Nick Dennis's Blog

Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.

Tag: Apple RTC

#SHP12 Reflections

My Saturday evening wear at SHP - Viking mask

My Saturday evening wear at SHP

On my way back from the national Schools History Project conference, I read this passage in Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan’s ‘Professional Capital’:

‘People are motivated by good ideas tied to action; they are energized even more by pursuing action with others; they are spurred on still further by learning from their mistakes; and they are ultimately propelled by actions that make an impact’. p.7

For me, this neatly described the ongoing attraction of a conference in its 24th year; people are drawn to and spurred on by actions which make a difference in classroom across the country. The conference is unique as far as I know; classroom practitioners mingle with subject advisers, publishers, academics and trainers with the express purpose of improving historical understanding and buying into the key principles of the Schools History Project:

  • History should be meaningful
  • Historical enquiry should be the bedrock of learning
  • Studies should take the long view to enhance chronological understanding
  • Diversity in terms of content, approaches to study and peoples is important
  • Local history should play a key role in the historical education of young people
  • History should be fun and rigorous.

Everything that followed from Michael Riley’s opening address tied to the core principles which he outlined and not just limited to the workshops but also in the spaces in-between; the coffee areas, the dining hall and the pub. I was surprised and delighted with the new faces at the conference and there seems to be a growing shift in the age of attendees which bodes well for the continuation of what is possibly the longest serving curriculum development project in the world.

Dr Michael Riley – SHP Director

I presented two sessions and I thought the first one was poor by my usual standards. Everything I normally do before giving presentations I did not/was not able to do (I have a routine, like athletes do). As a result, I felt that is was middling at best. I then spent most of lunch and the Saturday afternoon/evening ironing out the technical/logistical issues. As a result, the second session on Sunday felt a lot better. One key learning takeaway for me? Make sure that all equipment is set up for me (especially when using around 50k worth of kit loaned by Apple) and if not possible, limit your ambition! I would like to thank Leonie and Mike at Apple for their help in arranging the iPads and Macbooks for the conference. We should all keep an eye out for some exciting things coming from English Heritage and the National Archives on the mobile learning front…

As usual, Don Cumming and Dan Lyndon‘s session showed the positive power of collaboration in the classroom and how it can be used to solve genuine historical issues. Their enthusiasm and deep understanding of learning left me lots of things to think about. Donald and Don’s campaign for Olaudah Equiano’s Blue Plaque is something I would urge you to get involved in. The only other session I was able to attend was the brilliantly practical workshop by Tim Jenner and Paul Nightingale on using sources. The argue that source skills should not be taught as a ‘bolt-on’ but should become familiar to students through  I liked how they used the ‘splat’ game to get students to hit inferences created by the class/teacher. I loved their idea of cutting up a source and asking the students to recreate what they think it is and then at the end of the lesson, compare with the original. The example they used in the workshop was ‘The World Turned Upside Down’ with the images cut up. Our group created an image to conform to our expectations of ‘normal’ which seemed plausible. As the lesson progresses, the students are asked to move the images around to reflect the learning. I thought this was particularly powerful as it meant that students could then explain why the church appears upside down and in the sky due to the nature of the religious upheaval rather than just guess at it when they see the source for the first time. I will certainly be using their ideas in all my lessons next year.

 

The World Turned Upside Down – in pieces

A TeachMeet was also held this year and once again, I cannot thank the contributors enough (some did not know they were presenting until I twisted their arms when they walked into the room)! Feedback was great with attendees loving the rapid-fire nature of the presentations.

 

TeachMeet SHP12 attendees

 

The plenary sessions I attended were led by Richard McFahn and Neil Bates, Ben Walsh and Chris Culpin. I really enjoyed all of them, albeit for very different reasons. Richard and Neil’s session gave you pratical tips to take away and use, Ben (the ‘Silver Fox’ of History teaching – he sure is a handsome man!) left me laughing about the pressures we face as history teachers with some great clips to illustrate his points. This was my favourite as it showed how dangerous a very small amount of historical knowledge can be:

Saturday’s entertainment, as ever, was supplied by Ian Dawson. Making the point that Anglo-Saxon history is important (yet takes little time in the school curriculum), Ian showed us through militant Witans, jovial, shameless Vikings and an inspired King Alfred (played by Chris Culpin) that we really are missing a huge part of history when we leap from the Romans to the Normans (there was even a quick rendition of Monty Python’s ‘What have the Romans done for us?’ sketch).

