The iPad and Parental Engagement in Education
July 7, 2012 37 Comments
Parents have a very different perspective. Whilst educators wax lyrical about the potential of the iPad for learning, there are concerns from parents about its impact on their child.
Or so we thought.
All parents of iPad trial students were asked to complete a questionnaire, attend a focus group meeting and email any further thoughts to inform the decision making progress for future iPad use. A great deal of time was taken by these parents as they were keen to convey their thoughts to inform the research process and we are very grateful for all their efforts.
Below are direct responses to questions from the focus group where parents were encouraged to discuss with each other the various advantages and disadvantages of the iPad for learning.
Have you noticed any change in the way your child approaches learning?.
- Variety of tasks that they are working on are much more inspiring.
- How much more creative and experimental he is being.
- Collaboration and communication with others in the class (team player)
- Independence is a very strong factor – the ability to find an answer
- More peer group support.
- Greater communication about work
- Motivation – they don’t realise they are learning and more engaged.
- Much more willing to share work with parents – pride in their work
- Spending longer on work – sometimes a good thing, sometimes too long
- Worried about screen time in the bedroom.
- Can’t check homework in the same way as looking books.
- The students email parents during the day.
- Arguments over when to put it away.
As suspected the increased motivation and collaboration we have witnessed from students has also been observed at home. We also share concern over the amount of screen time the students could be exposed to and the distraction element of the device is a real consideration. It was very difficult to find any criticism of the device when pushed on the effects of learning.
What are the disadvantages of the iPad in the learning process?
- Blurring the boundary between work and play
- Addictive nature of the device
- Does it detract from the need for good handwriting?
- Issues accessing the Learning Gateway
- Storage of work (when discussed it was clear parents didn’t understand Dropbox)
- Balance has good in lessons but perhaps too much iPad work for homework
- There were lengthy discussions over the use of the keyboard and the exam requirement to write all answers which ‘is what students are judged on’.
It is evident that parents thought the iPad contributed to their sons learning and the concerns centred around workflow and practicality. Even when pushed, parents struggled to identify a reason why the iPad couldn’t support their sons education. Finance was discussed much more readily and the various leasing options were of great interest. The concern centred around affordability for all and not whether or not we should move forward with a 1:1 programme.
The comments below were received via email if any parent wished to contribute any more to the process after the questionnaire and meetings.
‘My son has found it good and used it both for homework and other stuff on the internet. He thought the teachers could have used it more and in a different way. He did seem enthused to use it for homework more than pen and paper!’
‘Having discussed this with my son I would say it has been a generally positive experience and he has certainly enjoyed having access to an IPad. As a parent I am generally in favour of this type of enhancement to learning and have not had any issues with him having one.’
‘Our overall thoughts are positive; the iPad is a fantastic tool. It has enhanced my son’s learning and interaction with classmates, both in lessons and out of lesson school projects. Our only reservation is the lack of handwriting. My son’s handwriting isn’t great and in fact if anything it’s getting a little worse. We are just thinking further down the line, for exams etc.’
‘My son has absolutely loved having use of an iPad for a term and I know is not looking forward to giving it back! I’ve watched him grow in confidence with the iPad and now wants us to buy one for the family. The other boys loved it too! I’ve watched him put a short presentation together with photos etc. and was so impressed with the outcome and the ease with which it was executed. The iPad has been a useful tool for reinforcing friendships also which has been great for my son as he started school knowing no one.’
‘My son loved having the use of the iPad for the whole of the term, and was on it practically at every opportunity researching various topics for homework and other school related topics. However, we felt this constant use of the iPad was somewhat detrimental to his concentration. We also believe that there are benefits to reading books rather than capturing short bitesize pieces of information through the web.’
‘I think my son has really enjoyed and benefited from using the iPad. He has done some great pieces of homework and spends more time on it, working, than he would have done without it.’
‘I just wanted to record what an extremely successful ‘test’, the iPad trial, appears to me to have been. I have been struck by the level of energy and enthusiasm it has generated. I don’t think this has just been a product of the novelty. The iPad has introduced an additional level of creativity into every task and that has made the learning process more fun, but also more productive. I’ve also been impressed by the additional opportunities afforded for out of school communication. A number of my son’s friends have been chatting – about their homework projects – via the iPads in a way that I cannot imagine would have been the case otherwise. The communication with teachers has also been more immediate and personal, which has been equally impressive. Another dimension has been the opportunities for students to ‘teach’ staff as Digital Leaders and also for them to act as ambassadors for this new technology for the other forms; excellent opportunities for developing their communication and leadership skills. I think the test has been an outstanding advertisement for the way in which education will change in the future.’
This anecdotal evidence informs part of the decision making process and perhaps took us by surprise. Initial concerns from parents have clearly been sated by the increased motivation and engagement with learning. There are many practicalities to consider when moving forward and the balance of iPad use throughout the day must be monitored. However, it is reassuring to hear from parents that appropriate use of the iPad is key to its integration in the classroom and beyond. It will enhance learning if educators adopt its use at the right time for the right reasons.