2010-2011 RJ Hawkey - iPad as Assistive Technology

“New classroom media, like digital text, sound, images, and the World Wide Web, can be adjusted for different individuals and can open doors to learning.” (Rose & Meyer, 2002)

Project Description:

Apple’s iPad and many of its educational applications have great potential to assist in the development of reading and writing skills with students who attend the resource, early support, early literacy, and ESL programs. This proposal will explore the use of the iPad as an assistive tool for elementary students who receive small group support for reading and writing. Approximately seventy-five students will have the opportunity to participate in this project.


There are a number of applications available for the iPad that address the five components of reading: phonemic awareness, alphabetic principle and phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Students involved in this project will use applications relevant to each of these components in order to develop and improve their reading ability.

For example, repeated reading is a strategy presently used with students to develop their reading fluency. With the iPad, students will use the voice recorder application to record their reading and then listen to themselves in order to note improvement. The voice recorder application would allow students to receive immediate feedback by hearing their own voice. They would save their recording and track their progress over a number of readings. Students have the opportunity to self-assess and then become more self-aware and engaged in their own learning. Additional iPad applications would provide similar opportunities for engagement and learning related to the other components of reading.

As teachers, we want to develop an enjoyment and appreciation of reading within our students. This can be difficult with students who are struggling to learn to read. The iPad allows students to read and listen to books so they can experience reading for enjoyment in a unique and new way.

The iPad allows for multimodal learning. “ In general, multimodal learning has been shown to be more effective than traditional, unimodal learning. Adding visuals to verbal (text and/or auditory) learning can result in significant gains in basic and higher-order learning” (Fadel & Lemke, 2008, p.14). For struggling students, it is particularly important to engage more than one sense. Using the iPad, students are activating the auditory, visual, and kinesthetic modes of learning, which Universal Design for Learning recommends. Neuroscience research also indicates that combining two or more modalities can significantly improve learning.

The use of assistive technology increases student self-esteem and motivation. Teachers have reported that students who have used technology in the resource program, such as the SmartBoard, have had the confidence and initiative to assist the teacher and their peers in the classroom when using this tool.

Using a borrowed iPad, its potential was explored with a few resource/early support students. Its size seems ideal for young students. It’s portable and easy for them to hold. They found it easy to navigate through the applications.


This project aligns with Goals 1, 5 and 6 of the Three Year Education Plan for Rocky View Schools. Goal 1 states “learners have their basic and diverse needs met.” Goal 5 focuses on challenging and engaging the learner. More specifically, the use of iPads supports outcomes 5.1 (curriculum delivered is student-centred) and 5.2 (instructional practices meet the needs of the 21st century learner). In Goal 6, outcome 6.1 states, “contemporary technology is accessible to all learners.” Providing iPads for students participating in resource, early support, early literacy, and ESL programs will positively impact the development of their reading and writing skills and their development as 21st century learners.


Teachers involved in this project will:

  • Discuss applications, promising practices, obstacles, and student progress in using the iPads.
  • Communicate new knowledge to other staff members.
  • Share our understandings and invite other RVS staff to observe use of this technology.


  • 5 iPads (32 GB) @ $650 each + GST + environmental fee $3250
  • 5 overlay screen protectors @ $25 + GST $ 125
  • 5 protective sleeves @ $40 $ 200

      Total $ 3575 + GST


Fadel, Charles and Lemke, Cheryl. “Multimodal Learning Through Media: What the Research Says.” Metiri Group – Commissioned by Cisco, 2008. www.cisco.com/.../Multimodal-Learning-Through-Media.pdf
Rose, David H. and Meyer, Anne. Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age: Universal Design for Learning. ASCD, 2002. http://www.cast.org/teachingeverystudent/ideas/tes/

Submitted by:
Anne Sheasgreen

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