Chris Culpin’s talk resonated with me as he is clearly focused on core purpose and principles and this was the running thread of the conference for me. It is clear that for over 40 years, the Schools History Project has worked hard at staying true to their principles and it was a challenge to me as I thought I may not be able to attend the conference next year due to the new role at Berkhamsted. I now think this was wrongheaded of me to even entertain this idea. Why would a senior leader in a school pass up the opportunity to see in action an educational organisation that operates so tightly and effectively within its principles and promotes high quality staff development?

Say ‘hello’ when you see me next year.

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Goodbye to all that – Apple RTC events April 19th, May 31st and July 6-8th 2012

And so it begins – my final participation in the Apple Regional Training Centre events at Felsted this academic year. My colleague and new Assistant Head, Sarah Capewell, will be taking over the running of the Apple RTC at Felsted and will be available to discuss how to make the best use of tools to support learning. What you will get from Sarah is a learning focussed approach with a keen eye for detail (she is, after all, a Classicist!) and she has some exciting projects in the pipeline for the next few years. If you would like to attend the final two events at Felsted where Sarah and I will be leading the sessions together, please go to this page and sign up. My final appearance as a Felsted employee/Apple RTC Manager will be at the national Schools History Project Conference in Leeds in July where I will be showcasing some of the work at Felsted using History as a focus.

Reflecting on the journey over the last few years as an Apple RTC, there are a few things that I have learned which spring to mind (a longer post will no doubt appear in the last few days):

  • Technology amplifies professional knowledge. Poor professional knowledge of the learning process is still poor when technology is used to just ‘engage’ students. And it shows. Clearly.
  • Excellent integration of technology in the learning process requires deep thinking about the learning that needs to take place. Sometimes, the best way to use technology is not to use it. Yes, you can be an excellent teacher without using technology in your lesson but if you are an excellent teacher, you will most probably be looking for other ways to develop your excellence and technology may help you.
  • For all the keynote talks about improving schools using technology or new approaches to learning or 21st century skills (and I have no idea what these skills are as they sound very similar to previous skills in my opinion), implementing these ideas is not easy; they all require hard work. I’ll say it again. It requires hard work, being disciplined and rigourous. Then again, if you are a teacher or in education, you know that supporting young people develop can be hard work but you do it anyway. The key thing is that after a while, the effort lessens and your capacity to use the technological tools at your disposal improves.
  • A tool in itself does not transform education or ‘change the game’. Transformation and ‘game changing’ happens because someone has thought carefully and explored ways in which the tool can be used to help learning. The human dimension is integral but gets neglected or obscured by the focus on the tool.

Next academic year I take up the post of Deputy Head (Academic) at Berkhamsted School which is not an Apple Regional Training Centre. However, there are a number of excellent practitioners using ICT there and I am looking forward to working with Laura Knight (director of eLearning) and Rosie McColl amongst others. They and others are doing some amazing work with iPads and Google Apps and I can safely say that if you would like to visit and see the work in action, you are more than welcome.

Despite being the public ‘voice/face’ of the Apple RTC, the success of the relationship with Apple and the events themselves are down to a number of people. They are too numerous to mention here (and they will get their personal recognition in other ways) but I can say that without their help, Felsted would not be the successful RTC it is, and will continue to be, with Sarah’s stewardship. Finally, I must thank you, readers, for turning up. There is no point in holding training events if people see no value in them, which strangely enough, occurs when things are free! We have been privileged to host colleagues from Devon, the North, the Midlands and closer to home in Essex. Your questions and experience has validated what we believe and has also challenged us to be better. So, if you haven’t had the opportunity to visit, learn and share with us at the Apple RTC, please do. It is not long before I have to say goodbye to all of that at Felsted.

