Study casts doubt on school iPad benefits

Robyn Wuth
(Australian Associated Press)


Tablets and iPads have become must-have technology in many classrooms, but are they making our kids any smarter?

New research has found using iPads and other technology in schools may not support brain development particularly in young children, according to James Cook University’s Professor Helen Boon.

Dr Boon has reviewed international research dating from when the iPad was introduced in 2010 and says the jury is still out on the wisdom of using the technology in schools.

The study found the technology did not enhance specific school learning areas such as mathematics, English, and science.

“Some studies have suggested that mobile technology promotes collaborative learning, communication and access to information,” Dr Boon said.

“On the other hand, the potential for mobile technology to be a distraction in the classroom has also been frequently reported.”

Dr Boon says another concern is the effect their physical use has on young brains.

“How children’s fine motor skills develop is very important,” she said.

Dr Boon said a range of studies indicate fine motor skills like handwriting, colouring and physically cutting and pasting may enhance cognitive development and executive function in a way not seen with typewriting or touch screen writing.

“So it’s critical to know how, and if, replacing some or most of these activities with the use of mobile devices, the acquisition of these fine motor skills is affected,” she said.

Dr Boon said more quality research is needed on the use of mobile devices at school by children, their effect on learning and the best way for teachers to direct their use.


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