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Mobile devices, such as the iPad, iPhone and the various Android devices have had a major impact on society over the last few years. They are now being used increasingly in teaching and learning, and in therapy to support learners with additional support needs.

CALL's book, iPads for Communication, Access, Literacy and Learning (iCALL), provides a very useful introduction to the use of iPads, particularly in schools. It can be downloaded without charge, while printed copies can be purchased from the CALL Shop.


Advantages and Disadvantages

iPads (and the various Android and other tablets) have many attractions:

  • they are small and light (though heavier than they look), making them easy for a small child to use.
  • there are thousands of enjoyable, low cost (or free) interactive apps that can engage the user.
  • they are fast to turn on - no waiting for a couple of minutes to boot up, like a laptop.
  • the built-in camera can be used to create instant personal resources.
  • perhaps most importantly, they are mainstream devices that have the 'cool' factor and are very motivating.

On the other hand, there are potential drawbacks:

  • media hype, particularly with regard to use with people with autism, can lead to unrealistic expectations of success. Parents demand iPads for their children with additional support needs, even though other solutions may be more appropriate.
  • they can be difficult for people with some physical disabilities to use.
  • there are issues with regard to accessing wifi networks in schools and other institutions.
  • poor integration between apps can make some tasks much more complicated than they would be on a computer.
  • printing can be awkward.

iPads in Schools

Teachers and pupils in some schools are already using iPads, sometimes just as individuals, but increasingly as part of an organised introduction of new technology. The Technology Enhanced Learning Group at the University of Hull published in 2012 the final report on a pilot project that saw the introduction of iPads in 8 schools in different parts of Scotland. An updated report looking at the use of iPads in Edinburgh schools was published in September 2013.

Cedars School of Excellence is an independent school in Greenock which has implemented a whole school 1:1 iPad policy. Fraser Speirs' blog provides a 'history' of the implementation, with information on problems that arose and various solutions, along with information on apps and procedures that have worked well for the school.


Finding the Right App

Wheel of Apps for Learners with DyslexiaThere are many thousands of apps available for use in education, but it can be difficult to find the app that suits the learner and the task in hand. It may be that the 'perfect' app for your requirement does not exist and that you will have to compromise. The iTunes Preview web site provides a list of available apps in many categories, but it can be very difficult to find an app, unless you know exactly what you want. Fortunately, there are many lists of 'helpful' apps for particular groups of learners in circulation. Some of these lists are better than others.

We have published a 'wheel' of iPad Apps for Learners with Dyslexia / Reading and Writing Difficulties, which gives a visual representation of some of the apps that we have found useful.The information on the Spectronics blog is very useful for identifying apps for individual learners with additional support needs, with their iPhone / iPad Apps for AAC, Apps for Early Literacy list and Apps for Literacy Support site, being particularly good. More sites with lists of apps are included in our Resources and Further Information handout listed below.

Finding Out More

iPads for Communication, Access, Literacy and Learning (iCALL) - CALL Scotland book, free to download.

The CALL Blog - regular entries on different aspects of the iPad, including new apps.

Resources and Further Information on the iPad - PDF handout with list of web-based resources on iPads and apps.

CALL Training - CALL Scotland provides regular courses on different aspects of the use of iPads. Training can also be provided in your centre.