1:1 Devices in the Classroom

For Students with Communication Exceptionalities

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Action Research Question

Technology in the classrooms, specifically technology that is mobile and one to one is becoming mainstream. School boards are adopting Bring Your Own Device policies, investing in the purchase of laptops and iPads rather than traditional computer labs. Special Equipment Amount (SEA) is now considering iPads as an alternative piece of equipment to laptops. With technology rapidly changing I think it’s important to think about the implications one to one devices both positive and negative will have on students with communication exceptionalities specifically Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Rationale for Investigation

iPads were introduced into my teaching practice in the Spring of 2013. Our school invested in a cart of iPads to be signed out and accessed by classrooms in the school. We also have wifi access in all of the schools within my board, Peel District School Board and a Bring Your Own Device - BYOD policy. I instantly noticed how rapidly the technologies were changing education and I witnessed and documented many positive results for all students. I noticed a remarkable positive change with some of the exceptional students in my class, specifically one student with a communication exceptionality - Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). While the positive implications I have documented are mainly my anecdotal findings I wondered if any formal research studies had been completed on this topic and what, if any negative implications could also occur from using 1:1 devices.
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Literature Review


My Action Research question that I have developed is;

Technology in the classrooms, specifically technology that is mobile and one to one is becoming mainstream. School boards are adopting Bring Your Own Device policies, investing in the purchase of laptops and iPads rather than traditional computer labs. Special Equipment Amount (SEA) is now considering iPads as an alternative piece of equipment to laptops. With technology rapidly changing I think it’s important to think about the implications one to one devices both positive and negative will have on students with communication exceptionalities specifically Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)


I had some difficulty finding sources that were current but I found one from 2004, 2012, 2013. The first source from 2004 did not focus explicitly on one to one devices (tablets) like the other two sources did however it did talk about technology communication interventions and I felt like a lot of the philosophy behind it was the same. The sources I used were, Use of Technology in Interventions for Children with Autism by Tina R. Goldsmith, Linda A. LeBlanc of Western Michigan University, Using Tablet Computers as Instructional Tools to Increase Task Completion by Students with Autism by Patricia O’Malley, Ph.D., M.E.B. Lewis, Ed.D., Claire Donehower, M.S.Ed, BCBA of Kennedy Krieger Institute and Enhancing Learning with the Use of Assistive Technology for Children on the Autism Spectrum by Tin Fan Master of Science in Education School of Education and Counseling Psychology.

I have broken my action research topic into three main parts and I will be comparing the information from the three sources into those main ideas.


What role does one-to-one devices (e.g., iPads) have in the classroom for students with communication exceptionalities, specifically ASD?


The three sources I used echoed a similar theme when it discussed the role of one-to-one devices in the classroom for students with ASD. Goldsmith and LeBlanc state that technology used in the classroom for students with ASD teaches a variety of skills such as recognizing and predicting emotions, problem solving, phonics and spelling, vocal imitation, reading and communication, and schedules. They do not focus on mathematics benefits technology would have and they also mention that low-tech interventions likely have the same positive benefits. O’Malley, Lewis and Donehower say that one-to-one technology like iPads increase independent task completion and basic math skills. Their study focused on seven students with ASD in a contained special education class. Their research also suggested that one-to-one devices might decrease student reliance on external prompting to complete tasks. Fan’s study looked at four elementary students with ASD and how iPads were used for learning phonics in order to learn to read. The research suggested that using iPads increased student independence.


What are the benefits that students gain from using a one-to-one device?


The benefits that Goldsmith and LeBlanc’s research discovered when using computer technology with ASD students showed a lot of positive implications. Their study indicated that the students showed signs of increased motivation and decreased behavior issues. They believe it is because technology is a conditioned reinforcer. They also state that a positive to technology options is that students blend into our technology advanced society. Goldsmith and Leblanc also referenced other researchers and some of the findings from the other research found that computer assisted instruction (rather than live) produced better motivation and fewer behavior problems but no significant difference in learning rates (Chen & Bernard-Opitz, 1993). Another study found that children with ASD were more attentive and learned more vocab with computer technology options and also spent more time on reading material and less resistant (Moore & Calvert, 2000).


