Exploring student thinking and problem solving in iPad-supported learning environments
Project Dates: 2015 - 2017
Partnerships: Leamington Primary School
In this project, the researcher had developed a purpose-built digital data tool to provide unique insights into how students learn with and through iPads for literacy tasks. The project explored how teachers might use devices such as iPads and apps for thinking and problem-solving capability development, and it will identify specific teaching and curriculum designs and strategies for enhancing these capabilities. Three different learning areas in a primary school provide the context for the study.
Why is this research important?
Mobile digital devices such as iPads are becoming increasingly commonplace in New Zealand schools, supported by initiatives such as ‘Bring Your Own Device’. Understanding more about how teachers can structure and design learning tasks and environments that take full advantage of the capabilities these new technologies offer, informed by knowledge of how students work and interact with them and their apps in natural classroom settings, is essential. The primary goal of this research was to investigate the nexus of curriculum design and teacher pedagogy and technology capability, to determine how it can be optimised to support student thinking and learning across the primary school curriculum.
What is the background to the project?
Developed from an informal collaboration, this two year, TLRI-supported project was located in a provincial contributing primary school and involves 100 students and four teachers, working in two innovative learning spaces. To date, display capture, interview and observational data of students engaged in app-based computational thinking activities, and in student-led science inquiries supported by science concept teaching apps, have been analysed for evidence of thinking skill exercise and development.
Principal Researcher: Garry Falloon (second from left)
Research Partners: Leesa Mangino, Margaret Lelieveld, Paula Hale and Tonia Fenemor, Leamington Primary School, Cambridge
What are the key findings to date?
Engaging even very young students in computational tasks such as basic coding can provide teachers with an excellent opportunity for their students to exercise and build a range of higher order thinking capabilities. These include analysis, evaluation, reflection and predictive thinking. When embedded in curriculum and pedagogical designs reflecting problem-based approaches and emphasising learner collaboration, they can also serve as a useful means of helping students develop key competencies such as thinking, participation, using symbols and relating to others. Well-designed and carefully selected apps can be valuable scaffolds for students’ science learning, especially when sufficient capability exists to enable students to make their own decisions and choices on which, how and when apps are used, to support different aspects of science inquiries.
What are the most important facts to take away?
- Computational activities such as coding provide valuable opportunities for students to exercise a range of thinking types, but these require careful and systematic planning and implementation to ensure young students in particular, grasp foundational concepts;
- Working collaboratively on computational activities in pairs or small groups can be a useful means for students to develop an array of key competencies;
- Over time, students increasingly view personal digital devices such as iPads as a natural tool for their learning, and are able to make excellent decisions about how to use them, and their apps, to best support their learning.
This two year project has been funded by the Teaching & Learning Research Initiative (TLRI).
Falloon, G. W. (2017, March 16–17). Using apps as digital scaffolds for science learning in the primary school. Paper presented at the New Perspectives in Science Education Conference. Florence, Italy.
Falloon, G.W. (2017). Using apps as digital scaffolds for science learning in the primary school. In the New Perspectives in Science Education proceedings (pp. 254–260). Florence, Italy: Science in Education.
Falloon, G. W. (in review). Using apps to scaffold science learning in primary classrooms: Design, pedagogical and curriculum considerations. Journal of Science Education and Technology.
Falloon, G. W. (2016). iPads, apps and student thinking skill development. In N. Kurcikova & G.W. Falloon (Eds.), Apps, technology and younger learners: International evidence for teaching (pp. 224–239). Milton Park, England: Routledge.
Falloon, G. W. (2016). Researching students across spaces and places: Capturing digital data ‘on the go’. International Journal of Research and Method in Education, Special issue: eResearch, 1–16. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1743727X.2016.1219983
Falloon, G. W. (2016). An analysis of young students’ thinking when completing basic coding tasks using Scratch Jnr. on the iPad. Journal of Computer-Assisted Learning, 1–18. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jcal.12155/epdf
Falloon, G. W., Fenemor, T., & Hales, P. (2016). Learning mathematical concepts and building thinking skills through coding: Experiences from the junior primary school. SET Research Information for Teachers, 1. Retrieved from http://www.nzcer.org.nz/system/files/2016_1_008_0.pdf
Falloon, G. W. (2016, December 8). Coding and thinking skill development in the primary school. Paper presented at Createworld 2016. Griffith University, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
Falloon, G. W. (2016, November 16). Using digital scaffolds for learning science in the primary school. Paper presented at TEMS Spring Seminar Series. University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand.
Falloon G. W., Mangino, L., Lelieveld, M., Fenemor, T., & Hale, P. (2016, October 7). Building thinking and mathematics capabilities through coding in the primary school. Paper presented at the ULEARN 16 Annual Educators’ Conference. Energy Events Centre, Rotorua, New Zealand.
Falloon, G. W. (2015). What’s the difference? Learning collaboratively using iPads in conventional classrooms. Computers & Education, 84, 62–77.
Falloon, G. W., Mangino, L., & Lelieveld, M. (2015, June 18). Exploring student thinking in iPad-supported learning environments. Paper presented at Digital Learning Symposium. The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand.
Falloon, G. W. (2015, July 6–8). Building computational thinking through programming in K-6 education: A New Zealand Experience. Paper presented at EDULEARN ’15. Barcelona, Spain.
Falloon, G. W. (2015). Building computational thinking through programming in K-6 education: A New Zealand Experience. In the EDULEARN ’15. proceedings (pp. 882–892). Barcelona, Spain: EDULEARN.
What is new?
It's interesting to note how student use of the device across all learning tasks has become completely seamless, and how they are able to independently make sensible and appropriate choices and decisions on when to use (or not) apps to help in their work. There is no need for any teacher direction, advice or instruction on how this is to be done - they are very capable of sorting these things completely independently.
What has changed?
New focuses for the junior school case studies have been developed. These extend the 2015 work on coding to include work with the Sphero and Ollie robots, and apps for learning in science and literacy.
What is next?
The third round of data collection in the classrooms is due to commence at the end of March. Two themes have been identified: Coding and robotics (computational—senior classrooms) and Apps as literacy scaffolds (junior classrooms). The next period should see completion of an article from the science work undertaken at the end of 2015. There should be another article from the interview data collected in March, subject to completion of data transcribing.
Falloon, G.W (in press) An analysis of young students’ thinking when completing basic coding tasks using Scratch Jnr. on the iPad. Journal of Computer-Assisted Learning.
Falloon, G.W., Fenemor, T. & Hale, P. (in press) Learning mathematical concepts and building thinking skills through coding: Experiences from the junior primary school. SET Research Information for Teachers.
Falloon, G.W. (in review) Researching students across spaces and places: Capturing digital data ‘on the go’. International Journal of Research and Method in Education.
News / EventsMore News/Events
WMIER is the Research Institute of the Faculty of Education
Research Institute Scholarships
University of Waikato Research Institute scholarships: Applications are closed for 2015.