Research has shown that children’s skills are improved if they use iPads in lessons.

A study called Mobile Devices in Early Learning, was conducted with Northern Ireland primary school pupils, over two years. It involved 650 children from five Belfast primary schools and five nursery schools.

The schools taking part were in some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in the city.

Each school was supplied with iPads for nursery and primary years’ 1-3 pupils.

Researchers from Stranmillis University College then assessed how pupils, parents, principals and teachers used them over the course of two years.

The research found that:

  • The introduction of digital technology has had a positive impact on the development of children’s literacy and numeracy skills
  • Contrary to initial expectations, principals and teachers report that the use of iPads in the classroom has enhanced children’s communication skills
  • Children view learning using handheld devices as play and are more highly motivated, enthused and engaged
  • Boys appear to be more enthused when using digital technology, particularly when producing pieces of written work

iPads helped younger children to be more motivated and engaged in lessons, said Dr. Colette Gray from Stranmillis, one of the study’s authors.

“It’s not a panacea or the holy grail, but is another method to reach children who might otherwise underachieve,” she said.

“For many children, it does seem like a playful learning activity. Children, even if working alone, would talk to each other or talk to the teacher.

“There was actually an increase in communication in the classroom, which we didn’t initially anticipate,” she added.

The principal of Elmgrove, Jayne Jeffers, said using iPads had improved many pupils’ academic performance.

“We have found that attainment has increased in a lot of areas because the children are more engaged,” she said.

“All of the children we have in school now have been born knowing about smartphone technology and mobile technology.

“We have a duty as a school to prepare children for their future and that includes digital learning,” said Jeffers.