The power of collaborative learning

Guest Blog: Computing & iPad Learning with Mark Anderson @ICTEvangelist by @cjabracher

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 My school began its journey out of Special Measures in September. There was a drive in English and Maths throughout the autumn term and in January of this year we turned our attention to other areas of teaching and learning, Computing and the use of ICT being included these areas. We are federated with a school that already has a set of iPads and whose teaching of the Computing curriculum is already well under way. In January, I looked on Twitter to see if there was anyone who could meet our needs and give us a kick-start in the training we needed in relation to ICT and Computing.
There are many ICT specialists on Twitter and I spent a long time looking at their work, feedback and their general approach to both teaching and learning. @ICTEvangelist took a practical approach to using ICT in the classroom and clearly had a proven track record. I took my findings to my Headteacher and in February, booked Mark Anderson to come to the school for a day’s Inset in the Summer Term. I hoped that he could find a middle way between our two schools and bring us together, ready to move forward in our use of ICT and in the teaching of the Computing curriculum.

Mark Anderson understands education and what it takes to drive teaching and learning forward. He takes a measured, professional approach towards training. Prior to the Inset taking place, Mark obtained a clear understanding of the current needs of both schools. Training was tailored to meet those needs. He also created an iTunes U course which contained all of the relevant content, materials and resources for teachers to access after the training as a point of reference and support.

On the day, the school hall was buzzing with a mix of apprehension and excitement. I was aware as I looked around the room at the faces of those I work with, that there was a little scepticism. I could sense the disbelief! There were iPads in the room – and not just one or two but loads of them! Where did the scepticism come from? Not from a lack of faith in previous training; not from any preconceived ideas of what the day had in store but instead, from a niggling fear that exists amongst many teachers in relation to the term ‘ICT’. From a fear that it just ‘won’t work’. Why would today be any different?

The term ‘ICT’, often comes with a number of questions that mount up into a huge overwhelming glaring mountain. What if I can’t get it to work? What if I can’t explain it to the children in the lesson? What if the lesson is a total failure? What if the equipment doesn’t work? I have always found there to be one fairly problematic misconception: that teaching the new computing curriculum and using ICT in lessons are one and the same. Very often teachers roll these two separate concerns into one and what results is no less than a technical meltdown! This is of course less than conducive to clarity of thinking and progressive planning.

From the outset, ownership was given to the teachers in the room. The first half of the day was all about iPad discovery. With our iPads at the ready, we experienced the engaging nature of Kahoot.

Interactive and instantly visual, Kahoot facilitates assessment within the classroom. Taking part in an informal quiz about our federation (and with prizes up for grabs), I watched our school hall come alive! Teachers who previously have dismissed using ICT in the classroom became animated at the speed and challenge! Those that were a little more ICT savvy found themselves competing with intent to win the quiz. I looked around: the scepticism had gone and in its place was an enthusiasm. Apprehension had been replaced with an eagerness that I had not witnessed before and there were smiles. This was fun!

From Kahoot we moved through a series of Apps, preloaded onto the iPads. To give but a glimpse:

Toca Train was first, demonstrating how even the youngest of children could experience what it might be like to drive a train. To learn coordination and fine motor skills whilst sitting at the front of a train driver’s cab. Highly engaging for children who would not even realise they were learning.

Paper by 53, for freehand drawing and sketching. This App has the ability to save work and add to it at a later date. An excellent tool and one that Year 6 really like the look of to use in the last few weeks of this current term. Something too which can be used to practice cursive handwriting too for younger students.

Post-It Plus, was received with excitement as the teachers saw its flexibility. The children could write on post-its, digitise them and then the teacher can use the iPad to mark and comment on.

Scannable and Showbie were popular, providing a way of showcasing and celebrating work to the class via the iPad.  

Epic Citadel was a particular favourite amongst the upper Key Stage teachers, providing an imaginary world in which to walk, this App captured the imagination. An excellent writing stimulus amongst other things.

Balloon Stickies Plus caused amusement, with teachers seeing the possibilities of being able to add speech to images.

The second half of the discovery session focused on inspiring children. Mark had asked the teachers to ‘do some colouring in’ throughout the morning. Each table had its own ‘coloured in’ image ready. Using the Quiver App, each drawing came to life – augmented reality in action! An effective hook to engage and inspire the children.

The teachers were beginning to realise that ICT did not have to be a barrier to their teaching and that in fact could actually enhance the learning in the room. Mark shared ideas on how to use Anatomy 4D and Spacecraft 3D for learning before handing the next part of the discovery over to the teachers.  

With built in planning time, each year group was set a challenge: to plan how they would apply their morning of iPad learning to their teaching. Once finished with their planning, the year groups had to present their ideas to the rest of the school.

Year 1 decided that they could use a mix of Post-It Plus and Balloon Stickies Plus in their teaching. They were inspired by Spacecraft 3D and felt that there was much to be achieved and experimented with. On a practical level, Year 4 decided that they would have a go at using Junior Scratch, finding it very user friendly and particularly useful in facilitating the understanding of programming for the lower KS2 children. Year 6 decided to make good use of Quiver in their DT project on volcanoes and also agreed that Kahoot would make an excellent and engaging assessment tool to be used across the 4 Year 6 classes in the federation.

In the afternoon, the sessions were focused on teaching the Computing Curriculum. We started with the ‘Jam Sandwich’ activity where one unsuspecting teacher had to make a jam sandwich through following the individual commands of his or her fellow colleagues. The point, apart from the humour? To understand the basics of coding and how a computer works. A practical activity which set a high level of engagement from the staff.

In the ICT Suite we were able to try our hands at ‘hacking’ websites. Not literally, we were introduced to the use of X-Ray Goggles. Using this tool, we were able to take a copy of a particular web page and use it as a template, re-writing its contents. A highly effective tool for teaching both computing and literacy skills as the children would be given an great introduction understanding the process of coding in HTML whilst also applying their writing techniques to create their own webpage.

The final demonstration, was the use of Sphero balls. Controlled via an iPad or iPhone, the little dancing balls changed colour and moved according to command. These could be used across all the key stages and at varying level of complexity, from Early Years (for example using the ‘Draw n’ Drive’ app) onwards (for example, using the Tickle app). All the staff agreed that these needed to be purchased!

Next steps:

After the day’s training, Mark spent some time with the leadership team discussing our vision for the use of technology moving forward. Topics included:

  • Google Apps for Education
  • Social Media
  • VLE
  • Purchasing and procurement

If I had to sum up our day’s training with @ICTEvangelist in 3 words, it would be these: impact, enthusiasm, learning:

Impact – There is a new buzz. I watched a hall full of teachers shift a gear in their attitude: from sceptical to keen.

Enthusiasm – They realised that using ICT wasn’t a mountain to be overcome but in fact an adventure to be grabbed with both hands.

Learning – It is not the Apps that make the learning but how they are used. iPads are tools which can enhance the learning and engage the children and adults alike. It was clear that we could fill the children’s learning with fun and excitement. It was and is achievable.

My colleagues were full of enthusiasm after their day. The feedback has been positive. The training has pulled together two schools which were at varying levels. All have been left feeling confident, empowered and ready to enhance/realise our vision. A supportive and encouraging presence, it is safe to say that we would all highly recommend him and readily have him return.  

From little seeds, acorns grow. I am watching this space with anticipation and excitement: our journey has begun. Where will it lead? 


Author: TeachAldenham

Online profile of TeachAldenham, Aldenham School Teaching and Learning Group. teachaldenham.wordpress.com Find us on twitter @teachaldenham

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