Professional development for iPad integration in general

education: Staying ahead of the curve
Dmitri Psiropoulos & Sandy Barr & Claire Eriksson &
Shauna Fletcher & Jace Hargis & Cathy Cavanaugh
#
Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014
Abstract This faculty development case study focuses on a team of 16 General
Education faculty at an urban women’s college during the initial 6 months of the
college’s comprehensive implementation of an iPad teaching and learning environment.
This article traces the effectiveness of an iPad professional development program
through analyses of critical feedback, and makes recommendations for learner-centered
faculty development for iPads in Higher Education. We present our conceptual frame-
work, guiding principles and iPad professional development program. The effects of the
program were measured using thematic and content analysis of post-session interviews,
participant observation, one-to-one interviews and an online discussion forum. The
predominant themes were anxiety, having individual needs considered, time consider-
ations, and fundamental questions about expectations in the mobile learning environ-
ment. The key recommendation are to attend to collaborative planning, intervention,
facilitating authentic professional learning communities and timing of faculty develop-
ment that is intended to result in integration of new learning tools and environments.
Keywords iPad
.
Mobile learning
.
Tablet computing
.
Faculty development
.
Higher education
.
General education
1 Introduction
As the range of mobile devices continues to grow, education has been keeping pace by
adapting these devices to the teaching and learning process, as well as adapting teaching
practice for the new affordances of the devices. With iPad being one of the latest mobile
technologies, instructors now have an additional device to enhance the teaching and
learning experience of learners (Benton 2012; Crichton, Pegler and White 2012). The
potential value of mobile learning in education is accumulating in correspondence to the
power and mobility of the technology (Miller 2012; Heinrick 2012; Schuck et al. 2013;
Educ Inf Technol
DOI 10.1007/s10639-014-9316-x
D. Psiropoulos (*)
:
S. Barr
:
C. Eriksson
:
S. Fletcher
:
J. Hargis
:
C. Cavanaugh
Abu Dhabi Women’s College (ADWC), PO Box 41012, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
e-mail: dmitri.psiropoulos@hct.ac.ae
Lawless and Pellegrino 2007; Motiwalla 2007; Kukulska-Hulme 2011; Overbaugh and
Lu 2008). It is, therefore, not surprising that more institutions are integrating emerging
technology into learning environments with increasing urgency. The federal higher
education system of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with the aim of enhancing student
engagement, funded an initiative introducing Apple iPad technology in April 2012.
In September 2012, phase one of the implementation plan, iPads were introduced at
Foundations level across all colleges in the national system. Foundations is a bridging
program in which English and Math are taught to students preparing to enter degree
programs. Phase two advanced in February 2013 when the initial wave of iPad bearing
Foundations students entered degree programs. This 6-month gap between phase one in
September 2012 and phase two in February 2013 gave degree instructors in General
Education (Gen Ed) a valuable 6 month period in which to plan, prepare and develop
technically and pedagogically for these students; the majority iPad experienced from
Foundations, others new to iPads.
Because of the college’s strong history of promoting the use of technology, most
Gen Ed instructors were already integrating technology in well-equipped e-learning
environments. However, prior to the systemic implementation of iPads, the use of iPads
as a teaching and learning tool in Gen Ed was largely unexploited, and there was no
emphasis on iPads. In order to have the 16 instructors of Gen Ed prepared and
sufficiently confident to meet iPad ready students in February 2013, an educational
iPad professional development (PD) program was collaboratively created and delivered
from the 10th October 2012 until 20th February 2013.
1.1 Purpose of study
There is a clear need for research on effective educational iPad PD programs
(Cavanaugh and Hargis 2013; Geist 2011; Crichton, Pegler and White 2012; Schuck
et al. 2013). A considerable body of literature has been written on educational
technology PD effectiveness in general, which is reviewed below. However,
relatively little research has been conducted to determine effectiveness in PD
specifically for iPads in higher education. This study fills this gap by reporting
the case of 16 Gen Ed faculty at one college as they prepare to be sufficiently
comfortable to teach incoming mobile learners. This article reviews related re-
search, describes the effect the PD program had on the participants, and provides
implications for those who wish to integrate iPads into their teaching and learning
environment in the future. This study asks the following research questions: Was
this iPad readiness PD program effective? And more importantly, what can be
learned from monitoring this PD program by gathering feedback from a range of
sources and using a variety of collection methods?
2 Literature review
The goal in iPad PD was quickly preparing Gen Ed faculty to teach effectively and
engagingly with the new tools available to them, knowing that all learning resources
would be digital in iPad classes. Therefore, it was essential to attend closely to the
specific needs of diverse faculty who brought a range of nationalities, expertise,
Educ Inf Technol
experience, and technology comfort to their new roles. The PD program and subse-
quent reflection on its impacts are framed in adult learning theories and perspectives of
effective educational technological PD programs. In light of this, viewpoints in con-
structivist theory, critical reflective theory and transformational theory are considered in
relation to effective conditions for learning. Equally, characteristics of successful
educational technology PD are explored for potential transferability to an educational
iPad training context.
2.1 Adult learning theories
One enduring constructivist theme that permeates literature, which is directly related to
PD effectiveness, is the idea that learning is a social and collaborative process where
cognitive development is possible through “social interaction”, “collaboration”,
“mentoring” and “exploration” (Vygotsky 1978; Bruner 1975; Piaget 1972).
