Developing the Use of iPads to Support the Learning Process – An Innovation Project

Image shared under a creative commons license by Sean MacEntee

Image shared under a creative commons license by Sean MacEntee

Introduction

One of the key ways in which the BSF ICT team support schools and staff in their professional development is through BSF ICT Innovation Funding. This funding is open to all staff, to support projects that focus on the use of technology to benefit learning and learners, teaching and school community development. In the initial round of bids we took forward two projects; the Siyabonga project from Hamilton Community College, and a project from Babington Community College focusing on the use of iPads to support learning.

Below is a summary of the project, from Robert Povey, the college’s Learning Resource Centre manager – who proposed and ran the project:

Project Overview

The aims of this study were to increase the use of iPads in Babington, both in terms of its extent across the subject areas, and its depth in supporting ‘higher order’ learning activities; and then to produce a handbook by which to share our insights across the college, and with colleagues in other learning establishments both within and outside the local authority.

This was linked to the need to more rigorously trial the management and use of iPads (or possibly other tablets) on a larger scale as possible strategy for our new BSF school. We did look carefully at using Android and/or Windows based machines, but at the time Apple seemed to have clear advantage over it’s competitors both in terms of the range of apps available and the support that they offer for the use of their products in the educational environment.

The project was designed with reference to two educational technology initiatives:

  1.  Martin Blows’ five ‘e-words’ from the National College for School Leadership’s BSF Leadership Programme. These were used to identify that staff were enthusiastically ‘exchanging’ the iPads for their old desktop and laptop technology, and some had begun to use them to ‘enrich’ the teaching and learning experience, but as a college we would need to do much more to justify the widespread use of tablets, by exploiting their potential to ‘enhance’ and ‘extend’ the learning experience, and ultimately to ‘empower’ the learner.
  2. Kathy Schrock’s Bloomin’ Apps work, linking tablet apps with Bloom’s Taxonomy. Whilst noting her preference for a non-hierarchical view of the taxonomy , we felt that we had not begun to explore the potential of the iPads to help learners to meet higher order objectives.

Project Stages

The project began with training for staff, around the general use of iPads and then linked more specifically to Schrock’s Bloomin’ Apps framework. My initial criterion for selecting the participants was to ensure that at least one person from each Faculty (or in multi-subject faculties, each subject area) was represented. We also wanted to ensure that a number of support staff were included alongside teaching staff. The group therefore had representation from: English, Modern Foreign Languages/English as an Additional Language, Maths, Science, Humanities, Business studies, Vocational Education, Health & Social Care, Careers, Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education, ICT, Design & Technology, PE and Performing Arts.

I began with the following outline for the training sessions:

a. Tablets as an aid to thinking

b. Tablets as an aid to creativity

c. Tablets as an aid to collaborative learning

d. Tablets as an aid to communication

e. Tablets as an aid to assessment for learning

However, when it came to planning the sessions I soon found that these headings did not easily map to Bloom’s categories, and in any case, as Schrock had already noted, it probably made more sense to regard the categories as interlocking cogs, rather than a hierarchical progression from one ‘level’ to the next.

Image created using openly licensed clipart, shared by Qubodup

Image created using openly licensed clipart, shared by Qubodup

In the light of all this I would suggest that a more logical structure for the course would be as shown in the table below, incorporating apps which we were not able to use this time for technical reasons. Note that there are six sessions, not five, with four apps introduced in each session. Each of Blooms categories are covered, but the session headings are more explicitly tied to traditional ICT foci. I would anticipate eventually publishing the course in this form for adoption by other schools.

bloom table1 bloom table2

The training materials were the apps themselves, preinstalled on each iPad, and a series of short activities presented on PowerPoint slides. Since a key feature of the course was that its participants were each given their own iPad, it made sense to make each session ‘hands on’, giving staff a chance to use each app to complete a simple learning activity.

In the first session I was found that quite spontaneously the participants sat down and started exploring the devices, with more experienced users helping the novices, and guiding them to, and through, their favourite apps. This was a most encouraging start to the project!

The next phase of the project involved participants producing a scheme of work for their curriculum area, demonstrating the use of a range of apps to support the achievement of the full range of Bloom’s objectives. The aim was for each group to produce at least an outline scheme of work, identifying any apps they intended to use, and indicating which of Bloom’s areas they might expect to cover.

To support this process, staff were given the opportunity of having an initial discussion with me about their proposals, and were asked to complete a proposal form. Following the completion of this I met with each individual or group to discuss the proposal and to identify any support that they might need in developing it.

During the project, we have also been able to make a judgement of how this study might be applied to other tablets. Our judgement is that many, if not most, of the learning activities which we have suggested could be carried out on the same or similar apps, available on other tablets.

Benefits

Whereas, at the start of the project, only Science had made extensive use of iPads, and many subjects areas had not used them at all, as a direct result of the training we have seen the systematic use of iPads in English, Maths and Science, in Humanities, Careers, Vocational Education and PSHEE, in PE, Art and Design Technology.

I have also attained a much better understanding of how the various apps fit within Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy. Although the Taxonomy informed the training sessions from the start, we now have a much clearer understanding of this relationship.

More reference to the benefits can be seen in the impact column on the introductory pro-forma to each scheme of learning produced as a result of the project.

Next Steps

  • An iPad/digital learning skills audit to facilitate CPD
  • A comprehensive, bespoke CPD package on developing the use of iPads for all staff so that what has been learnt from this project is harnessed in a systemic and systematic framework to promote the enhancement of learning in the classroom through a blended approach
  • Consideration of how the iPad project and a focus on digital learning interfaces with The Babington Way for Teaching and Learning

Final Report

Download Options:

Developing the Use of iPads to Support the Learning Process (Full Report) PDF
Developing the Use of iPads to Support the Learning Process (Introduction) PDF
Business Studies (Scheme of Learning) Unit 2 Choosing Task & Research Word
English (Scheme of Learning) Introduction to Shakespeare Word
Food Technology (Scheme of Learning) Biscuit Project Word
ICT (Scheme of Learning) My Phone Word
Mathematics (Scheme of Learning) Statistics Word
Modern Foreign Languages (Scheme of Learning) Les Vacances Word
Physical Education (Scheme of Learning) Trampoline Word
Personal Studies (Scheme of Learning) e-portfolio Word
Religious Studies (Scheme of Learning) Authority, religion and state Word
Science (Scheme of Learning) Space Word

 

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