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The iPad: Enhancing Learning and Teaching in the Digital Age December 19, 2010

Posted by Editor21C in Directions in Education, Engaging Learning Environments, Secondary Education, Teacher, Adult and Higher Education.
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from Jorge Reyna

Jorge Reyna follows up on his previous post, Ubiquitous Devices, Ubiquitous Learning and Ubiquitous Education, by assessing the impact that the new iPad, and similar devices, will have on future ways we learn, teach, and organise and engage with our learning.


An iPad is a tablet computer designed and developed by Apple and launched in April 2010. It is particularly marketed as a platform for audio and visual media such as e-books, e-newspapers, movies, music, games, and a wide range of applications. The main features include mail, web browser, photos, videos, YouTube, iPod, maps, contacts, calendar, notes and application store. Current limitations of this first device include the lack of a camera, USB port, Adobe Flash support, multi-tasking capabilities, SD memory slot, only 64GB internal storage (tiny for “terabyte days”), and the fact that it is not a stand alone device, depending on a PC/Mac to install updates via the iTunes interface.

Productivity applications like DocToGo, Keynote, Papers, iAnnotate, Good Reader, and upcoming applications available through the iTunes store will have a positive impact in teaching and learning scenarios. For educators it may transform their practices allowing them ubiquitous work, paperless offices, new teaching tools in the classroom, the promotion of discipline innovation, motivating students in the use of technology, improving research collaboration and productivity, and enhancing networking. From the student’s side, key features to be considered include: e-books, note taking, impact on studying and reviewing, increasing student interest level (motivation), and individualisation of curriculum.

E-books may reduce the cost of education but the most important feature is that it integrates book content (book + audio + video + animation). Before the iPad, a book was a concept that has not changed in 500 years, but now an evolution has taken place. The advantage of this evolution is obvious: books will be downloaded straight into the device and frequently updated content can be expected. This will reduce costs, it will save trees and ink. Ultimately, there is a potential that tool such as the iPad may render printed textbooks obsolete. An interesting impact will be observed in note taking. Students will not lose their notes. There will be no handwritten notes and so they will be legible, making possible the sharing of notes with other students via email or Bluetooth file transfer.

Paperless classrooms are possible now. There is no need for a recycling paper program and the teacher can e-mail worksheets such as practice sheets, laboratory directions, quizzes and tests directly to students. Students can digitally submit their assignments and academics will not carry several kilos of papers between home and schools. Additionally, the iPad, in conjunction with polling software, has the potential to assess a student’s understanding of a topic and provide feedback within minutes (e.g through the eClicker application). This system will make classrooms more interactive and engaging and may have a positive effect on drop-out rates.

The iPad will make the task of searching, studying and reviewing easy, as all information in notes, articles, and books will be organised on the device. This will make studying to be more ubiquitous than ever. The iPad could provide students with the chance to take better care of their educational resources. It may also promote individualised curriculum, and applications could be developed to customise the learning experience of individual students. Courses could become more independent of a teacher. Students could begin working more or less at their own pace as educators help each student to progress individually.

In an inclusive educational era, this has an interesting potential. Some Catholic schools are implementing iPads for their classrooms (e.g. St Aidan’s Primary School in Rooty Hill). New policies at Schools need to be developed to avoid distractions for students with the iPad and its ability to play games.

The Australian Taxation Office has said that the iPad, and equivalent e-readers or tablets, are deemed to be equivalent to a laptop and it will attract a 50 per cent education rebate. This will make iPads popular with schools. Competitors are trying to integrate the entertainment features of the iPad with the utility of a laptop, all in a lightweight package device. The tendency for the new tablets is to run Android, a mobile operating system developed by Google. A few examples can be mentioned like Samsung Galaxy Tablet, Google Tablet, Dell Streak, Asus Eee Tablet, Notion Ink Adam, ICD Vega, and many generic tablets coming from China. In conclusion, taking into account its current features and limitations, the iPad may not be a ‘killer’ device that will displace laptops, but a significant impact in teaching and learning scenarios can be predicted in the following years. Research needs to be conducted to study the iPad’s impact on educational settings in order to develop innovative approaches that will benefit students.