Consistent with constructivist theory, Knowles (1980), in his theory of andragogy,
described six key elements, which, if embraced in the planning process by PD program
designers, may lead to adult learning effectiveness. They focus on a learner’s need to
understand why, what and how learning will take place. Learner’s preferred learning
styles, prior learning, orientation, motivation and level of readiness need to be taken into
account as well as understanding learner needs, prior experience and readiness to learn.
In addressing adult learning theory, Brookfield’s theory (2012) of critical reflective
thinking for educators offers a distinctive strategy, which has the potential to positively
impact PD programing. There are four perspectives that define notions of critically
reflective practice. However, the one that may be of most use to iPad PD designers is a
Critically Reflective Lens: Our Learners’ Eyes. Put simply, this phrase may be trans-
lated thus: the ability to see oneself through the eyes of the learner. In practice, learners
are encouraged to comment on the effectiveness of lessons they experience by provid-
ing frequent anonymous feedback to their instructor. The feedback is then used to
address issues as they arise. In doing so, it is anticipated that learners are made to feel
acknowledged and valued. An underlying principle of adult learning theory is that
learners’ needs are taken into account, and that initiative is demonstrated on the part of
the facilitator to address the learners’ needs (Brookfield 2012).
A more recent adult learning theory that warrants consideration is transformational
learning. This adult learning theory has featured prominently in current adult PD
literature (Cranton 1997; Mezirow and Associates 2000; Taylor 1998; King 2002;
Brookfield 1995; Serumola 2009). Mezirow (1991) summarizes the ten phases of
transformational learning: Transformation occurs through a series of phases usually
caused by a “disorienting dilemma,” which is triggered by a life crisis or major life
transition, …then progresses through self-examination and critical assessment of
values, beliefs, and assumptions, and results in a changed frame of reference from
which to try to and ultimately adopt new ways of acting (pp. 168–169).
2.2 Characteristics of effective educational technology professional development
programs
Two immediate markers of effectiveness are leadership and managing faculty beliefs.
At the macro level of leadership, there is a desire on the part of instructors to understand
Educ Inf Technol
how a PD program’s ‘clear’ and ‘distinct’ goals tie in with the overall vision of an
institution (Keengwe et al. 2009; Murray 2002; Otero et al. 2005). At the micro level of
managing faculty beliefs, instructors want to see how technology serves curriculum
(Zhao et al. 2002), and how learning new technological knowledge and skills adds
value to their pedagogy and their students’ learning (Lawless and Pellegrino 2007;
Geist 2011; Sugar, Crawley and Fine 2004; Wozney et al. 2006). It is argued that
without clarity on these issues, skepticism may occur, and as a result, positive levels of
engagement in PD may be compromised (Kukulska-Hulme 2011).
However, the first and most prominent area advanced in literature has at its central
position collaborative learning experiences as being a quality indicator of effective
educational technology PD. Included under the broad umbrella of collaborative learn-
ing experiences are enlisting instructors as pedagogical partners (Straub 2009),
mentoring (Gopalakrishnan 2006) and professional learning communities (Darling-
Hammond and Richardson 2009). A wealth of literature suggests that PD programs
that afford opportunities for faculty to mentor, peer teach or actively engage in
professional learning communities, wherein colleagues share best practice face to face
or through sessions either within or across departments, may be the most powerful
means of enhancing instructors’ technological development (Keengwe et al. 2009;
Nandan and Nandan 2012; Schneider 2009; Ferriter and Graham 2010). These informal
approaches present safe and meaningful learning environments for faculty to take risks
and to continually get the right knowledge or skills lesson at the right time for the right
purpose (King 2002; Nicolle and Lou 2008; Lisowski, Lisowski and Nicolia 2006).
Equally ubiquitous across the literature as a critical determinant for measuring
success of an educational technological PD program is the issue of time (Kenny,
Banerjee and Newcombe 2010; Schuck et al. 2013; Kukulska-Hulme 2011). When
PD competes with other educational responsibilities, PD is likely to be neglected.
Allocating a sufficient amount of time for instructors to attend workshops, to share
knowledge and to practice new skills they acquire is considered crucial to influencing
change in teaching practice (Schuck et al. 2013; Amburgey 2007). Zhao et al. (2002) in
their yearlong review on conditions facilitating innovative technology integration
concluded that slow “evolutionary” steps are more effective than “revolutionary” ones
(p. 512).
Many of the PD programs reviewed also indicated that a series of decontextualized
workshops are the least preferred and considered the least effective for technological
development (Otero et al. 2005; Guskey 2000). Instead, there is a greater preference for
workshops to be well organized, structured, interconnected, developmental, content
specific, and based on sound adult learning principles that lead to transformative
experiences (King 2002; Kenny, Banerjee and Newcombe 2010; Dee and Daly 2009;
Murray 2002; Matzen and Edmunds 2007). It is also suggested that workshops
progress from a basic operational level of tools to pedagogical implications that lead
to student success (Lawless and Pellegrino 2007; Potter and Rockinson-Szapkiw 2012;
Keengwe et al. 2009).
