Evaluating an iPad Trial in School

‘How are you going to measure the success of the iPad trial?’

  • Grades?
  • Student work?
  • Staff feedback?
  • Student feedback?
  • Focus groups/Questionnaires/Anecdotes?
  • SLT?

A topic that promotes in-depth discussion.

There is no easy answer. Fifteen teachers will provide feedback and represent a cross section of subjects and experience. Thirty students will be keen to present their views but may be swayed by the technology or the ‘privilege’ of being part of the trial. A collection of data will be in-house and only comparable to a handful of similar schools.

The decision to move forward with a 1:1 programme is therefore based on ‘soft’ evidence and provokes debate. How can we roll-out to year groups and teachers based on one terms use? Some staff only teach the trial group once a week and with exams and bank holidays in abundance, are they a true reflection?

Any decision must also take into account whole school implications:

  • A developing pedagogy
  • Cost of wireless network and support
  • Training of staff and acceptance of new technology
  • Training of students and workflow
  • Assessment modification
  • Parental support
  • Lease/purchase device
  • E-safety

Concern is tempered by the amount of schools who have moved forward with a 1:1 iPad programme, particularly in Australia and USA. There is plenty of positive evidence to be found with ‘hard’ data to suggest that a roll-out is appropriate. We are also supported by the success of the pre-trial, BYOD sixth form class who responded very well to the new environment, Their unit test scores fuelled the KS3 summer term experiment and provide a contrasting school view.

There are a number of presentations to prepare for with SLT, governors, parents and staff all interested observers. They will expect data to support conclusion with the trial group compared to similar, non iPad, classes in the school. However, the majority of evidence will be from opinion and observation which we hope will be a true reflection of the positives and negatives of the scheme. Hence the reason for this post.

If you are contemplating using iPads in your classroom what evidence would you like to see? The grades by which we are all judged, GCSE and A level, will not provide data for at least twelve months. Why would a teacher try to use a device to enhance learning based on anecdotal feedback?

I am left in no doubt that the iPad is a ‘game-changer’ for education, if used appropriately, by a skilled teacher. I am also convinced that it has a place alongside existing technology to further our students education. A whole school programme has so many ramifications we want to make sure we make the right decision and that must not be based on the opinion of a minority.

All thoughts very welcome.

About Daniel Edwards
Director of Innovation & Learning at the Stephen Perse Foundation schools, Cambridge, UK (stephenperse.com). Interested in global connectivity for all and risk taking in education. Keen to discuss all aspects of learning and digital strategy. Also @syded06 on twitter.

11 Responses to Evaluating an iPad Trial in School

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  4. Cindy says:

    Hi! Regarding the topic of your post I’m currently using Nearpod in class, an app for ipads, and it’s true, as teachers we must adapt to children’s needs and likes. Kids really get involved with technology and especially with this app 🙂 you should try it out, it is free!! and their website is http://www.nearpod.com

  5. hopsnz says:

    Agree that the iPad is / will be a game changer in education. Really excited to see it becoming more common place in a learning area such as mine (PE) where we have really been limited to expensive biomechanical analysis software in a com lab.

    Now I have a $1 app that does essentially the same thing but more portable! Not to mention the other 100 apps I have lined up to sample with my students!

    I don’t see how any of your opinion / observation based evidence is likely to be negative unless it’s coming from teachers and parents who are not prepared to embrace or adapt new technology. Your assessment data in 12 months time will be better for it thats for sure!

  6. Jane Batham says:

    I am also very excited about the potential of 1:1 iPads as a catalyst for true pedagogical change. I am working on a proposal so that I can trial 1:1 iPads with my class (of 7 year-olds) commencing next year but my principal is asking some of these “tough” questions. I don’t have any answers yet as to exactly how to measure success but I will be thinking about this a lot over the coming weeks and months so I will be looking forward to reading other comments as people contemplate some of these tough questions.
    I don’t think that the measure of success will be quite as simple as showing that reading age on a standardised test has improved, for example, since there are too many variables and the sample size is too small for it to be accurate. Any judgements as to the success of a trial are likely to be quite subjective.
    I look forward to hearing other opinions and advice!

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  9. Daniel Whittaker says:

    I disagree with your idea of soft and hard data and evidence. I don’t believe you can call GCSE grades etc. hard as they are predicated on arbitrary learning goals. I think a focus on a school’s raison d’etre is necessary. What are schools for? The major factor here is learning, and as learning is such a personal beast, but core to success at school, it can in fact be classed as hard evidence. Thus, you are guaging success based on the wrong parameters. Better to consider the learning process and how the iPad enhances that first. Then, you can see the potential impact on outcomes. Thus, as I have found in my school with a trial of using iPads, the devices don’t boost already high grades, but open pathways of learning not ticked off by Gove et al such as communicating to the world, discovery and sharing of ideas and fostering creativity. Despite these traditionally being viewed as soft skills, they are the very cornerstones of our modern world, meaning that such subjective validation of iPads is the only appropriate measure.

  10. Marcos Garasa says:

    Daniel, I do support your thesis. It is a powerful resource although not the only one we should use.

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