A Preliminary Evaluation of the iPad as a Tool for Learning and Teaching

A Preliminary Evaluation of the iPad as a Tool for Learning and Teaching

Sue Gregory (University of New England, Australia), Tony Brown (University of New England, Australia) and Mitchell Parkes (University of New England, Australia)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4205-8.ch012


In May 2010, the release of the iPad in Australia brought a whole new dimension to learning. This chapter presents the preliminary findings of a pilot study conducted at a large distance education university designed to explore the use of the iPad as a tool for learning from three perspectives. The first is the use of the iPad from a lecturer’s point of view, outlining how it can be used to enhance the task of teaching in distance education. The second is from a student’s point of view, exploring how the iPad can assist in distance education study. The third examines the iPad from an insider perspective, reviewing the variety of apps available including those for social networking. The overall impression is that the iPad has great potential as a tool for learning but it will not necessarily reduce the need for desktop or laptop computers.
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The advent of smart phones such as the iPhone has improved the mobile learning situation as they offer mobility through both Wi-Fi and the 3G network. Such devices enable access to resources such as Learning Management Systems (LMS), email and ‘apps’ (iPad, iPhone and iPad applications) developed specifically for education. An additional advantage is that a mobile phone is a personal device so students can access resources without having to overcome competition from other family members. However, battery life is still limited and small screens can make reading difficult.

Figure 1 shows the different devices currently available for students to access their online instructional materials. The devices have become smaller and more powerful.

Figure 1.

Advances in computer technology

The introduction of the iPad in May 2010 in Australia brought a whole new dimension to learning. Within the first eighty days of its release, 3 million units were sold (Ogg & CNETNews.com, 2010) indicating that a very strong user-base has been established. This suggests that it will be financially viable to develop the iPad for educational use. The iPad offers a much larger screen than typical mobile devices and up to ten hours of battery life. It has been under development for the last three years and is based on the same tried and tested technology as the iPhone and iPod Touch, which have been available since 2001 (Fightube.com, 2007). In addition, many of the 250,000 apps (Hanlon, 2010) developed for the iPhone and iPod may be used directly on the iPad. There are also an increasing number of apps being developed specifically for the iPad, with approximately 150,000 currently available (Apple Pty Ltd, 2010).

From an educational perspective the iPad is seen as having a number of potential uses including:

  • Accessing learning content and related materials online,

  • Interacting with social media tools such as blogs, wikis, chat and forums,

  • Supporting the concept of anytime, anyplace learning,

  • Interacting with apps designed for the learning process,

  • Using traditional applications such as the word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software in the assessment process,

  • Communications (such as email, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, LMS),

  • Preparation of learning material (word processing),

  • Educational administration (spreadsheet, database management),

  • Presentation of content and enhanced podcast productions.

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