Placing emphasis on pedagogical implications is not a new concept, but its signif-
icance increases when it comes to training instructors to use iPads in enhanced learning
environments. Ritzhaupt, Dawson and Cavanaugh (2012) emphasized the need for the
learning of entirely new skills, and educational technology learning models, such as,
the Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition (SAMR) model
Educ Inf Technol
(Puentedura 2010) and the Technology, Pedagogy and Content Knowledge (TPCK)
framework (Koehler et al. 2007) which serve as useful guides for adopters of transfor-
mational pedagogy (Hargis et al. 2012). The SAMR model describes four progressive
stages of technological development. At early stages, technology is used to simply
replicate or enhance previous pedagogical practice. As one moves along the continuum,
technology is used to completely transform the way in which lessons are delivered.
TPACK, on the other hand, is a framework that highlights three interconnected ideas
with which instructors need to negotiate while learning about effective technological
use. In their recent study in developing and sustaining positive change in faculty skills,
Kenny, Banerjee and Newcombe (2010) found that workshops that link pedagogy to
content are highly beneficial to instructors adopting new educational technology. First,
content related workshops enable groups of instructors within specialized areas to
experience the potential of how technology and transformative pedagogy can be
directly applied to content courses they teach (Kenny, Banerjee and Newcombe
2010). Second, these same groups of instructors are more likely to discuss their student
needs in relation to the content they teach, and explore new instructional practices
relevant to their student needs (Garet et al. 2001).
A few of the studies reviewed deemed variety and flexibility as an integral compo-
nent of a learner centered PD program (Hernandez, Barron and Hohfeld 2007;
McKenzie 2003). In terms of variety, McKenzie (2003) stresses the need to offer a
“rich and varied” menu of options because it enables instructors to select learning
opportunities that address their contextual needs or suit their preferred learning style.
Carducci (2002) endorses this view by noting that adult learners expect their learning
needs to be addressed in a way they deem appropriate for them. With regards to
flexibility, some studies hold that long lasting benefits can accrue when instructors
lead, co-design, customize, and influence the direction of workshops within educational
technology PD programs (Dee and Daly 2009; Diaz et al. 2009).
Less frequent in the literature, but not insignificant are sources of support, such as
affording opportunities for instructors to attend and present at conferences, inviting
external expert speakers to give talks, being guided towards relevant scholarly articles
on educational technology and facilitating publication (Kenny, Banerjee and
Newcombe 2010; Schuck et al. 2013). Schuck et al. (2013) pointed out that these
experiences provide a number of opportunities for instructors. For example, attending
conferences and listening to guest speakers or reading relevant studies, can give useful
insights into the innovative applications of technology that are spearheading educa-
tional best practice. The knowledge and skills gleaned by instructors from expert
speakers or current literature could later be cascaded to colleagues. Schuck et al.
(2013) also pointed out that by presenting at conferences or getting published, instruc-
tors learn through immersion, and discover the value of technological devices through
an authentic learning experience.
Another prevalent ingredient of an effective educational technology PD program is
adequate supply of resources. Zhao et al. (2002) noted that limited access, poor
technology or inadequate technical support might be a barrier and thwart efficacy. In
contrast, providing instructors with access, up to date hardware and software, periph-
erals such as community learning environments and technical support may lead to
higher levels of adoption facilitation (Murray 2002; Davis et al. 2009; Gopalakrishnan
2006).
Educ Inf Technol
Mention should also be made of Mitra et al. (2005) Minimally Invasive Education
framework which is defined as “a pedagogic method that uses the learning environment
to generate an adequate level of motivation to induce learning in groups of children,
with minimal, or no, intervention by a teacher” (p. 2). This pedagogy was born out of
Mitra’s ‘hole in the wall’ experiment, which revealed how children living in two
separate Indian slums were able to learn to use a computer with no organized
support and minimal invasion. His research in this area substantiates the specula-
tion that technological development may occur when users have unrestricted
access and adequate time to ‘play’ (Mitra et al. 2005; Inamdar and Kulkarni
2007). This type of self-directed learning process allows for knowledge and skills
to be acquired serendipitously, intuitively and perhaps creatively, but it also
encourages learners to explore, problem solve and become critical thinkers
(Inamda 2004).
Finally, evaluation of a PD program is considered to be an essential characteristic for
PD effectiveness (Gaytan and McEwen 2010). In line with critical learning theory,
Keengwe, Kidd and Kyei-Blankson (2009) proposed establishing a process through
which instructors and administrators continually evaluate an educational technology PD
program from beginning to end. They point out that evaluation in the form of regular
critical feedback from participants enables program designers to potentially address
weaknesses and make adjustments, and in so doing improve the quality of a program
instantaneously. Additionally, continuously responding to feedback is likely to optimize
instructor engagement in PD because they are able to see that their input is acted upon.
When planning the educational iPad PD program, guidelines from learning theory
and positive characteristics of educational technology PD were viewed as exemplars to
support the department goal which was to have instructors well trained and sufficiently
confident to use iPads in the classroom. The following section details the provisions
that were put in place.
3 College iPad professional development program
As demonstrated by Table 1, the educational iPad PD program is multilayered,
consisting of 2 major categories: ‘Sources of Training Input’ and ‘Sources of
Training Support’, thus affording multiple access points from which to gain iPad
knowledge and skills for classroom teaching.
The primary component of training input was a series of 11 interconnected PD
sessions. Since inclusivity was integral to the design of these sessions, decisions about
the number of sessions, dates, times, content and pedagogy were collaboratively made
by the instructors and administration throughout. This was achieved through the
collection of post-session interviews and feedback at the conclusion of each session.
