At the beginning of this week I was lucky enough to have time out with a colleague to visit another school and see their use of iPads and Apple TV. As I’m sure you know, having time out to visit other schools is always great as you see so many different ways of doing things and get loads of new ideas so I was excited. The class teacher had been using iPads in her class for a while, and again was piloting them, but with the new school year she had recently began training a new class of children to use the iPads competently.
The class were year 2 children and they had iPads on a 1:2 basis. Each iPad was assigned to a pair of children with a specific number and they used 2 iTunes accounts to install apps on them and the number labels are colour coded so the teacher knows which two to install any new apps on. This very organised approach makes using the iPads simple. Each morning the iPads are used for morning work, where the children can practise key words, spellings or maths targets, and this is done on a rota basis so in this circumstance they’re used 1:1. As the iPads are assigned to specific children, some of the games monitor their progress e.g. ‘how many key words do they already know and what’s next?’ so each time they can continue building on what they did the time before.
The children then had an opportunity to show off some of their favourite apps. The most popular one in the class was:
Here the teacher reiterated what we hear a lot from iPad users surrounding the intuition of the device. Making the most of a sale app she downloaded it, had a quick play, and thought it might be useful when she had time to work out its full potential. When the children discovered it they quickly worked out how to make the heart beat faster, how to rot its teeth and, of course, how to make it fart and poo! From a learning point of view, they are interacting with several complex body systems and applying what they know to create an outcome. One child confidently told me that if you keep adding cookie to the teeth, over and over, and don’t brush them, eventually, when you do brush them, they will no longer return to exactly how they were.
Other apps that the children were enjoying using ranged from games involving number bonds, to word level games, to virtual Beebots. They also used the smart notebook app effectively during phonics. The smart notebook that the teacher created was uploaded to a dropbox folder and the children would download it at the start of the lesson. Here, they could follow the lesson on their own device, as the teacher was talking, particularly good for those angles in your classroom where the board isn’t easily seen. This also meant that when they got to those slides that was ‘sort these words into the correct sounds’ rather than one child coming up to the board and doing one, then the next etc. they were all able to move the words in their own copy of the notebook.
Before we left, the teacher showed us one last thing – how they would use the iPads during a maths starter and share using Apple TV. She got two groups of children playing a game on the iPad (clearly differentiated) one of which were working on numbers that added together made 10, another which were working at adding two digit numbers. The game involved 4 children gathered around one iPad (I must say there wasn’t a great deal of space with them huddled around it – I can’t imagine what it would be like with year 6 children instead of year 2!) and it was a race to get rid of all your tiles. Whilst they were doing this, the other children were trying to create 4 different pentagon shapes on a virtual pinboard in pairs. Here we witnessed some lovely turn taking with one pair, one girl had the iPad and created her pentagon and then passed it to her partner, her partner then counted all of the sides to check it was a pentagon, agreed, and then created her own. However, I think I would still question what learning the spare partner is doing whilst the other is creating their pentagon, no matter how long/short this is.
After giving the children a few minutes to get started the teacher then starts asking the children to show her what they’ve been doing. Starting with the children on the game, they mirror their screen, using Apple TV, and display it on the whiteboard. Here we can easily watch them playing the game. The children explain to me that they watch to see if the ones playing the game are ‘cheating’ and by this they mean randomly throwing numbers into the middle and sometimes getting them through luck, rather than calculating them. After a while checking in with the two games the teacher then asks some pairs to show their pentagons. They’re then able to discuss which shapes they’ve created are pentagons and are not, how they know, and edit them to amend that.
Overall, the experience was insightful and it left me reflecting on many things surrounding my own ideas with the iPads. The class teacher we visited said she had never found that she wanted 1:1 devices and that 1:2 was fine. I can see in some circumstances this is the case, but I do think with activities such as creating ebooks, or writing a blog post (e.g. using iPads for creation) there are many instances where children working in pairs will not be getting the most out of the learning experience through sharing. That being said, if you know you only have a set of iPads 1:2 then you would make organisational and pedagogical changes to ensure the learning experience was well received for all e.g. rotating children on different activities so that children do get 1:1 time on the iPads. Of course, this relies heavily on the teacher having this understanding, and making this decision, in their planning. For more reflections on iPad distribution and appropriate pedagogy see: iPads – A Reflection on Models of Distribution and Pedagogy.
