Look no hands….well, wires anyway!

I have written previously on this blog about my shift to using iPads for film making over and above movie cameras. Working from the I2L Centre means that we often do have groups here to use high end cameras and explore film making in some detail. However, a lot of the students who come here for a ‘movie day” have had little previous experience of camera use or film production. I have found the use of iMovie invaluable for this is it scaffolds some of the technical process without getting in the way of camera techniques.

For example, we had a fantastic group of Y8 and 9 students a week or two back who wanted to do a film making day, they had done very little previously. I wanted them to activate the implicit understanding of how a film is shot by making it explicit through choice of shot. By using the trailer option in iMovie they were able to do just that. The scaffold of the shot length (and suggested focus) along with pre-designed titles and audio meant that the students only concern was to ensure that the shots were strung together coherently (basic storyboarding) and shot appropriately (choice of shot). The camera on the iPad minis that they used is plenty good enough to allow the students to explore this. Purists would of course argue that there is little option to zoom, properly tilt and pan etc etc etc but that is not the point at this stage in my opinion. This example is typical of their first attempts:

You can see that it immediately draws of genre pointers in the scaffold but also I asked them to think very carefully about choice of shot, distance to the subject, what is included etc. They are clearly drawing on their own understanding of what the film needed to include.
Once they had successfully made their trailers (and watched them), I took the straightjacket off. The afternoon task was to make a new movie in iMovie (as a project) with a vague title of “The Arrival”. Some groups changed this slightly but stuck to the theme:

We had talked at length when reviewing their trailer work about use of light and lack of vision for the audience and this group took that forward into their final piece. I had also used the opening sequence from Once Upon a Time in the West as a stimulus to the task and you can see the Leone-esque style they have applied to aspect of this.

Taking the idea of “gore looks rubbish on a budget” even further the following group went for a less is more approach. There are one or two dodgy sound effects in here but the choice of shot and grammar of the piece hangs together pretty well for the genre:

And finally we see the most abstract offering from one group. I was incredibly impressed that instead of following the crowd and the obvious story for the title, they took a completely different approach:

The shots were simply framed and really their film from that point of view has little to focus analysis on but the concept here is everything and I liked the fact that they went so bold on what they decided to do.

So what can I draw from the experience? The lack of scrabbling around for the correct lead to put the captured images onto a “proper computer” is a massive help and the quality of the images is absolutely fine for the tasks that they were doing. Comments from the students tended to follow this one “this is the best day at school ever”. I don’t think it is simply because they were having fun (but they were as it happens). There were moments during the day when the pressure was on o get their video finished and shots were not working as they had intended. They had to problem solve where shots needed to “look and feel” a particular way and they could not simply work alone, everything was based around team work. They have now had an excellent grounding in getting a film made, encountering some of the common problems that crop up in the filming stage. They are now ready to go back to the process and start to storyboard more closely, look at film genres to explore using stylistic techniques in their own work and improve their awareness of how a script contributes to the piece. They can do most of that on an iPad or maybe explore actual use of “proper” cameras but the experience that they have had so far has given them a flying start and I would argue is plenty good enough quality to be of use across any subject, not just Media:

A new way of thinking….are we flipping crazy?

ibooks_authorThere has been a lot of discussion in recent months about the concept of the flipped classroom. I listened to Microsoft’s view of it today at the launch of their 365 service. The idea is that the teacher removes themselves as the barrier between the students and the “learning”, taking more of a support role as issues occur. I have some fundamental issues with this “new” concept.

Really good teachers have always had the flexibility to both lead learning and work in a support role. Even bound by the constraints of the curriculum and expectations such as the Literacy Hour I would be very confident in saying that the flipped classroom has been alive and well but maybe just considered part of good practice  without rearing its head as a “technique” for many years. I will give an example.

I started teaching the year that the Literacy Strategy was introduced. Although a young and inexperienced teacher, I quickly realised that binding children to such time limited, and teacher support limited, activities did not help the vast majority of children to enjoy their literacy lessons. Furthermore it made it almost impossible to be creative with teaching approaches. If children were really into a fantastic piece of writing, possibly inspired by a film clip  or an interesting international event then the structure stopped them dead in their tracks. Its aims were good, to ensure rigour and progression in what was taught but it went about it in completely the wrong way. My first school had a very strong Headteacher, Phillip McElwee, and he made it clear that he backed us all to use our own professional judgment to vary our approaches in response to the children. Sometimes direct teaching is really useful and sometimes giving children the materials (which are often teacher created or selected anyway to scaffold the learning) and supporting them through their work.