Image: Lanier67@Flickr

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How to use an iPad effectively in your classroom: #2 Feedback Support/Overviews with Attitude

Feedback on students’ work is, according to the research (John Hattie and Dylan Wiliam), the most effective way to raise achievement. Despite knowing this, we find it hard to give the necessary time to discuss in depth the strengths and areas for development due to perceived constraints (syllabus/curriculum coverage, behaviour management issues or lack of time). I remember a few years ago when I was struggling to find a way to incorporate feedback that an inspirational teacher (and good friend ) Iain Biddle at Presdales School pointed me in the right direction. Iain would set up a task and then use the lesson to meet every student for a few minutes to go through their work. His argument that the feedback was more important than the curriculum being covered for one lesson stuck with me and I soon adopted his idea with my own students but I always felt a little dissatisfied about the tasks I set as I felt that sometimes there was more emphasis on keeping the students busy rather than learning.

With my IB History class this term I have really worked hard to give effective feedback but I was at the point in my Scheme of Learning where I really needed to start the new topic of Mao’s consolidation of power in China 1949-57. I normally start a new topic by using an overview so students can gain a sense of the ‘Big Picture’ and lean heavily on the work of Ian Dawson. However, the overviews I employ demand heavy teacher involvement which means not being able to spend quality time giving the necessary feedback. I needed an alternative.

I had been toying with the idea of using ePub books for a while but needed to find the right time. ePub is an electronic book format that can be created using a number of applications including Apple’s Pages application and the results can be pretty stunning with audio, video and images embedded with the text. This seemed to be a good alternative in terms of giving the students information but I also wanted them to gain a sense of chronology. An ePub book by itself was not going to allow me to do this (apart from using a very drab timeline) but I returned to one tool that has been incredibly useful for teaching chronology: Beedocs’ Timeline 3D. What is impressive about the application is the ability to create timelines and embed multimedia into the timeline itself giving both a sense of chronology and knowledge. Having created a timeline with clips from a number of documentaries on China and audio clips by Professor Rana Mitter and Dr Patricia Thornton from the University of Oxford, I embedded the video file created by Timeline 3D into Pages. I added a few questions for the students to work on and made sure the video file was ‘inline’ with the text (necessary to do otherwise Pages cannot convert the document to ePub). I then copied the ePub file to the iPads and told the to bring their headphones in to the next lesson.

What followed was an example of the pedagogy driving the use of the device, not the other way round (or as I have started to say, the device is not the pedagogy). I handed the students the iPads, pointed out iBooks to them and told them to open the book and complete the work. The duly plugged in their headphones and set about gaining an overview of Mao’s China. Whilst they were watching/listening/reading, I spoke to each student individually about their essay using the following format:

  • I ask  how they felt the essay went (they usually fill in a self assessment form when they submit work).
  • I go through the aspects I really like
  • We then discuss specific things they could do to improve.

As I have come to expect, the students responded positively to the feedback but what was particularly interesting was what I noticed when I observed the students using the iPad:

  •  Students could pick up their learning where they left it after discussing their work and they did not feel disadvantaged by spending a few minutes in the corridor discussing their work;
  • The ability to ‘scrub’ through the clip and minimise the video within the ePub so they could see the questions allowed them to replay important points at their own speed and to reduce the friction between moving between the questions and the resource.

This may seem a pretty mundane lesson as essentially they were given some material and I spoke to them individually about their work. The result in the first instance was extremely positive; they were able to return the following lesson and relate the overview of events to the abstract discussion on Mao’s political ideology which I was very pleased about. As for the feedback, I am looking forward to the next essay as I now get drafts before the deadline with the feedback incorporated into the work. It may not be the most ‘showy’ use of an iPad, but it certainly was very effective in terms of learning.

 

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How to use an iPad/Apple TV effectively in your classroom: #1 Mirroring


iPad mirroring menu

iPad mirroring menu

With the advent of wireless video mirroring in iOS5, the possibilities of using the iPad to help support the learning process grew. The iPad could, of course, mirror content through a physical link to a projector or HDMI capable TV, but it would mean being more rooted to one area. Moving around the classroom and engaging with the students resonated with me as it would allow me to:

1) Use the iPad as a document camera – I could show the work of one student to the class for modelling or critique purposes (in a Ron Berger style);
2) Bring up a web page anywhere in the room and share it with the class;
3) if I was feeling really brave, use something like the Penultimate app to write on the iPad (would need a stylus to make it very useful).

