Why did you decide to undertake this project? What was it designed to achieve/what issue were you looking to address?
We are in an era where technology is becoming an inextricable part of our everyday lives. The students we teach will soon go into jobs that don’t yet exist and use technologies that haven’t yet been invented. As teachers it’s important that we shift education to ensure they have the skills to succeed. In 2013, we became an ‘iPad for all’ school.
Gilly Salmon states that it’s not what the technology can do for you, rather what the pedagogy needs and at SJB, everything is underpinned by doing what is best for the children. The Introduction of iPads was a method of enhancing teaching and learning both inside and outside of the classroom. Teachers were initially given them to use in lessons alongside iPad focussed CPD sessions. Apps and websites were trialled and demonstrated to encourage staff to take risks, try something new and embed technology into their lessons.
After staff had familiarised themselves with the iPad, we began a staggered roll out to all year groups. More recently, we have introduced ‘Digital Leaders’ with a number of student’s trialling apps and websites and feeding back to teachers. This has allowed us to have a greater understanding of what engages the children and help improve how the iPads are used in lessons.
The iPads have allowed students to be more independent. They are given the freedom to tackle a task in a way that suits their learning best, whether that is writing a paragraph in Pages, creating a mood board in Pic Collage or summarising in Explain Everything. They are encouraged to use the Internet during lessons to deepen their understanding and during Ofsted’s visit in May 2014, they remarked that iPads had substantially improved pupils’ access to a wider range of knowledge. Students also let us know their understanding in clearer and more creative ways through a range of iPad based assessment for learning strategies.
David Nicol states that if students are to become independent lifelong learners they must be better at judging their own work and acting on their mistakes. Feedback is a powerful tool but is often seen as something a teacher gives with students unable to act on it. As a school, we focus on giving and receiving feedback regularly throughout lessons to minimise the time spent marking students’ work outside of the classroom. After using the iPads for a year, I wanted to know the impact the iPads was having on feedback.
With this in mind, I decided to undertake this research project. The aim was to assess the effectiveness of using the iPads compared to traditional methods of feedback and to be able to gain quantitative data from summative assessment. It was also important to obtain feedback from the students to gauge their level of understanding and engagement when using the iPads.
When I began this research, I planned to be able to communicate the results to staff with the hope that the results would demonstrate the impact the integration of the iPads has made to the students’ learning in the last two years.
 Gilly Salmon, Professor of e-Learning and Learning Technologies, University of Leicester
 Nicol, D (2010a) The foundation for graduate attributes: Developing self-regulation through self and peer assessment, Scottish Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education
Summary of the project
Over seven months, six different websites/apps that can be used as a method of feedback were trialled in lessons. A range of subject areas and key stages were used to assess whether the use of the iPad and its impact was consistent across the school. Using both a trial group and a control group gave results comparing the use technology compared to traditional methods of feedback. Questionnaires were also given to students in the trial group, this showed their level of engagement, understanding and their preferred method of feedback.
The first website looked at was GoSoapBox. It is a website that allows you to create private or public quizzes, polls and discussions that can be used to get feedback from students throughout the lesson. Students are also able to let you know if they’re confused or understand with a confusion barometer.
The website was used with a mixed ability year 7 group on a project that is generally found to be difficult. Quizzes were used at the beginning of lessons to review the learning, and discussions were created where students could give each other advice throughout the project. Polls were used as confidence trackers 2 or 3 times during a lesson, this was an effective way for students to know the progress they were making individually and as a class. At the end of each lesson students were asked to rate their understanding and engagement when using the website. There was a clear correlation that the more they used the website, the more they understood the task and were engaged.
The confusion barometer allowed the students to privately say they were confused without the class knowing. A number of students used this regularly and were able to then receive more support. These students made up to as much as four sub levels of progress by the end of the topic, however without the website, I don’t feel they would have openly asked for as much support as they needed to achieve.
All children in the trial group achieved their target level or above. 50% of students were on target, with the remaining students achieving up to four sub levels above. In comparison, the control group also had 50% children achieve their target level however only 10% of children achieved above.
The next app was learning tools. It’s an app that our web developer created as a simple way to assess students understanding during the lesson. It gives you a range of different methods to keep the students engaged.
The app was used with two year 11 science classes throughout the same topic. One group used the app regularly each lesson, the control class were assessed with traditional methods of AFL; thumbs up and down, whiteboards etc. By using the app, it was easy for the teacher to clearly see exactly where all students were by looking around the class, this enabled her to address misconceptions more regularly than with the control group. It was also a good platform for praise to the group and individuals. It also appeared that the students were more willing to take risks when using the iPad and quieter students were able to be supported more if needed. The more the students used it in the lesson, their level of understanding increased as well as their engagement.
At the end of the topic when tested, all students in both groups achieved their target level or above in comparison to their previous assessment. However 46% of students in the trial group achieved more than two sub levels of progress whereas only 25% of the control group made this amount of progress.
