iPads – A Reflection on Models of Distribution and Pedagogy

I was going to include these thoughts as part of my weekly reflection about using iPads in the classroom but the further my mind delved the more distant I seemed to get from the basic pedagogy which I was trying to record in those weekly posts. Hence the post of its own. If you are interested in seeing how I used the iPads in class for week 4, please look here: 1:1 iPad – Week 4: Reflecting.


The iPads I have been given are as a trial, to ensure they are distributed, and implemented, in the best possible way to enhance learning opportunities. At the end of the trial (around Christmas time) I will feedback the best possible approach to managing them as a year 5/6 team. There are 33 in total and will be available across the 4 classes, however, we do not yet know in what form. Possible considerations:

  1. 1:1 or 1:2 – two classes could use them at the same time with a sharing model
  2. Half term each – each class has the iPads 1:1 for an entire half term all day every day
  3. Timetabled for a specific day – one class has them Mondays, another Tuesdays etc.
  4. Editable lesson to lesson timetable – classes ‘book’ the iPads to suit the lessons they are delivering

My thoughts surrounding this are completely split, obviously there are pros and cons of each. Seeing how long it has taken to desensitise the children I have been working with – I think any model that sporadically uses them will find learning can be hindered by the excitement of having the iPads out. I would be interested in anyone else’s opinions on what works and what hasn’t worked.

1:1 or 1:2
Whilst I think this model is probably one of the most effective to ensure ease of access and desensitisation it is still not an all out solution. We have 33 iPads and 4 classes so it would be 1:4 if we were to split them that way. I think most people would agree that a 1:4 ratio would not be conducive to 90% of learning opportunities.

Half term each
This model would mean that the children could have the full iPad experience, learning to use the tool when they needed, not just because they had one. However, having half a term each with the iPads seems like a cruel way of doing it – it’s like saying ‘you know this thing that helped you learn loads last term, you can’t have that now.’

Timetabled for a specific day
With a specific day model – what if the lesson you are delivering on Tuesday will really benefit from the iPads but whatever you will do on your day will not. I know there are those that will argue, plan the lesson on the day you have the iPads to best benefit the use of iPads, but there are some things that just don’t suit iPad use.

Editable lesson to lesson timetable
My biggest nervousness surrounds this option as I feel that if this was the model adopted the iPads would become used just as an easy way to access the internet in which case, you may as well use cheap netbooks which are designed better for simple tasks like that. Knowing how much re-planning I have had to do in order to ensure that the iPads are an integral part of learning, utilising the full advantages of the device, creating learning activities that you would not be able to do on other non-mobile devices, a model where you pick them up for one lesson and not for others seems the most convenient but the model with the easiest floors.

Pedagogy and Implementation

Since having the iPads I have read lots of blogposts and had lots of conversations with people about apps. I have also received a lot of warnings about going ‘App Mad’ and getting carried away. I find this incredibly interesting as we never had the same conversations about computer software. I think the difference here, as the teacher I visited earlier this week said: thousands of new apps are created everyday, how do you keep up? How do you know what is good and what is not? Especially if you’re having to pay for it. It seems almost impossible to make those decisions and I think the key is just to speak to other teachers – what are they doing/using?

This leads me on to iPad games. I think iPad educational games are great. If your kids are going to play games on the iPad – why not make them educational? It’s great that children can be learning their timestables, number bonds, key words or something else and not realise they’re learning. However, I become dubious when games are used as lessons. They’re fine as 10 minutes of morning work, or as a lesson starter; reminding the children of a concept and awakening their mind but I think people need to remember what they are – low level basic cognitive learning. Action = Response.

If we consider Bloom’s Taxonomy as a model for learning then of course there is a necessity for the Knowledge and Comprehension levels before progressing to Application and Analysis. Nevertheless, I am not convinced that children make the link between Knowledge and Comprehension just through the games, let alone progressing higher. Focusing particularly on children who find learning challenging, when I have watched them, they frequently guess at answers with no attempt to work it out for themselves. Sometimes they get it right, sometimes they don’t, but overall they get a fair score with next to no understanding of the task they’re carrying out. Of course, the teacher’s job in this scenario is to encourage them to play properly but with the pull of other levels and rewards for completing the games I don’t feel the intrinsic motivation to learn that concept is there. At the end of the lesson it then can appear that the children have understood the concept and are ready to move on to Application and Analysis whereas really they’re just conditioned to perform a response based on certain stimuli. ‘If it says this… do this’ ‘Why?’ ‘Because then you can go on to the next level’

There are, of course, teacher’s who use iPad games effectively in lessons through a mixture of questioning and follow up activities they are able to build on that initial Knowledge and Comprehension phase and progress the children to Analysis and Application. These teachers are those who are able to use other games in the classroom and pull out the engagement as well as the learning without letting the children get distracted by the process of the game. Without clear planning though, this delicate balance would not hold.

When I am planning lessons which utilise the iPads I try to ensure I am reaching one of the upper level skills such as Applying, Creating or Evaluating. For this to happen the basic skills have to be in place, the Knowledge and Understanding levels, and from there I can use the iPads to extend learning. Apps like ShowMe are perfect for this – they have the basic levels and they’re now beginning to break it down to present it to others. This is also where the focus for the Great R.E. project comes from – using apps for Creation.

What I have found useful when thinking about lessons is the iPad Pedagogy wheel utilising Blooms Taxonomy:

The Padagogy Wheel by Allan Carrington

The Padagogy Wheel by Allan Carrington

The Padagogy Wheel by Allan Carrington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at http://tinyurl.com/bloomsblog.

iPads replacing Laptops/PCs

One final thing I have been asked to consider is whether iPads can replace the class set of laptops. As a school that uses Macs it costs a lot of money to replace a class set of 32 Macbooks. iPads are of course a cheaper option but they can by no means do the full range of activities that a Macbook can do. For example, I have recently planned a scheme of work using Sketchup (formerly Google Sketchup) where children create a 3D model of a Tudor style house – you wouldn’t be able to complete this work on an iPad. There is no app for Sketchup and it is not web based. You may be able to find an alternative app that does similar things but it would take time to find it, test it and ensure it had the full capabilities whereas Sketchup is a tried and tested piece of software used by many teachers previously.

I also don’t personally believe, that you should be able to complete the same lessons on iPads and Macbooks. If you’re utilising both machines to their full capabilities then you should not be able to take planning from one device and apply it to another. Both devices are unique and have their own place in the Primary curriculum (as in my opinion do devices such as the Raspberry Pi) but they are not exchangeable and needed to be used in balance like a tag team.

2 Comments [Add Yours]

  • Daniel Harvey

    November 3, 2013 7:17 am

    I agree that iPads are not a substitution for computers. There are clearly some things best suited to MAC/PC - data handling for definite - but there are some things we use a MAC/PC for that can be replaced - working with images, text, presentations and video. This can free up the use of computers for other things.

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