Early Reflections on Teaching and Learning with iPads

Trinity College Foundation Studies has been trialling iPads in the classroom since August 2010. Staff and students in nine subjects have been using the devices for more than two months. We are now at the stage where all participants have been surveyed to capture their initial expectations and to gauge early experiences of using the iPads inside and outside the classroom.

Since the latest survey in October, follow-up meetings with staff have also fleshed out the educational experiences. It’s now possible to make some tentative comments about practical, methodological and pedagogical issues that may be of interest to others who are currently trialling or plan to trial iPads or similar devices.

More info after the break…

No teacher found the devices difficult to use (although approximately 70% had never used an iPad, iPhone, or similar device before the Trinity trial began).

Students also found the devices easy to use (and close to 90% had used a mobile device before starting their course in August 2010). Students were also “excited” or “very excited” at the prospect of using iPads in their course (90%).

Participants found the battery life very good, and there have been no problems with students coming to class without the iPad being charged.

Start up time for users has been excellent, and no teacher has found dealing with technological issues to be unacceptably time-consuming.

Applications (such as Pages, Keynote and iBooks) and various functions such as email, internet access, calculating, e-reading, and student attendance tracking have uniformly been judged easy to use. No application or function has been judged difficult to use.

Despite some concerns before the trial began, in practice virtually all teachers have found no problem with the iPad as a distraction from classroom activity. (Some staff note that this is a basic issue of classroom management, no different from students who may bring comics or mobile phones to class.) In fact most staff have been pleased and impressed with the way students have integrated the iPad into their learning, with some staff claiming that students using iPads have progressed more rapidly or become more sophisticated in their work compared to students who have not used iPads (eg in preparing and presenting oral presentations with Keynote).

From teaching staff across the nine subjects, four key points emerged in regard to the benefits of using iPads in the Trinity course:

  • Active learning
  • Individualising content for students (or students individualising content for themselves)
  • Real time access to information
  • Collaborative learning

These four benefits go to the heart of the educational experience: where students are producers rather than passive consumers of knowledge; where students are encouraged to go further with their research and understanding; where simple things are done quickly so that more complex things can be undertaken; and where students are able to work independently as well as productively as members of a group.

With such positive results in their classrooms in the first two months of the trial, the vast majority of staff would recommend iPads to other teachers and students. A minority of teachers are “not sure” that they would recommend iPads to other teachers and students (eg they are still evaluating iPad use in their subject, or they are comparing the iPads with other devices). No teacher has said that they would not recommend the iPad to other teachers or students.


We will continue to explore use of the iPads in class with this cohort of teachers and students, conduct further surveys and interviews before February 2011, and provide updates on the Trinity experience and evaluation of the teaching and learning environment.

Photos by Mark Chew


4 thoughts on “Early Reflections on Teaching and Learning with iPads

  1. We are in the testing phase- We may transition from tablet PCs to IPADs soon- our concerns focus on how teaching is impacted by these devices- We are a 1:1 school ( St. Scholastica Academy in Covington, LA). For the last 3 years, we have used IBM Tablets PCs- Is this your first effort with computers?
    Please advise-
    Lee Caston
    SSA Helpdesk

    • Hi Lee. This is Trinity College’s first effort with a 1:1 program. Prior to this, we had (and still have) computer labs for use by students. Surveys have suggested that all the students polled have their own computer as well, with the high majority of them being laptops.

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