What really peaked my interest was the idea of a class equipped with iPads where the students could show what they were doing/modelling/critiquing. An effective use of technology to support learning.

All I would need to help this work is a HDMI capable projector or TV, an Apple TV and a wireless point. This last piece of information seemed counter-intuitive to me as I would expect an elegant solution where the iPad and the Apple TV would communicate without the need for an additional wireless point…

Once the iPad and Apple TV are connected over Wifi, you have to double press the ‘Home’ button on the iPad and then swipe to the right (or use four fingers and swipe up on the iPad and then swipe to the right when you see the applications at the bottom). You will then see the music controls with an additional Airplay icon. If you tap the icon you should see the image leading this post and it gives you choice streaming content to the Apple TV or mirroring the iPad screen. Of course, you need the latest updates on your Apple TV and your iPad to make it work.

What works well

  • Video streams very well (you may need to wait a few seconds) and the quality was surprising;
  • You can use the camera over Wifi as a visualiser and you can record video while streaming and then play it back on the projector/TV in full screen view;
  • Works great with a dedicated Wifi point that has no other ‘traffic’.

 

Screen from Morris Lessmore

Screen from Morris Lessmore

What could be improved

  • Sometimes the iPad dropped the mirror image and would not display it again despite turning it off and on again on the iPad.
  • Not all apps play with sound. The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore worked sometimes and at other times, it did not work. The Elements did not play with sound.
  • Mirroring was not full screen. Using The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore again, the brilliant visuals looked a little truncated on the screen.
  • No pinch and zoom with photos/images over wifi.
  • If you have school wifi points that link to the network, mirroring may take a hit in performance terms especially when streaming video.
Despite these issues, I am looking forward to testing this with my classes over the next half term. Of course, if you come to the Felsted Apple events, you can experience it for yourself.
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Technology on trial

Original article published in the October edition of Independent Schools Magazine.

Will bringing iPads and iPod Touches into the classroom distract students from the main business of learning? As a new two-year trial using Apple mobile technology in lessons gets underway at Felsted School, Essex, assistant headmaster Dr Nick Dennis explains the reasoning behind it and the theories he expects it to prove.

Many schools are still very wary of introducing mobile technology to the classroom. The main fear is that it prevents students from becoming properly ‘engaged’ in lessons, that it distracts from the main business of teaching and learning. We believe this is a result of the technology becoming the focal point rather than the learning. Placed within the correct pedagogical context, a mobile enhanced teaching and learning platform can usher in substantive benefits in terms of students’ academic progress and also pastoral care throughout the school. As a history teacher with a particular interest in the relationship between historical processes and the use of ICT to help further understanding, I was very concerned that the use of ICT was often thought of as a panacea to what is essentially a teaching and learning problem. After becoming aware of the growing body of research on effective teaching and assessment strategies by Dylan Wiliam and John Hattie, I began to think about the ways technology could aid effective classroom practice at Felsted. I was also keen to explore the possibilities mobile technology offered with regard to safeguarding and easy accessibility to information to help the administrative side of running a school.

Apple and Orange involvement
Apple were aware that we had a slightly different view on the use of technology in education and after a series of meetings with them, they understood the goals we had for our students and the school.
As a result Felsted has been named a Regional Training Centre for Education – one of the few independent schools to have this status and the only one in the UK with History as its focus – and Apple initially loaned a selection of MacBooks to Felsted. However, we decided to expand the programme with a particular focus on mobile learning over a two-year span, using class sets of iPods and iPads, the results of which Apple will monitor with interest. We are hosting a number of events throughout the trial period to show other schools and interested parties just how the technology complements traditional methods and what other benefits it can have for the school and its students. Mobile phone company Orange is also closely involved and has provided iPhones so that Felsted’s Housemasters and mistresses can stay in touch with their charges throughout the school day and access medical, registration and academic information necessary for their role.

