by Deputy Headmaster (Academic) Andrew Wheaton
This year sees all our young men in the Senior School equipped with the latest tablet and stylus (digital pen) technology. In a world with ubiquitous technology, the aim of our 1:1 tablet programme is for our students to embrace the full spectrum of teaching practices, which is afforded by a combination of pen and paper and digital technologies. If we are to best prepare students for life beyond school, they need to be able to engage with a diversity of learning experiences and situations. As such, Churchie is committed to supporting our boys and teachers with a uniform device across our academic programmes. This is a key strategy that has deliberately avoided the BYOD (bring your own device) approach used in some other schools, which can see a myriad of technologies that a teacher has to navigate in the classroom.
Teaching of technology in the classroom
Churchie’s teaching of technology in the classroom is a responsive one that seeks to use technology as a learning tool to unleash the transformative skills of creativity, critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration, and to enrich those experiences that are linked to enhanced student engagement in learning.
Influence of devices on teaching and learning
Recently, Churchie’s Director of Innovation in Learning, Dr Terry Byers, conducted a three-year longitudinal observational study that compared teacher and student pedagogical use of a traditional laptop device compared with a tablet PC (Microsoft Surface). This involved a comparative statistical analysis of more than 100 observations of Churchie’s teachers, which yielded some telling trends in technology use. Such analysis presents evidence of how a device interface (keyboard, touch and stylus) can influence how the technology is used by both teachers and students.
The comparative analysis indicated that when teachers and students used a traditional laptop device, the technology use was largely substituting existing practices, with little functional change (figure 1).
Figure 1. Average student use of laptop (blue, n = 100) and Microsoft Surface tablet PC (grey, n = 100)
Hence, the predominant teaching practice with the traditional laptop device saw teachers creating learning experiences that replicated lower-order thinking processes—the type of learning that is often found in largely passive, teacher-centric practices, where students simply receive instruction and engage in remember/recall. The trend observed echoes the work by Fried (2008), Mueller and Oppenheimer (2014) and van der Meer and van der Weel (2017), who found that students with access to a laptop that only has a keyboard demonstrated shallower cognitive processing when compared to students using pen and paper or a stylus.
When typing, students do not engage those key generative thinking processors (summarising, paraphrasing and concept mapping) that encode external storage cognitive processes and that are linked to improved learning through the retention of new knowledge and the creation of schemas with existing understanding (Mueller and Oppenheimer, 2014). Quite simply, when we rapidly type, we are not thinking or retaining knowledge.
When the traditional laptop was compared with the Microsoft Surface device, it became apparent that adding the stylus interface had some real tangible impacts on teacher and student learning (figure 2). For example, there was a greater incidence of the use of the Surface device to either augment or modify teacher practice. Therefore, the analysis indicated a greater number of those learning experiences that required students to engage in higher order thinking (understand, apply, analyse, evaluate and create).
Figure 2. Average duration of lesson spent in learning activities using a laptop (blue, n = 100) and Microsoft Surface tablet PC (grey, n = 100)
The importance of a stylus and pen and paper
Interestingly, this also correlated to greater student use of pen and paper and the use of the stylus. A possible link between the increased usage of pen, paper and stylus is found in the work of Oviatt et al (2012). Their research suggests that the creation of more diagrams, symbols and numbers when using pen (stylus) interfaces has the potential to stimulate ideation, problem solving, and inferential reasoning when compared to keyboard-based interfaces. These are the key skills that we are seeking to elicit from our learners because they lead to deeper understandings.
When teachers and students use a Surface device, there are more learning opportunities created for higher order thinking. This greater incidence of exposure to these learning experiences has been shown to correlate with the increased academic performance of all students.
Where to from here?
Throughout this year, Churchie’s teachers will be seeking opportunities to lead our young men in the greater use of higher order thinking skills that encourage the multiple modalities of stylus and pen and paper technologies.
Fried, C. B. (2008). In-class laptop use and its effects on student learning. Computers & Education
, 50(3), 906-914. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2006.09.006
Mueller, P. A., & Oppenheimer, D. M. (2014). The pen Is mightier than the keyboard: Advantages of longhand over laptop note taking. Psychological Science
, 25(6), 1159-1168.
Oviatt, S., Cohen, A., Miller, A., Hodge, K., & Mann, A. (2012). The impact of interface affordances on human ideation, problem solving, and inferential reasoning. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction
(TOCHI), 19(3), 1-22. doi:10.1145/2362364.2362370
van der Meer, A. L. H., and van der Weel , F. R. (2017). Only three fingers write, but the whole brain works: A high-density EEG study showing advantages of drawing over typing for learning. Frontiers in Psychology
, 8(706). doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00706
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