The Impact of New Technology in Schools – Results are in!

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I should state from the outset I’m not sure the impact of any new technology in the classroom will ever be truly measurable. It won’t be for the want of trying and there are a number of case studies trying to do just that. However, with that in mind, what conclusions can I draw from two years of iPad use in the classroom?

I have two areas that can be discussed anecdotally. The first is an A level class of 15 students who have spent the last two years studying PE using iPads. This group of students recorded the best results at A level in my ten years at the school. For those familiar with the way UK grades are measured the value-added average was + 17%. As well as using iPads for two years with this group I also introduced the concept of ‘flipped learning‘. Often the group were asked to view a keynote presentation that had been recorded to replace homework. That meant we had an opportunity in class to work through issues and lessons tended to take on more of a seminar feel.

I’m not about to start claiming the iPads are the only reason for this success. Similarly I don’t think the ‘flipped’ learning environment would be the only reason for the boys high achievement. The point is, the introduction of new technology and indeed the pedagogy that is developing, didn’t obstruct the boys learning and achievement. I firmly believe it enhanced the learning process but this is difficult to prove without a control group. If I was to compare it to the previous years set of results they are markedly higher, but there could be many different reasons for this.

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The second area of discussion comes from the Stephen Perse Foundation in Cambridge. The school has been 1:1 iPad for a year and they have just received a record breaking set of GCSE results. 74% A* or 94% A*/A is remarkable by any standard and again serves as an indicator to the positive impact of new technology in schools. I’m not suggesting that the iPads are the reason for the success. However, they clearly didn’t have a detrimental effect on the performance of the school at GCSE level.

So we have an entire GCSE cohort in a 1:1 iPad environment and a trial A level group who have both performed outstandingly well when compared to their predecessors – so what conclusions can I draw?

It is obvious that engagement with the learning is crucial. Top grades are very difficult to achieve without a firm understanding of the subject matter. I believe the new technology has enabled our learners to engage more readily with material and context. It certainly isn’t the only way to achieve the levels of engagement required, but I personally found it much easier to access with the new technology.

The real impact of new technology in school doesn’t have anything to do with grades. The fact that I was able to bring many different opportunities for learning into my classroom always felt right as we went through the process at A level. As you can see in the video above, at the Stephen Perse Foundation the GCSE cohort had many opportunities to express their learning. At a time when collaboration and communication skills are at the top of any employers desirable qualities, it is fitting we are seeing more of it in our classrooms.

As schools discuss the rights and wrongs of tablets in education I can only offer an opinion based on two years of usage and an interesting time deploying iPads in secondary schools. The opportunities they provide have led to a shift in my own teaching and this doesn’t appear to have had a negative effect on my students. It also felt right to adjust what I had been doing for 10 years and I’m certain I’m a better educator for it. Time will tell if this trend is seen across different groups, institutions and countries but I feel secure in the knowledge that, after two years with iPads . . . . . it wasn’t necessarily a bad decision!

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.

22 Responses to The Impact of New Technology in Schools – Results are in!

  1. Pingback: The Impact of New Technology in Schools | Teachers Blog

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  3. Karl says:

    Really nice post, thanks for sharing.

    I do feel, however, that some serious research needs to be done in the area of mobile technology in education. I’m convinced that tablets have a place in schools, possibly as a primary learning device, but your conclusion that “this doesn’t appear to have had a negative effect on my students” is not particularly reassuring.

    If schools are to spend a significant portion of their budgets on tablet computers we need solid, measured evidence that the teaching and learning outcomes are worth the additional investment.

    Keep up the good work! I’ll be following your blog.

    • Thanks for commenting Karl. I think the point of the post was to highlight that it will be very difficult to research tablet use in education. My conclusion is anecdotal and based on the fact I have used tablets for two years and my students have achieved high grades. Whether the tablets were a significant factor isn’t my concern regarding my initial conclusion. Having felt it was right to use them I feel justified as my students have done well. Time will tell if further research supports this. I don’t believe our current examination system could be the metric.

      • karlrivers says:

        100% agree with you. You’ve clearly done a brilliant job investigating iPad use in your school. We need more people doing what you have done in a structured framework to get an overall view of the effect of tablets in school.

        Thanks again!

      • Agreed. I would love to see a study with a control group. By the time this research is completed I’m fairly sure most students will be using a mobile device of some sort because of the connected opportunities they afford.

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  7. Michael says:

    FROM A PARENT OF TWO TEENAGE BOYS. I can see how iPADS and technology can be used to enhance the learning experience in a classroom. However, what is the experience of using technology in an unsupervised way and with younger children / boys at GCSE level i.e. outside the classroom. My children’s school is moving to an open technology environment where they can access the internet around the school during breaks and study periods. I am seriously concerned that in this way, technology will be a real distraction (for all the obvious reasons), especially for children who are less academically engaged. Recent reports I have read of a school in Northern England delivered enhanced GCSE results when smart phones were handed into the school at the start of the day.

    • Thank you for commenting Michael. As with all ‘distractions’ school ethos and policy are crucial.

      • Michael says:

        Hi Daniel……my concern is that school ethos and policy may not be enough and that there is a danger that schools, while wanting the benefits in the classroom (which I can see) are being naive to the distractions (and dangers) of a totally open technology approach (wi fi throughout the campus and wanting all pupils to carry their own tablets). I would love to see some real evidence of enhanced results, especially for younger students (under 16). I look forward to seeing other comments.

  8. Pingback: The Impact of New Technology in Schools – Results are in! | Innovation in Learning

  9. Clinton Knight says:

    Structured, timed, and guided. These elements are some of the same scholastic penalties that are trying to be over come by distance learning and online course content. The resolution was to find a hybrid balance.

    If you take the same approaches with 1:1 and BYOD, you need to ask the following:
    With the device in the hands of the student, when do they have access, how do they have access, and to what extent?
    The answer has a lot to do with the lesson plan. Using the device to provide supplemental sources to the primary teaching approach gives a robust variety of learning methods.
    Timing when to allow “Student A” to grab additional source material must be immediate and interactive for both teacher and learner. In public speaking you avoid hand outs, because they distract the audience from you the speaker. You’re speaking, the room is face down in a hand out. The same happens with students in a learning environment. You must control engagement.

    I’m short on time to go into full detail of what I see working and what I see not working, about to run off to meetings.

  10. Aditya says:

    Any new form of technology may or may not have an impact on classroom learning.
    Ipads have only made internet mobile and user friendly. A lot of work still needs to be done on the content side for teachers and students which is mapped to curriculum.
    otherwise it may just end up being a distraction in classroom.

    Personally, I feel iPad is a great educational tool for revision at home to supplement the work done by a teacher in a classroom.

  11. I’m curious about how your school manages the iPad and its apps? Do you use a MDM (mobile device management) solution? Do you allow students to install apps themselves? Or, do you load the iPads with a set amount of apps for student learning?

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