We were invited to a presentation recently by Vickie Bacon, BrainPOP fan and VIB, at Hurstpierpoint College Prep School. She wanted to share something exciting that staff and students at Hurstpierpoint have been involved in: setting up a “Digital Pencil Case” scheme for Years 7 and 8 that used Apple mobile devices as the central technology.
An idea is born
It all began when Vickie attended an inspirational talk by an iPad “guru”. Maths teacher, Vickie, was convinced iPads could be extremely beneficial by giving the students freedom to learn and keeping learning relevant.
After discussions with the Headteacher and IT team, ICT was removed as a discreet subject in Years 7 and 8. Desktops and Macs which had previously been confined to an ICT suite were redistributed into classrooms and, with hard work from dedicated staff, all Year 7s were issued with an iPad on the first day of the autumn term. ICT was brought under the umbrella of other subjects with relative ease.
Each iPad was handed over to the kids fresh out of the box. All the kids needed to get started with individual iPads were an email and iTunes account. They took them home and downloaded apps including: Keynote, Pages, Garageband, iMovie, Poplet, iBooks and iBookcreator.
Keeping ahead of the kids!
How were the children able to “buy” apps? Simple – apps were “gifted” to them. As Vickie repeated throughout her presentation – and was also demonstrated by children throughout the day – the real challenge for the teacher is to keep ahead of the kids!
“Learning boxes” were introduced to Year 7 and Year 8 lessons – these included mini boxes with a set of iPod touch devices and an iPad included in each. The teachers were each equipped with an iPad of their own for the summer break and attended a course to get them up to speed with the technology. The kids needed showing once then they were off!
Practical classroom application
Teachers introduced lesson plans with QR codes for the children to scan like this Michael Rosen Rap lesson:
The kids scanned the code at the top of the sheet with their iPod Touch, popped headphones in for a listen, and identified key features of the poem. If you use iOS devices in school we thoroughly recommend you trying it with a class, it was great fun!
We saw a great demonstration for using the ShowMe app: Vicki was able to show us one of her students working on a maths problem while she was teaching another group of students. It was fascinating as you could see the student’s thought process. Vickie could then use this student’s working as a lesson starter or plenary for another class. Live workings could also be emailed to the child’s record.
The world in your hands
One of the key factors before going ahead with this scheme was being able to trust the children. In school time, kids are restricted by the school firewalls but at home, they can access anything. Vickie likened putting an iPad in a 12 year old’s hands to putting the “whole world” in their hands. Teachers were COP trained and parents were also invited along to these sessions.
To keep on top of any misuse, teachers conduct random “iPad pulls” during lessons or during the school day in order to check the children’s history. Anything bad? They get a “black i”. If they get the all clear they receive a “rosy apple”
Hurstpierpoint use WebDAV for updating student records and tracking progress. Parents have access to these records too. It all felt incredibly open and has proved an ideal set up for parental engagement. On WikiServe the kids can blog and podcast their work and the school uses a portal to keep parents informed. The parents can see everything their child is doing in school – awards, grades, etc.
Drama, Comic Life, and other iPad tools
After a short break it was time for the Year 7 kids to show us what they’d been up to. Harry did some “modelling” at the front of the class to demonstrate different statuses in drama before the kids were dispersed amongst the crowd to show us their classwork.
Olly showed our little group how easy it was to slot the dramatic poses captured on the iPad into a comic strip in Comic Life, adding speech bubbles and narrative descriptions. It soon became clear how cross-curricular their drama lesson was turning out to be, bringing in elements of English, ICT and Art.
Alessa then delighted with a presentation which showed the cross-curricular nature of their patterns project:
- An iMovie clip she’d made demonstrating patterns in Art;
- A Garageband rap for patterns in French;
- A poplet to show patterns in Maths and the Nth term;
- And then she used poplet to combine French, Maths and Art
The morning closed with an iBook presentation from Ellie. She and her classmates had recently visited the Apple Education Conference in London and she had created an iBook diary of their day with lots of photos and captions. Sterling work!
It was inspiring to see students present their work to a room full of strangers with such confidence and eloquence. And great to see iPads being used to their full potential in the classroom. But Hurstpierpoint have a team of dedicated staff who had clearly recognised the commitment required to get the most out of such a large investment. On top of that, the relations between the school, the students, and their parents was strong enough that the school clearly felt they could entrust students with these expensive devices.
Could it work in other schools? Let us know what you think!