Transforming teaching

Teachers have embraced the transformative power of the iPads in the classroom and are designing their learning in new ways, says Niel McLeod

What would you say are the three biggest benefits of implementing 1:1 tablets schemes in schools?

Firstly our experience has been that the introduction of 1-1 tablets represents a tremendous vehicle for leading a whole school development initiative that has the transformation of learning at its heart. Students and teachers are able to work in completely different ways once everyone is using a tablet and for us this has resulted in an explosion of creativity.

Secondly our students have reported to us that having the device with them to use as a flexible learning tool, both at school and at home has allowed them to personalise the ways in which they work. Teachers have embraced the transformative power of the iPads in the classroom and are designing their learning in new ways in order to give students more responsibility for their learning and to accelerate and personalise feedback.

And what are the three main drawbacks?

You need to be sure that your wireless infrastructure can cope with the density of usage. It can be very frustrating to teachers and students if poor network speeds prevent them from accessing the resources and apps that they would like to use.

The introduction of a 1-1 tablet initiative is a relatively complex project. There is always a risk it can be seen as ‘yet another ICT project’ and therefore not embraced by the whole staff. In order to succeed it needs to be at the heart of the school’s improvement planning and that requires a lot of time and distributed leadership.

I think that one of the exciting aspects of the 1-1 tablet project has been that there is no firmly established tidy orthodoxy about the right way to introduce it. For that reason some schools may be put off. In my view, however, our staff and students have enjoyed experimenting and learning together, trying things, failing at times but always coming back with improvements and refinements. We are still learning every day.

When choosing the tablet model, are schools considering all the options available to them, or are they simply opting for the most popular? Do you think there is enough variety?

In my view schools are all considering their options carefully. It is a significant step to take. We trialled all available tablets before opting to focus our learning transformation project on iPads. We benefitted from placing the focus not on the technical specs of the various tablets but on how their ecosystem could enhance teaching and learning. When you evaluate against those goals, the differences between the tablets become much clearer.

Security/e-safety has been a cause for concern in the past, what steps have we taken to reduce risk?

We adopt a proactive approach to e-safety and try to take every opportunity to reinforce learning and good practice in this area. As well as using acceptable use policies with students and families we encourage students and parents to consider the issues. We have written and shared e-safety courses for students and parents through our iTunes U site. The courses bring together practical advice and guidance from a range of experts and are the focus of work in our tutorial programme. We monitor Internet use across our site through a mobile device management system which gives us clear information about what students are accessing and how they are using the technology. We encourage responsibility in the use of the technology at school and outside school but we also take a proactive approach to monitoring it. 

Can every school realistically implement 1:1 tablet schemes, and do you think they will become a permanent fixture in our schools?

We strongly believe that the use of iPads in our routine teaching and learning has transformed the progress of a large number of our students. Their ability to access information, course materials and their peers and teachers whenever they need to has had a powerful impact.  Personal technology in the form of phones and tablets are changing the expectations of society about access to knowledge. Our students are growing up with an expectation of being connected globally to people and information whenever they need to be.  I think that schools can harness the power of the technology to support each child’s learning and that in fact we should be at the forefront of supporting our young people in exploring the power of technology with teachers guiding them on the way.

Niel McLeod is Deputy Head Teacher, Hove Park School