This blog post explains the process I went through to choose a topic for a mini-dissertation. The purpose of this assignment is to reflect upon my method, to focus on grammar and citing, and forces me to deliberate upon the choices I am making.
Today’s students are at an advantage over teachers in relation to technology. They are described by Marc Prensky (2001) as digital natives, who were born with it surrounding them, versus educators who are considered digital immigrants, because they have not had it around them their whole life. Given this information, educators still need to enable young learners with the best possible tech solutions.
Problems in technology facing the learner from an educators point of view include, but are not limited to: time constraints; availability of technology; prior knowledge; teacher’s ability and acquaintance with the technology; class size and class differentiation, which affects teachers ability to work closely with students in need of help; and outside elements, including physical surroundings, classroom management of the teacher; and more.
Robert C. Wicklei amasses 580 other issues in the paper “Identifying Critical Issues and Problems In Technology Education Using A Modified-Delphi Technique”, where he separates the difficulties into Present issues, Future issues, Present problems, and Future Problems.
This study focuses on one specific element, not addressed in Wicklei’s study, with regards to technology and early years. The issue focus is:
“How can primary education professionals use iPads to help students of early ages with fine motor skills?”
In tackling this question there need to be certain assumptions. The first is that students understand cause and effect. At a young age, students might not realize that if something takes place, a reaction to that occurrence is likely to happen. For example, a child needs to understand that a button click will turn the device on and a certain swipe of one or two fingers will render certain results. If this is not the case it needs to be taught in order for the study to work.
The second assumption is that students want to use the iPad devices. “The iPad made its debut on the electronic market in January 2010. But it was not available to the public until April. Since then, its popularity has skyrocketed.” (Ybarra, 2011)
The third assumption is that primary education professionals will use this technology. While I am working at the school I can see to it that this occurs. I hope the legacy continues when I leave. In order for it to do so, I anticipate proving the worth of iPads to educators. This, in turn, will hopefully promote their use within the community.
The fourth assumption is also my hypothesis. It is that iPads help students with fine motor skills. I need to research tools and analysis techniques that will be used to prove this conjecture. If the hypothesis demonstrates that it will be too difficult to substantiate in the constrained amount of time, I might need to restructure it.
Problem in relation to current specialization
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Currently, I am a technology integration specialist working with Primary teachers and students from Preschool (age 3+) to grade 6. My school administration has asked me to research the question “How can primary education professionals use iPads to help students of early ages with fine motor skills?” The time allotment and dates for this research will be determined collaboratively with classroom teachers. The applications to focus upon are yet to be chosen.
Approximately 40 students aged 3-7 in Preschool, Prep and Grade 1. Students are from middle-upper class families and must hold an international passport, apart from a Turkish one.
Students, as of last year and previous years, in Preschool, Prep and Grade 1 have been going to discrete technology classes. The school has decided to incorporate technology into classroom teaching. I will pilot a study using two iPads with groups of eight to sixteen students in which I examine the ease of use, the differences between laptops and desktops, the excitement factors and the ability for gain with fine motor skills.
I plan to work with classes who are in session and pull out select students in order to record and examine results. The classes may be technology classes, or they may be other classes; for example: math, science, language, etc.
There are limitations with resources, with only two iPads available for use at a time. This might skew results because a more individualized mode of instruction will be applied during the study versus real life situations. Small group settings work more efficiently than large class sizes. “(a) a significant benefit accrues to students in reduced-size classes in both subject areas and (b) there is evidence that minority students in particular benefit from the smaller class environment…” (Finn & Achilles, 2011)
Reason for passion about this topic
I have six reasons that I am passionate about this topic. They are as follows:
- iPads are easy to use – “The iPad and the iPhone, on the other hand, are easy to use. Much like the original iPods, they’re simply intuitive. The app store is easy to navigate. The OS, while locked up for most end users, is pretty well stable and won’t break.” (Warbiany, 2010)
- iPads are fun – “The smartphones don’t disappear into our children’s rooms; rather, it is the iPad that our children (and our spouses) have decided is fun enough to grab.” (Trautschold & Mazo, 2011)
- iPads have a certain status attached to them our parent demographic finds appealing – This could be a study unto itself, but I am assuming our parent demographic is largely made up of a well-to-do crowd correlating the fact that tuition costs between $20,000 – $35,000 USD per year. “As expected within the classic early-adopter profile, we identified a male skew in the 35-44 age group among these early users. In fact, among all users, men outnumber women 2:1. Given the economy, people with higher earning power were probably the first to buy the iPad” (Hung, 2010)
- iPads are sturdy, if hard cases are bought for them – “If you get an iPad, make sure to buy a protective case for it. [However, c]ompared to the iPhone, Apple’s latest tech toy is more prone to easy damage. Its well-coated screen is literally scratch-proof… an average-weight adult can sit on the iPad without inflicting any damage.” (Moynihan, 2010)
- iPads support education – “In a highly-controlled scientific study, ACU students who used an iPad to annotate text performed at a rate 25 percent higher on questions regarding transfer of information than their counterparts who used only paper.” (Abilene Christian University, 2011)
- Apple supports education with hardware solutions – “Apple iPad Learning Labs… The cart can store, charge, and sync up to 30 iPad devices and has room for a MacBook computer…” (Apple, 2011)
Critical Thinking Path to arrive at this choice
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As noted in the “Thinking outside the Box” discussion, the process I embarked on first utilized brainstorming with nine revisions to arrive at a color coded, connected, and refined scope where I determined that I would focus on iPads in education to help students of early ages with fine motor skills.