Research strategy
Our project is focused on four academic departments in the Senior School, covering a range of age, ability and examination groups. These subject areas were chosen specifically as they have no clear link with technology in the classroom – Business Studies/Economics, Biology, Classics and History. Baseline student data and target grades will be used as the benchmark for measuring student progress and we are currently devising an approach where we can measure the actual learning taking place using the work of Graham Nuthall as a basis. One area we are keen to explore is Dylan William’s idea of ‘Hinge Questions’ as part of improving assessment of learning and providing the next steps for improvement. A ‘Hinge Question’ is where students face a number of multiple-choice questions during the lesson on their mobile device but instead of having one right answer, each answer refers to a particular level of understanding. Student answers are recorded and collated by the software and the teacher can then use this to give effective feedback to help move the student on. The devices can also be used to personalise content to students based on their performance so that learners are always challenged in relation to their performance.

To ensure that the research is rigorous, Miles Berry, Senior Lecturer in Information and Communication Technology at Roehampton University and Apple Distinguished Educator, is one of the academic advisers.
On the basis that the results of the first year of the trial prove to be successful, the plan is to roll out the mobile enhanced teaching platform to all other areas of the school in the second year and to monitor its effects there.

Benefits
The benefits of using mobile devices in a pedagogically focused way are enormous. Not only do they move us away from the ‘office model’ mode of using technology, but their battery life, portability and multi-functionality allow them to be used in a variety of contexts. They offer basic academic staples tools, such as an electronic dictionary, thesaurus, calculator and planner, but also serve as note takers by using the camera/video and typing interface they provide. Outdoor and international visits take on a different dimension with the ability for GPS use and to create video blogs without the need to go to a computer to edit footage. We are also developing a mobile interface so students can gain easy access to their academic information, such as target grades and reports, and link to personal and school calendars, thereby removing the need for a paper planner. Pastorally, it is anticipated that the use of mobile devices will promote the quality of tutoring at Felsted by giving staff finger-tip access to student information, such as sanctions and commendations, medical details and contacts for parents, across the school campus and beyond. We also see the devices as having a key social effect in promoting the school community by the ability to respond to social- networking groups such as Houses, Year Groups, or the School Forum.

The desire to use these devices at Felsted is not driven by them being ‘cool’ (although the students perceive them as such). We believe that they may offer a vehicle to help improve what are already effective teaching, pastoral and social practices but with more speed, precision and in a context focused on striving to help students achieve their best. While the ‘office model’ of computers has promised much and has led to some improvements, it often meant that students had to be chained to desks. Learning can happen anywhere, and we believe that mobile devices may be able to help promote, capture and extend learning within and outside the classroom.

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The Classroom Experiment

I have watched with interest the reaction to the BBC Schools’ Season programme ‘The Classroom Experiment’ over the last week, in particular, the role of Dylan Wiliam. Many of the comments I have heard suggested he was ‘nothing special’ to recognising the validity of some of his ideas.

What struck me was the change in culture, from a classroom where intelligence was a fixed thing to a place where substantive and situational learning was taking place for all. Pretty impressive stuff in my opinion and it reinforced the decision to use Wiliam’s idea of ‘Hinge Questions’ as one of the tools of the mobile learning project at Felsted. My colleague, Sarah Bushby, the Head of Classics, gave a fantastic presentation on ‘Hinge Questions’ at the Apple Regional Training Centre event and I am convinced that we will really help the students to improve their performance based on the information gathered by this type of question. Basically, a ‘Hinge Question’ is a smarter multiple choice question; instead of one right answer, each response relates to a particular level of understanding. The responses can be collected electronically and then used to inform the teaching of the following lessons and identify areas for improvement and challenge. The use of ‘Hinge Questions’ and iPod Touches in this links neatly to the way we think about the use of technology. Using Reuben Puentadura’s SAMR model of technology use, we are clearly focusing on whether the technology we are using in school is serving a pedagogical purpose.

