Yes, there are positive results with iPad programs.
Results of state testing in Maine and a survey of Independent schools indicate that students on all grade levels showed improvement in literacy areas including, making learning visible, writing compositions, digital storytelling, and, for kindergarten classes - handwriting and phonemic awareness.Improvement reported in math included: the concepts underlying basic operations, logical problem solving, patterns and puzzles, spatial reasoning, and making learning visible.
Is it just about iPads themselves?
Not all iPad programs are resulting in this level of success. Successful implementations share a similar genesis: thoughtful planning in which the question is constantly asked, "What can iPads contribute to the learning experience of students, what aspects of their experience might be enhanced or improved with iPads?" Last summer I was invited to speak to the public school teachers in Auburn, Maine to share our plans at Sidwell for our Kindergarten iPad implementation. I carefully crafted a presentation that focused on all the reasons our work was not focused on the iPads, but rather on curriculum, teacher collaboration, and connections to others who share our goals. To my surprise, I was speaking to the choir. The leadership in Maine had also envisioned a systemic approach, beginning with curriculum and desired outcomes. Thus a wonderful partnership began.
Successful programs use a systemic approach that includes engaging the teachers to evaluate and question each aspect of their curriculum and practice, with and without the technology. In this way the iPads not only contribute to the learning experience of children, but, perhaps more significantly, serve as a catalyst for collaborative reflection and planning among teachers.
Here are the elements that separate successful programs from the rest:
Let pedagogy lead, iPads follow.
Prepare for innovation with evaluation of current practices, imagine ways in which current practices could be strengthened or improved and how iPads could contribute to that improvement.Set up opportunities for teachers to engage students with iPads early in the planning process, then discuss experiences in the light of current best practices.Create a culture of thoughtful discussion, experimentation and evaluation among the teachers and team leaders with high expectations for participation and reflection.
Let the planning process serve as a catalyst for clarifying goals and objectives.
Let teachers work as a team to clarify curricular goals and objectives, and set up theories about what could be improved with an innovation such as iPads.Plan which aspects of curriculum could be strengthened through appropriate apps, alternative ways to experience and express learning. Establish an "app" review process that requires correlation to curricular goals and objectives.Establish frequent, regular sessions to share and reflect on experiences with the expectation that they will constantly assess their approach with an eye to continual revision. Create a culture of continuous evaluation - set up a framework for feedback and review with scheduled full program evaluations.
Create a culture of collaboration and growth among teachers and among students.Encourage feedback from students, allow students to try new ways to express learning. Encourage innovation among teachers and students by celebrating discoveries and reflecting on successes.Engage teachers in professional growth by asking them to reflect on their experiences publicly through PLNs, blogs, workshops, school visits.Constantly question the program, the process, the tools, with the goal of nimble response to change and the expectation of constant improvement.
For more information and links to the studies, visit my Workshops site.