The use of devices has radically altered what is possible in this way. Access to materials is the most obvious factor as a million learning opportunities can sit in the palm of every student’s hand. Fantastic? Hmmm it can be, but I am reminded of my science tutor when I was training to be a teacher. He made the point that you can ask students to do lots of experiments to “discover” things that can easily be explained in about five minutes. Do children always need to have gone through the processes that the discoverers of oxygen or the laws of gravity to say that they have learned it? There is a balance, of course their is but if we look at the Lavoisier example from a constructivist view of how we learn then the place of the experimental “proof” maybe changes. Explaining the theory around what oxygen is, telling the story of its discovery, gives the students a mental construct of what they are looking at so when they do the experiment it has somewhere to “fit”. doing the experiment first places far more of a strain on the process of assimilation as there may be no mental framework in which it sits easily. Does that produce deeper learning as students want to know more or does it simply disinterest the student as not fitting their experience or even fit in with an incorrect understanding as enough facts of the phenomena are consistent.

 

This may seem a very technical argument but it is at the crux of flipped classroom concept. Simply saying to students “here’s the stuff, get on with it, yell when you are stuck” potentially leads to that situation. This is exacerbated if the students entirely led their own learning interests. Again, there is a balance. Why am I rambling on about this?

Last Thursday I hosted a day at the Inspire2Learn centre to teach a group of teachers who all have access to iPads in their classrooms how to use iBooks Author. The app is free to download as long as you have at least version 10.7 on your mac OS. It allows teachers to create books. Big deal, teachers can do that in loads of ways…however these books have distinct advantages. Yes you can add pictures, text, even video into the pages which make them full of “Wow”, but that is not what catches the eye. The teachers who attended could do that within about 5mins of my input (if they hadn’t already done it themselves anyway!), what we took time to focus on is how an iBook could support the practice in class. Where does the book sit? As a textbook for a course? As a support alongside what happens in the lessons? As a repository for all the other resources that we don’t have time for in lessons. I hope that some of these questions are answered by the work that the teachers do back in class with their creations.

We spent a lot of time simply discussing these issues, and also use of widgets. Widgets are fabulous little things that can ad such a different dimension to an iBook. Yes there are the wow ones (like the 360 panorama widget) but something as simple as a scrolling side bar widget allows a page to hold a lot more content, in context, than could previously have been done. This isn’t simply convenient, it fits with a huge amount of research based around situated learning and how meaning is heavily influenced by context and the expectations that an audience brings to that context.As teachers we need to think about this sort of research to enhance our use of iBooks, not simply saying “it can add more detail”. A sketchpad widget within a page allows a student the opportunity to create or label a diagram and then send it back to the teacher from within the book, again keeping the learning in the context in which is it created.

Something as simple as the browser widget is a godsend. Why is that important? We can add weblinks to any book, document…even an email…so what? It is massive, the book opens the webpage, it doesn’t go off to Safari and all of the distractions (the youtube widget does the same), it stays within the book so when you close it you are still in the book. Simple yet a huge help, imagine using Guided Access with this for certain situations on shared pads?

We do have some unanswered questions though. I mentioned some above relating to how it fits within the classroom context. Also, when do you ask the student to do activities within the book and when do you offer them maybe a gallery of pictures and ask them to create a presentation in an app of their choice. I don’t know if there is a definitive answer as every situation os different and teachers are the killer app that make the difference, judging when to do what. However, an iBook is a finished artefact (although you can update it) and that means that some of these decisions need to be made when creating the book and defining its role in a scheme of work.

The teachers who attended were very complementary in their feedback for my input during the day (as a teacher I used my professional judgement of when to tell and when to…..lol) but I will be pursuing them over the next few months and hopefully reconvening the group to really pin down where the book sits within the classroom context. Armed with that sort of information future users of the app will not have to discover it all for themselves but will have some guidance as a starter for ten…isn’t that where this post started?

