The iPad: Uses, Challenges & LimitationsBarraq Ali
This article is a very brief summary of my Doctor of Education (EdD) thesis that I submitted to the University of Exeter, England in 2016. The thesis was the result of a study I had conducted at HCT Fujairah colleges and whose objective was to explore the integration of the iPad as a learning and teaching technology into the Foundations Program at these colleges.
- How did the teachers and students in both colleges use the iPad to construct and enhance their teaching and learning?
- What tasks and activities did they use the iPad for and how often?
- What challenges did they face using the iPad in this endeavor?
- What were the limitations of the iPad as perceived by these teachers and students?
The method used to conduct the inquiry was case study. The choice of this method was justified on the grounds that the study sought to investigate a particular, contemporary phenomenon in order to gain an in-depth understanding of it.
The participants in the research were the teachers and students of the Foundations Program. These two groups had been using the iPad for a considerable period of time prior to the start of the inquiry.
To analyze the qualitative data for the study a manual process of analysis was used. This involved reading and re-reading the data in order to acquire familiarity with it and to identify meaningful and potentially insightful chunks, which refer to possible answers to the research questions.
The teachers delivering the six classes I observed used the iPad technical affordances to create tasks and activities involving the use of multimedia – images, audio and video recordings. They used apps such as Creative Book Builder, Pic Collage, Popplet, iMovie and Sound Note which made use of images, audio and video to create teaching and learning artifacts that are visually appealing.
The participants also stated that the iPad made it easier for the students to cooperate with each other on various tasks thanks to the fact that it is portable and lightweight. The other activity that the iPad promoted was brainstorming
The lack of or weakness of linguistic and technical literacies suffered by the students at the lower levels of the Foundations Program presented a major challenge to the teachers of these levels. They often found themselves not only attempting to support their students overcoming language difficulties, but also helping them fix technical problems relating to the iPad and the various apps they had to use.
The analysis of the teachers’ answers to the survey questions demonstrated that the iPad was primarily used for online research, multimedia, independent and collaborative learning.The participants thought that the iPad had lent itself easily to independent and collaborative learning, but not so much to note taking and far less to personal reflection.
The teachers listed the following as the new technology’s shortcomings:
- Limited capacity for collaboration, brainstorming and accurate typing
- Lack of unique contribution to the teaching and learning process
- Technical drawbacks such as the absence of keyboard, status bar and filing system
- Unsuitable for writing practice
- Hindrance of verbal communication
Despite its limitations, the iPad was a useful and practical technology that helped both the students and teachers of the Foundations Program make their learning more interactive, spontaneous, effective and engaging.