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Exploring young students’ learning experiences with the iPad: a comparative study in Hong Kong international primary schools

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In recent years, the popularity and capabilities of the iPad®, Apple’s tablet computer, have prompted educational technology advocates and policy makers to evaluate its potential in classrooms. However, there have been few studies examining the tangible user interface (TUI, in which the user manipulates the touchscreen of the device with their fingers), one of the most significant features of the iPad in comparison to previous mobile devices. Therefore, in this paper, the research team examined this interface specifically for its potential in terms of usability with input interaction for young learners. A case study was conducted at three international schools in Hong Kong to explore the impact of the iPad’s TUI on the student learning experience. A mixed-method approach was taken, and 13 observations and 10 interviews were conducted to collect data. With statistical analyses, the amount of students seeking learning support behavior (ASSLS) at the schools employing iPads was compared with that at the school using traditional laptops. Evidence emerged to support the assumption that the TUI on the iPad may contribute to reducing the ASSLS as well as enhancing student engagement and collaboration in class. Implications of the findings in terms of usability, engagement, interaction, practice, and future research are discussed.

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The authors would like to specially thank Ms. Makky Fung from Canadian International School of Hong Kong (CDNIS), Mr. Clive Dawes from Kellett School, and Mr. Peter Woodhead from German Swiss International School (GSIS) for the help and the support in the coordination of the data collection. The participation of the teachers and students from CDNIS, Kellett, and GSIS in this study is greatly appreciated. The authors would also like to thank Dr. Mark King for the very helpful discussion and comments.

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Correspondence to Tianchong Wang.

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Wang, T., Towey, D. & Jong, M.S.Y. Exploring young students’ learning experiences with the iPad: a comparative study in Hong Kong international primary schools. Univ Access Inf Soc 15, 359–367 (2016).

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