Thursday, 24 January 2013

Lesson 4 - First FULL iPad lesson

After two weeks of the pupils having their iPads, this is only the first lesson that we have had the opportunity to use them for the full 60 mins. Previously we were tied by the FCSE assessments - external exams that the class could not complete on their iPads (maybe one day...!).

We tried the Socrative app today, with great success. Socrative is brilliant! There is a teacher version and a student one - it allows the teacher to send out questions to all pupils in their class - the pupils answer the questions, which then update to the teacher's device in real time. It's very appealing and engaging to pupils and saves lots of marking for teachers! At first my plan was to use this app to assess learning in a plenary, but actually today I used it to structure the whole lesson.

I set the class 10 questions about the school system in France. The Socrative app divided the class into four groups and their task was to research answers to the questions on the internet. The first group to have all answers completed on Socrative were the winners. This worked really well, especially for my very competitive class! Having done the same lesson with other classes - without Socrative and without iPads - I can assure you that this was by far the most efficient and fastest way of doing things!

Their next task was to use that information to create an informative cover page for their new module. They began to create these in Bamboo Paper by finding some images that they could write various facts and pieces on information over. We shared a few of these via Apple TV, I then sent their homework to them via email, and they shall send me their completed cover pages before next lesson.

A couple of small issues are cropping up. One of them is that pupils are unclear on the appropriate way to address members of staff on email, e.g. hearts and kisses, and 'babe' not appropriate! I have had to speak to them a couple of times about this now and I think they are learning - it's actually a very valuable lesson to learn in any case. The second is the playing on apps when they should be working. Still happening and still not entirely sure how to combat it... Apart from nag nag nagging, which gets rather tedious for all concerned after a while!

Still, things are going generally very well at the moment, far better than I originally thought they would at this stage. And although I thoroughly enjoy teaching all of my classes, I have to admit that I really look forward to the iPad lessons!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Apple TV - amazing!

Finally my fears about not being able to teach 25 teenagers with brand new iPads are beginning to subside! Thursday's lesson was another general success. Although I must admit I am still not really sure what I mean by success... Did they learn as much as they would have done without the iPads? No, not yet, although I am still confident that this will come. After all it is lesson three, and they and I are still trying to navigate ourselves through using an iPad, let alone learning French with one! Did the lesson feel successful in terms of behaviour, engagement and focus? Definitely. In fact in some cases I would say that there has already been a marked improvement in focus on the lesson, and improved focus and engagement in turn make for better behaviour - which fills me with confidence that there is definitely potential for outstanding learning with the iPads.   

Today the pupils had to do an external exam in the first half of the lesson, so there was no scope for iPad use there. In the second half, the pupils began their new module (Education and Future Plans) by using a couple of bilingual dictionary apps to look up words that thought might be useful for their new module and then created a mind map in SimpleMind, which they really enjoyed. The most fun bit was at the end when they discovered independently that they could share their work with each other via Apple TV!! Of course I then had to quickly come up with an 'acceptable use policy' for using Apple TV... ;) 

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Getting There...

Today's lesson was better, generally, which was a great relief to me! It wasn't perfect and there is still a long way to go, but today I saw the first glimmers of how brilliant the iPad project will hopefully be by the end :)

Firstly, pupils finished recording their speaking assessments on Audioboo. Audioboo is a revelation to me! The app allows pupils to record themselves and then tag their 'boo', works in the same way as a Twitter hashtag, meaning that I then have all of their speaking assessments in one place. They then did their writing assessments on Evernote and emailed them to me. Even the most potentially boring assessment lesson was transformed with the iPads - never have I known a class to get so excited over doing an assessment!

The things that made this lesson a success were

  • I was able to email the class the day before to remind them about their upcoming assessments
  • Speaking assessments did not take a lesson and a half like they used to - instead they were all done in 15 minutes
  • All of the writing and speaking assessments are in one place ready for marking and sending back to the pupils, and as they are on email, are not 'misplaceable' by me or the pupils!!
  • The pupils had the most fun they have ever had doing an assessment!

There were definitely hiccups as well, but I am not so naive as to think that this project will be a success overnight!

The main problem is one that shouldn't really be a problem, and that is that pupils are still VERY excited. On the one hand this is obviously a good thing, however it does cause a bit of a nightmare when trying to settle them! They are also naturally testing the boundaries and seeing what they can get away with. The only way I have found to deal with this so far is to take their iPads away for a little while; but this probably won't work in the long run so I need to come up with a different sanction... any tips greatly appreciated!

Thursday, 10 January 2013

The first lesson...

Well we had the first lesson today and it was HARD WORK. The beginning of the lesson was fine - they responded well to my rule of not using the iPad until given permission, they asked sensible questions about the project and seemed pleased with the idea of Tweeting about the progress of the iPad trial.

It was when we tried to start working that the trouble started... in hindsight I probably shouldn't have expected as much from them on the first lesson. I have been informed by many that the first few lessons of an iPad trial are often a bit of a write-off in terms of work. The iPads are still very much a novelty for the pupils and although I am confident that they will become more focussed during lesson time I do also think that it may be a little harder than I had first imagined! Once the pupils realise that there are still rules and consequences for breaking them (e.g. having iPads taken away, Apps blocked etc) things should become a little easier. They are naturally testing the boundaries, as pupils always do when there is change.

In fact I am probably being a little over-critical here. The truth is that despite the lesson seeming quite hard to manage, all of the pupils successfully downloaded another learning App, recorded two pieces of speaking work and most managed to send me their work on Audioboo as well. In the grand scheme of things that's pretty good going for a first lesson I suppose! I just look forward to the time when we can do that and more, without the constant rule-reinforcements and nagging!

Patience is a virtue...

Smiley faces

The year nine group received their iPads on Tuesday. Somebody from the company running the pilot came in and talked through the setup of the devices with the pupils. It was like a second Christmas for them - they were SO excited! Setting up the iPads was not as complicated as I thought it would be. there was the odd hiccup along the way but nothing disastrous and now everybody has a working iPad. The next day I was inundated with pupils wanting to show me Apps that they have found - it was lovely and they seemed so grateful to be a part of the project.

An introduction

I work in a mixed comprehensive school in a market town in Devon. It is a lovely school with a great buzz about it. The thing I love most about the school is that despite appearances (we were unfortunate enough to miss out at the last minute on a shiny new building) it is a very forward thinking place where experiments are encouraged and change is embraced.
It was the prospect of a new-build that saw us on our way towards a 1:1 device system. And when the plans fell through our Assistant Head in charge of New Technologies decided to take the idea forward regardless, and so here we are!
Every pupil in my mixed ability year 9 French group has one, and another 7 year 11 pupils who take French as an extra GCSE. Quite a few teachers have also chosen to take part, and we will have the devices till Easter. This blog will follow our progress :)