This feedback also served to continually adjust and enhance the PD sessions while
simultaneously responding to the instructor’s on the spot needs. The content of the 11
sessions evolved from basic productivity using popular apps to finally engaging in
meaningful collaborative discussions about content-specific pedagogy within context.
In terms of development, instructors swiftly moved from passively receiving input to
actively sharing best practice with colleagues at informal faculty workshops (Ideas
Educ Inf Technol
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Educ Inf Technol
Breakfasts 1 and 2) and finally to immersing in an authentic teaching experience where
they presented at an institutional conference (iCelebrate 2) on iPad pedagogy.
To a lesser extent, the invitation of an external expert presenter from Apple at the
early stages of the program also formed part of training input. The expert guest
delivered a talk about his experiences in using iPads and innovative practice. The
aim was to inspire the team and influence beliefs and perceptions towards adoption.
The final piece of training input was college-driven PD sessions. These iPad related
PD sessions were part of the college backdrop and targeted the wider college commu-
nity, but they nevertheless were available to faculty to use as they deemed appropriate.
Sources of training support comprised of three parts: iPads and technical support,
professional learning communities and modes of communication. In terms of iPads and
technical support, instructors were issued with iPads 3 months prior to the start of the
training program. In keeping with Minimal Invasion Educational pedagogy, no instruc-
tion or guidance was provided. Instructors were simply encouraged to play with
purpose. However, instructors did have access to a strong technical services department
who were at hand to help instructors overcome initial startup frustrations and the
rudimentary technical challenges of using an iPad.
With regard to professional learning communities, instructors led informal learning
environments that allowed instructors across departments to voluntarily share best
practice and present scholarly articles in context. These forums also formed part of
the 11 departmental planned sessions. Instructors were also paired up with more
experienced iPad mentors from the Foundations program to consult and to help with
individual needs. These mentors were known as iBuddies.
In relation to modes of communication, instructors formed a community on
Edmodo. This platform was used to disseminate PD session previews, advertise
peripheral iPad PD workshops in the college or the country and share relevant scholarly
articles related specifically to iPad and pedagogy.
4 Research methodology
4.1 Participants
Sixteen instructors participated in the PD program from 10th October 2012 to the 20th
February 2013. They were full-time instructors of the Higher Colleges of Technology,
Abu Dhabi Women’s College, working within the Gen Ed department teaching bach-
elor level students. They comprised of 5 males and 11 females. Age ranged from 30 to
55 years. The demographic composition in terms of ethnicity is complex, as most had
lived away from the country in which they were born or had migrated to a new country
many years prior to moving to the U.A.E. Nevertheless, distribution by country of birth
was: Europe, 50 %, North Africa 25 %, North America 12.5, Asia, 6.25 % and
Australasia, 6.25 %. Experience in teaching at the college ranged between 2 and
25 years. Educationally, 15 instructors held a Master’s degree and 1 had completed a
Doctorate. The minimum level of teaching experience was 7 years with the highest
being over 20. The vast majority had considerable experience augmenting laptops in
classroom delivery, since 5 years prior to this study, instructors were issued laptops and
all classrooms were fitted with promethean boards and multimedia devices.
Educ Inf Technol
4.2 Data gathering
Four key methods were used to collect data: 1) post-session interviews, 2) participant
observation 3) one-to-one interviews, and 4) an online discussion forum. The first form
of data was post-session interviews which were conducted after each of the 11
department planned training sessions that were part of Sources of Training Input.
These involved small groups (3–5 respondents) conversing face-to-face with a re-
searcher for 10–15 minutes. Feedback was solicited using a consistent set of question
prompts: ‘What were your perceptions of the session? What are your thoughts about the
content and delivery of the session? How do you feel about the scheduling and duration
of the session? What do you think about the medium of the session?’ Respondents were
encouraged to freely share their thoughts, feelings and opinions about the training
session, and were invited to make recommendations for changes and improvements to
this and any future sessions. Researchers conducting these reflective interviews care-
fully noted points raised (areas of consensus, strong disagreement or specific concern),
these were then written up in summary form by the end of each formal training day.
The second form of data was participant observation on all aspects of the training
experience as noted by each researcher. These ‘passive’, ‘interactive’ and ‘active’
observations gathered throughout the training program were collected at the end, and
once collated, formed an additional significant body of data for analysis. The third form
of data was short one-to-one interviews that were conducted with each instructor to
collect summary feedback on the ‘Sources of Training Support’ that had been provided.
The interviews were conducted at the end of the training program. The following
questions were used to prompt reflective feedback: ‘Did you use (name of training
support)? What activities did you engage in? In what ways was it useful? What do you
feel was lacking? Could the experience have been improved for you?’ The fourth form
of data, an anonymous and asynchronous online discussion forum on Blackboard
Learn, offered instructors a further opportunity to feedback on the entire program of
‘Sources of Training Input’ and ‘Sources of Training Support’.