O’Malley, Lewis and Donehower found that iPads could be an effective too to enhance student learning. The seven students they studied all demonstrated improved rate of independent task completion. Some of the advantages they found in their study were a decrease in the level of teacher support and prompting. iPads were easy to modify and differentiate instruction for students. Overall non-compliance declined classwide. Teachers also expressed that their teaching skills were enhanced and student interest increased. Like Goldsmith and LeBlanc, they found that the use of technology (e.g., iPads) is socially valid and has positive impact on engagement, content and independence.


Fan’s research discovered that students began to use learn more independently shortly after the iPads were introduced. Their performance with alphabet and sound recognition increased. Fan also mentioned that an iPad was more cost effective than some other Augmented and Alternative Communication (ACC) such as the Springboard Lite, which costs $2,595.00. The iPad is also portable and the platform is easy for students and teachers to understand and many students already have experience with it from home. Fan also mentions that one-to-one devices like an iPad can have more teaching opportunities, as it isn’t a single use device.


What are the negative implications for students using a one-to-one device?


Goldsmith and LeBlanc’s study questions computer technology options are more beneficial than the low-tech counterparts (e.g., visuals schedules, slant boards, PEC’s etc.). They are also concerned that computer options promote isolation and decreased interpersonal interactions and are much more costly than low-tech options.


O’Malley, Lewis and Donehower had mixed findings in terms of negative implications. They found that the pre and post assessment scores when using an iPad for math did not indicate an increase in student performance. They also note four barriers to using an iPad as an instructional tool. First it requires a high level of tech support suggesting staff would need training and support. Second, many teachers reported greater confidence in low-tech options and therefore may not actually use the iPads. Third, students may have varied used of tech at home but generally the use at school is limited and it’s usually for entertainment purposes not learning. Last, there were some issues related to storing devices. I think it’s also important to note that their study was conducted in a special education class with one-to-one support so the results may look very different in a mainstream classroom.


Some of the negative implications that Fan identified were some students with fine or gross motor issues may exhibit frustration or challenges when trying to use the touch screen of an iPad. Fan also said that sometimes the choice of apps is too great and while there are many apps for language there are not as many for math that allow teachers to modify curriculum. Fan also states that no two individuals with ASD are the same and while some students showed a significant increase up to 50% with their letter acquisition some students showed a 0% increase.

Overall I feel that the three sources I discovered provide a lot of good information and research for my action research project.

Data Collected

I tried to vary the types of data that I collected. I stared my own personal anecdotal notes from the past school year. It was a class of grade 3 students and we participated in Bring Your Own Device and used school based iPads for instruction. The anecdotal notes that I focused on specifically for this research project were from two students, male and female with ASD. I then moved to scholarly articles from Education Resources Information Centre (ERIC - http://eric.ed.gov/) I found three that I felt were particularly valid for my research which I have discussed in detail above in the literature review. Two of the sources were current and focused on iPad use for students with ASD in the classroom. One was older from 2004 and talked about computers as Assistive Technology but I felt the theories and the findings were still relevant to my research.


Next I created a Google Survey with my Action Research question which I used Social Media (Twitter, Facebook) to promote. I have a fairly large Twitter Professional Learning Network (PLN) so I was hopeful that I would have a decent number of responses. I had 12 responses which I was disappointed but really valid information was collected from the survey.


The next type of data I went to was YouTube. I often had my students collect data from YouTube with a lot of success. The first video I found was taken by Vancouver Public Schools. It talked about how iPads are making learning more engaging for students with ASD and at the time of the video the iPads had only been in the class for a few months but they were already seeing results. The next video was done by a fourth year university student, Anita Paratore researching the benefits of iPads in the class for students with ASD. I am going to link her video because it's a well done and beautiful presentation. Anyway she talks about how iPads allow students with disabilities (not just ASD) communicate, learn, create, be in control, design, speak and feel comfortable in the classroom. The next video I found was from the Associate Press (AP). This video talked about how an iPad gives students with ASD a voice. It focuses specifically on the app Proloquo2go which integrates over 40,000 symbols with words using adult and child voices. By putting symbols in the right order students can communicate. I thought this video was important to include as some of the ERIC journal articles also talked about this app as did the anecdotal survey data I collected.


