Children with autism and/or intellectual disability can have difficulties learning and understanding new or complex information, such as new skills, rules, or everyday tasks. To help them in their learning journey, many receive special educational assistance in mainstream or specialist schools. East Park is an organisation in Glasgow that provides education, care, and support to pupils with additional support needs including autism. The schools working with East Park were fortunate enough to secure funding to try out a new way to help their pupils learn, using technology. Indeed, autistic children are often interested in technology and video games, and they find easy to interact with them and learn from them. With the funding, the schools were able to buy a number of iPads, which were given to selected students and used to support their personal learning goals over the academic year.
Why did we do this study?
We wanted to make the most out of this opportunity, by answering important questions regarding the way autistic children learn. In this simple partnership we had a number of exciting, applied research goals:
- to evaluate the impact of iPads on individual learning goals and on the classroom setting.
We were fascinated to see how teachers can combine their personal insight into their pupils’ needs and interests, with the wealth of opportunities encapsulated in an iPad, and direct these to impact on learning outcomes in both academic and non-academic domains.
- to consider how iPads can best be implemented in a group classroom setting.
As personal technologies become more and more common in classrooms it will be a challenge for teachers to develop ways to respond to them and to ensure their use is effective and relevant to the curriculum and/or personal learning goals.
- to explore how to evaluate individual iPad use in a school setting
What measures should we be taking and how often? This field of research is very new and still growing, and we don’t know yet what are the best methods to use in this specific field. We need better measures which can be replicated across studies, settings, and specific technologies.
What did we do?
We provided an independent evaluation of the project by measuring how iPads were used in the classroom, both by the pupils and by the teacher. We observed how the pupils used the iPads and how they followed their learning plans. We also interviewed the teacher to understand their experience of using iPads in the classroom.
What did we find?
We found that iPads were extremely useful tools to support learning in the classroom. Based on our results, the use of technology should be encouraged in schools for pupils with additional support needs.
We’re excited about the possibility that with the team of East Park, we will be helping to forge new understanding of the use of tech in schools. If your school or service is looking to move into using iPads, other tablets or technology for the first time, or you want to enhance this aspect of what you do, please feel free to get in touch.
As a result of the project, Sinéad, the MSc student in charge of the evaluation, produced a Masters thesis. We have also created a report for East Park summarising our independent evaluation of their project. We hope that the school will be able to use this partnership to secure further funding for iPads and other technologies for use in their schools. You can find more details about the project here, as well as an Herald article here.
Who conducted the project?