4.3 Data analysis
Initially an inductive approach was taken to analyse data from the 11 post-session
interviews. The review of the collected data was largely qualitative and mainly
involved thematic analysis. For each interview, the instructors’ responses and com-
ments were noted and written up in summary form by the researcher who had gathered
them; an example of a noted comment: “It was generally agreed that afternoon meetings
are better than mornings due to the easing of pressure from teaching.” Firstly, all data
relating to each session was analysed by each researcher as it became available and at
regular points in the process. This cross-rating approach permitted researchers to
recognize, rate and agree on the predominant themes emerging from the data.
Secondly, it soon became evident that not only were there predominant themes, but
there were also comparatively different levels of concern about each theme across the
training sessions; an issue of high concern on a particular theme in session 1, could be
of relatively low concern by session 3, and vice versa. To explore changing patterns of
concern within the predominant themes, further content analysis was conducted. Each
set of comments relating to a theme were independently coded as positive, negative or
Educ Inf Technol
neutral by each researcher. Classified lists were compared and a final list of coded
comments was agreed on. Here are samples of coded comments on the theme of
‘effects of timing’:
positive: “The nature, duration and timing of the session was fine” (session 1
comment)
negative: “Not adequate time to digest the information” (session 3 comment)
neutral: “Logistics and timing of the session met with mixed reviews” (session 5
comment)
Thirdly, we wanted to compare how each set of comments on a theme changed over
the 11 training sessions as suggested by the interview data. In order to see the range of
changing sentiment towards a given theme, some quantifiable measure was required.
Researchers independently reviewed all the coded comments for each session and
theme, and a final ‘level of concern’ score 1–5 was arrived at. When assigning a ‘level
of concern’ score the researchers used the following criteria:
0 no evidence of concern
1 low but evident concern: infrequent negative comments, a balanced range of
positive, negative and neutral comments evident
2 low but evident concern: infrequent negative comments, a slightly negatively
balanced range of comments evident
3 medium concern evident: some negative comments, a negatively balanced range of
comments evident
4 medium-high concern: frequent negative comments, a predominately negatively
balanced range of comments evident
5 high concern: high incidence of primarily negative comments evident
On concluding this stage of the analysis, results were then plotted on a graph to
highlight the changes in levels of concern felt by the instructors within the predominant
themes over the length of the 11-session training program (see Chart 1).
A qualitative approach was taken with all other sources of research data (participant
observation, one-to-one interviews and online discussion forum) and each set of data
was subject to thematic analysis. The collected data was analysed and cross-rated by
each member of the team of researchers.
5 Findings
5.1 Findings from post-session interviews
The findings presented below summarize the instructors’ sentiment towards each theme
and include supporting quotations from the collected feedback. The researchers found
four predominant themes emerged from this data.
The first theme was a perceived need to meet the demands of each individual
undertaking the training. Individuals, and small groups of individuals, were at pains
to stress that their specific learning context must be recognized and considered when
Educ Inf Technol
planning and delivering training sessions. Requests for “strong specialist input”, “to
optimize the use of time available”, “to see model mobile learning lessons”, “(for) more
opportunity to practice” and to be provided with session “handouts” were common.
Furthermore, each felt they were in a unique place in their own iPad readiness training
and development, and as such demanded that their requests and recommendations be
accommodated.
The effect of session timing on the participants was a second area of significance to
emerge from the post-session feedback. When sessions were scheduled in the day, their
distribution across teaching days or non-teaching days, the intensity, nature and
duration of sessions, as well as location, all seemed to significantly impact a partici-
pant’s response to a training session and the training in general. Conducive timing
considerably reduced “stress and fatigue” levels for participants. “Insistence on effec-
tive and efficient” use of session time was another consideration, “no time wasting
downloading apps”. “Time to digest” new input was another often-cited concern.
Afurther area of emergent focus exhibited in post-session feedback was anxiety. This
appeared to have a range of causes; for some, it emerged in the face of the implemen-
tation readiness plan and the challenges that would go with it: “(Some felt) overwhelmed
by the new information and technology they are expected to deal with.” “Anxiety over
workloads” and the stress of undertaking additional training, mentoring and tutorials
was another reason for anxiety. While for others, acquiring new technical skills and the
teaching methodologies for iPad learning environments led to some unease.
Participants raised fundamental questions regarding the wider implications of iPad
implementation in teaching and learning within the college and college system as a
whole. Questions as to “stability”, “compatibility” and general “architecture” of iPad as
a practical tool, received some focus. There was clearly interest in the scope and impact
of the evolving iPad usage, with instructors seeking to understand the overall rationale
behind the implementation and “institutional expectations regarding iPad and course
design”.
Changing levels of concern for each of these four themes emerged from the data in
the course of the 11 session training program (see Chart 1). The most striking
Chart 1 Sentiments most evident from post-session interviews
Educ Inf Technol
observation is that in general instructor concern was significantly higher in the earlier
stages, but diminished markedly over the course of the sessions, and for three out of the
four themes appeared to disappear completely. It is also worth noting that concern in
any one area rarely extended beyond moderate levels.
‘Individual demands’ began and ended the semester with the highest levels of
concern, and were a consistently significant theme, (“(instructors) would like to ask
experts about iPad, rather than have sessions that were department led.” “A
handout to follow up would have been appropriate”). The ‘effects of timing’ were
also a consistent factor (“Schedule alternate times in order to avoid the same
classes being affected.”), but at a comparatively lower level of concern throughout.
Participant ‘anxiety’ while particularly notable in the early to mid-section of the
semester (“(some found it) overwhelming as there were too many apps that were
displayed.” “A sense of material overload”) was scarcely present thereafter.
