Back in 2011 there was chatter in our school about the potential of the iPad as a tool for learning. This ranged from a full scale, full steam ahead approach to rolling out the iPad, to full blown, full on hostility to a device which was but a passing phase in the fast changing world of technology. Introducing the iPad into our school was certainly not a “no brainer”.
However, after a trial year, it was agreed that the iPad offered as yet unknown opportunities for transforming the learning environment. And looking back at the baby steps we took when it was difficult to feel confident about the Pandora’s Box opened by the device, I can but rejoice that we made the decision to become a 1:1 iPad school in the senior school and subsequently the sixth form with classroom use in the pre-prep and junior schools. The appointment this academic year of Daniel Edwards as Director of Innovation and Learning (@syded06) has provided the focussed leadership to move our school forward as a truly digital school.
Yet the adoption of a digital device is about more than putting a shiny bit of kit into the hands of an enthusiastic teenager. We are learning at an exponential pace that digital learning challenges conventional perceptions of pedagogy and, its inevitable corollary, learning spaces. There are many iPad gurus out there who proselytise about the power of the device. My experience is that the iPad has made teachers think about their practice. Different teachers from different subject areas have engaged with the debate about whether the iPad transforms learning. Whatever the outcome of these discussions, it has to be positive that improving teaching and learning is at the heart of what we do.
For me, the greatest challenge professionally is re-thinking learning spaces. Why? Any school which carries on regardless in a digital environment is missing an opportunity to create an extraordinary learning environment. Our school has already begun this journey. The opportunity to review the role of a library has resulted in inspirational learning spaces in the junior and senior schools where the concept of the library is far more than as a repository of books. As we look to develop the senior school learning spaces, the potential for creating the most extraordinary learning environment underpinned by digital technology is truly exciting.
I am acutely conscious that there are schools in this country and around the world which view the physical environment of a school as integral to learning. For these schools, the classroom as a box has long since been obsolete. As a digital school, it behoves us to ensure that the learning space inhabited by teachers and students works seamlessly with the digital learning environment. As we reconceive our school, we embark on a journey which is about grappling with unknowns. There is no obvious road map but our commitment to creating the best possible school makes me confident that together we shall achieve something special. An education fit for tomorrow.