Considerations for an iPad Professional Development Program

This morning, I presented a paper at the Ubiquitous Learning conference in Urbana-Campaign Illinois. Below are the slides a presented, and the associated script. As I was given some extra time, I didn't follow the script. I really enjoyed the opportunity to share my literature review findings and talk more about my research. I'm really looking forward to the second part of this presentation, which I'll be delivering at mLearn in Helsinki next week.

Hello my name is Rebecca Hogue and I’m a PhD candidate at the University of Ottawa and Ottawa Canada. My research interests are in technology adoption within the context of education, and higher education profession development, sometimes called academic development or faculty development. In this presentation, I will be discussing the considerations for a professional development program to support iPads in higher education teaching. If you wish to tweet during this presentation, I welcome your comments, please include my twitter handle in your tweets.


To begin, I’m going to provide a few definitions so that were using common terminology.

When I talk about technology adoption, I’m talking about an individual’s acceptance of the technology.

By teaching practice, I mean all activities performed by teachers in the administration, preparation, delivery, and evaluation of instruction. For example, this includes things like checking email, communicating with students, and scheduling events, as well as using the iPad to deliver a lesson.

I differentiate learners as pre adoption and post adoption. In this case adoption refers to the use of iPads within teaching practice, so going beyond using the devices for entertainment purposes.

iPad Professional Development Program (iPDP)

I divided the considerations for an iPad professional development program, or iPDP, into six categories based upon the literature. These categories are: technology acceptance model, technology, time, individual beliefs, organizational structures, and evaluation.  In the following slides I’m going to review each of these in more detail.

Technology Acceptance Model

The technology acceptance model or TAM, is a well-established quantitative measure that predicts whether an individual will adopt a new technology. The TAM has two key variables ease-of-use and perceived usefulness. That is, if the user believes the technology is easy to use and they believe that the technology is useful than they are more likely to adopt that technology. 

From an iPDP perspective this means that to increase a learner’s adoption of the technology, we need to include components in our program that increase the learner’s perception of how easy the devices to use and how useful the device is.


Technology can be broken down into two separate areas, that of product technology and idea technology. Product technology refers to the hardware and software aspects of technology. In this case that is, the iPad iOS operating system, and the apps associated with the device.

Idea technology on the other hand is the usefulness focus of the technology. Here we look at describing actual use-cases or workflows. That is, processes that demonstrate how to use the device within a given context. For example, within higher education teaching I may describe workflows on how to mark papers using the iPad.

Because idea technology is directly associated with usefulness, introducing learners to idea technologies, that is, contextual ways in which the product is used, increases adoption.

Technology poses an interesting challenge in iPad professional development programs, because the capabilities of the iPad and the apps are changing so quickly. Any program needs to have built into it, the ability to adapt to the newer capabilities.


Another consideration when developing a program, it is the need for calendar time to support adoption. I’m sure most of you can relate to a time when you attended a single two or three-hour workshop that was intended to introduce you to new technology, where all the workshop succeeded in doing was providing you with information overload. Learners need time to absorb new technologies and adapt to them. This process is not instantaneous, and time needs to be allowed to pass as part of the adoption process.

As a result, a successful iPad adoption program should involve activities that occur spread out over a calendar interval. For example, activities that are once a month or once every two or three months. Within the context of iPad professional development, Time also poses an interesting challenge, in that as time passes the capabilities of the device changes. So not only does the program need to span an amount of time, it also needs to adapt to changes as time passes.

Individual Beliefs

The teacher’s Individual beliefs play a role in adoption of any learning technology. Specifically if the technology is associated with a specific learning style, or teaching strategy, then teachers that don’t ascribe to those strategies will be less likely to believe that the technology is useful.

To help avoid this pitfall, professional development programs should avoid associating the technology with a specific teaching strategy or pedagogy.

Any program should begin by introducing learners to common tasks on the new device, for example, checking email, before introducing new ideas that require them to change their beliefs on how they teach.