‘Fundamental questions’ spiked occasionally, particularly in the early stages
(“What is the college focusing on?” “(Some) want clarification as to whether this
will be a mandatory process.”) but again were noticeably absent through most of
the second half of the semester.
In addition, there were some other sentiments worth noting. In general, participants
took their training seriously. Regular calls for ‘best practice’ in all aspects of the
training and “efficient and effective use of training time” were reported. High standards
of session delivery in terms of ‘expert’ presenters, carefully structured input, and access
to support materials in advance, during and following sessions were demanded.
However, clear appreciation was evident when session providers responded positively
to instructor feedback on any aspect of the training.
The iCelebrate 2 conference was one particular training event that stood out from all
others in terms of the significant feedback it produced. It was a different type of session,
actually a college-sponsored mobile learning conversation open to a wider audience, at
which almost the whole target group of instructors presented on an iPad-related theme.
This full-day event included over 80 sharing sessions and over 500 participants from
around the UAE. These short presentations ranged from demonstrating single app
functionality to integrating a variety of apps, sites and iPad functions in practical areas
of teaching, learning and assessment. The lead up to the event involved collaborative
activity in the form of ‘show and tell’ sessions and rehearsals for the conference
presentation. The event itself is credited with pushing “everyone’s skill and knowledge
to a higher level” and declared a “complete success” by observers and presenters alike.
It was “a good way to test out and consolidate what people had learned”, and “gave a
lot of people the confidence to work with apps”, some even declared that “most
learning took place for this event”. Having to “apply what they had learned and
synthesize it so that others could understand” was considered an important step in
the group’s learning process, or even a “seminal moment” in the eyes of some
observers.
The “depth and breadth” of the experience of the external guest speaker from Apple
was also appreciated by instructors together with the range of practical applications of
mobile pedagogy he displayed. The casual and confident manner of the presentation
belied the complexity of pedagogies and interactions demonstrated. These ‘redefined’
exemplar practices from beyond our college context were managed with “consummate
ease” and for most attendees represented a fascinating insight and aspiration. This
Educ Inf Technol
demonstration had the added effect of highlighting the uncomfortably “modest” levels
of mobile learning skill and experience existent in the group at that time. However,
there was also some questioning of the immediate suitability of this proposed pedagogy
in the existing learning environment of the college.
Participants who took advantage of additional college-based PD opportunities
reported that they helped them to begin to “see the possibilities of mobile learning”
and to “recognize the tools and pedagogies” it required.
5.2 Findings from participant observation
The second form of data was participant observation on all aspects of the training
experience noted by each researcher. These ‘passive’, ‘interactive’ and ‘active’
observations gathered throughout the training program were collected at the end
and once collated formed an additional significant body of data for analysis. These
observations highlight similar themes to those reported by the instructors undergo-
ing the training, but with some significant differences particularly when evaluating
levels of concern.
Although some levels of anxiety were observed, with even references to feelings of
“panic” and being “overwhelmed”, the overriding sentiment from the researchers’
observations is quite the contrary. They report a distinct “lack of panic” and, after the
initial stages, growing levels of comfort in the face of the iPad challenge. Collaborative
activities are reported to have successfully engendered “feelings of solidarity”. “Being
involved in the implementation process helped a great deal” (instructors seeing their
post-session feedback affecting subsequent session design) reflects a positive attitude,
as do reports of “an atmosphere of determined progression”. Reassurance also appeared
to come from practice and “using the product for a specific purpose”, with a claim that
“participants calmed down once they had a grasp of one or two apps”. A final
observation on this theme points out that “for some there was an anxious moment,
while others took it in their stride”.
The picture that emerges from the participant observation with regard to individual
demands shows a healthy response by a mature group of learning professionals when
faced with a training challenge. “All seemed aware of the inevitable evolution of the
learning environment and were prepared, each in their own way, to ready themselves
for it.” “(They were) almost from the outset knowing what they wanted in terms of iPad
training, as well as when and how they wanted it delivered.” In addition, the researchers
observed significant levels of stakeholder engagement and “ownership” in the structure
and planning of the training, though not a universal observation, “Some faculty
members were less enthusiastic than others”. Nevertheless, active participation and
investment by individuals is reported to have had a snowball effect. “The willingness
and openness of the feedback grew with each session and it was a vital part of the
whole process.” “The more people saw their feedback implemented, the clearer their
needs became.” The importance of collecting face-to-face feedback from those under-
going the training was also highlighted as leading to “genuine reflection and ideas for
where to progress”. This “wasn’t always pretty” or “uncritical”, but it is reported as
“vital” and “that they appreciated the opportunity to be listened to and see that their
ideas were being considered”, and that the training was being “tailored to their specific
needs”.
Educ Inf Technol
Effects of session timing issues were not generally highlighted in participant obser-
vation, but one observer noted, “The team exhibited contradictions as it struggled to
come to terms with quite dense training sessions with new material in the form of apps
and new teaching and learning processes, all on top of a busy teaching schedule”.
More commonly, participant researchers observed “an atmosphere of determined
progression”, “acceptance of the iPad implementation process” and the “inevitable
evolution of the learning environment” with willing participants ready to create “a
meaningful and effective pathway towards iPad readiness”. However, there was still a
trace of fundamental questioning regarding the iPad’s usefulness and “stay-ability” or
whether it was just “another fad, another platform adding to the countless other
platforms that could supplement the learning environment”.
