I have been lucky enough to be given a 1:1 set of iPad minis for use within my class this half term(ish) for the purpose of trialling them and finding out what works and what doesn’t work. From here the school can then make an informed decision about how iPads impact on learning and whether to invest in more or look at other options. I thought I would try my best to blog about what we have been up to and how it is going.
The children were introduced to the iPads last Thursday for the first time, it was during this time that we discussed ‘rules’ and expectations. The list we came up with conveniently covered similar things to the Teacher’s Pet iPad rules poster so we have used these to display in the classroom and remind ourselves! Since then I left myself the weekend to plan effective ways they can assist my curriculum delivery over the next week.
In terms of organisation I have appointed 2 iPad Monitors who come into school 5 minutes early each day and with my TA unlock them from the cupboard and into storage boxes (these are then locked in a cupboard in my classroom if I leave my classroom during the day). They then go out with the TA and put the iPads away again 10 minutes before the end of the day. We have protective cases on them and a charging trolley so it does take a little while to put them away: it’s a small socket to aim for, with a rubber case surrounding it, for each iPad – quite fiddly!
I had hoped to have access to apps this week – specifically a QR Code reader, but unfortunately the school technician is still registering them for the Apple Volume Purchase Program and setting up the unique IDs for each device! Therefore, for this week we have only had the apps which the iPads natively come with. I could have abandoned ship for this week and resumed next week, however, I really wanted this week to be about desensitising the children to the iPads. The focus was on calming some of the excitement that comes with using technology which they may not have previously had access to so we can use it as a useful learning tool.
I have largely focussed this week on using the iPads as a form of communication for the children across the class – sharing their learning with each other and me so we can view everyone’s work and not just the 2 or 3 who might get selected using other pedagogy such as lollysticks. Without the assistance of apps I needed a web based platform and decided to use Padlet.
I have a top ability year 5/6 maths set and have a keen focus on developing their problem solving approaches including clearly explaining their strategy. Using the NRich Starter Problems I gave the children the task of playing the game, discussing their ideas and approaches with a partner and then sharing those ideas with each other using Padlet. Here is the wall they created:
As you can see we had some teething problems particularly with organisation. As the iPad mini screens are relatively small a lot of posts were appearing on top of each other. As well as this, to edit the posts you hover over it and then click edit, as the iPad doesn’t have a ‘hover’ option, you’re having to click which opens the post. This can be rectified but we haven’t found a consistent way of doing it so most of the students just created new posts and left their old ones there.
In terms of teaching, the ideas posted helped our discussion on the strategies although the sharing took longer than I would normally want to spend and the technical issues meant we didn’t get as much out of it as I think we could. We did discuss their role in making the wall a useable space and how they could help to keep it tidy in the future as well as creating their own post.
The next lesson we tried again, I gave them the same activity but asked them to refine their strategies and challenged them to create a strategy which allowed them to win the game every time. This was their wall this time:
You can see that their layout has improved – although there’s still a long way to go! This time the children were quicker at uploading their posts but they were excitedly refreshing and watching other people’s posts appear rather than focussing on their content and the content of others. With some refocussing on my part, they did turn it around and discuss each others but they needed prompting.
Wednesday is my PPA morning and as I hadn’t had a chance to discuss the iPads with the cover teacher I didn’t plan them in this day. Apparently the class did ask why they weren’t getting to use them but they managed to survive! On Thursday they were once again eager to get the iPads out and this time I attempted to use them to check their understanding of number properties and then as a peer Q&A for any problems they had on their independent task whilst I pre-tutored a group for the subsequent lesson.
This time I set the wall to stream, after the recommendation from another teacher that this would solve the problem of posts overlapping. You can see what happened here:
If you scroll right down to the bottom of the wall you will see that the use of the wall for my to assess the children’s understanding of number properties began well, however, I do not feel the Q&A session was useful. I had previously discussed with the children not asking for an answer, but asking how to work out an answer – something that they do all the time when discussing with their learning partners, yet in this digital case that is not what was happening. Children spent so long trying to find things to share and reply to that they did not focus on their work and therefore learning was compromised. I discussed this with the children at the end of the lesson, they didn’t agree about the learning but did say they think they did less work because of it.
Finally, Friday is our investigation day where 4 members of the class are ‘teachers’ (the ones who were pre-taught yesterday) and help the rest of the class through questioning. The children began the lesson (iPad free at this point) and began working through the problem. So far through the year we have worked hard to improve our use of learning partners, and talk, to help us with the problem solving process. Last week we had a real break through where there was a ‘buzz’ in the air from so much problem solving talk and there was some clear discussions. At the end of the lesson many of the children reported that their learning had been surrounding the advantages of using their learning partner to talk through a problem. However, starting this lesson the first thing I noticed was a subdued quiet. I tried reminding the children of the benefits of talk but they just asked if they could do it on the iPads! The iPads meant the children had forgotten to talk to each other, ahhh!
After about 15 minutes I stopped the children and asked them to take a photo of their whiteboards and post it on Padlet. You can see these if you scroll to the bottom of the wall here:
Once these photos were uploaded I stopped the children again. Here I reminded them of the use of talk and how it had helped previously. I forbade them to continue with their problems but instead they had to look at other people’s boards and think of what they had done well and what they needed to improve. I would then lollystick them to share their thoughts and discussions with the rest of the class. This was just the right balance to send the class into a flurry of activity, they were able to discuss a range of approaches to being systematic and ordering their workings and we were then able to share a few examples as well! I felt that this was a really positive use of the iPads and the correct balance with talk, unlike the previous lesson. At the end of the lesson they also left me a quick message sharing what they had learned.
In my school I teach R.E. across the whole of year 5 and 6 which means 4 times a week! We have 45 minute sessions and the children had already told me that they found R.E. uninteresting due to a lot of repeated content and dull lessons.
This led me to the idea of focussing the iPads on a 1:1 flipped learning style project for R.E. spicing it up and hopefully showing the children how interesting R.E. can be! You can find a more detailed explanation of the R.E. project here: http://swaygrantham.co.uk/the-great-r-e-project/.
As 3 of these classes had not previously used the iPads this week was again about discussing the rules of expectations as well as letting them explore the iPads. I got them to use Safari and the BBC Religion website and Padlet to find interesting facts and share them with others in their group. You can see the wall here:
In future weeks I hope to utilise a range of apps and web tools in this unit.
So far this week outside of the above subjects the ICT have been used as a means of accessing the internet in a timely and simple manor. The iPads worked well in this instance and the kids were very quick to accept them and use them. Interestingly, many tried to write the URL in the search bar and did not know the difference between the address bar and the search bar.
So far I think we have made a good start with introducing the iPads. The systems which we have in place seem a good way to continue for now and the children have taken to using them well. Hopefully by next week we will have access to the app store and I will be able to being purchasing free apps to improve the user experience and time wasted.