the most of mobile devices, they needed interactive and engaging content. They also wanted to be able to edit and adapt this content. Traditional publishers do not always offer these capabilities, so teachers are often required to create their own resources.  One research school even offered training in App Development. More and more content is being made available formally and informally and there are now a wide range of excellent resources available, often peer-assessed and designed for specific lessons for each Key Stage and each element of the curriculum.

Funding

Clearly finance is a huge consideration – but the research schools all developed creative and effective ways to ensure that all of their students had access to a personal mobile device. These ranged from parental contributions towards the cost of their child’s device through to full funding by the school. However, even when parents were asked to contribute, the schools were willing to be flexible. The contributions could be either full or blended. Some schools developed “at home” schemes where parents only contributed if students took the tablet home. Other schools were able to cover the costs for pupil premium students.

IT Concerns

For may schools, existing IT resources were either outdated or lacked long-term vision. School leaders wanted this new technology (mobile devices) to be different, to be more integrated into teaching and learning. Many schools relied on technical teams to figure out the new IT challenges, but were concerned that these teams didn’t fully understand how the technology would or could actually be applied, or had the skills to implement them successfully. Also, the sudden introduction of a large number of tablets meant that WiFi and other IT infrastructure services needed to be upgraded, adding additional costs. However, experience shows that when engaged, IT teams respond well to the challenge and move from being essentially a support function to facilitators an innovators.

Theft & Breakages

Breakages, and choosing insurance, is a concern for many schools. A number of schools choose to self-insure: focusing on responsible use policies and identifying robust, protective cases. In addition  schools took the time to teach students how to carry around their mobile device so as to minimise breakages. Schools reported breakage rates between 3% and 6%, much lower than anticipated. One school calculated that for the same price as an £18,500 insurance premium they could afford a breakage rate of 12%. Theft was not really a concern: schools took time to advise parents on safety precautions outside of school. Around half of parents at the pre-use stage were concerned about tablet theft, yet only 3% of parents at the post-use stage reported issues with safety or theft.

Experience also shows that matters such as breakages can often be systemic in that one school with an effective usage policy might declare no breakages at all whilst another school nearby might report high levels.

Considerations

The T4S research highlights the benefits and challenges of developing and implementing a 1:1 mobile learning strategy.

Implementation of a 1:1 mobile learning strategy should not be taken lightly and must be planned and executed carefully. Each school will have their own specific reason as to  ‘Why’ they want to introduce 1:1 learning and this should be the starting point.

As with any large project, there are many considerations that have to be thought through, debated and agreed with all stakeholders. Highlighted below are a number of these considerations but your school, team, students and parents may have others that are specific your school

Key considerations

 Time & Cost

If schools don’t have the time to commit to planning, managing, administering, maintaining and embedding a 1:1 mobile learning programme and the cost to support this time commitment then in reality it will be very difficult to make it a success. In some instances even if schools have the budgets; if they don’t have the time it can be more difficult – however having budgets may allow them to procure services and support that can mitigate any time challenges they may have.

Engagement

Schools need to ensure communications are right and be prepared to make changes very quickly – there needs to be a strategy and plan for all the key stakeholders that works holistically across the school community. This might be led by an appointed teacher but must include the complete support of the Headteacher - this has proven to be one of the most important aspects of success.

Pedagogy, Training & Support

Traditional IT teams may not have the skills for these new technologies and will need just as much investment in training and support as teachers. And never underestimate the value that Teaching Assistants and students themselves can bring with the right training, support and time.

A framework for mobile learning was developed by research conducted by Kearney et al in 2012 identifying three key elements educators should consider when deploying mobile technologies and particularly when made available on a 1:1 basis and these were: Personalisation; Collaboration and Authenticity:

Mobile-learning-framework

Infrastructure

Wifi is now a commodity item and needs replacing or updating on a regular basis as technology becomes ever faster and more powerful. With more schools adopting cloud based storage solutions, a robust school infrastructure is key.

Hardware & Software

‘What device?’ is usually the first question and is always the most emotive. However schools need to also consider the ecosystem they will use with their chosen device or Bring your Own device (BYOD) scheme; how will apps be deployed; what mobile device management (MDM) system will be used; will there be device-use policies that need to be developed and how will classroom management change.

This could be anything and may be specific to your school needs and culture. Plan in additional time and money for things that you may not have identified.

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