It has been a busy few weeks in the MFL department at Berkhamsted. We have seen the class sets iPads arrive and everyone in the team has now used them in lessons. I thought it would be a good time to share some initial thoughts about the experience thus far!
Unsurprisingly, the students love them. Some even jump and squeak and clap their hands when they find out it’s an iPad lesson (and that’s just my Year 10 boys…!). I was fairly sure we’d get a positive reception from the students but did have nagging doubts about them viewing the iPads as toys rather than learning tools. On the whole there have been very few niggles and I’m really pleased. I did also wonder if with the speed of technological change iPads would already be old hat and the kids would give them a lukewarm reception. Quite the opposite in fact: the iPad2 still has more than enough cachet to warrant awe from teenagers. Phew!
Students have done some gorgeous digital work with the iPads and I am really pleased with the initial quality of output, especially from some KS3 classes. I am currently looking at the best means of organising a digital showcase of work from the department and will keep you posted. Apps that have been quick wins include Screenchomp, Soundcloud and Google Docs. Staff have noticed with slight frustration that activities on the iPads can take longer than they would in exercise books, but I am sure that this is to do with students having to learn how to use a new tool as much as anything else. Interestingly very few of our students have done more than play around with someone else’s iPad and do not own their own. I can now assuredly say that being Angry Birds pros does not mean they can intuitively do everything they need to in lessons!
My team in MFL have varying levels of confidence with ICT and I have been really pleased with how they have got stuck in. I left things very open and did not set any expectations about how often they should use the iPads. I just put up a shared Google Doc for booking the iPads and let them get on with it.
Result: over two weeks 57 classes were taught across the two sites using iPads.
Being able to teach a lesson in their classrooms with all their usual expectations and resources and adding a layer of technology on top has certainly been rewarding and we are finding the benefits of a hybrid approach to technology: books and paper resources share desk real estate with the iPad very well.
Planning for learning with iPads takes some doing and it has been an important lesson to us all to learn to test out our lesson ideas beforehand. It’s amazing how many websites contain Flash elements, for example. We’ve also had to work out protocols for behaviour, use of the cameras and app signups as we go. There is a lot to think about!
One of my main tools for supporting my team is a private Google site which we use for sharing ideas, resources and feedback. We pass on links to good work which can be used as models for students attempting tasks for the first time. I am posting beginners how-to guides for different apps and we are collaborating on issues and glitches so people can avoid repeatedly falling into the same traps. The site has also become a hub for debate and discussion on the value of ICT and the direction of change for learning with technology.
It’s been a successful start to the project and we are certainly enjoying ourselves whilst being very aware of the steep learning curve. On a personal note is it so easy for edtech enthusiasts like me to sit with an iPad in isolation and enthuse about all the great stuff you could do in classrooms with it. It is another thing altogether to look at your packed scheme of work, your busy schedule, your ICT-cautious team members and actually make the kit part of your teaching landscape every day. In the best possible way, the difference is not to be underestimated!