I then went to the Autism Speaks website www.autismspeaks.org as they promote the use of iPads to encourage communication for students with autism. They feel that it is important that the student has the iPad available at all times so you aren not taking away the child's voice. This is an interesting point to consider as not all students have 100% access. Equity is certainly an issue.


The other websites I used also supported the idea of the positive implications of iPad use. One site www.securedgenetworks.com brought up a unique point that the touch screen is great for students lacking motor skills as they do not require visual shifting between a mouse, keyboard and the screen.


Another source I found with a unique point of view was a online slide share by Karina Barley MEd http://www.slideshare.net/KarinaBarleyMEd/using-ipads-for-students. She did a one year trial in a classroom. She found that the iPads were valuable for students with ASD as they are small enough to sit at a desk, portable, can be tilted on a stand, and the teacher is able to sit anywhere around the student to observe. She also mentioned that because of the variety of apps you can find it really lends itself well to a differentiated approach.

Assistive Technologies - Let that voice be heard
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Survey Question

I created a survey question using Google Docs and I broke the Action Research question into 3 parts:


1. What role does one-to-one devices (eg., iPads) have in the classroom for students with communication exceptionalities --specifically ASD?


2. What are the benefits that students gain from using a 1:1 device?


3. What are the negative implications for students using a 1:1 device?


Below is the link to the Action Research Questionnaire and the results from the Questionnaire

Summary of Findings


Overall, I'm really satisfied with the results of my Action Research. It confirmed that my choices to use 1:1 devices with special education students is something I will continue. There are a lot of benefits supported by anecdotal and research based evidence. There are some reported negative findings but I feel the positives outweigh most of those. Below is a summary of my findings.



What role does one-to-one devices (e.g., iPads) have in the classroom for students with communication exceptionalities, specifically ASD?


The data I collected from my survey supported my own personal anecdotal evidence and provided a diverse bank of answers as to the role that one-to-one devices has in the classroom. One of the responders said that the iPads allow students with ASD who are non-verbal or limited verbal skills to communicate their needs and wants specifically with Proloquo2go which allows students to use symbols to express their needs and wants. They also use them to allow students with ASD to interact more with classmates and develop social skills by playing games like "Go Fish" with a peer. Another responder indicated that iPads make writing tasks easier as students can use Google Docs to collaborate or speech-to-text programs that could type out as the student speaks. An Full Day Kindergarten (FDK) teacher responded and said that an iPad in the room allows students with ASD to have a First-Then board, choices board and visual schedules. Someone else mentioned that the iPads allow students to gain independence in the classroom setting. The devices are used as a communication aid and learn cause-and-effect.


O'Malley, Lewis and Donehower (2013) had similar findings in their research with seven students with ASD in a special education class. They discovered that iPads increased independent task completion and that the use of one-to-one devices could actually decreases a reliance on external prompting to complete tasks. One of the survey responders stated that the dependance on the Educational Assistance (EA) was noticed once the iPad was introduced. Paratore's (2011) YouTube video says, "students can tell what they are thinking, show what they make, what they can achieve and let teachers know what they need. They can finally be heard!" My personal experience with using the iPads and the role it plays for students with ASD is it gives students independence that they may not normally be able to achieve. They are also motivated and eager to complete tasks.




What are the benefits that students gain from using a one-to-one device?


The anecdotal and research evidence points to many benefits for students when using iPads and other one-to-one devices. Many survey participants mentioned Google Docs to organize work and the speech-to-text program that is included. The reverse application a text-to-speech program is great for non-verbal students. The gamified nature of the iPad and the apps makes students think they are using a game it's highly motivating. Someone else shared that the students can create polished products which the other students are in envy of. They said that the iPads are high interest because of it's highly visual format. Barley (2014) after testing iPads with students with ASD for a year said that "iPads are multi sensory in that the students can physically touch the screen, look at the graphics, listen to the sounds and use their voice" (p. 6).