Example of iBook from the day:

HERE

Long time away

It has been a fair while since I posted on here last so let’s make it a good one to get things back underway!

Last year I loaned a set of five iPod Touches to a student on the Graduate Teacher Programme, Lauren. She was working in a school where children have a huge range of specialist needs. She felt that the iPods would give her the opportunity to engage with the children in a different way. And…er… they certainly did! Lauren immediately found that children were keen to talk about what they could do with the devices, exploring the range of apps that we had put on there. We had very consciously decided to put fairly open ended “productive” apps on there as Lauren felt that it would allow the children to create really amazing “products” as long as they were engaged to do so.

They certainly were.

The video shows some of the range of activities that they used the pods for during a train journey (something many of the children had never experienced before). They took films that allowed them to reconnect with the experience back in class, they took notes on Mental Note to record thoughts and ideas while in the situation, again to discus when back in class and then they even used animation and the Green Screen apps in conjunction to record the short sequences at the end.

Lauren’s reflection on the children’s use of the devices suggest that it was mainly pupils that would not engage or refuse to engage with literacy or weren’t able to easily (because of their low level writing skills) were all of a sudden enthusiastic about their ideas when given the chance to record their work, ideas and act out things as characters in animation etc. There was an enhanced desire to create work, to add to what the class was doing, and the technology enabled them to make really “professional” looking results, furthering their self esteem. The only real downside was that she had to explain to them that they had to give them back at the end of the loan period.

The picture below shows some more of the work produced and some description for parents:

Lauren iPod work

There was some fear at first that the small interface of the iPod Touch would be unsuitable for children who had issues with motor control anyway but that was quickly dispelled as the desire to use the device to communicate their ideas took them beyond that and all of the children were able to use them successfully.

Lauren has agreed to present at a conference that we are organising in the Autumn Term with more detail of how this type of technology specifically supported children with a range of needs.

Reflective and proud

Screen Shot 2012-12-07 at 13.17.07Just spent the morning with the ever wonderful children at Green Gates Primary. I suggested last week to the Year 6 children that the device would be an ideal way of keeping a record of their work in one place, a portfolio of achievement as it were. They took me at their word. The link below takes you to a folder full of images, pdfs and the like that they currently have on their pods. As they achieve something or finish a piece of work it is now common practice for them to add it to their portfolio. This is a brilliant example of the data hoover and second brain dichotomy at work. More than that it requires the children to re-engage with a piece of work and often add a comment themselves, something that is often missed in a traditional “work in books” classroom setup.

Sample of reflective journals

They are only a sample but it is clear that there are already different levels of recording going on, something that the teacher will pursue with the learners over time – what works best for them. Their portfolios are stored on their devices as work in progress but also as finished PDFs which sit on their bookshelf in iBooks. This will obviously be updated as the projects are continued.

Xmas fun and frolics

photo-25We’ve had nearly 300 children through the doors over the last few days, mainly 5 year olds but a cohort of Y5 and Y6 did a one off day today around science.

It has been interesting to watch the children get to grips with iOS devices so quickly. Sessions for the very young were barely 20 minutes and today each group had little over half an hour on each activity. The pads were used with the young children to scan QR codes on reindeer stables (which appeared on the walls around the cafe area). Each scan produced an audio track describing a letter that the young children had to recognise and write down. After scanning four stables they had the letters to a Christmas word that would help solve a magic spell to retrieve Santa’s sack. The teacher running that session showed the children how to use the QR scanner app and then click on the audio file. The IT element of this melted away after the first scan as they raced to the next clue to be found and repeated the procedure. The focus was very much on the objective.

Today’s group were exploring the senses and Mrs J led groups to develop short animations (that’s right, understand the concept, learn the software and then make something in less than half an hour – no problem). We used Animation Desk as the app of choice and the results can be sen below. It costs a couple of quid but if you want to do animation simply and in a range of ways then we found it very easy to use and very versatile.

