An exploratory study of the iPad in tertiary education in the UAE
Date: 13 July 2020
University of Exeter
Ed D TESOL (Exeter)
ABSTRACT: The iPad: an EFL classroom revolution? The motivation for this study was the 2012 launch of the iPad as the de facto delivery platform for Foundations-level students at all public universities in the UAE, the largest nationwide adoption of the device anywhere in the world. Not only was this of interest in terms of scale, it ...
ABSTRACT: The iPad: an EFL classroom revolution? The motivation for this study was the 2012 launch of the iPad as the de facto delivery platform for Foundations-level students at all public universities in the UAE, the largest nationwide adoption of the device anywhere in the world. Not only was this of interest in terms of scale, it was also of interest linguistically, English being the language of instruction at all public universities, despite their student body being almost exclusively indigenous Arab nationals. It also presented the opportunity to examine the marrying of a cutting-edge emerging technology with an EFL tertiary education context, an uncommon occurrence. Though eulogised by university management and the local press as an educational revolution, for some the iPad initiative was unusual, given the speed of its roll-out, lack of piloting or teacher training, and the linguistic level of most Foundations-level students. Thus the objective of this thesis was to examine the device in both a pedagogical and socio-cultural context, and assess whether it was the educational panacea promised, or the result of a successful marketing strategy. It was also hoped to establish the iPad’s worth in terms of educating the UAE’s youth for successful integration into the knowledge economy, a key government Vison 2021 strategy. To address these issues, the research focus was on evaluations of the iPad by Foundations teaching faculty, at both a male and female campus at one of the UAE’s public tertiary education institutions. A mixed methods approach was chosen, utilising both a questionnaire and interviews. The results revealed the iPad was regarded as a potentially useful supplementary pedagogic tool by faculty, although there were strong caveats regarding its sole use, its ability to distract, and its suitability for the level of student, as well as the larger knowledge economy. This thesis adds weight to observations already extant in the literature, but also provides new insights, such as specific iPad classroom use in terms of apps at tertiary level in an EFL context, and consequent training and support requirements. Though not a longitudinal study, it does provide a longer-term examination of the device than much of the germane literature. What the thesis further posits, is that to understand ambitious and untested educational projects like the iPad initiative in the UAE, it may be necessary to understand the larger socio-political context of the policies, rather than see such projects in a wholly educational framework.
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