Implementing iPads in the Early Years

There’s an app for that? Examining and Fostering Early Childhood Educators Content Knowledge and Use of iPads Within an Early Years Setting

We are pleased to inform you that 27 educators from Licensed Child Care Centres across the Niagara Region have been selected to participate in this unique Research Project.

Bookmark and visit this page regularly to learn more about the project’s progress. Throughout the project, we will be sharing general themes and preliminary findings.

At the conclusion of the Research Project, we will provide a report of learnings and offer resources, further information and training related to implementing iPads in Early Years Programs in the community.

Research Updates

As the participating educators in the ECCDC pilot research project continue using iPads, they are discovering some interesting and novel ways to connect and extend upon children’s emerging interests. In this research update, we feature a few vignettes from the educators’ shared blog of actual practices being enacted with the iPads. These snapshots help highlight the essential role of the educator in scaffolding children’s technological knowledge. Fellow researchers, Plowman and McPake (2013) emphasize that the role of educators should encompass the following aspects:

  • Recognizing children’s different preferences
  • Developing an awareness of the role of a wide range of technologies in the child’s home learning environment
  • Acknowledging the range and diversity of children’s 
early experiences at home and the ways in which parents, siblings, and caregivers induct children into culturally significant technological practices
  • Extending their vision of the nature of children’s technological competences beyond operational skills (p. 31)

Connecting Children’s Learning to the Global Community

“I made a QR code with a link to my work email. While discussing travel we chose Saudi Arabia because one family is from there. Her father was able to use the QR code to send me some pictures of home to share with the class. They are leaving tomorrow for a vacation to visit family. I asked the child and family to send a post card or email us some pictures.”

“My kids just love the cameras on the pocket zoo (app), they ask everyday to check the animals. They love to watch them. Just wondering why a lot of the cameras aren’t available. I took my iPad home when I was having blogging issues and checked the cams. Not realizing that Japan’s camera is at night when we are at day care. When I checked while I was at home the cameras & they were all in colour and the animals moving around a lot more. I took a picture of the aquarium and the Beavers to show them (the children). They didn’t understand that while we are at day care they are sleeping and are at night they are moving around. It’s too bad that all the time they are sleeping. They love to watch the tiger running up the rocks, mother get very excited when they move.”

Blending Digital Play & Play in the “Real World”

“We were using instruments and also playing the Toca Band app. We decided to compare the instruments that were in the app to the instruments we were playing. We had a lot of the same. If they had the same instruments each child demonstrated their instrument then looked for their instrument or close to it. We also looked up some of the names of the instruments that were different that we weren’t sure of. They had fun comparing the real instruments to the app.”

Meet the Research Team

If you are a Director or Supervisor of a participating educator and want to learn more, please contact Debra Harwood at for more information.

Training Sessions

Here is some feedback and pictures from the Welcome & Itroduction to the Project and iPad Technology Orientation session:

“I will be able to use an iPad confidently and bring more learning opportunities into my classroom.”
“I will feel more confident in using technology in my classroom.”
“…how to use the new apps and how to incorporate them into my program.”
“The whole thing was informative/meaningful especially to someone who had no idea about iPads and what they do. Very interesting.”
“Excited to use the movie maker.”

Comments from the Using iPads for Photos, Videos, and Other Special Features session:

“I can use the information to work with the children who don’t really know how to talk.”
“…sharing children’s school life with parents.”
“I have received a great idea for implementing Mohawk language into my classroom through QR codes.”
“…circles, looking up info the children ask about, sharing info with parents…”
“I plan on introducing the iPad in the classroom to promote social and learning experiences with the children.”
“Diving deeper into story telling helped me think differently about how to use the ‘social stories’ app .”

What are the Benefits to Participants and their Licensed Child Care Programs?

  • Access to an additional tool to support inclusive practices and pedagogies
  • Free iPad to keep for program’s use beyond the project
  • Ten or more free educational apps for program’s use beyond the project
  • Opportunity to engage in an innovative research study which measures the impact of iPads on educators’ practice and pedagogy and preschool children’s learning
  • Increased understanding regarding the role of technology on children’s learning
  • Enhanced technological competence
iPads in Early Years

What are the Components of this Research Project?

Project Objectives:

  • To learn if the data gathered in this pilot study supports the future integration of iPads within each of Niagara’s licensed child care settings.
  • To learn how the iPads were used most effectively within Niagara’s licensed child care programs.

Research Goals:

  • How do educators’ personal beliefs impact the use of and perceived educational value of tablets in the early year’s classroom?
  • What do structural features of the environment (i.e. training, support and access) impact the integration of tablets within these contexts?
  • What impact does tablet integration have on children’s learning?

What Activities Can a Pilot Site Participant Expect?

  • Project runs from February 2014 to March 2015.
  • Project participants completed a 30-minute pre-survey examining existing beliefs in relation to technology and children’s learning. It was conducted prior to scheduled training  via the password-protected, secure website Fluid Survey.
  • Attendance at Training Sessions: (a) Welcome & Introduction to Project and iPad Technology Orientation, (b) Supporting Language and Literacy with iPads in Early Years Settings, and (c) Using iPads for Photos, Videos, and Other Special Features.
  • Observation Visits: Conducted in each participating site and consisting of a researcher completing a scan of the environment to examine existing and developing use of the iPads within the classroom context (i.e. technology access, technology for administration, children’s learning with technology, teacher-child interactions). Observational visits are planned at the start and end of the project and will be scheduled individually and in collaboration with each participating educator and their program requirements.
  • Photo Documentation: Photos will be taken during each of the observational visits. Only centres where parents have provided prior photo release consent will be included in the photo documentation. Photo documentation will focus on aspects of technology access; technology for administration; children’s learning with technology via photos of their artifacts; and teacher-child interactions related to the iPads (e.g. circle time, teaching of a mini-lesson, etc.).
  • Educator Blog: Educators will participate in a 5 minute blog post and reflection on a secured password protected Blogger site. These blog posts will involve the eudcators sharing thoughts and insights about specifics related to the use of iPads within their context. Educators may at times be invited to respond to specific questiions posted by the research team, such as:
    • What are the strengths and challenges with using the iPads?
    • Reflect on the children’s engagement, reactions, and/or emerging questions. What could be done differently or kept the same?
    • What did you notice? What did you find most interesting and relevant? What do you think would be relevant for other educators?
    • In what ways did the iPad extend/challenge/limit the learning focus in the classroom this week?
    • An anecdotal story or burgeoning questions you might have about this week’s focus.
  • Participants will complete a 30-minute post survey conducted towards the end of the project  (March/April 2015).