Learning, Democracy and Innovation
Today, I spent the day learning. I attended an event at the beautiful Coombe Lodge in Blagdon, North Somerset (pictured above) run by Western Computers, an Apple Solution Specialist and the company who have been supporting us with our school iPad deployment plan since the very beginning. It was a fantastic day, full of opportunities to hear about innovative iPad teaching and learning practice, to get involved with using the devices and to learn more about effective deployment of a number of devices and realising their potential.
The day began with a keynote by Peter Thompson from Apple UK education who gave a brief overview of Steve Jobs’ initial vision of Apple and the computers that it was to produce. Using the analogy of a bicycle, Steve Jobs saw computers as ‘wheels for the mind’. See below for a video of Jobs explaining his analogy.
He took us through a timeline of Apple’s development and their innovative impact on not only the technology industry, but the world, before briefly thinking about how learning and knowledge have been democratised over time and touching on Apple’s work in education.
The key point that I took away from this keynote, was that the ‘iPad is not technology, it’s content’. It is not the technical aspects of the iPad that make it a great learning tool, rather it is how it can be used. The iPad provides the user with an immersive experience and as a device, becomes whatever it is that you are using it for; from a textbook, to a virtual frog dissection table. The iPad has the ability to change classroom learning and classroom relationships.
Thompson told an amusing anecdote about a child from Australia, who said that going to school was like “flying with Quantas”. When they arrive, children are told where to sit, are strapped into their seats, told to turn off mobile devices and face forward. Life is put on hold for 6 or 7 hours. This is not the sort of school environment that is going to engage and empower children’s learning, and is where the iPad as a device, can begin to help transform the educational landscape. It completely changes classroom roles and empowers both pupils and teachers in many ways. See below for the example that Thompson used in terms of the role of teacher and student.
We moved on to answer the question, ‘So What?!’ And to look more closely at the more specific impacts on curriculum learning that the iPad can help support. At this point, it is important to note that throughout the day it was recognised and made clear by all presenters that simply introducing iPads alone will not have a fundamental impact on learning. It is only through careful consideration of its potential uses and a concrete focus on the pedagogy behind how it can be used that will be effective. Getting the pedagogy right will make the difference to learning.
Wendy Hanrahan, an independent consultant and Ofsted inspector, brought to the table an Ofsted-framework view on iPads and how they can support the learning outcomes of the pupils we teach. She quoted findings from a large scale trial that took place in Melbourne over an 18 month period, which found that the quality of teaching made the integration and impact on learning effective. The report also detailed a shift over time from teachers planning for the use of iPads to it becomming a seamless part of classroom learning.
Engagement is good, but we need to move beyond this
The Ofsted framework does look at how learners are enthused with their learning, but we need to think beyond this when it comes to integrating iPads into our classrooms. The real benefits come as iPads support a range of different learning styles and provision becomes more culturally atuned to the children in our classrooms. Alongside this, 1:1 deployment moves towards the true personalisation of learning as pupils can choose how to gather and present information; a finding demonstrated so powerfully by a student from Clevedon School who presented alongside Mark Anderson (@ictevangelist) later on in the day.
Wendy took us through a range of apps that can be used to support the development of reading, writing and numeracy, linking to evidence from a range of Ofsted research publications into best practice. This provided a well needed, classroom focused, standards-based perspective, that needs to be considered carefully before investing in these devices. It was discussed that iPads can support and enhance developing priorities at a national, school and classroom level in a very effective and empowering way.
After a presentation from Nuance, a voice recognisiton software specialist, we heard from Mark Anderson (@ictevangelist) about the use of iPads at Clevedon School. Clevedon’s vision was to provide its pupils with 24/7 access to a learning tool and Mark’s work has been integral to the success of the iPad project at Clevedon, where they are going 1:1 (and realising their vision) across the school in September. I have had the privelege of working with him and his pupils with the iTrinity team at my school (see previous blog posts).
Mark took us through a range of apps that can be used to support learning in various areas of the curriculum and discussed how multiple apps can be used to tie together various aspects of learning. Again, the message was that pedagogy is key, and that iPads on their own cannot enhance learning.
One of Mark’s Sixth Form students then delivered a fantastic presentation on his favourite apps and how he uses them in his learning. This was a fantastic presentation and a great example of a student who has taken hold of their own learning and been empowered to do so by his school. His presentation skills and confidence when talking about the devices and apps he uses are testament to the school’s work around this project.
The day has really confirmed to me the impact iPads can have on teaching and learning. There is so much more that I could reflect on in this post, but it has already become longer than expected, so I will save that for another time. Ultimately, what I have learnt today will be really useful to me as we begin the practical deployment phase of our iPad project at school, and I begin (with my team of pupils) to think about staff training and classroom use. For me, the key benefits of iPads in education are listed below:
- iPads provide access to rich digital content anywhere, anytime
- The device brings children’s learning into a more culturally relevant domain and engages children in their learning
- iPads allow for the personalisation of learning as children can be empowered to choose what, where, when and how they learn, as well as how they reflect on and present the knowledge they acquire
- There are a range of apps and features of the device that enable children with specific learning difficulties to access and engage with their learning
- iPads allow for immersive learning experiences
- Alongside careful consideration of classroom pedagogy, iPads can transform classroom roles and learning environments, leading to a more progressive approach to education
- The 10 hour battery life and ‘always on’ nature of iPads, removes the accessibility and mobility options of other technology in the classroom
- AirPlay and Apple TV allow for screen sharing and mirroring of any device in the classroom, creating a highly interactive learning environment, which changes the ‘front facing’, ‘static’ nature of Victorian-style classrooms that we still see in many schools. In my opinion, this also creates a deeper level of interactivity than IWBs could ever provide
- There are tens of thousands of educational apps, 70% of which are free. This is much cheaper than PC software
- The content development possibilities offered by Apple are huge, providing a range of opportunities for children (and teachers) to not only use, but create apps and iBooks (content) to support their learning
I’m seriously excited about the next few months as the deployment of our class set of 31 iPads that we have been planning since October becomes a reality. I look forward to seeing the benefits that I have described being embedded in classrooms across the school and am really looking forward to seeing the children interact and engage with their learning in a progressive and empowering way.