Puentedura’s SAMR Model – Thanks to Louise Duncan

There is no doubt that we could create ‘Hinge Questions’ without the use of technology and we will be using them as technique in many of the lessons. However, the use of technology allows us to track progress in more meaningful ways during a lesson, over a series of lessons or for a longer period of time with the integrity of the data guaranteed and recorded quickly. In this sense, it can be seen as a process of augmentation on the SAMR scale. However, the use of ‘Hinge Questions’ and the iPods, when placed within the context of providing individualised feedback to students based on the collation of data and working with them to improve their performance, appears to me to be a substantial modification of the teaching and learning dynamic. Yes, it could be done without the technology but it would be very difficult to gain all the responses quickly and analyse the data to identify areas of stretch and challenge.

This is our version of Wiliam’s ‘Classroom Experiment’ and we are excited to see for ourselves how we can inspire the students to improve their performance. We are sharing our experiences at the forthcoming Apple events at the school. If you would like to see some of the tools in action or hear how we have used the SAMR model to really think about the use of technology in the classroom, please use the booking form below.

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SCVNGR Reflections

I have been talking up the potential of SCVNGR since I first heard about it earlier this year as I thought it would provide a vehicle for games based learning at the school and beyond. Initially marketed as an electronic scavenger hunt, the direction and feel of the application was changed during the course of the year to incorporate social networking functionality similar to Foursquare. Even with this change in orientation, I believed that it would be possible to use the platform to implement a game based learning approach to historical trips/visits. Questions (or ‘challenges’) can be set and answered by typing specific answers, free form text, submitting a picture or scanning a QR Code. The experience today has made me reflect carefully on the further use of the tool with the students.

The use of SCVNGR in school today was meant to provide a fun activity for the boarders and also test the application in a relatively controlled environment. As I was building the ‘Trek’ (it used to be called a scvngr) I realised that one of the aspects of the earlier build has disappeared, namely the ability to display large images in the game and attach questions to it. The screenshot below shows the original implementation.

Scvngr Screen Shot

Old Scvngr image based question

However, the new version of the game only allows (as far as I can tell) thumbnail displays (as the screen shot below also shows).

Current SCVNGR question with image.

Continuing with the image theme, the students had some issues uploading to the game the pictures they had to taken in order to answer a challenge. It seems to be an iPhone issue (seemed to work on Android devices) and this severely dented the enjoyment of the students taking part.

Uh oh...

The short game today has made me think very carefully about the use of such software in a classroom based environment. I still believe that it has massive potential for learning outside the four walls of the classroom and could lead to a significant modification of task design to help learning. However, the platform needs to be developed to to able to meet the high expectations of the learners and staff, especially with image submission. I had intended to use it for the Apple Regional Training event at the school this week but I am undecided at the moment. If you are coming to the event, be prepared to test it out and let me know what you think.

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Busy times

The start of term is usually very busy but this year is unusual in that we have a number of new projects running. The first is our brand new MIS which looks fantastic and we are currently ironing out the issues as they arise. A lot of thought has gone into this in-house system and one of the most impressive things is how it is geared towards student achievement. As things progress, I will post a more detailed update on the system and how it is helping to help support the learning environment at the school.

The second project is the use of iPhones for the management team and the pastoral/house staff. This has already improved communication within the school and I am hope to talk a bit more about at the third project, the Apple Regional Training Centre event next Thursday from 2-4pm. Overall, 10 people have signed up for one of the three events this term and we have expressions of interest from a few other colleagues in other schools. I am looking forward to sharing the exciting plans for learning using mobile technology with the group next Thursday and there are a few spaces still available so head on over to here if you want to sign up.

Finally, #edjournal is coming together. If you want to contribute, please get in touch!

Image: Daniel Morris@Flickr

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Apple RTC Reflections

The end of term is almost upon me and the theoretical ‘free time’ I should gain by losing my examination classes has been filled with other important bits of school work. This is usually a critical time for me as I start to plan ahead in detail and the need for ‘thinking time’ as part of the process is vital. I was provided an opportunity to think very carefully about plans for the next year by attending the Apple Regional Training Centre (RTC) conference in Manchester last week.