Reflective Learners

I’ve been doing a fair bit of reading of late around the idea of reflective practice. Love it or hate the idea there is definitely some consensus around the fact that if you revisit something and think about it again, you often gain a deeper understanding about it. I have always tried to put this idea into practice in the classroom. I remember becoming really frustrated when I attempted to mark significant pieces of writing alongside the children, individually. I simply didn’t have enough time in the school day yet I could see that revisiting the work with them (albeit with me guiding the discussion) made the comments and edits far more meaningful to the children.

With all of that in mind I suggested an idea today to one class where reflecting on their work could become an integral part of their day to day learning. It came form looking at the awesome app that is Storyrobe. It doesn’t do much but what it does it does brilliantly (it is discussed with some examples in the Apps section). I was getting across the point today with the Y6 class that you should rarely narrate over pictures or videos without planning, redrafting, editing and having checked your “script” first. The BBC never would so aim high. Whilst searching for examples of when you cold do it off the cuff, I suggested that children could take a photo of a piece of work that they have done then narrate over it. I suppose it is like those DVD extras you get where the director talks over the film, explaining aspects of why the film is the way it is at each point. The children could do a quick review of what they think they have done successfully in that piece, and what they feel they need more work on. That short video can then simply be added to the child’s skydrive folder where it is shared with the teacher. Done regularly this would ensure that children reflect on work they have done, often with a criteria to talk to. The teacher liked the idea and suggested it might help her marking sometimes to hear the child’s view on the work while she is looking at it, usually outside of the classroom. I haven’t suggested that the mark could come back as a narrative yet…let’s see how this works first.

Keeping up

I have been working with a diverse range of situations over the last few weeks and I hope my brief discussion below helps to identify useful techniques that may apply to your own use of mobile devices from the outset.

The key to effective use is to identify how they help us to learn. That is always the focus of my first session with a group of new users and it is a theme I continually revisit. The idea of the data hoover that becomes your second brain is paramount and is the reason for using it is documented at length elsewhere in the archives of this blog. One class that I am supporting is in an unusual situation that is now becoming more common; the children have used the devices with a keen teacher the year before and have now come into a class where the teacher has no experience of them at all. I have tackled this in a number of ways:

  • Little and often sessions for the teacher so that she has time to integrate an idea into her existing practise before being introduced to the next
  • Open forum with the children to identify what helps them to learn when using the devices
  • An openness with the class that the teacher needs their help to make the best use of the device for learning
  • Off the peg ideas with demonstration for things like “handing out a picture and receiving descriptive work back” – ipod style!
  • Focussed discussion with the teacher whilst the children are doing a task so that it forms the “director’s commentary” to the lesson she is watching
  • Additional focussed time with the teacher outside of the classroom to consolidate what she thinks she has found useful and what she feels she needs more of in a less public setting – i.e., not in front of the class
  • Begin each support session specifically addressing an issue that has arisen since the last in school support session

This range of techniques to support the teacher has been developed over a number of years and a LOT of experience. I find it helps support teachers who are really keen to use the devices and have even been the instigator to acquiring them….to the teacher who has inherited them and would possibly like one less thing to worry about. I use the same openness with the children regardless of whether or not they have used the devices before in school, 20 odd minds, focussing on “How can this help us learn?” are vital in making the integration of devices as effective as possible.

To give some context, this week the teacher I was supporting had had some problems writing a newspaper article in Mental Note as it went over three pages when it became a pdf – which looked daft. I addressed that with the children straight away and several suggested what I had had thought, Strip Design is a far better tool for organising a page with multiple text boxes and possibly fonts and images. So we spent 5 minutes just demonstrating that…some children led parts of the demo too. Knowing that allows the teacher to make appropriate decisions going forward in terms of which app to use to produce which format of a finished piece. She immediately identified to the children several future uses for the app for types of writing that they had been working on.

That is important, the devices are there to support and enhance what teachers do well. You do not sit there with a device “what can I do with this?” there lies madness. You sit there, plan the work the children will do and identify opportunities for the devices to enhance that experience. That i what I am doing on Tuesday afternoon now that she has had several short and sharp in class support sessions. We will sit and look at her planning, possibly for January, to identify how we develop the use of the devices to enhance the learning experience. As they are going to be studying Ancient Greece as their main topic I can already see how research into the Olympic Games will allow eyewitness news reports via the Green Screen Studio app live from Olympia circa 500 BC!

