Perspectives of key stakeholders about practices relating to using iPads for autistic pupils’ social communication and emotional regulation

Achtypi, Alexia (2021). Perspectives of key stakeholders about practices relating to using iPads for autistic pupils’ social communication and emotional regulation. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis explores key stakeholders’ perspectives about practices relating to using iPads for autistic pupils’ Social Communication (SC) and Emotional Regulation (ER). It focuses on investigating the interaction between digital technology, context and individuals and understanding and evaluating the impact of context on how iPads are implemented in-situ for SC and ER.

To achieve these aims, the study drew upon Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems theory (1979) and Abbott’s concept of ‘E-inclusion’ (2007) as conceptual lenses to situate the use of iPads in context. It followed a mixed-methods design which involved an online survey completed by 55 educators of primary schools across England and two case studies conducted in a Special school and a Mainstream (Autism Resource Base) setting. Data in the two schools were gathered through interviews from key stakeholders (practitioners, parents, autistic pupils) and a document analysis of computing and E-safety policies.

The key findings of the study revealed that practitioners applied iPads across the curriculum as multi-modal learning tools, focusing on child-centred pedagogies and targeting more than one skill. Educators prioritised using iPads for developing autistic pupils’ SC, with ambiguity existing in ER-related terminology and practices. Contrary to that, the findings from interviews that were conducted with parents and children highlighted that tablet implementation at home focused on recreation and ER, with other uses involving behaviour management, relaxation and communication. In line with these points, the study found differences in the manner and scope of iPad use at school and home, illustrating a communication gap between educators and parents.

In addition, the thesis examined the various ways in which iPads were implemented for autistic pupils’ SC and ER in the two different school contexts. The results identified a combination of organisational, technological and personal aspects that influenced the way in which educators used iPad in the two schools. The reported differences shed light on the role that enhanced systemic support (such as training), technological infrastructure and educators’ confidence can have on the successful iPad integration into learning.

Based on these findings, the thesis provides implications for practice about the contextual factors that create the conditions required to enable iPads to enhance autistic pupils’ SC and ER in the classroom. It also highlights issues around pedagogy and teaching methods, offering insights into what drives teachers to make decisions and the importance of supporting them to develop skills in technology and understanding of pedagogy. Finally, the thesis suggests pointers to practice illustrating the role of iPads as behaviour management tools and enablers of learning through ER.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
School or Department: School of Education
Funders: Other
Other Funders: School of Education-University of Birmingham
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1501 Primary Education
T Technology > T Technology (General)


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