DART researchers spent 2013-2014 working with East Park – an organisation in Glasgow providing education, care and support to pupils with additional support needs including autism. The school were fortunate enough to secure funding to buy a number of iPads which were given to selected students and used to support their personal learning goals over the academic year.
DART Masters student, Sinead O’Brien, provided an independent evaluation of the project. In this simple partnership we had a number of exciting, applied research goals:
- to evaluate the impact of iPads on individual learning goals and on the classroom setting. We’re fascinated to see how teachers can combine their personal insight into their pupils’ needs and interests, with the wealth of opportunities encapsulated in an iPad, and direct these to impact on learning outcomes in both academic and non-academic domains.
- to consider how iPads can best be implemented in a group classroom setting. As personal technologies become more and more common in classrooms it will be a challenge for teachers to develop ways to respond to them and to ensure their use is effective and relevant to the curriculum and/or personal learning goals. We hope to provide a structure to help teachers reflect on and develop this practice.
- to explore how to evaluate individual iPad use in a school setting – what measures should we be taking and how often? Research in this field requires better measures which can be replicated across studies, settings and specific technologies.
As a result of the project Sinead produced a Masters thesis, which we hope will provide a foundation for further research at PhD level into the educational value of technology for children and young people with autism. We have now also created a report for East Park summarising our independent evaluation of their project. We hope that the school will be able to use this partnership to secure further funding for iPads and other technologies for use in their schools. We are also going to developed guidelines for other schools, to be shared on the Autism Toolbox. Finally, we intend to publish the research in an academic journal for consideration by the research community.
We’re excited about the possibility that the team of East Park plus DART are helping to forge new understanding of the use of tech in schools and can later help to share this knowledge with others. If your school or service is looking to move into using iPads, other tablets or technology for the first time, or you want to enhance this aspect of what you do, please feel free to get in touch.
Unfortunately this project didn’t have independent input from the autistic community, apart from those people involved as participants in the research.
Click here for a free downloadable pdf of our East Park iPad Project report, including tips for schools on how to get the most from technology.