This was my first RTC conference and it brought home how wide and diverse the RTC programme is for Apple covering schools, City Learning Centres (CLCs) and other educational organisations. The theme for the conference was mobility and we were taken through some astounding numbers in terms of mobile device adoption in relation to other kinds of technology. One thing was made clear in relation to the adoption of mobile technology; content, provided by the teacher/web/company, was a key driver for use. After the introductory sessions by Apple staffers, delegates and Apple Distinguished Educators took the floor. I was particularly drawn to what Gillian Penny, a Headteacher from a primary school in Scotland, had to say about ICT. She made it clear that the learning has to come first in the use of technology. Abdul Chohan, Director of IT at Essa Academy, echoed this but I fear the message may have been lost on the conference by the sheer scale of the project at his school. Essa made the news last year when it gave an iPod Touch to every student. Whilst the media focussed on this aspect and the cost, Abdul in his presentation touched upon the change of ethos that governed the use of the iPods; All Will Succeed. This belief has led the Academy to reshape its curriculum and its teaching methods and the interim results look impressive.

On the technical side of things, there were two highlights to the conference. The first was Steve Beard’s ‘Making an iPhone app’ session using Xcode and Freeway, which he did in about 10 minutes. The second was Chris Jinks’ talk about the deployment and configuration of devices using Snow Leopard Server and the free iPhone configuration utility which allows you to manage the use of the device (you can disable the camera or remove the ability to browse the web for example). My colleague, the Head of Classics felt this was a great feature and would help allay fears surrounding behaviour management issues.

I was also reintroduced to a technology I had first heard about in 2006 from Doug Belshaw. I have also been looking at it again in relation to discussions with folk on Ed Tech Round Up and Johannes Ahrenfelt (especially in relation to Augmented Reality). Richard Clark’s talk about the work at Leicester CLC and QR Codes has reinforced my desire to look at this technology again more seriously. He and his team have used QR codes in primary schools to embed links to video on worksheets to model the learning so the pupils could complete the tasks. The potential for this technology is huge and all I really need for this to be work within my classroom is an iPod Touch with a camera…

Overall, I found the conference to be an enjoyable experience – I learned some new things but the key aspect for me was speaking to other RTCs about what they are doing. It also left me with some questions about the emphasis placed on the technology and missing  the context that gives rise to the use of it in the first place. For example, Joe Moretti gave a workshop on Stanza and Calibre for producing Ebooks. It was useful to be reminded of the tool, but as a teacher, I was particularly interested in the way it was used to help literacy.  I could not get to grips with how the technology would allow me to do something beyond what I could replicate in the classroom with a computer or with a piece of paper. I suppose the reason why I was so concerned is because this is something I constantly struggle with/ask myself about; does the technology helping the learning process or not? Is there enough pedagogical thought behind it to make it a genuinely useful tool which allows you to do something more quickly or even beyond your current set of tools? I don’t think this is a particularly innovative thought; this is something I am asked by many people I meet and to be frank, this keeps me, and my work, honest.  Thanks to the Apple Education team and the Cornerhouse in Manchester for hosting us and for giving me the time and space to reflect. The next RTC conference is in November and I, alongside some of the other members of the mobile research team at Felsted, may present our project there.

The learning journey continues over the next month or two as I am heading to Cramlington Learning Village on the 25th June for their conference on teaching and learning.  The following week sees me heading to the national Schools History Project conference in Leeds to present some work on technology and History teaching and chairing the TeachMeet session there. I’m really looking forward to the sessions on Change and Continuity by Christine Counsell, Diana Laffin’s presentation on A Level History teaching and Ian Luff’s workshop on active learning.  After the conference, I am going on a grand tour of Teaching and Learning. First on my list is  Neal Watkin‘s classes to see how John Hattie’s work on visible learning has affected the progress of students in the History classroom. I am then off to Essa Academy to learn about their framework for the use of technology and finally, I plan to see Dawn Hallybone’s school in action.  I am also hoping to teach some History lessons at the local primary school (Flitch Green, also an Apple RTC) in the last week of their term.  If you have any other ideas about what I should see, let me know. I will document each visit here on the blog.

Finally, a word about the mobile learning project. I’ve had a few requests for information about it and once we have ‘sharpened the saw’ on a few of the research issues, it will be publicised on the school website and on this blog. It is taking a little longer than expected but we want to make it as good as we can before the end of our term. I’m really excited by what the team here have come up with and we can’t wait to share it with you and our students.

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