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Sunday, 24 February 2013

My journey with iPads so far - Feb 2013


This was a post I was asked to write for Rising Stars  - click here for their published article.
DG on an ipad (Small)Around a year ago the Head Teacher approached me and suggested I came out of the classroom to cover PPA. I have undertaken the role of ICT co-ordinator since my NQT year and ICT was my specialism for my university course. He wanted me to use my expertise of teaching ICT to work across the whole school and see how well I could embed core ICT skills within the curriculum. Initially I wasn’t overwhelmed by the idea, the ICT suite although big enough for a full class, was starting to feel outdated and was often temperamental. To take on this role I needed something new, fresh and exciting to really impact on teaching and learning. That was when I started to look at iPads as a tool in the classroom. A couple of websites I stumbled across really opened my eyes to the possibilities that iPads could provide – http://www.ipadineducation.co.uk andhttp://mrandrewsonline.blogspot.co.uk/.
After showing the Head some of these websites and discussing the potential for these devices, he agreed to purchase a class set (35) and a number for the senior leadership team (7). We purchased two charging trolleys and protective covers for each iPad. There have been many arguments over justifying the cost involved when purchasing these devices and schools can be easily duped into believing that the next piece of technology will be the best thing ever to hit the classroom! I remember my dissertation at University for my ICT specialism for my BA in Primary Education posing the question ‘How interactive is an interactive whiteboard?’ and 15,000 words later I concluded with – not very. Most schools now have IWBs but how many use them to their full potential? How many can really justify all that investment? I concluded that it is not the technology itself that improves teaching and learning but the teacher using it. This is the exact same with iPads, schools cannot simply see the buzz around these devices and rush to purchase them and think that’s it, job done. This is only the start; the real investment for the effective use of iPads is time.
Getting started
As soon as I knew that the school were purchasing iPads, I spent a lot of time researching and reading case studies, examples of how iPads were effectively being used in the classroom, the best way to set up a class set of iPads and what apps/programs would cover the current ICT curriculum.
I found an excellent long-term ICT plan including iPads apps from Simon Haughton:
ICT plannign grid for MR P iPad blog post
A couple of the websites that I had looked at conveyed the idea that by using iPads it would be the end of the traditional ICT suite. I was hoping this may be the case, but shortly after experimenting and using the iPads I was soon to realise that not all of the ICT objectives can be met by using iPads. There is definitely a place for laptops and PCs in school especially when it comes to programming and control as there are limited apps to rival the likes of Scratch on Windows.
Therefore I decided that when I cover PPA I wouldn’t cover ICT lessons. I wanted classroom teachers to continue teaching the normal ICT curriculum and I would use my lessons to look at how iPads could enhance learning across the whole curriculum. Most of the children from our school have access to some sort of mobile device at home. From using iPads in the classroom I have found that I am not necessarily teaching the children new skills, however providing them with the opportunity to use this technology in a creative and constructive way.
I have noticed a massive rise in confidence with SEN children. Reluctant writers are more engaged and are given the opportunity to use different skills which they are more confident with. I have found within Literacy that iPads can provide some amazing speaking and listening opportunities. Children who struggle with writing therefore have the chance to express themselves in different ways. Read more about speaking and listening using iPads.
Benefits and impact
The benefits of using iPads in the classroom have been immense. The engagement and focus from children has been overwhelming and they love the opportunity to be creative when showing their understanding in different topics. I feel it is too early for me at this point to comment on the impact as far as results are concerned but for creating motivated and eager classrooms – iPads have become invaluable.  Overall, behaviour has improved immensely within my lessons, children seem to take more ownership of their own work, they are willing to continue learning outside the classroom and children are becoming more independent and focused. Giving the children the opportunity to creatively use this quickly developing technology is crucial in preparing for life in the future. Children are going home, using the apps we have used in school in a more constructive and useful way.  Our school blog has grown immensely with children finding a purpose to write and share their learning.
I have alsochildren using iPad_only ot be used for Mr P ipad blog post noticed a massive rise in confidence with SEN children. Reluctant writers are more engaged and are given the opportunity to use different skills which they are more confident with. I have found within Literacy that iPads can provide some amazing speaking and listening opportunities. Children who struggle with writing therefore have the chance to express themselves in different ways. Click here to read more about speaking and listening using iPads.
Many of the iPad apps, especially in numeracy, are game based which is great to engage children to challenge and compete against themselves and others. It is also useful for children to get instant feedback. Apps such as the Rising Stars Achieve Level 4 Mathematics app, will give children instant feedback after answering a question. Sometimes I find that when children are independently solving calculations they can answer many questions incorrectly without being corrected if the teacher is working with another group. If children are told that an answer is wrong straightaway they are able to check their calculation before moving on, therefore addressing misconceptions within the lesson.
As so many children use these devices out of school, I have recently tried using some of the most popular games as a focus in lessons – the reaction and impact has been unbelievable – read more here.
I have also found it to be an amazing tool for collaborative work. Removing the shackles of computers being fixed in a separate room, iPads can be brought into the classroom, easily moved around, which provides great opportunities for some useful and worthwhile group activities.
What’s next?
My only challenge now is making sure that other staff ‘jump on board’. My main concern is making sure that if I was to go back into the classroom, the iPads would still be used to their maximum potential. I am hoping to use the summer term to team teach with other staff. I want to work in the classroom demonstrating firsthand the opportunities they provide within lessons with the teacher working with me. I am also hoping that we can purchase iPads so that every teacher has one. I feel this is particularly important as teachers need the opportunity to become familiar and confident in using the device themselves. Also staff training and inset will demonstrate how to use the iPads effectively in school. I am hoping to lead this training not only in my school but in other local schools in the North West.
Having the time to really experiment with the use of iPads has been vital in realising their potential.  If I could give any advice to schools it would be not only to invest money in buying iPads, but invest time, training and CPD so that you can use them to their full potential. IPads can transform teaching and learning however this is only possible with creative and innovative teachers willing to plan, research and experiment with them.

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