Getting, S., & Swainy, K. (2012). First graders with ipads?. Learning & Leading with Technology, 40(1), 24-27. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/learn/publications/learning-and-leading/DigitalEdition/digital-edition-August-2012_copy1.aspx.
Summary: In this article, Sara Getting and Karen Swainy chronicle their efforts to test the effect of iPad use on the reading readiness of two groups of students. Their goals with the iPad project was three-fold: increase reading achievement with the lowest reading groups, increase incorporation of digital tools in their teaching practice, and help young students gain basic skills as they begin their learning path in a digital world. The two teachers overcame fairly difficult obstacles to achieve their vision and were rewarded with positive results that showed that iPad use did bring elevated average gains and higher test scores for those children in the study.
First, the excitement of working with slick new iPads resulted in 15-20% in students' total Time on Task (TOT) as measured by an observer with a stopwatch. It would be interesting to discover if there is any decrease in this figure over time as iPad use becomes less exciting due to frequency and/or familiarity. Second, the iPad program provided leadership opportunities for the young students as they had the chance to demonstrate their skills in front of school board members and participated in a district Technology Conference. Third, students using iPads were able to change reading groups often (although not specifically stated, I believe the author's indicate this progress was in the direction of increased ability) during the year. Fourth, the iPad project prompted students to work collaboratively, instructing new users without teacher prompting or intervention; these helping habits were retained even after the conclusion of the program. Finally, the students who used iPads demonstrated improvement in key reading readiness skills such as sight recognition, fluency, comprehension and vocabulary recognition.
First, in my opinion, would be cost! These two teachers were able to receive stimulus funding in order to purchase their set of iPads. This option may not be available to all institutions, including private schools. Also, when budgeting or projecting costs, teachers need to consider some of the other frustrations mentioned in the article--like the initial lack of syncing software, or the need for headphones during "noisy apps," and the fact that VGA cord issues meant the teachers had to project to the class using document cameras (a piece of equipment that may not be present to be the "backup plan" in every classroom!)--because the solution to each of these problems required spending more money.
Second, would be the lack of applications to use with the students once they've been handed an iPad. Although in the two years since Getting and Swainy conducted their research most school administrators have jumped whole-heartedly on the techno-bandwagon, any teacher seeking to implement a similar iPad program will still have to present a convincing cost-benefit analysis. A big part of the pre-program research and planning should be directed to making sure that there are sufficient appropriate and stimulating apps easily available for the target age-group.
Finally, if I were an administrator or school board member--even as someone pre-disposed to favor spending funds to add digital tools to the classroom--I would want to have more data to consider than Getting and Swainy presented, as well as data without the variability they experienced. Their promising positive results are great to hear about, but their case would be even stronger had the project report been issued after, say, four years of implementation in at least 2 or 3 classrooms.