This week Maths has mainly focussed on assessment so there have been fewer opportunities to use the iPads within lessons. However, on Tuesday I did give the children an opportunity to reflect on having the iPads in class so far – as they have been using the iPads in their lessons most frequently out of the children I teach. There opinions were interesting; some as you’d expect, ‘iPads are fun’ and ‘they help us learn because they’re fun’ focussing very much on superficial aspects of their use. Others were more carefully thought out with an overwhelming focus on the benefits of using Padlet – clearly the most memorable thing we have done on them. You can look at their responses for yourself on the wall below:
This week in R.E. we began the ‘creation’ aspect to our learning (for more details see the: Great R.E. Project post). Last week the children began by researching basic information about the religion they’re studying and this week they were to use that research to illustrate what they’d found. As I was out on Monday, visiting the school about the iPads, I created video tutorials for each of the tools I had intended to use in the lesson. For more information about the progression of the Great R.E. Project, and to see the videos I created see: The Great R.E. Project – Focus 1: Overview of the Religion.
Watching the children using these websites and apps this week really showed the disparity between those who have these devices, or similar, at home and those that don’t. Some children were whizzing through the content, creating as they went and eager for more, whilst others were almost nervous about what they were doing – constantly seeking approval and reassurance. To give them their due, the classes were great at supporting each other and those that didn’t know were aided by those who did. As well as this, the classes were focussed on what they were doing and engaged in learning with minimal reminders needed from me.
Not everything was smooth running though – there were those who felt the frustrations when the browser did not load their page correctly – even though it did when the person next to them did the same thing. There were also those who lost their work through accidental refreshes and then had to begin again who shared the grievance of not using paper – a less fickle medium. All in all, even the experiences of losing work and intermittent technology are valuable learning experiences, and I think that so far the project is working well.
My closing observation, regarding the R.E. project, is the challenge of retrieving children’s work from the iPads. I know this is something that holds back a lot of schools from adopting the iPads as a learning tool and it is an area which I put great thought into prior to beginning the R.E. project. There are the options of Dropbox or Google Drive – applications which I used personally a great deal, or note collating apps such as Evernote, again a very popular suggestion but I have decided to trial Diigo. The reason behind this is that Diigo lets me have a teacher account and then student accounts. With everyone’s information in Dropbox/Google Drive these applications will get full very quickly. As well as this, children can access each other’s work – which although there are pros to, I believe children should be able to choose what they share and when. If I were to create every child an account on these services, not only would it be time consuming, but it would also be difficult for me to access the work they have created so Diigo it is. This week we did not upload our work as, with still mastering basic iPad skills, I decided it would be best for another week.
If you have been following these weekly iPad updates you will remember that last week my class wrote some fantastic descriptions. This week I wanted to work on developing those descriptions and modelling the editing process. Like many other classes, my class find checking their own work an almost impossible task. I give them checklists to help them focus on what they’re looking for, and they have worked really hard at improving their skills, but all in all they will still hand in work which has words missing or doesn’t quite make sense. This reminded me of something which was mentioned in our INSET at the beginning of the year called ‘Talking to Trees’. This is where the children, upon completing a piece of work, would venture outside and read their work aloud to a tree. As you can imagine the process of reading the work aloud made highlighting inaccuracies with tense and missing words much more apparent and the children benefitted greatly from it. Now, on this wet and miserable October day talking to the trees wasn’t the best solution and the children were too self conscious to do it to, for example tables, in such a small area as my classroom. So i gave them an iPad.
Talking to iPads, you say? I don’t see why that would be any different to talking to tables, you say? Well, using Audioboo the children found a space – whatever was comfortable, no stress about sitting at desks and facing the front, and read their description aloud to the iPad. I will admit it now. It did get a bit noisy but the children did their best to speak in a clear voice, without extreme volume and to find a space suitably far away from the other children whilst still being in the limits of my classroom. This time, not only did they get the experience of talking to trees, and saying their work aloud, but they were able to play it back and listen to themselves (when they weren’t concentrating on reading as well!). Are we allowed to edit what we’ve written in our books? I was asked. Well, yes! As well as this we now have audio files that we can share with other people and they could proudly show to their peers allowing for peer assessment.
You can hear a selection of the descriptions below:
Overall this week has given me an opportunity to see how other people use iPads effectively, to see how the children view the benefits of the iPads and to begin to consider their longterm impact in school. Writing this has also produced a number of different avenues in my thinking which I will develop further in separate posts.