Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Multi-device approaches to learning

While many schools are switching to iPads, others are questioning whether they are really the ideal tools for students to use for creation.  Following a prototype last year, my own school stipulated that for the BYOD programme students must bring a laptop, however I'm on an R&D Task Force that is investigating tablets, smartphones and so on as a second device for students to use.  Currently we are involved in research and I'm reading as much as I can about how students are using mobile devices in addition to their laptops, so I was very interested in a report that I came across today about the use of technology by university students.  This study highlighted the following:

  • laptops are the tool of choice for production (creating coursework content) 
  • 83% of students owned a laptop
  • mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones are used mostly for consumption and communication
  • 19% of students own tablets and/or eReaders
  • 96% of students who own tablets also own laptops

The tablets are therefore being used as part of a multi-device approach to learning and the important thing, it seems, is to help students to use the right tool for the task.

As mentioned in a previous post, a survey of our elementary teachers showed that their 2nd device of choice is a smartphone.  There could be many reasons for this, but I suspect the most important of these is that they are small, very portable, always with us and always connected, whereas tablets are larger and rely on a wifi connection.  Just today I looked around the faculty meeting after school and noticed several people taking notes on their phones and some may well also have been checking their email or sending messages.  I also saw phones being used earlier today by both teachers and parents at the Curiosity Project Breakfast Party to take quick photos or maybe even short video.  All the students had laptops, so there was no need to use any other devices to check websites, however I did see some parents pulling out their iPads and using them in addition to the laptops as reading devices.  Another reason why I think phones scored so highly in the survey of secondary devices is that they are small enough to put into your pocket, so teachers carry them around more.  Again, checking in the lunchroom earlier I noticed teachers with their phones on the tables (whereas I didn't see any iPads there).

Our middle and high school teachers will shortly also be filling in a survey about their choice of secondary devices.  I'm curious to see if the results of this survey match those of our elementary teachers.

Photo Credit:  The iOS Family Pile by Blake Patterson, 2012 Attribution 


  1. Interesting to see that students as well as teachers are now using more than one device. I currently use MacBook, ipad, iphone and imac so have realised that auto syncing software such as the wonderful Evernote and iphoto are beating localised apps such as Office into the grave. For schools Evernote must be a winner For me the new benchmark is - can I use it on all devices on line and off line.

  2. I agree David, many of our teachers use more than two devices too. Quite a few of them said they use their iPhones and iPads almost interchangeably. We use Google Drive here instead of Office and I was glad to see that Google recently released an app for Drive that makes collaboration easier on mobile devices. Evernote, I think, is my favourite as I use it on everything, closely followed by Kindle Cloud Reader. I agree too, that apps that can be used both on and offline are some of my must-haves. I'm starting an online course for the IBO as a facilitator next week - the course runs until the beginning of December and for one of the weeks I'm away. I'm going to attempt to do it all on my iPad that week (though the course is using Moodle so I will have to give it a trial run before just setting off with my iPad).