Getting to grips

Short post about yesterday’s visit to the steel fabricators. Grangetown Primary sent 11 children and the Deputy Head on a visit arranged by Anne Simpson to show our local children the process that is building up the regeneration of our area. The fabrication company, Hambleton Steel hosted a fantastic and really interesting morning learning about the processes that the steel goes through before becoming the new leisure centre and civic hub in the local authority. My interest, and hence this post, was grabbed as we gave the children iPods to record their visit. They hadn’t used them before for school work (some had never used one out of school either) but I gave them out on the bus as we set off and challenged them to work out how to use Strip Design to create a short review of our trip.
During the visit we were given lots of opportunities to take photos of each process. Once back on the bus I quickly used my iPad to ensure that all the children had at least seen the right icons to press to complete their task (though some had worked it out for themselves). They then spent the half hour return journey reviewing their photos and selecting what best represented what they were trying to describe. The teacher was going to follow this up in school tomorrow when she would have the group back together. I will post the results as soon as I have them!

What struck me, and it shouldn’t have surprised me, was how easily the device fitted into the visit. There was a big concern from the company that the children would be kept safe and would be moving around a potentially dangerous environment. However, the iPods only came out at key points of interest then disappeared back into pockets in between, reviewing, adding detail, embellishing their ideas…that an come later, the device was a hoover for all the information that they were getting at the time it was happening. It will fulfil its second brain function when the information is reviewed and produced for an audience.

Over and Out

Although written a little after the event this post is focussed on my third and final visit to the children and loan ipods at St Paulinus. As part three of the starting from scratch series of lessons I hope it shows how little input can produce such a massive impact.

I must admit I indulged myself for the first ten minutes in asking the children their reasons for having an ipod for learning (I was careful not to say “in the classroom”), my notes are screen shot below:

It is interesting to note that they focussed their answers on mainly literacy and numeracy and how the device supports this. The comment about downloading apps at home referred to some of the maths games that they had used in class. Remember, they were using loan kit so were not taking them home, this was a frustration for them they told me. There is an answer to that below…

So what did we do for the last lesson?

Well, I wanted to reinforce the way that the devices support effective classroom pedagogy. So I started by using the Hobbit Movie app (Free) to show the children the 360 panorama of Hobbiton. I asked the children to discuss in pairs who lived there, in fact they had to be more precise than that. I settled the view on one hobbit hole with a clear view of the front door and the front garden. I asked the children to pick out things that they could see in the picture to act as evidence for who lived there. So for example:

overgrown lawn – someone who doesn’t come home very often

The children were asked to pick out five features. The learning focus here is on settings, not one blade of grass will appear on that film set if it isn’t needed. Someone has made that setting to create an accurate impression of the person who lives there – several meetings and a lot of biscuits came up with what we are presented with! How do the devices support this? The image was on the board but it was also taken as a screenshot and emailed to the children (if I’d prepared it in advance this might have worked better through uploading it to the Skydrive as the image was quite large and took a few minutes to load up on the devices via Mail). By doing this the children were able to get up close and personal with the image, zooming in for greater detail. They then used a range of ways of recording their ideas. Some inserted a “zoom” on an identified feature into Mental Note then wrote their idea below it, repeating a different “zoom” for each feature. Others simply inserted the picture and wrote their ideas below. Some even identified a feature by jotting a number next to it on the inserted picture (with the pen tool – I may have led some to that way of working…) and then used a key below the picture to write what each “number” suggested. It was all about children learning to organise their thinking. I repeated the task using the other panorama viewer, the inside of the Hobbit Hole to reinforce the way of working. In all cases the children had to work together. Interestingly, the emailed picture took a while to get through to some of the devices so the children simply went up to the board at the front of the room and photographed it there.

Really simple after that, I turned the task the other way around. Each pair of children was given a character (whispered in their ears – e.g., Cinderella). They had to write down five objects that would appear in the character’s house if we walked in and looked around.
Ok, I know the spelling was a bit dodgy (to say the least!) but these are children who often struggle to know what to write when asked to “write the setting for a story”. Grammar and building these ideas up into sentences is the next step but the children now have a strategy, a place to start when opening a narrative piece. The details of the setting are relevant rather than “it was a nice sunny day” because it is something that paints a picture. Identifying key features to base your setting around, drawn from the character who is in the story, makes writing more meaningful and engaging. I then asked the children to upload their finished writing (screenshot then skydrive as it is easier to flick from one to next than via Mail) so that we could have a quick quiz and discussion around meaningful information in a setting as a plenary to the lesson.