Other observations worth noting include some measure of the growing confidence the
group exhibited, particularly in the more “relaxed” second half of the training process,
when “they explored other areas of iPad application with something of a seasoned air”.
This contrasted with getting “bogged down” in the sheer volume of information sur-
rounding the medium of iPad reported in the early stages. Another researcher noted early
stage frustrations included sessions that focused “around the product and not the content
of the subject” (technology before pedagogy), but this was reportedly alleviated in the
later stages as technical “incompatibilities” were “circumnavigated” by increasingly
confident users. Also being given the opportunity to feedback, observers noted, helped
“to reassure participants that they were not going to be left behind”, and “provided a
genuine opportunity to improve the PD they were receiving”.
5.3 Findings from one-to-one interviews
Being provided an iPad and access to a selection of productivity apps was clearly
welcomed by many instructors. The initial stages were an opportunity “to play, make
mistakes and make discoveries” and for the majority who were not familiar with Apple
products, a chance to sensitize themselves to the interface. Play soon gave way to
purpose as participants reported finding “parallel and new functionality” which was
readily shared with colleagues, and so the training began. In numerous cases, individ-
uals showed their serious intent by acquiring peripherals like keypads, pens and in one
case Apple TV for home use. An excellent team of very responsive technicians
consistently provided technical support for the newly issued tool. Technical problems,
were rarely a significant issue. What most faced were more complex questions about
“workflow”, and the “compatibility” and utility of features within the iPad environ-
ment. A person who could possibly field this kind of question was someone with
experience in iPad teaching and learning practices; an iBuddy.
Almost all participants used their iBuddy; the few that did not, cited logistical
reasons or declared themselves comfortably self-reliant. Most commonly, iBuddies
shared practical and technical advice and demonstrated new apps, sites and workflow
strategies and generally fielded iPad-related enquiries. Instructors were positive about
their buddies’ levels of support, knowledge and accessibility. The support was reported
as “informal and non-judgmental”, and they provided a ready source of knowledge and
ideas that were both practical and creative. Their approachability and accessibility is
highlighted, with buddies usually ready for any ad hoc informal or formal interactions.
All who used the iBuddy system, reported that it was an excellent supplement to formal
Educ Inf Technol
training. One or two participants claimed it was impractical or unnecessary, however,
for the majority it had exceptional value.
Another professional learning community ‘PD Café’, a peer-led event character-
ized by its “relaxed atmosphere” and accompanying communal food, involved
small group colloquiums around scholarly articles, including iPad-related themes.
The casual nature of the ensuing discussions allowed participants to share knowl-
edge and understanding, and have a chance to collaboratively look for “creative”
solutions to problems.
Most participants used Edmodo for posting and viewing posts, accessing documents,
articles and iPad/Tech/App and Department PD news, as well as online tutorials. Some
found it to be a useful central place for iPad training-related information and discussion,
while others found it less relevant and engaging. Some considered it time consuming,
and to some extent a duplication of information sharing functions that already exist via
department email. Others reported that by Edmodo “not having a clearly distinctive
purpose or function”, it led to limited use; this, in spite of the encouraging notification
alerts it generated.
5.4 Findings from the online discussion forum
An anonymous Blackboard Learn discussion forum about the entire iPad PD program
was also available to the 16 participants as an asynchronous feedback opportunity on
sessions and the training process in general. Predictions noted early on in the process,
that such a forum would “prove unproductive due to the lack of immediacy” and that
participants would find it “difficult to devote time to”, proved to be the case.
Consequently, there was very limited uptake and this site generated no significant
additional data.
6 Discussion
The significance of planning, structure and timing are key elements in the results of this
research and beyond. Careful collaborative planning with initial and regular input from
the participants is important for achieving a successful series of workshops that exhibit
structure; allowing the training to evolve from a focus on the tools to be employed to
the pedagogy that surrounds them. In line with Kenny et al. (2010), allocating time to
fully engage in the training is also shown in these results as a constant consideration of
some importance, and a factor influencing levels of stress for participants. Providing the
appropriate allocation of resources through hardware and technical support goes some
way to alleviating training time stress, as does facilitating Minimally Invasive
Education and opportunities to play and acquire new skills with the iPad.
The act of listening to participants’ comments, observations and requests after each
training session generated a rich vein of results. As well as sharing their perspectives,
they identified key issues to be addressed in subsequent sessions or other areas of the
training provision (Gaytan and McEwen 2010). These individual or group demands
demonstrated levels of critical reflection and sincerity, which when acted upon were
invariably well received by participants. The demands were also a measure of the
engagement learners felt for the training process with clearly no fear of retribution.
Educ Inf Technol
In keeping with Carducci (2002), anticipating the needs of the individuals was an
aspect of the training provision that produced significant results in this research. In
addition to the formal training sessions, other supporting measures were in place. These
more flexible modes of learning permitted opportunities to lead, co-design and cus-
tomize their training, as recommended in Dee and Daly (2009).