In addition, beliefs are more likely to be changed if peers socialize the ideas. It is much better to have a peer present new teaching strategies or new teaching ideas than it is to have a technologist do it. For example, I work with family medicine physicians, in my program, I will have a family medicine physician present ways in which to use the device in teaching, rather than presenting it myself.

Organizational Structures

Introduction of new technology does not happen in a vacuum. Organizational policies and practices will either help or hinder adoption. With the iPad, one of the biggest considerations is Wi-Fi infrastructure. Working with family physicians, the devices are less useful if the clinics don’t have wireless access.

In higher education another consideration is the structure of academic institutions themselves. Often change will be faster if it’s initiated by professors rather than seen as a change being pushed by administration.

A fundamental hindrance to technology adoption in university education, is the need for early career professors to score high on teaching. That means that those who are more likely to be innovative in their teaching practices, are not encouraged to do so, for they don’t wish to risk lowering their teaching scores.

One way to mitigate for organizational structures which you may not be able to influence, is to identify stakeholders or idea leaders, that is, those who have influence over how their peers adopt to new ideas. If you can have an idea leader champion your program, it will be more likely to surmount the organizational structure barriers.


Evaluation of a professional development program helps determine whether or not the program was successful. Because technology adoption itself takes time, evaluation also needs to occur over varying periods of time. With the adoption of iPads, one of the challenges is, is to figure out what exactly to measure to determine whether someone is adopted the device. I suggest that the most useful measure of adoption, in this instance, is the impact of a lost device and how that impact of a lost device changes over time. That is, asking participants at the beginning of the program what the impact of a lost iPad would be on their teaching practice. And then asking that same question again after several months of the program. You would expect that if the program is successful, then the impact of the lost device would increase.

Another useful measurement is to go back to the technology acceptance model. Again looking at the values of perceived usefulness and perceived ease-of-use, and how they change over time would indicate whether not the program is successful.


I’ve now described each of the six different characteristics that need to be considered when developing an iPad professional development program: the technology acceptance model, technology, time, individual beliefs, organizational structures, and evaluation.

Now I’m to summarize these characteristics as design considerations, delivery considerations, and evaluation considerations.

Design considerations

When designing a program, the program should benefit both pre-adoption and post adoption learners.

The focus of at least one component of the program should be to increase pre-adoption learners perception of how easy the devices to use, and how useful the device is within their teaching practice.

The program should involve both product technology, that is explaining how to actually use the device for example iPad 101, and idea technology, that is explaining how to use the device within the learners particular context.

The program should begin with familiar activities before challenging existing teaching beliefs, and idea leaders should be recruited to present contextual portions of the program. So that peers are teaching the context specific aspects of the program.

Delivery Considerations

When delivering an iPad professional development program, you need to provide ways for learners to share, at regular intervals, new idea technology. The technology changes quickly, and programs need to adapt to those changes.

The program should involve the delivery of multiple training interventions spread out over calendar time. For example, a lunch and learn session every three months where learners are encouraged to share how they have used the device in practice over the previous three months.

When delivering the program, Post adoption learners, that is, the peers of the pre-adoption learners, should be recruited to present some of the workflows or process descriptions, as learning this information from peers is more effective for changing learner beliefs.

Evaluation Considerations

And finally, plan to repeat evaluations over various time frames, as the key measure to the success of this program is a change in users perceptions over time.  One useful measure is to ask the learners how they would be impacted if they lost their device. Another useful measure is to evaluate and individuals perception using the technology acceptance model, specifically seeing if an individual user has changed their perception of how easy the devices to use or how useful the devices.


Thank you. Any questions?


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One response

  1. Rao Avatar

    Dear Rebecca, I am very interested in your work. I am currently completing a masters on the use of Tablets (android) in medical education and the study is meant to be a follow on to a PHD. In the masters i will conduct a survey to see what students and teachers are currently doing with their tablets (provided by the university here in Durban South Africa) and what their future needs are. In the PHD I hope to design apps that are specific to their needs. What are your ideas and do your think that there is room for collaboration on this??

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