Another app that was looked at was Kahoot which is a website that allows you to make quizzes to test students understanding. The website was used with a year 8 Geography class throughout a topic. The control group were taught the same content and were set traditional plenaries at the end of each lesson. When using Kahoot, as a teacher you receive a spreadsheet which allows you to target individual needs. The quiz also allows you to address misconceptions either during or after as you are able to clearly see students understanding. When taking part in the quizzes there’s a huge element of competition and suspense which encourages them to learn but as a method of feedback, they instantly know where they’ve gone wrong as the correct answers are given after each question.
When assessed at the end of the topic, 56% of the trial group achieved one or more sub levels of progress compared to the previous topic, this is in contrast to 40% of the control group.
As well as looking at feedback during lesson time, I felt it was important to see the impact technology can have when giving more detailed feedback. AFL during lessons allows teachers to adapt their teaching in relation to student understanding, whereas written feedback is something a student has to act on individually – a fundamental skill when developing and encouraging independent learning.
The first app that was used was Pages. It is an app compatible with Microsoft Word which gives you the option to add track changes (comments) onto the document. The students can see the track changes and delete them once completed.
It was used with a year 12 Travel and Tourism group. Students completed their work on Pages and emailed it to their teacher who was able to mark it on the iPad and send it back. This happened regularly throughout the project. The control group were given verbal feedback until the project was completed.
For the students it’s a good way for them to see their feedback and respond to it and teachers are able to know what changes have been made. When asked, 59% of the trial group stated that they preferred track changes to other methods of feedback with 75% of them finding it effective or very effective. Some of the feedback from the students was that it was easier to make changes and easier to understand.
In a similar style to Pages, GoodNotes and Dropbox were used as a method of feedback, with a year 11 Graphic Design class. The control group used email and were given verbal feedback. GoodNotes is a note taking app so students were able to complete their work on there, they then put it onto Dropbox or airdropped. Their work was then marked on GoodNotes and send back. From a teacher’s perspective it works well as you know exactly where the students are, and the corrections they’ve made, but for the students, they have their work, the mark scheme, their feedback all in one place.
When given a questionnaire about using the app, 67% of students preferred it as a method of feedback with 83% finding it effective or very effective. Students felt that they could improve their work a lot quicker as it was easier to upload it and get feedback than traditional methods.
The final app trialled was Showbie. Showbie is a portal for students and teachers to upload work, it can then be marked on the app itself. Showbie enables teachers to give feedback in the form of a comment, audio note or hand written message. This was also used with a year 11 Graphic Design class with the control group given verbal feedback or written feedback given via email. 67% of students preferred it as a method of feedback with 83% finding it effective or very effective. Students said that they liked that they could easily send it to be looked at and then know when they had received feedback because they get a notification. They also liked that it was marked on the app itself as it allowed them to then continue with the original document when acting on the feedback given.
With all three apps that were used as a method of giving more detailed feedback, students achieved similar overall results as the control groups, however using the iPad meant that for both the teacher and student, feedback was able to be given more regularly simply down to the ease of the methods used compared to emailing or printing out. Over time, the students consistently made steady progress without needing a huge push at the end when there is a lot more pressure from other subjects. This also enabled them to see their improvement as the projects progressed.
What impact has the work had?
Through research conducted, it is evident that using technology as a method of feedback enables students to assess their own understanding more regularly whilst data shows that as students’ level of understanding improves, so does their engagement. In all cases, technology improved the quality of feedback for both teacher and students with nearly all classes on average making more progress than the control groups used.
The results of the research project were presented to staff in a focused Inset day. All staff involved with the research discussed the app they used showing examples of the work produced and their findings. This enabled all staff to see that the use of the iPad has positively impacted on the students’ learning across all key stages as well as in a range of different subject areas. It also allowed staff to see a variety of methods that can be used to give feedback when using the iPad along with them knowing that these methods improved pupils’ engagement and understanding.
What are the next steps in order to develop this aspect of learning and teaching within the school?
Having completed the research project, it has not only demonstrated the impact on the iPad, but highlighted the importance of purpose when integrating technology into lessons. The research showed clear progress with all of the websites/apps used, however teachers must ensure that the focus continues to be on teaching and learning that student feedback is acted upon to ensure progress. We will continue to invest in research and development in relation to the Ipads to ensure we sustain momentum, provide value for money and maximum impact on student learning. The Ipads will continue to be a focus as part of our in-house research and development program.
In a nutshell – If you are going to do 5 things …
- Ensure teaching and learning is at the forefront of everything you do
- Don’t be afraid to put learning in the hands of the children
- Ensure tasks set using technology are focused on enhancing student learning and understanding not used as a gimic
- Be diagnostic with the feedback given from the children; it should have an impact on learning
- Sell the benefits to staff with pragmatic, quick and easy wins
This project was led by Catt Torlop and was funded by The Leading Edge Innovation Grant 2014-15.