Just a quick note to highlight the presentation Normanby and Riverdale did at the Baltic Centre in Gateshead today. Apple are taking their leadership events on tour and today’s location was the North East of England. Both heads talked through why we are doing this and why we are doing it in the way that we have. I offered to be the buffer zone today to try and keep the presentation to time so made sure we recapped the key points that the Heads (and two children from each school) had made. One thing that stuck me today was the comment that when technology is introduced into the classroom it is initially disruptive. In the case of our use of iPods it is actually the opposite. That is not to say that it doesn’t change the way that the classroom works (more talk, less teacher input etc etc) but I would argue that the reason we are doing this is that the way classrooms are set up is disruptive to learning. Is a traditional classroom with traditional tools the way that is most productive to learning? Does it actually disrupt the most effective way to work?
Yes I think it does, iPods offer a smoother way of working, a more productive and engaging way of working than what I had to use as a teacher. For example, if a child wanted to know about something pertinent to their work, they would have to go and find a computer to research it or find a book maybe. With an iPod they simply research in their hands. If a child didn’t get a concept that you were demonstrating as a teacher, they needed you to go back over it. With an iPod they could have that demo saved as a video or a screen capture in their hands (what tends to happen more that that is that one child who does get the concept quickly knocks up a video to demo the idea and emails it to the other child).
What was also interesting today was the talk about how interactive whiteboards were a great white elephant that were easily superseded by Apple TV. I don’t think that is true though. I have used Apple TV (or formerly a video lead) quite often when working with the children at Riverdale. It is great, I can show ideas that I want to get across BUT it is no substitute to being able to stand at the board and manipulate ideas directly in a Smart Notebook. It is interesting that the criticism of IWBs is always levelled by speakers at conferences who stand there and use a screen to get an idea across to a whole audience at once (while berating whole class teaching! lol). I have very rarely heard ANY criticism by pupils. They will often complain about teachers who use it as a glorified screen for their power points but I have often heard that children highly value the way that the teacher can take a word, number or picture, stick their finger on it and drag it to where it needs to be, organising ideas, testing hypotheses or whatever. Ideally they value the opportunity to use that facility themselves when explaining they thinking. Yes you can drag and demonstrate via a device, which shows up on a screen but it is more detached, I have seen it many times. Ironically a lot of the reason that we work with personal devices comes from the days when we introduced interactive whiteboards and the focus of the training was “what are the children actually doing”, the implication being that if they all had a personal interactive whiteboard (that would allow manipulation, harvesting and repurposing of ideas) then they would learn more effectively. So I think we need to be careful about simply dismissing “old technology” that was there because we didn’t think clearly enough about why we had it. Some of us thought VERY clearly about why we wanted one and it would be interesting to poll current teachers (especially primary!) about whether they would be happy to get rid of theirs. It is easy to criticise when we aren’t doing that role every day and I would invite anybody to come and work in a classroom alongside me and show me how my use of an interactive whiteboard is not the best way to lead learning (which teachers DO have to do regardless of the guide on the side role that they also take on) at certain points of a lesson.