Being an iPad 1:1 school makes us think differently about learning. We have placed in the hands of our pupils a powerful tool which in the wider world is transforming all our lives in intended and unintended ways. For me the greatest challenge is understanding the transformative affect on our school community and what this means for all our learners, both pupils and teachers.
As a school with pupils aged 3-18, assessing the impact of digital learning is a nuanced process which needs to take account of the rate of normalisation of mobile devices as a learning tool. Our younger learners’ interaction with iPads is quite different I believe from the interaction demonstrated by our older pupils. Four year olds working together to create iMovies about selling toys or nine year olds literally spilling out into the corridors to find a personal space to use the app Explain Everything to review their creation of carousels in the Design lesson – for them the iPad manifestly is a powerful tool which offers enriched opportunities for learning. What is particularly striking is how this tool serves to make learning inherently collaborative with children willingly contributing and helping, and how it unlocks creativity because there is no predetermined outcome.
Our older learners are relatively late adopters – after all iPads have only existed for half their lives! It is interesting how at Key Stage 3 there is a willingness on the part of students and staff to allow a more free-form relationship with the device. With no public examinations to cloud the learning vista, teachers have been readier to engage with the device exploring the potential for transformation of learning opportunities and outcome in their subject area. GarageBand in music, iAnimate across a range of subjects for example. The opportunities offered by iTunes U now offers an excellent platform for curating a diverse range of resources which support learning in the critical examination years – an enormously versatile platform which shares links familiar to the older iPad learner.
Our teachers as learners are absolutely critical in the integration of iPads as a learning tool. However, it is also critical that they use the most appropriate approach with the students to achieve the best learning outcomes. As part of our staff professional development and to support sharing of best practice, we have asked teachers to reflect on their pedagogy and the learning of their students. This is not just confined to digital learning. The teachers’ initial thoughts can be found in our learning website:
Our learning community has come a long way very quickly. Yet to the forefront of our thoughts are the individual students who come to school everyday – are we offering them an education preparing them for the lives they will lead? Inviting the digital world in to our school is integral to this thinking. However, in an age of doubt and uncertainty, the vital importance of encouraging a strong and balanced sense of self and the capacity to think differently are the critical underpinning of our learning ethos. Without this, technology is a driver rather than a facilitator. So whilst welcoming iPads with open arms, our purpose remains constant – we embrace them as part of a holistic approach to learning where the student is very much in control and where we encourage our learners to think differently.