Schools and iPads. What does the research say?

BeLF - pupils piloting iPadsWe are still getting interesting questions from parents in schools and today was no exception.  One of these questions – Does the research indicate that putting iPads into the hands of children for home / school use benefit their education?  We do use anecdotal evidence a lot when talking about the benefits – but sometimes that isn’t enough and we need evidence to support our beliefs.

An iPad, or any personal learning device, on its own doesn’t improve teaching and learning but when embraced by the teacher, incorporated within the curriculum and utilized within a wide range of formal and informal learning environments then achievements can be significant (see Don Passey –Widening learning and gaining achievement impact).

The recent ‘iPad Scotland Evaluation’ by Kevin Burden, Paul Hopkins, Dr Trevor Male, Dr Stewart Martin and Christine Trala, looked at a range of iPad provision in schools and identified what we really believe in……

‘Personal ‘ownership’ of the device is seen as the single most important factor for successful use of this technology: ? This is seen as the critical element: … in increasing student levels of motivation, interest and engagement; … in promoting greater student autonomy and self-efficacy; … in encouraging students to take more responsibility for their own learning.’ ? Evidence suggests that greater personal ownership of the iPad may also contribute to more interdisciplinary activity.

The School of Education (Birmingham University) in partnership with BeLF conducted a pilot research project in one of our  iPad primary schools who were focusing on raising attainment in literacy.  Dr Rachel Pilkington (2012) in her  report ‘The write pad? Perceptions of the impact of the iPad on writing skills’ concludes:

‘The pilot has so far clearly evidenced the enthusiasm with which children use their iPads at home to research topics for themselves and their work also evidences development of multi-modal literacy skills; mastering a sense of audience and writing creatively. Moreover, based on initial observation and feedback from parents, children are being exposed to a wide range of applications with wider potential for learning than literacy alone e.g. to develop digital artwork or to compete in online mathematical problem-solving games. Perhaps most importantly, parents report that children are learning independently the skills of how to learn and taking a mature responsibility for their own learning.’

Of course we have other reports from schools about raising standards and you may have seen a presentation given by Herline Simon (Osborne Primary School)  at our conference which describes a rise in APS scores in both numeracy and literacy in her iPad groups.  Other schools are seeing some evidence as well in engagement and motivation and we will continue to evidence these as case studies or on our FaceBook Page (do follow us!)

Want to see an example of how iPads are being used in primary schools? 

Click here to see a video produced by Rachel Burns, Moor Green Primary School

What do others say?

‘Our son has wholeheartedly embraced using the iPad, in particular making and recording his own videos, songs and movies. He interviews us, he records music videos and makes interactive books. Today a spelling lesson and test used the iPad, with the pupils listening back to the recorded spellings’.

 A parent at St Edwards primary school, keystage 1



“Lovely visit to Wychall Primary this morning to check out how the iPads are working and to look at where to next. Benefits in the classroom are very positive – with a very good teacher and TA leading the way and great support for the IT issues. Oh yes there have been niggles and frustrations – but next time around it is felt that many of these won’t be a problem. Some very positive feedback from parents but I like this one in particular. The parent said that pupils can ….’research anything they find curious’. Thank you Wychall!”

BeLF Facebook Page


Having brought the iPads into our curriculum they have become an integral tool for deepening learning. The enthusiasm that the pupils have to utilise the hardware has been incredible to witness. They try to use the iPad in all their lessons and it has become a part of their daily lives. They research for themselves, they produce written work more readily, they have enhanced their independence and it has shown a vast improvement in their standard of work in a small amount of time.”

The best, and perhaps most surprising thing, has been to see an increase in their social and cooperative skills. The pupils readily help each other out with a problem and this has helped strengthen their bonds in a class that has had its fair share of squabbles. The iPad has taken away a divide in ability. Those who may struggle to write high quality work have been able to assist others who are perceived to be the cleverer ones by solving techno issues or sharing quality apps, thus raising their self-esteem and putting them on a level playing field that wouldn’t have been possible without the iPad. “

We are at an early stage of utilising the full potential of this technology, but we are clear that this will enhance our pupil’s learning.”

Andy Smyllie, Headteacher

St Columba’s Catholic Primary School,

Is the Digital Divide real or imaginary?

According to the most recent Office of National Statistics (ONS) data, the digital divide is still a major issue for young people in this country.  ‘Poverty is clearly a factor in poor access to digital learning technologies and poor performance in school.  The link between the two cannot be ignored’ says Judith Burns, BBC News education reporter.

According to data extracted by the National eLearning Foundation on families with children  ‘99% of children in the richest 10% of households can access the internet via a computer, this dropped to 57% in the poorest 10% of households with children.  In the poorest households 29% had no computer, 36% had no internet and 43% had no internet connection via a computer.’

Most staggeringly this translates to a total of 750,000 children living in households with no internet, and 650,000 without a computer.


*Judith Burns, 4th Jan 2013, A third poorest pupils ‘without internet at home’.

See also Facts and Figures of the UK Digital Divide

 Digital Divide - UK