The process involved jotting down thoughts, organizing them, color coding for easier recognition of groups, connecting concepts, reconstructing layouts, making additions and subtractions to initial ideas, and finalizing structures to manageable results.
After this process was complete, I researched scholarly fields to find what, if any, empirical evidence was available. Very little research has been conducted, probably due to the timeframe for which this technology has been available. The iPad has only been available to consumers for over a year. Academic studies and ideas surrounding this technology are sparse to non-existent. Therefore much of the research will be generated or done using blog and website cross-referencing. The cross-referencing should ensure that sources are producing unbiased, non-promoting results.
The idea about the use of technology in education is based on the behaviorism idea that “[i]nnovations that were a part of programmed instruction include recognition that effective nonhuman mediated instruction could be developed and that evolution and revision of the materials through an empirical test of their effects could improve the effectiveness of instruction” (Smith & Ragan, 2005) Using iPads with this intention fits tightly into this notion.
Ultimately, my intention is to examine further implications intended for nonspecialist audiences. I plan to view my results alongside other similar studies looking for corollary evidence substantiating and articulating my hypothesis that iPads help students with fine motor skills. With this verification, I plan to identify best practice through an Instructional Design lens.
Abilene Christian University. (2011, September 19). ACU Research Sheds Light on Mobility in Teaching, Learning. Retrieved October 23, 2011, from Abilene Christian University : http://www.acu.edu/news/2011/110919-mobility-research.html
Apple. (2011). Apple in Education. Retrieved October 23, 2011, from Apple.com: http://www.apple.com/education/labs/
Argyris, C., & Schon, D. A. (1974). Theory in Practice – Increasing Professional Effectiveness. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Dr. Suzanne Dunn, D. C. (2011). Creative Inquiry: Thinking Outside the Box. Retrieved October 19, 2011, from Creative Inquiry: http://media.capella.edu/CourseMedia/ed8002/ed8002_video/ed8002_flvplr_Outerwrapper.asp
Finn, J. D., & Achilles, C. M. (2011). Answers and Questions About Class Size: A Statewide Experiment. American Educational Research Journal , 173 (12), 1468-1474.
Hung, G. (2010, May 6). Apple iPad User Analysis. Retrieved October 23, 2011, from Y! Mobile Blog: http://ymobileblog.com/blog/2010/05/06/apple-ipad-user-analysis/
Moynihan, T. (2010, April 5). iPad stress tests: Don’t drop it, and buy a case. Retrieved October 23, 2011, from MacWorld: http://www.macworld.com/article/150418/2010/04/ipad_stress.html
Olsen, L. (2011). Creative Inquiry: Pre-Writing Techniques. Retrieved October 19, 2011, from Creative Inquiry: http://media.capella.edu/CourseMedia/EDColloquia/Creative_Inquiry/CreativeInquiry_OuterWrapper.asp
Paul, R., & Elder, L. (2001). Critical Thinking – Tools for taking charge of your learning and your life (2nd Edition). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Prensky, M. (2001, October). Digital Natives Digital Immigrants. Retrieved October 23, 2011, from MarkPrensky.com: http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf
Smith, P. L., & Ragan, T. J. (2005). Instructional Design (Third Edition). Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Trautschold, M., & Mazo, G. (2011). Games and Fun – Chapter 22. Retrieved October 23, 2011, from http://resources.metapress.com: http://resources.metapress.com/pdf-preview.axd?code=k5778gp170623632&size=largest
Warbiany, B. (2010, April 5). Is The iPad Too Easy To Use? Retrieved October 23, 2011, from The Liberty Papers: http://www.thelibertypapers.org/2010/04/05/is-the-ipad-too-easy-to-use/
Wicklei, R. C. (1993). Identifying Critical Issues and Problems In Technology Education Using A Modified-Delphi Techniqu. Journal of Technology Education , 5 (1), 54-71.
Ybarra, M. (2011, January 19). iPads instead of textbooks: College students enjoy new technology. El Paso Times . El Paso, Texas.