Exploring young students' talk in iPad-supported collaborative learning environments

Garry Falloon, Elaine Khoo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Citations (Scopus)


In the few years since its release, Apple's iPad has generated much discussion about its potential to support student learning at all levels of the education system. Much of this has focused on its physical and technical attributes, such as portability, touch-display, connectivity, and large array of apps. However, a few studies have begun to explore possible advantages of iPads being used as public work spaces, enabling students to interact more collaboratively when creating learning outputs. These studies point to other affordances such as the iPad's ability to lay flat on a desk or be propped at a convenient angle, its wide viewing range and multi-user accessible interface, as being particularly relevant in supporting collaboration. Between June and November 2013, researchers from the University of Waikato used a specifically developed ‘observeware’ app to capture display and audio data while young students (5 year olds) were using iPads in pairs for developing numeracy, literacy and problem-solving/decision-making skills. The study used Mercer's (1994) talk types framework to explore the nature of talk students engaged in while they were using the iPads and interacting with each other and their teacher, and also how features of the device may have influenced this. Results indicated exceptionally high levels of on-task talk, but that this was mostly of an affirming and non-critical nature and unsupportive of outcome improvement or refinement. While the iPad offered unique potential as a shared, public learning device, the pedagogical role of the teacher in realising this by helping students learn appropriate ‘ground rules’ to raise talk quality, was critical. This article details the methodology used and the results of the study. It discusses the important role teachers play in helping young students build oral-interaction strategies to capitalise on high levels of learning engagement, and the unique features of these devices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-28
Number of pages16
JournalComputers and Education
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • iPad
  • collaborative
  • learning
  • talk
  • interaction


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