Another survey response noted that iPad use helps to build confidence for students as they often teach their classmates the technology and it helps to create social bonds. Someone else shared that it allows students to self-regulate their behaviours instead of being misunderstood and frustrated. A student can use the iPad to communicate their needs (e.g., washroom, sensory break, change of activity) to their teacher or EA. O'Malley, Lewis and Donehower (2013) noted in their study a decreased level of non-compliance and independent task completion. Autism Speaks says that an iPad allows a student with ASD to help with routines, schedules and breaking down tasks into manageable chunks.


Joan Brasher of Vanderbilt University (2013) says that a benefit to using iPads over other assistive devices is that they are much less stigmatizing. I have found in my personal experience that the iPad is really socially acceptable and not an isolating piece of technology. Students using the iPad fit right in to what's the norm especially in a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) environment.


What are the negative implications for students using a 1:1 device?


Sometimes this can be difficult because not all schools and classrooms have access to iPads all of the time. Special Equipment Application (SEA) Claims are an option to provide a one-to-one device to students at all time however my personal experience is the approval and wait process is over a year and you have to have an iPad for the student to trial and use so you can submit the proposal and documentation. Another survey responders echoed this idea stating that if a student doesn't have access to an iPad but prefer to use it they might refuse to do their task. Someone else said that there are not enough for all the students who could benefit from the use. Another said cost is a negative. Unless the school provides it only families who can afford to buy have them. Goldsmith and LeBlanc (2004) noted concerns with assistive technology in their study that its use could promote isolation and decreased interpersonal interaction. One of the survey participants said that using the iPad could reduce eye contact and the need for face to face communication. They suggested to combat this make sure you pair with a peer or an adult.


Another responded that they actually saw an increase in negative behaviour because it was used as a leisure activity rather than an educational resource. One of the students was addicted to playing the games and would get up and leave the class at inappropriate times in search of an iPad. Autism Speaks suggests that you avoid using the device for games until the student is consistently communicating and to make sure it's available for communication at all times. It was also mentioned that the iPad is a fragile device and cannot take the same wear and tear as a shout box. Personally with the right protective case (e.g., Otter Box) I think they hold up better than one would think. I've personally managed our school based iPads (45+) for a year and a half and in that time we have only had one damaged iPad.


Another negative implication issue that was mentioned in the survey was transition and distraction. It was mentioned that the students demonstrate difficulty transitioning away from the iPad to other activities or using other tools for learning. This is something that I have also experienced in my classroom despite transitional warnings, timers, choices for other teaching tools and I'm not totally sure how to counteract.


O'Malley, Lewis and Donehower (2013) indicated in their study that many teachers mentioned in order to use the iPads efficiently with students they felt they needed a high level of technological support and training. One of my survey participants also noted this as a negative that students, families and teachers require proper training on how to use the device and apps associated with it. I can certainly see this as being a negative. I have a lot of confidence with using one-to-one devices but I have many colleagues that do not have the same level of comfort.

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Action Plan

Most of my findings support and validate my 21st Century teaching and learning style. I will continue to use one-to-one devices (including but not limited to iPads) in my teaching practice especially with special needs students.


The negative drawbacks are what I hope to work on and incorporate into my teaching practice. I like the suggestion from Autism Speaks to establish the device as an educational tool first before using it for rewards or games. Using peers to encourage social interaction I think is a good strategy to overcome the isolating potential that a one-to-one device may create.


I'm not really sure what to do about equity of access. I'm fortunate to be part of an organization that supports BYOD and a school that has invested in iPads for school use but that still does not give special education students the device in their hands at all points during the day.

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Bibliography

References

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https://www.apple.com/ca/education/special-education/ios/


Associated Press. (2013, February 11). iPad App Gives Autistic Children a Voice. YouTube. Retrieved August 4, 2014, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7Tiyr-FEwc


Barley, K. (2014, February 27). Using iPads with students with Autism. Using iPads with

students with Autism. Retrieved August 5, 2014, from

http://www.slideshare.net/KarinaBarleyMEd/using-ipads-for-students


Brasher, J. (n.d.). iPads help late-speaking children with autism develop language.

Vanderbilt Research. Retrieved August 4, 2014, from

http://news.vanderbilt.edu/2013/11/ipads-autism-language/


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Paratore, A. (2011, February 23). Assistive Technologies - Let that voice be heard.

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