Results from participant observation in this study also show mentoring (iBuddies)
and the inclusion of learning communities were effective informal learning alliances,
aligned with Potter and Rockinson-Szapkiw (2012). Moreover, clearly indicated in the
results of this study was a need and appreciation for both formal and informal (relaxed)
styles of learning. While formal and carefully structured training was shown to be in
greatest demand in the early stages of training, by the end, more casual sessions were
favoured.
Findings from participant feedback indicate that the ability to harness collabo-
ration proved most successful in this training process. Through peer support and
during formal and informal collaborative tasks, there were clear indications that
knowledge and understanding was being enhanced. For example, the iCelebrate
event and all the collaborative preparation preceding it was a very effective
learning platform for the participants in this process. In accordance with Schuck
et al. (2013), this authentic learning experience is credited with cementing iPad-
ready skills for the participants and seriously diminishing levels of iPad related
anxiety thereafter.
Post-session feedback also indicated that the concerns held by participants dimin-
ished over the whole training period. The reduction in the levels of concern could be
a natural development or a result of the cause for concern being addressed by the
training providers. As in Brookfield (2012), critically reflective practices were
successfully employed. However, it is important to recognize that some anxiety
exists in the context of training in a relatively unfamiliar technology. This is
consistent with the theory of transformational learning, and from an initial ‘disori-
entation’ transforms into a changed frame of reference and ultimately to a new way
of operating (Mezirow 1991).
Consistent with Murray (2002), communicating a clear message about the goals,
overall vision and application to teaching and learning of new educational technology
is essential. Raising fundamental questions is a healthy response to coming to terms
with new ideas and it requires the training provider to respond appropriately to reassure
and inform participants as necessary.
7 Conclusions
There was no formal measure of whether this group had achieved iPad teaching
and learning competencies that would see them prepared for the coming semester
of iPad-ready students; ‘staying ahead of the curve’. However, some indicators
suggested they had reached a new level of competency. They had actively engaged
in the range of training and support opportunities that were made available and
shown levels of skill and a responsibility for their learning that did not appear to
be at an end. These skills had been demonstrated in-house and in public presen-
tations and could indicate that a level of comfort in the use of iPad in teaching
Educ Inf Technol
and learning had been reached. In fact, several participants felt confident enough
by the end of the semester to make their first professional presentations by leading
PD sessions or sharing ideas at iCelebrate 3; another possible indicator of the
effectiveness of the iPad faculty development program.
Monitoring the process of preparing for iPad readiness derived interesting results.
Four main concerns occupied the minds of the participants during the training process:
& Having their individual needs considered;
& Time considerations;
& Anxieties; and
& Fundamental questions.
Addressing each as it arose, the course providers kept these concerns at moderate
levels until they appeared to all but fade completely. Regular collection of feedback
from participants and timely response to this feedback helped to bring calm. Providing
participants with multiple learning options also prompted positive reactions. As well as
formal sessions, participants responded particularly well to iBuddy mentoring and other
peer-learning communities, while surprisingly few took full advantage of online
support options. The value of collaboration cannot be overlooked, as it featured
prominently in a number of effective elements of the training process. Formal collab-
orations included initial course structure planning, show and tell presentations and
iCelebrate conference presentations, while informal collaborative events included PD
Café and Ideas Breakfast. All events were distinguished by their level of success in the
minds of the instructors and observers.
Although an effort at the time, gathering reflective feedback face-to-face and
immediately after the training event in question seemed to be most valuable for all
concerned. The limited interest in online alternatives that were provided only served to
emphasize this point. Also valuable, was collecting feedback from different points of
reference: instructors undergoing the training and participant observers. It is interesting
to note that issues that might have loomed large in the minds of participants were
sometimes reported as less significant by the researchers observing them, and vice
versa. These cross-referenced sources of reflective feedback helped in the attempt to
collect reliable results.
8 Implications
In summary, for organizations embarking on iPad or similar mobile learning imple-
mentation, we offer the following recommendations:
& Allow instructors to play with the device before thinking too much about
application.
& Ensure feedback is collected face to face by peers not administrators at regular
points of the program and act on given feedback. Tell instructors what actions you
are going to respond to and what actions you are not.
& Employ collaborative formulation and planning of the PD program and give
instructors space to negotiate their way through the learning process. Do not panic
Educ Inf Technol
at initial stages if instructors seem overwhelmed. In line with transformative theory,
this may be a natural process for them to go through.
& Pair less experienced users with more experienced iBuddies.
& Refer to SAMR and/or TPACK for guidance on transformative pedagogy.
& Provide sufficient time for faculty to attend sessions, acquire new knowledge and
apply skills.
& Encourage faculty to co-present at college PD forums and external events. This may
have the desired effect of learning through collaboration. Having to present may
also motivate instructors to carefully consider all aspects of best practice before they
present it to peers or an external audience.
& Provide technical support, especially at early stages of development. This may
decrease initial frustration.
& Facilitate informal professional learning communities for faculty to share best
practice and knowledge.
Acknowledgments The authors acknowledge the active participation of the 16 members of the General
Education department: Barry Christian, Brendon O’Connor, Claire Eriksson, Dalia Rehab, Deina Rabie, Dr.
Ewa Gajer, Gehan Wheeler, Josephine Butler, Loretta Consolati, Mark Alexander Warne, Philip Aston, Sally
Mahani, Sandy Barr, Shauna Fletcher, Sonia Elhaj, Tracey White; and Dr Nadeem Khan for his considered
feedback.
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