30 Apr 2013

Tablet-PCs in the K-12 classroom and beyond

Previous research suggests that TPCs constructively aid teaching and students' individual learning processes in the K-12 classroom environment and beyond. And sure, there are plenty of mobile apps that aim to assist the teacher/learner in practically any given subject. The infographic below demonstrates what you can do with the iPad in the classroom and also suggests related applications that support seven typical classroom activities (show, manage, assess, interact, access, make, and learn).

You can download a PDF version of the above infographic which includes hyperlinks to referenced websites/apps here and a 6-page version + large 24-page version for printing.

Despite the abundance of education apps and, arguably, large numbers of tech-savvy students out there, what's the level of acceptance (i.e. the positive adoption decision to employ a technological innovation by users) for classroom based TPCs amongst teachers? That's an important, but so far little researched, question to ask since the success of introducing any innovation (technological or otherwise) in a formal education setting is dependent upon it being adopted by the relevant decision makers (teachers).

Dirk Ifenthaler and Volker Schweinbenz took it upon themselves to find out about teachers' behavioural intentions concerning the adoption of TPCs as an integral part of their classroom routine. They utilised the Unified-Theory-of-Acceptance-and-Use-of-Technology model (UTAUT) and interviewed 18 German school teachers from the school district of Mannheim in Germany. For a diagrammatic overview of the UTAUT model see here.

All respondents utilise TCPs in the classroom to different levels of intensity and purpose (some were for specific project use only; some were for the support of physically disabled students). 37 questions were asked in semi-structured interviews including "do you use the iPad to prepare lessons?"; "what benefits do you see in the iPad compared to Notebooks?"; "do you expect that learning to operate the iPad for teaching purposes will be easy for you?"; "does your school have the necessary resources to use the iPad in the classroom?"; "what is your attitude towards the use of the iPads?".

The interview results show that the teachers had varying degrees of personal-usage expertise of TPCs; none had any substantial usage experience within the teaching context of the classroom. However, the majority of interviewees were open-minded towards the use of TPC for learning despite the fact that some degree of scepticism was voiced. For example, one respondent noted that "in the context of learning and instruction I am quite critical about the use of TPC...My concern is that the iPads, in most cases, just replace the computer room...and iPads are very expensive....Another respondent felt that TPCs are useful for project specific application rather than generic classroom use.

Lack of experience and knowledge about the availability of educational applications were seen as the main reasons of uncertainty toward TCPs. Reliable facilitating conditions (technical infrastructure/support) and guidance for appropriate TCP applications were seen as very important: a designed concept, which integrates TPC applications into subject content and the school curriculum, is most desirable.

With regard to the potential for improving students’ learning outcomes through the introduction of TPCs, respondents’ perceptions were mixed. The majority of teachers perceive the iPad as a means to increase learning motivation and even reintegrate students who otherwise tend to switch off during normal classes. Others feel that only limited positive change can be affected as students’ intellectual ability is seen to be independent from TCP introduction. In addition, a minority think that the use of TCP will improve learning and instruction (Ifenthaler and Schweinbenz, 2013: 529-532).

All the same, the teachers’ opinions above should be considered with caution as they are based on “assumptions rather than on secure knowledge and experience” (Ifenthaler and Schweinbenz, 2013: 532). Despite its statistical limitations, this case study indicates that the successful adoption of TCPs in teaching and learning is closely intertwined with the level of enthusiasm and classroom integration (actual use) displayed by teachers. Perhaps, such enthusiasm may be produced if an adequate support infrastructure is in place, which in turn facilitates a constructivist approach through high-level technology use.

Further reading & resources:
Venkatesh, V., Morris, M. G., Davis, G. B., & Davis, F. D. (2003). User acceptance of
information technology: Toward a unified view. MIS Quarterly, 27(3), 425–478.

El-Gayar, O., Moran, M., & Hawkes, M. (2011). Students’ acceptance of Tablet PCs
and implications for educational institutions. Educational Technology and Society, 14(2), 58–70.

Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge. 2013. TPACK. [ONLINE] Available at: http://tpack.org/. [Accessed 24 April 13]. TPACK is a framework that identifies the knowledge teachers need to teach effectively with technology. The TPACK framework extends Shulman’s idea of Pedagogical Content Knowledge.

Rogers, Kipp D, 2011. Mobile Learning Devices. 1st ed. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.


  1. Thanks Alexander, this is an area that is fast getting away from me. In the meantime, highly recommended viewing is Josh Harding's UKSG presentation at:
    Apparently, we've 18 months to get on board or be left behind!

  2. Anne, thank you very much for linking to this UKSG piece; it's fascinating to see that this student effectively operates in a paperless fashion. And indeed, tablets are not a new idea per se, but the iPad is certainly a game changer here. This very much confirms the idea that librarians are perfectly placed in supporting faculty and students when it comes to the use of tablets in formalised education settings.

  3. Schloss Neubeuern is the first school in Germany that conducts its final exam(Abitur)for second level students in a paperless fashion using tablet PCs. The experiment is being closely watched by school authorities. Interesting here is that teachers seem to struggle more with this switch than students.