Date of Award

December 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Administrative Leadership

First Advisor

Carol L. Colbeck

Committee Members

Barbara Bales, Rajeswari Swaminathan, Thomas Joynt


Case, Initiative, iPad, Learning, Tablet, Technology


This qualitative case study explored the ways that teachers in a single private middle school integrated one-to-one tablet use in to their classroom practice. The case study also explored how and in what ways the students and teachers perceived that school-provided one-to-one student access to tablets affected student learning. The review of relevant literature included the use of technology in instruction, external factors affecting teachers, and the perception of the effect of technology on student learning.

Over the last thirty years, there has been an increase of computer and tablet use in the classroom (Harold, 2016; Reidel, 2014; Smerdon, Cronen, Lanahan, Anderson, Iannott, & Angeles, 2000; U.S. Department of Education, 2010). As schools implement new computer technologies, they are often soon faced with yet another technology reform effort, as technology changes quickly (Barack, 2010). Students also now use technology and are often more knowledgeable about tablet devices than teachers and administrators. However, students often show teachers how to use the tablet devices, which highlights how what could be perceived as a challenge is also a benefit (Bradley, Goodman-Deane, Waller, Tenneti, Langdon, & Clarkson, 2013; O’Brien, Rogers, & Fisk, 2012).

Over the last fifteen years, enrollments have increased in private and independent schools (U.S. Department of Education, 2010). Independent and private schools face both opportunities and challenges because they are not supported within a public school district. Administrators and teachers in private and independent schools may have more freedom than those working in public school districts; however, they also have fewer resources available (Davies & Davies, 2014). Private and independent schools must determine the best ways to use resources, which suggest that administrators should be well-informed when investing their limited resources in equipment and programs.

To improve understanding of how private and independent schools might implement a new computer technology initiative, this research involved a single case study of one school nearly three years after the school had provided iPad tablets to all teachers and students in its middle school class sections. According to Patton (2015), a case study is an appropriate mode of inquiry in which a “researcher examines in depth a program…or one or more individuals…using a variety of data.” The case study addressed the following research questions:

1. Under what conditions and in what ways do teachers in a private school integrate one-to-one tablet use into their classroom practice?

2. How and in what ways do students and teachers perceive that school-provided access to students’ own tablets affects student learning?

This study is guided by the worldview of critical realism (Bhaskar, 1998; Maxwell, 2012). A critical realist point of view is one which allows for two concurrent views of reality. In the critical realist worldview, there is an understanding that reality exists independent of individuals’ perceptions. At the same time, individuals’ perceptions of reality are also valid and their perceptions affect their understandings and behaviors (Maxwell, 2012). By adopting the worldview of critical realism, I was able to recognize that the perceptions of the stakeholders in a school implementing a new technology initiative were real and affected their engagement in the implementation, while at the same I recognized that there was an observable reality of the tablet program implementation that existed independently of each individual’s perceived reality.

Data collection involved triangulation of three qualitative methods approaches: administrator and teacher interviews, external observations, and student surveys. As this case study was guided by critical realism, the administrators’, teachers’ and students’ perceptions were considered real, as were the observations of the researcher.

Odyssey School, the private school which was site for the case study, had two class sections each of grades six, seven, and eight. All students in these six classes had been individually assigned an iPad as part of instruction for the previous two years and the current school year at the time of data collection. Nine teachers and two administrators were interviewed, each section of classes was observed twice, and all students in grades six through eight were asked to complete a short survey during their technology classes.

The teachers and administrators at Odyssey School had wide range of previous teaching and technology experiences and varied in age. Prior to implementation of the one-to-one iPad tablet initiative, teachers were allowed to use the tablets themselves in order to learn the devices and plan for using them for instruction. Regardless of previous experience, teachers found that the tablet devices were easy to learn.

Odyssey teachers’ and administrators’ perceptions of whether the iPad initiative affected teaching strategies were mixed. Five of the nine teachers reported that integrating the iPads had influenced their teaching strategies, whereas four did not. The two administrators reported that integrating the iPads into classroom work had a positive effect on teaching strategies.

The iPad tablets were used by Odyssey School teachers and students in varied ways. Students used the devices in all of the classrooms, although the level and type of use depended on the teacher. Students generally used the iPads to complete course content, access information quickly, and have content delivered electronically. Teachers’ perceptions of benefits including processing content efficiently, and preparing students for use of future modern technologies. Concerns included teachers’ perceptions of the iPad as a cause of student distraction, particularly if the tablets were used for other than school-related activities.

Odyssey teachers’ prior teaching experience was weakly associated with the depth of their use of iPads in instruction; however, there was no association between their prior technology experience and their uses of iPads for instruction.

Students, teachers, and administrators had differing perceptions of whether and how the one-to-one iPad tablet initiative affected students’ learning. Whereas students as a whole reported neither a positive or negative effect of iPad availability on their learning, sixth grade students reported that the iPads had a more positive effect on their learning than did eighth graders. Most of the Odyssey School teachers did not perceive a positive effect of iPad availability on student learning, although the administrators did. Additionally, reported and observed uses of iPads for instruction were analyzed through the SAMR model, and the results indicated that very few of the iPad uses could be considered transformative (Puentedura, 2006).

Key lessons learned from this single case study this study include: a) decision making about technology initiatives should be informed, b) teachers and administrators are also learners, c) students may be using technology devices for learning more than teachers realize, and new programs should be evaluated to inform and improve practice. Implications for practice include a) allotting sufficient time for teachers to learn new technology, b) determining desired teaching strategies and goals for the initiative prior to implementation, c) teachers should explore new resources and uses for the technology on an ongoing basis, and d) professional development may help teachers distinguish between students who are distracted by the technology and those who are using the devices appropriately for learning. Implications for future research include a) exploring what might be learned from additional studies of technology implementation at private and independent schools, b) investigating how different types of professional development might affect effectiveness of implementing new technology initiatives, c) conducting larger scale studies to validate the SAMR model, and d) conducting larger quantitative studies to assess the impact of technology initiatives on student learning as measured by standardized tests.