In my last blog, I outlined the plan I put together to integrate I Pads into the teaching and learning process at my school. After running a pilot programme over the last half term, I can now reflect on the progress made.
Using the tablets on a regular basis has thrown up a number of technical questions that have needed to be answered before they are more widely used in school. In addition, I have encountered many classroom management issues that I can now share with staff to help them facilitate the most efficient use of this new technology.
One particular success has been the simple step taken to identify each tablet with a number, and keep a register of users. This has reduced problems of work flow, and has enabled students to easily access all saved work. It has also meant that any misuse has been quickly traced and dealt with. Students have also responded well to the customised covers printed in school colours.
We are still experimenting with ‘hard’ protective covers – especially for times when the tablets are taken outside. Students find them a bit cumbersome, and there is obviously considerable extra expense afoot should we eventually decide to buy some in. I have invested in a few ‘hand grips’ which have proved popular – especially with younger students, as well as with all students working outside.
I was rather surprised by how quickly the tablet screens became smudged by student fingerprints! We decided to invest in some decent cleaning cloths, and incorporated a bit of housekeeping as part of the lesson management guidelines.
Apple TV has been a massive success – offering tremendous scope for instant feedback from students (particularly through the Socrative app) and also to enable students to display their work on the screen and be assessed by their peers. When tablets become more widely used in school, I am sure this will be one of the first purchases for departments.
Before we signed the cheque for our new tablets, we spent a long time planning how we would manage them in terms of installing apps, synchronisation, updates and so on. We now use a management system called ‘Meraki’ which makes this a relatively simple operation. This software has eased the workload of our ICT manager, and given us a confident feeling of being master of our system rather than a slave to it.
When we first purchased our tablets, we bought in some technical support to help get things started. This was really money well spent, and we would certainly not have hit the ground running so quickly without this. I can highly recommend the service provided by Sanjesh (Sonny) Sharma and Matt Buxton from ‘New Ways To Learn’ – www.newwaystolearn.com
Well worth a follow on Twitter – @sanjeshsharma @mattbuxton10 @newways2learn
They worked with great skill, attention to detail and humour to set up our tablets from scratch, install our Meraki management system, walk us through Apple’s Volume Purchasing programme for apps, install Apple TV, and connect our printers.
Sonny also provided some excellent ideas and tips on how to use the I Pads creatively with students.
Getting our tablets to talk to our networked printers was the only real technical issue that we have yet to resolve satisfactorily. We have successful connections with a number of print stations – just not in the room where the tablets are used most! A new wireless printer will be ordered next year, but I have not been too bothered by this, as students’ work is easily accessed via Dropbox throughout the school. As tablets increase in number and use, there will be less need for printed materials anyway.
We quickly discovered that available memory space gets reduced very quickly when the tablets are in regular use – especially when a lot of video footage is being recorded. We soon found that cloud storage was an essential requirement, and setting up a school Dropbox account with sub folders for individual subjects and classes has made the management of work flow pretty simple. However, with just 16 Gb of memory on each tablet, it has become essential to regularly clear unwanted student work as a part of classroom management routines. I have a feeling we will in the future quickly outgrow Dropbox, and am currently looking at other cloud storage systems that offer far greater available memory space.
One issue I did not anticipate was the need to monitor the use of the excellent cameras in the I Pad. With students working independently to collect photos and film of their peers at work, they often inadvertently took images of individuals who have not given permission for their photos to be used in the public domain. I had to be really careful that these photos did not appear on our VLE or on the web, and a list of these students was added to our management protocols.
As part of our initial set up procedure, I identified a suite of generic apps that could be used creatively across all subject areas – this list can be downloaded from the previous blog. From this list, the most popular apps have been I Movie (the number one ‘killer’ app on the I Pad), Explain Everything, and Show Me. So far, the most successful lessons have adopted the following themes:
- Affective mapping of the school – year eight students identified areas of the school they felt safe, secure and happy, as well as those they felt other emotions. They collected data in the form of photos (which they later annotated), video, narration and interviews. They then used ‘Explain Everything’ to present their results to the school council.
- School travel plan – year nine students used the I Pads in the town to examine traffic issues – again using Explain Everything to bring together their mapped data with photo and video evidence, interviews etc
- Designing new T shirts and trainers – year eight students used ‘123D Sculpt’ to design new fashion items as part of a section of work looking at Nike and globalisation. They then advertised their products using I Movie or other apps of their choice.
- Shakespeare’s ‘Tempest’ was re-written by year seven students for a younger audience using ‘Comic Life’ and ‘Puppet Pals HD’.
- Volcano news reports – year nine students researched and wrote news scripts describing volcanic eruptions. They then filmed themselves using the ‘FX Greenscreen’ and ‘Autocue’ apps and dropped them into I Movies to edit.
I have found it very helpful to seek support with classroom ideas at this early stage, and I have been given great support from Sonny Sharma, as previously mentioned. Our students have also benefited from a number of visits from Neil Atkin from the Institue of Physics, who has been inspirational and creative with his practical workshops, and ways of using I pads to help record individual learning journeys. Follow him on Twitter at @natkin
Perhaps the best hour I have spent on training in recent years was an ‘Apple In An Hour’ course delivered by Apple Distinguished Educator Neil Emery. He provided a wealth of information about classroom applications and operational tips, and I would heartily recommend him for a high impact training session to inspire staff to explore the potential of tablets in their lessons.
Neil can be contacted via twitter at @neilemerydotcom – or through his company ‘Trilby’ at http://www.trilby.com
Staff have shown a genuine enthusiasm for the project, and have attended voluntary sessions to develop their skills. Subject areas are purchasing their own I Pads to help them become acquainted with the software, and I hope next year they will consider devoting some of their budget to investing in tablet sets of their own.
The students have given tremendously positive feedback about their I Pad lessons, and I have been blown away by some of the creativity that has been demonstrated. Many have signed up as ‘Digital Leaders’ who meet weekly to work with the tablets. They have selected specific apps to explore, and as they develop their expertise, they will pass this on to other students and also to the staff. The digital team have also taken on a management role, helping to clean the tablets, audit the camera rolls, and manage the Dropbox folders.
I now have the time to reflect fully on the journey so far, and plan for next September. I am really pleased with the progress made, and am confident that the I Pads will play a major role in providing exciting creative opportunities for our learners in the future.
I would be happy to share my experiences in more detail with any colleagues in a similar position, introducing tablets into the learning structure of their school. There must be a mass of teachers out there who see the potential of this technology in their lessons, and have a desire to collaborate to share ideas and good practice. Get in touch!