Jorge Reyna works as E-learning Technical Officer for the School of Education, University of Western Sydney, and has a passion for technology and its application in educational settings.

Pre-service teachers and refugee high school students – new ways of becoming a 21st century teacher December 5, 2010

Posted by Editor21C in Community Engagement, Secondary Education, Social Justice and Equity through Education, Teacher, Adult and Higher Education.
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From Dr Loshini Naidoo

With many of her academic colleagues, Dr Naidoo has helped to pioneer a powerful form of academic service learning at the University of Western Sydney in which our student-teachers work with young people in community learning placements. She comments here on the RAS program, one component of our academic service learning, where our student teachers work as tutors with high school students from refugee backgrounds. Our community service learning program recently won a prestigious Australian Learning and Teaching Council Program Award for promoting learning engagement, and provides a win-win outcome with unique opportunities, as she explains below.

For a number of years students in the secondary teacher education program at the University of Western Sydney (UWS) have been engaged in an enhanced form of learning, by undertaking academic service learning with young people of school age in community contexts. In the wide variety of academic service learning placements that are available, our student teachers are placed in important projects, helping young people from low SES backgrounds, and often having the opportunity to work with these young people on a one to one basis.

One example of a highly successful program of academic service learning is the Refugee Action Support (RAS) program in the School of Education at UWS. The RAS program has been very successful for both high school refugee students in Greater Western Sydney and UWS pre-service teachers in the Master of Teaching (Secondary) course. Each year, around 80 UWS student-teachers are trained as tutors to work with refugee-background students attending high schools in NSW. Several ex-UWS (RAS) pre-service tutors are now employed by the participating RAS schools as full-time teachers.

One such school is Merryvale High (pseudonym) in south-west Sydney, which was identified by the NSW Department of Education and Training’s Multicultural Programs Unit as having a RAS program that represents ‘best practice and what works for refugee students’. The school is situated in Sydney’s most multicultural Local Government Area, with 133 nationalities represented and over 70 languages spoken. Refugee students often enter mainstream secondary classrooms at a serious educational disadvantage. Many arrive in Australia from countries with a history of conflict where school attendance is either interrupted or not possible and many enter high school in Australia with a limited knowledge of English. As such, it is imperative for schools to meet the academic and social needs of these students.

The UWS RAS tutors are able to provide the time, place and structure assumed to be missing from home. Most significantly, refugee students participating in the RAS program at the school indicated that the welcoming climate provided by the UWS tutors was a significant drawcard for the program. The Head Teacher Learning Support at Merryvale said that the tutors were “absolutely brilliant role models … sensitive when it comes to cross-cultural issues” and the school Deputy Principal said that “the RAS program has been a fantastic recruitment program for the school…. they [RAS Tutors] are intimately aware of what the program is about because they did it as student teachers and now they’re doing it as teachers … They’ve definitely built a culture of inclusion with these kids”.

The group of RAS pre-service teachers employed by the school received training in literacy strategies from the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation (ALNF) prior to the mentoring process. This training equipped the tutors for their role as mentors to the refugee students. As such the current Learning Support team at the school is made up of predominantly ex- RAS tutors from UWS who are actively involved in supporting the teaching and learning of refugee students at the school. The current RAS program at the school even has an ex RAS tutor as school coordinator. RAS tutors who found the mentoring experience rewarding and fulfilling were able to identify with the school’s philosophy and bring a respectable degree of harmony to the school so that all students, irrespective of their diverse backgrounds, are valued. This is in keeping with the reputation of the school in the community for its sound academic standards and its supportive staff and high expectations for mediating student outcomes.

Loshini Naidoo is a Senior Lecturer in educational sociology in the School of Education at the Universty of Western Sydney, Australia. She teaches and researches in the area of education and diversity, particularly in relation to secondary education.

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