Research output: Piloting tablets and touch screens in the classroom

Ara is looking to the future and preparing for a world where students will bring their own technology to the classroom.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tutors Daphne Robson and Dave Kennedy have eight years of experience in exploring technology enhanced learning delivery. They teach Programming Precepts to first year Bachelor of ICT students, which gives them the perfect environment to explore better ways of engaging students in interactive learning.

In earlier stages of the research, the tutors handed out tablets connected to wifi to their students. The latest stage of their research has substituted a suite of touch screens that are networked, which allows work to be shared. The results are looking promising

Around every 10 minutes, learning is punctuated by a practical exercise to emphasise a particular concept. The students can draw diagrams, symbols and equations on their own screens.

Anonymous examples from anyone in the class can be selected through the networking system and the example used on a screen at the front of the class. "First we look at the correct answer. Then we might look for different strategies or mistakes," Kennedy says. "Why is it wrong? That question requires a higher level of understanding."

The benefits of the more technological approach over traditional methods is that different examples of work can be shared and examined in real time. The students are more engaged because the style is more interactive. They receive immediate feedback on their work and they learn from others' efforts as well.  

"The quieter students are more easily included. In a normal situation, the more confident students at the front answer all the questions. With networked touch screens, any student's work can be selected as an example," Robson says.

The researchers presented their findings at mathematics education conferences in Melbourne and Kiama, NSW last year. They are currently comparing tablets and touch screens but the next stage of the research will explore Use Your Own Device. "There is no stopping it," Kennedy says.But one thing that doesn't change is knowing the right questions to ask to stimulate thinking, whatever the technology. "The questions are the sort of questions we used to ask before. It is existing content but the new pedagogy is the interactive-ness."