Use of Tablets to Support Students’ 21st Century Skills: A Look Behind the Screen at Knowledge Construction, Collaboration, and Skilled Communication in Language Arts and Science
This study sought to identify how the use of information and communication technologies (ICT), specifically tablets, may foster students’ 21st century skills of knowledge construction, collaboration, and skilled communication and may further support knowledge construction in science, reading comprehension, and vocabulary development. This mixed methods research explored 21 Grade 5 students’ tablet (iPad) screen interactions and audio recordings, blog posts, interview responses, researcher observations, and student artifacts during an interdisciplinary science and language arts unit. Students worked in pairs or small groups on iPads to learn science and language arts concepts. Qualitative data were collected using video and audio monitoring tools (NestCams, 2016). Using NVivo 11.4, qualitative data were coded using the 21 CLD Learning Activity Rubrics (Microsoft Corporation, 2015). Queries were further run to determine data that correlated between the use of tablets for learning and other 21st century skills. Findings showed high instances of 21st century skills while students worked on tablets. The way students used tablets to support their learning seemed to depend on the level of knowledge construction, collaboration, and skilled communication. Quantitative data were also collected using reading comprehension, vocabulary, and science pre- and post-tests. Dependent samples t-tests were run to determine if there was growth from pre-test to post-test. Results indicated statistically significant growth only in science content knowledge. Qualitative findings were triangulated with the quantitative results to illustrate descriptive growth trends in science and language arts. This study highlights the importance of being critical towards multimodal features within apps to support students’ development of 21st century skills and subject-specific knowledge. Recommendations and implications for theory, practice, and methodological approaches are provided for future studies.