The lesson focus was clearly on literacy yet we could see where the device made that lesson more effective from both the teacher and child point of view. The stimulus could be delivered into the palm of the children’s hands, they had alternative ways of manipulating information to suit them, they were able to feedback info to the teacher and in fact the rest of the class. The teacher was fairly hands free for much of the lesson in the sense that the majority of the time was focused on all children talking and working together. I only stopped them when we needed to clarify a point or move the learning forward. If I had done that with a big screen at the front it would have been more teacher led with children feeding back individually more often one at a time. The fact they could easily hand in their work to a secure place that the teacher could access with minimum effort (it is an app on the iPad with a direct path to the iPod work) was the icing on the cake. I could use it to review the learning in the lesson, children could see each other’s work and learn from it and I could even walk out the classroom and access it either at home or back at our office. In fact, the uploaded images here have just been downloaded from the Skydrive as all the work is still there.

I mentioned above the frustration about stopping learning at 3pm in an iPod sense. Well, the school held a parent meeting last night where I talked to the Y4 parents about what we had been doing with the class and why we wanted it to continue. I think every parent in the room agreed that it was educationally a big advantage to their children and that bringing a device home to continue that would be even better. There were questions around types of device and how they might work, safety and so on but as a group they were very positive. They have been asked to go away and think about contributing to a scheme that will allow their children to have their own school iPod that they will also be able to bring home as well. The school where the other set of iPods were loaned out last term have also done the same thing. In fact, I have yet to work with a school where following a loan and my regular support, they have not then gone on to get their own devices. This may sound like bragging but it is simply a fact and maybe owes more to the fact that we are doing this with the correct educational approach than my personal magnificence! lol

30 Top Apps I Really Can Live Without

Sorry, couldn’t resist!

I actually appreciate the constant tweets that declare the opposite of my title but I must admit I now tend to ignore a lot of them. That isn’t because I feel I have mastered every app I will ever need on the devices, or indeed know the full range of possibilities. The reason is simple, as a teacher I use tools and ideas as need arises. The need might be a new and extra way of practising Times Tables, or it may be a way of children being able to store information they have gathered….but those decisions are rooted in the needs of the learner and how the curriculum that they are expected to engage with.

What has become VERY clear across the vast range of settings and age ranges that I have had the privilege to support and work in over the past few years is that there are several killer ways of working that are fundamental to effective learning with the devices. Raising attainment, motivating learners and developing personalised ways of working – these are all a result of a few simple aspects of using the devices….a huge range of apps is irrelevant. I spent some time with leading teachers from both Riverdale and Normanby Primary schools last week where we discussed effective classroom practice. Apps took a bit of a back seat for much of the discussion, ways of working were far more important. I made the comment at one point that I would still push for the devices in my classroom if they only had wireless, the mail app and the ability to take notes. Again, the reason is simple, at a very basic level these few elements mean that children can collaborate, access information and repurpose it. Fit that in with Vygotsky and Bruner and how humans actually learn, and you are on to a winner. Of course, before you start quoting research at me, it is not QUITE as simple as that, but it isn’t far off. Think about the last time you learned something and think how well it would have happened without collaboration or access to information or the ability to manipulate that idea into your own way of thinking. Did you use all three? Two of the three? Yes I know collaboration and access to information could equally apply to someone like a teacher telling you something but that maybe highlights how intertwined these ideas are.

The devices support these three elements massively. Let us compare a “traditional” lesson with a device enabled lesson.

