20 Jul

A year using iPads – Reflection!

So.. After a year of working with iPads in the classroom what have we learnt?

It’s fair to say that they have been a success.

The iPads have become indispensable to school life, used by all staff for all kinds of things. Video projects, reading projects, writing projects as well as the ‘usual’ apps and internet research. Children enjoy using them, and we are beginning to have a real account of school life through video, pictures and blogs. We have been able to run Skype sessions very easily, and to evidence all kinds of lessons.

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1. Teachers can be incredibly creative!!

Once practical issues were sorted out the teachers began to use iPads for so much more than Internet research. Creating video, reading books and updating blogs. As the teachers became used to and confident with the technology they began to do more with it. This was brilliant to see and surpassed my expectations!! There is no need for everyone to be ‘expert’..

2. Less is more..

The first thing I do when starting at a school with iPads is limit all the apps! It’s easy to fill the iPads with one-time use or free apps and they quickly become unmanageable. Limiting the apps means that the pedagogical use can be explored. Those five apps I identified at the beginning are still the most popular!

3. You need a good system to share them..

For most schools 1:1 iPads are not feasible. Ideally the iPads would live in the classrooms, but if you need to share ensure the whole school knows how it works! Biggest problem I had was teachers ‘keeping’ one for individual projects.. So, at one of the schools I got the teachers their iPads first.

4. Be clear about their use, and model this!

We needed to make sure all staff and children are clear as to why we have iPads, and the possibilities. Run staff meetings where they are used – for one staff meeting each year group had to create a video reviewing the new curriculum. Share with parents at coffee mornings, so that they are aware of the technology their children are using.

For the future I will ensure that all teachers have access to a classroom iPad, recent changes to the curriculum have meant that more technology in classrooms will be a must!

It will be great to see what the teachers make of the technology next year..

16 Jul

Designing a New Curriculum

I’m currently in the process of developing the curriculum at the schools where I work and have decided to take an easy view next year and let staff experiment with some key activities and software.

It’s worth mentioning that I have made some very deliberate decisions:

  • Limit the number of apps on school iPads
  • Let teachers use their own iTunes accounts to experiment
  • Have a range of software – including the bought into 2Simple range
  • Allow staff to experiment with ‘coding’ and developing as much as possible.

The result have been these sheets – which will be reviewed with staff at the end of the first half term. The objectives have been roughly spread out for Key Stage coverage. Activities and apps represent software and apps that the staff will be familiar with. They are limited. Hopefully by the end of Autumn term we will be able to add to these with ideas that have worked within the individual topics and classrooms that the staff are doing.

Feel free to take these, I would love to know if they are at all useful however!

 

 

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It’s worth pointing out here that I recognise the limitation of using such documents, whole school Inset, the use of Digital Leaders and the support from Senior Staff will all be needed. Recommending a year 3 class play with 2Simple is not enough to get a new curriculum going! However I hope this will be a springboard for staff to realise that there is a new language, new expectations and a different approach to ICT.

07 Jul

Using Me Books in the Classroom

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Being asked to try apps and ideas in school is always fun, but it’s rare that it works so well in the classroom… Me Books, by developer Made in Me has fitted in beautifully!

First of all, as I have discussed on this site, a big focus this year has been on reading, and particularly Guided Reading – see here for more information. The focus for us has been on the response to texts, children creating content and demonstrating their understanding. The iPad is a brilliant tool for that, allowing the children to choose a number of ways to respond to a tasks in creative and collaborative ways.

However accessing quality texts (whole books) and reading for pleasure is not so easy. Teachers can be put off by the sheer choice (and rubbish) on the iBook store, and pupils are not impressed by badly written or dull looking books. Conversely some of the interactive book apps, which I’ve written about here can be too exciting for independent work during sessions – too distracting!

Enter MeBooks – and what looks like a standard shelf app becomes a very useful tool for exploring and creating. As a declaration of interest here, I should mention that I have been given several free accounts to use from Me Books, and have shared these with the teachers I work with.

The app lets you download a book to individual iPads with seperate accounts. For the purpose of this project we were allowed multiple downloads to each account, and I know the developers are currently looking at straightforward ‘paper based’ ways school can order books for their accounts, so you can order 20 copies of the same book for your iPads for example.

The beauty of the app though is within the narration – and the sound ‘buttons’ – take a look at this screenshot.

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Those red splodges are in fact sound bubbles, which means that when these areas are tapped an appropiate sound is played. Also allowing the children to have a go at creating their own sound effects. These ‘custom’ versions can then be saved, alongside the original book. The original narration is usually beautifully acted (often by a recogniseable actor!) and really brings the books to life. The illustrations are normally faithful to the book – and yes that is a Ladybird Classic you see on the header image!

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The ability to record your own words and to choose where to place sound effects has a few surprising effects in the classroom. As you would expect there is a lot of fun to be had – give the children a purpose and it becomes about voice and audience. Ask them to record a version for the younger years and you have them working in groups to entertain, listening back to the clarity and checking their expression!

Then take this screenshot – here there are a number of characters. What are they thinking? Well exactly, the pupils can quite literally give the characters a voice. They have plenty of fun putting themselves into the characters shoes. Thinking about what is happening in the story, demonstrating understanding, asking questions and characterisation.

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Me Books has fitted in very well with our guided reading session at our schools, but it has also been a hit at other times. The Digital Leaders for examples, have really enjoyed recording their own versions of stories and sharing them with the younger children. They even created a mini guide to the app – take a look at their work here. I have started a project with some parents, looking at how they could offer some narrative in a native language, again giving the children a voice.

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Follow @me_books on Twitter for more information!