Seven years of research

what we've learned about young children and mobile devices in schools

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Objectives: This paper aims to (1) detail methods and findings from seven studies spanning 2011-2017 investigating young children and the integration of iPads into the curriculum to support numeracy, literacy, science and thinking development, and (2) debate methodological and ethical considerations related to using a device-embedded data capture system to record device and interpersonal interactions across different learning spaces and environments. Perspective: The advent of relatively affordable mobile devices and apps to classrooms has presented innovative integration opportunities to support learning across different contexts evidenced in programmes such as ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD). While these new devices represent a major technological advancement, history suggests that technological advances by themselves are insufficient to make a significant impact on highly resistant education processes and systems (Maddux, 1986). “Hot topics” (Maddux & Cummings, 2004, p. 514) associated with the latest technological innovation spread rapidly between institutions and trigger decisions that pay little regard to any empirical research on the efficacy of the innovation for supporting claimed outcomes. The weak role research plays in institutional decision-making in this area motivated this series of studies investigating Apple’s iPad, and if and how children learn when using it in the classroom. Methods: This research tracked several cohorts of young children (5-11 years old) as they worked with their teachers using iPads in large, multi-teacher BYOD learning spaces. The series of 7 studies spanning 7 years used mixed-methods to learn more about how the devices and an array of apps influenced student learning in mathematics, literacy, language development, science and computational processing/coding. The studies investigated the nexus of curriculum and learning task design, assessment and technology use at different levels of the school, revealing the nature of student learning generated by different use scenarios, and how device functions and app content and design features facilitated (and sometimes hindered) achievement of learning outcomes. Data Sources: An iPad embedded data system was developed that recorded the students’ interactions with the apps and each other, as they completed learning tasks. Data collected took the form of device display and audio capture that were coded using StudioCode video analysis software. Results: (1) Effective device/app use is inextricably linked to curriculum and learning task design, and teachers’ deep knowledge of student learning processes; (2) the learning-theoretical model upon which apps are designed, and correspondingly students’ interactions within them are organised and structured, influences and at times limits their usefulness for learning purposes; (3) open apps (content creation) can be used by teachers to facilitate student collaboration when integrated with scenario or problem-based learning tasks; (4) well-designed scaffolds in apps can effectively and independently support students’ procedural science knowledge. Significance: Deep knowledge was gained about: the intimate relationship existing between learning task design, pedagogy and effective device use; the effectiveness of app-embedded scaffolds on enhancing students’ learning performance; the effect of app design (accessibility, structure, etc.) on learning performance; and student groupings, organisation and device setup to optimise efficiency and management.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - 16 Apr 2018
American Educational Research Association : Annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association
- Millennium Broadway, New York, United States
Duration: 13 Apr 201817 Apr 2018


American Educational Research Association : Annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association
Abbreviated titleAERA 2018
CountryUnited States
CityNew York
Internet address


  • ipads
  • mobile learning
  • technology
  • STEM
  • mobile
  • learning
  • schools

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