Expectations and reality: the implementation of mobile devices in schools

Sarah Catharine Cornelius, Rachel Shanks

Research output: Contribution to conferenceUnpublished paper


The implementation of mobile devices in schools has received considerable attention recently in press reports, case studies and systematic reviews (for example Burden et al., 2012; Clark and Luckin, 2013). Lessons are emerging about the benefits of the devices, approaches to implementation and the impact on pupils, teachers and parents. However, mobile devices are still far from ubiquitous in schools and research evidence is needed to support decision makers and teachers as they consider options available to them. This presentation will focus on the teachers’ perspective to understand their expectations for mobile devices and how implementation impacts on them and their practice.

The presentation will draw on research being undertaken for the MODIS (Mobile Devices in Schools) project. Working in partnership with two local authorities, researchers from the University of Aberdeen are collecting data from primary and secondary schools implementing a range of mobile devices. These include ipod touches, ipads, other tablets and learners’ own devices. They are being implemented in different ways in different schools – in some cases across the whole school, in other cases for specific year groups or as class sets. Pre (or early) implementation questionnaires have been issued to teachers to explore their expectations, and classroom observations and interviews undertaken to understand the impact of the devices. This paper will draw on findings from two primary school case studies: one in which ipads have been implemented in specific classes and the other in which all pupils have been equipped with ipod touches. The focus is on the expectations that teachers had before the implementation of the devices, and the reality that emerged following implementation.

Emerging findings suggest that prior to implementation teachers expect mobile devices to provide better access to resources and opportunities that will help them meet individual learners’ needs. The reality is that that technical issues impact on what is possible, and there may be unexpected technical and practical issues as well as pupil demands and expectations to meet. However, the use of mobile devices becomes quickly embedded in classroom practice. In some cases they create new opportunities for teaching and learning, and in others afford new strategies for classroom management and control.

The presentation will highlight key findings from these case studies and provide examples of the use of mobile devised. It will outline the next steps for the MODIS project, which will ultimately consider data from a range of schools implementing a range of devices in order to explore teachers’ experiences and consider their support and training needs.


Clark W and Luckin R (2013) What the research says: ipads in the classroom. London Knowledge Lab, University of London. Available from http://digitalteachingandlearning.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/ipads-in-the-classroom-report-lkl.pdf

Burden K, Hopkins P, Male T, Martin S and Trala C (2012) iPad Scotland evaluation. University of Hull. Available from http://www2.hull.ac.uk/ifl/ipadresearchinschools.aspx
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013
EventAssocation for Learning Technology Annual Conference ALTC2013 - Nottingham, United Kingdom
Duration: 10 Sept 201312 Sept 2013


ConferenceAssocation for Learning Technology Annual Conference ALTC2013
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • mobile devices
  • schools
  • ipods
  • ipads
  • teachers’ experiences


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