In the traditional lesson the teacher stands at the front and tells the children what they will learn about and then most likely will demonstrate some examples on a board. They did this because it is an efficient way to quickly set the learning focus for all of the children and demonstrate the skills or describe the knowledge that the children will learn. I have no problem with this as a way of working. That is a very unfashionable thing to say nowadays but I stand by it. Walk into a Y3 class, give them some self study materials about how to do decomposition, then support small groups as needs arise and see how effectively that class learns how to do it compared to the class next door where the teacher supports the children through demonstration followed by small groups support where appropriate. Anyway, I’ll plough on as you have no doubt stopped reading now or are preparing your vitriolic responses to this paragraph and want more ammo…

So the learners in the traditional classroom have now got some idea of what the teacher wants them to learn and then will be asked to do some activities that allow them to practice what they have learned, or demonstrate new knowledge (or a combination – but mainly for assessment purposes). The work is done maybe on whiteboards or jotters as playing with ideas or directly into an exercise book. The teacher and other adults will probably work with a focus group to support this activity. The work will be handed in but some maybe be used for a plenary (via a visualiser, or child demonstrating an example) or the teacher may recap the main points with contributions by the children. The books will be marked at some point to lead on to the following lesson. That a reasonably typical description?

Let’s put a mobile device into the hands of each child in the room and replay the lesson. The teacher starts the lesson, possibly from the front again (easy tiger…put it in the critical comments) to set the agenda for the lesson. Just a note, in this or the traditional lesson this doesn’t have to be “Our learning objectives today are…” I simply mean the teacher explains what the lesson will be focussing on, either from an outcome point of view or an activity introduction. Either way, the children are all made aware of what they will be doing. Now this is where the devices help. At any point children can take notes on a device that will follow them around…so is accessible when they might need it. That is helpful, I would take notes if I was sat there knowing I was expected to do something about what the teacher said once they stopped talking. If the teacher has a resource to show the children, such as a text or a film clip they have the option to show it via the front screen but far more powerfully they can simply email it to the children (or drop it in Dropbox or the Skydrive or whatever you use – oops two apps to consider, but Mail will work just as well). I would argue that in any classroom a text should always be introduced “at the desk” rather than expecting a mixed ability group of readers to access it from several feet away. Some children need to follow with their fingers! They do! I never expect children to read a text for the first time on a whiteboard – it has too many variable barriers to all children reading it at the pace and level of understanding that the teacher wants and they need.

The text is not only easier to access (videos are texts too!) but can be re-watched and re-examined at the individual level. Give the text with a couple of tasks written in the email and it will allow more able children to do something useful while the other children at least get through a decent pace. I have actually run several lessons purely in this way, the children then get on with the task (different groups may have got a slightly different task to allow some differentiation or simply different approaches to a topic across the class). I find in most primary classes this works once in a while but usually they also benefit from some further input at a class level and/or then group level. At all times the children have easy access to the resources (and the web at a personal level which cannot be done in the traditional classroom) and can still access the teacher as their learning guide. From this point onwards the device continues to improve the learning opportunities. The work is done on a device that will follow them, it won’t get rubbed out as on a whiteboard or sit on a shelf as with a jotter or text book. The teacher collects in the work, usually by email but again other services are available. The child leaves the room with the work in their pocket, all the resources and all the help. If homework is set or they want to do more they can continue whenever and wherever they want, learning is not bounded by the ringing of bells. They continue to have the teacher support as they can email questions in (or to each other which tends to be the first port of call in my experience) or search on the web.

Now that is a simplified comparison. It ignores the fact that the children can repurpose their ideas as a film, or a mind map or a comic book…their work can be focussed on a blog (which raises the stakes for purpose and audience). It ignores the possibility of giving them the texts prior to the lessons, or even the lessons prior to the lessons but you know what? Ten year olds rarely work like that. Teenagers don’t either. If you gave them the year’s worth of lessons in advance how many would actually do them until them until they had to? The devices support the here and now, they hoover information in and allow children that level of repurposing and access.

The possibilities are there but the realities need to be considered, motivation as ever is a key player and that is where a new app that allows children to present work in a different way or a new audience to write for IS a very useful thing, but it isn’t the be all and end all. The basics are far more important day in and day out.

The quick practise, games types apps are great, they make repetitious learning more fun (Squeebles is possibly the favourite amongst most local schools) but focus on how a connected, data hoover device that allows the learner to access their externalised learning (previous work) will create a strong base on which the classroom practitioner can build new ways of learner centric pedagogy.

Ok…shoot me down……