With wellbeing concerns about ergonomics, cybersafety and excessive screen time on the mind of parents, is take home technology appropriate for our youngest primary school students?
Why personal and take home?
As Nicholas Negroponte, Founder of the One Laptop Per Child program once said, “When the child owns the device, they own the learning inside. No one washes a rental car.” When children have a strong sense of ownership and agency over their learning, they develop as autonomous, motivated, masters of their own life-long learning journeys. And they take good care of their gear! Personal devices bring a personal learning toolkit with full access to dynamic learning resources, peers and their teachers where students are empowered to choose both mode and method.
At what age are the benefits to learning offset by the age related risks? The bite-sized nature of apps allows easy access for students to express their ideas through voice recording, video recording, photos, drawings, graphic organisers, and more. Immanuel Primary School began a personal, take-home mobile learning program two years ago after extensive trials. Where some other schools start their take home programs with much older students, students at Immanuel Primary begin taking iPads home in year 1, as predominantly 6 year olds. The thinking is that for emerging readers and writers, the opportunity to capture learning through photos, video and voice recording is a great benefit for this age group.
Why take home tech for young students?
We all know learning does not stop at the end of the school day. Take home technology gives students access to resources, but more importantly gives students, teachers and parents access to student learning. In addition to teacher created and sourced resources, when students use the technology seamlessly throughout the day, they also have access to their creations, captured experiences and reflections. When young learners find new opportunities to apply and extend their learning at home, they can also curate the actions they take and share these back in the classroom. Parents, teachers and students all gain insight into students’ strengths and growth points. Parents gain new perspectives on their child, the curriculum and the teacher’s pedagogy, which builds bridges between home and school.
What impact have iPads had on learning?
The bite-sized nature of iPad apps allows learners of all ages quick access to “how” to use the technology. As students become skilled at using various apps, teachers quickly offer choice in method and mode. Creating something as simple as a book becomes highly accessible and infinitely extensible, offering increased choice and personal agency.
The simple features of camera, video and voice recording give teachers new insight into children’s thinking, especially important for emerging writers whose thinking often exceeds their writing ability. It is a two-way street in that teachers gain multimodal formative assessment data, and students can also be given age-appropriate and timely feedback through voice, video, text and annotations from their teachers when iPads are combined with a workflow tool like Showbie, Edmodo, or Google Classroom.
The sheer mobility of hand-held devices allows students access to their toolkit in more places and spaces than ever before. Although most creative activities still seem to take place in the classroom or at home, students can capture learning artifacts wherever they go. Video and audio recording offer new ways of self-assessing and getting personal feedback. Students can record their batting skills, compare their bowling to the pros, perform their assessment piece on their recorder, snap photos of scientific observations, or simply photograph their constructions and record their thinking about their strategies.
Creative apps like Book Creator, Popplet, Explain Everything, Comic Life, Drawing Pad, Kidspiration, and Puppet Pals are accessible to young children and provide an open-ended toolkit for creating and curating so all learners can be successful.
Technology in the hands of young children does pose new challenges. Many are new challenges for which today’s parents simply do not have a parenting frame of reference. New concerns related to bed time, sleep time, screen time, internet safety, games, ergonomics, and obsessions necessitate a home-school partnership drawing on experts like the Australian Council for Children and the Media, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, Kids Matter, and Common Sense Media. Schools can help parents by promoting work of the experts, encouraging open dialogue between home and school, and assisting parents to create and use technology home use agreements. Requiring families to have a home use agreement in place encourages discussion about family expectations and encourages parents to think about their approaches to technology use in the home, including internet access, web filtering, supervision, and use limits, to encourage a balanced lifestyle.
Other programs, like the Smart Health School’s Program, offer services to schools to help with the ergonomics of technology. Advice from physiotherapists based on current research goes a long way towards building parental responsibility for their child’s wellbeing. At school, experts work with staff and students to help with strategies for physical wellbeing, ranging from reducing sedentary activity, using stands and other aids to ensure the best spinal positions when sitting, and becoming aware of children’s posture.
When technology goes between home and school in the hands of young students, parents and schools also need to work together. With technology changing so quickly and the promise of new device enrolment programs for school, potential under-13 apple IDS, and new methods for deploying apps, the future holds many challenges and even more opportunities requiring solid communication methods. In addition to standard communication methods like newsletters, email and school websites, another method that works well with iPads is to create iTunesU courses parents can enrol in. Through iTunesU, parents can be kept up-to-date and always have references available on their child’s iPad. Communication alone does not ensure iPads will be brought to school each day in one piece, charged, backed up, and with all the right apps downloaded, but is vital for developing the parent relationship essential for a mobile learning program’s success. Another key element to the IPS program is having IT support that is people-oriented and accessible, facilitated by parent and student volunteers as well as IT staff that understand their important role in enabling learners. Digital Citizenship needs to be fostered for students of all ages and modelled by their teachers (and ideally parents too!)
Students quickly learn to bring their charged device to school. The more complicated challenge is to help parents understand backup options, how to upgrade when the iOS changes, and reminding parents to download apps needed for school. Now that managed licensing is an option (where the school can purchase apps at volume discounts and then push them directly to iPads while maintaining ownership of the app and withdrawing it as needed) getting apps to iPads is simplified.
Other challenges include passcode, restrictions locks, and forgotten AppleID passwords. All have workarounds, some more painful than others! Ideally students have a passcode known by an adult, restriction passcodes are set by the school or parent, and AppleIDs are managed by parents. New under-13 AppleID models in the US, alongside the recently announced family sharing offer, where families can share apps, promises easier ways to do things in the future. Screen damage has been rare, although expensive, as military strength cases go a long way to prevent breakage.
Is it worth it?
Absolutely! We have seen more transformative learning with iPads than with any other technology we have tried. The technology is so mobile it becomes seamless, so innovative it causes us to think differently, and so easy we are not afraid to try new things on our own.
Tips for establishing a Junior Primary take home iPad program
- Keep it simple: Start with 5-10 creative cross-curricular
- Build partnerships with parents through regular communication.
- Create books! Books are great scaffolds, creative and allow infinite creativity where content is built in other app
- Find a workflow solution like ShowBie, Edmodo or Google Classroom.
- Share when ever you can at school and in the broader community.
- Consider and communicate your approach to digital citizenship.
- Draw in experts within your parent community and beyond.
- Require robust cases – the best insurance you will find!
Christine Haynes is the ICT Co-ordinator at Immanuel Primary School, Novar Gardens, South Australia. She is an Apple Distinguished Educator and Australian Council for Computers in Education Educator of the Year 2013. You can follow Christine on her professional blog at christinehaynes.me or on twitter @canhaynes
You can also find out more about the work Christine is doing with Immanuel Primary School Mobile Learning at mobile.immanuelps.sa.edu.au
Latest posts by Education Technology Solutions (see all)
- A Strategic Implementation of Contemporary Digital Technologies - July 11, 2023
- Why Australian universities need to innovate, invest and transform to remain globally competitive - December 9, 2022
- BenQ Launches World’s First Windows*-Based Smart Projector with Intel Inside for Enterprise - October 14, 2022