They have the ability to transform teaching and learning, but tablet apps are only as good as the teacher using them, one education researcher believes.
Catherine Attard, a senior lecturer in primary education at the University of Western Sydney, has conducted two studies on the use of iPads in primary schools to teach and learn mathematics.
She said the emphasis on technology with 21st century learning meant teachers no longer simply delivered information.
‘‘Teachers now need to ensure children have the ability to be critical of the information they find and to use that information to create something new,’' Dr Attard said.
‘‘Technology [provides] ‘just in time’ learning, as opposed to ‘just in case’ learning, where students learn concepts just in case they might need the information at some point in the future. Just in time learning allows students to access information when they need it, at a time when it is more relevant.’’
Dr Attard said the ease of access and affordability of apps could help teachers design learning experiences that allow for creativity and engagement, but cautions they need to be used to enhance learning rather than entertain.
‘‘A maths game app that simply requires the student to answer a series of questions is really no better than asking the student to answer questions on a worksheet,’’ she said.
‘‘A better app would require students to create something new or demonstrate or explain their understanding of a particular concept.
‘‘There are many of these types of ‘‘productivity’’ apps, including Explain Everything, Show ME, and even Keynote.’’
‘‘Their use is only limited by the teacher’s imagination and knowledge of the subject being taught. A great app is only as good as the teacher using it.’’
■ Explain Everything, for age 5 and up. This is a great app that allows the user to give presentations on almost anything. It allows the user to annotate, animate, narrate and import and share information.
■ ShowMe, for age 5 and up
ShowMe is a brilliant app with potential for use in primary mathematics. Teachers can use the app to demonstrate on an interactive whiteboard. Students can record their work and then present it to the class for feedback. For example, students learning to use open number lines can record their work verbally and in writing, then share on the interactive whiteboard. The other students can then discuss different strategies.
■ Garage Band — for all ages
This app allows the user to play a number of musical instruments and compose music. In essence, it's a self-contained recording studio.
■ Google Earth — for age 8 and up
Google Earth is great for teaching mathematical concepts such as location. It is also a very good tool for exploration of 3D space. Try looking for the pyramids at Giza, or the Pentagon building in Virginia.
■ Strip Designer — suitable for age 7 and up. This app allows students to explain mathematical concepts from any curriculum area using images and text in the form of a comic strip.
■ Evernote — suitable for age 10 and up
This great productivity app that allows the user to capture notes, photos, reminders, lists, etc.