Pupils are logging on to a new way of learning

Pupils are logging on to a new way of learning

From front, Alanna Dwyer, nine, Lilly McGhee, nine, headteacher Breda Bowles and Jack Davies, seven, at St Joseph’s Primary School in Carterton

Graeme May, deputy head (academic) at Abingdon School teaches a class with the aid of iPads

Sophie Harris, aged nine, shows off the tablet PC she uses at St Joseph’s

Sarah Steel

First published in Features

MOST people may see children playing around with tablets and games consoles and think that the devices are rotting their brains.

But not so in many of the county’s schools.

Smartphones and tablets are everywhere, so it is not surprising that schools are having to expand the use of devices into more than just Information and Communications Technology (ICT) lessons.

Classrooms across Oxfordshire are embracing iPads, tablets and computer games to see if they impact on pupils’ education.

At St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Carterton – which is part of the Dominic Barberi Multi Academy – every child in Key Stage 2 has been given a tablet device to use in conjuction with their classes.

The school’s headteacher Breda Bowles said: “In terms of impact on learning it is really early days, but it has made a significant difference to the delivery of the new ICT curriculum. Recently observing a class using the tablets for coding, the children were engaged, working independently and collaboratively and it was clear that children were learning the skills very quickly.’’ Mrs Bowles added: “As a school we are keen to use technology in any form to engage children in their learning. For example we use Wiis, detachable Acers, and DS’s already, as well as the usual laptops and cameras, so we are very excited about the opportunities this project will bring.”

The class pictured were working on news reports about their school year, and looking at how to film, voice over and edit a report similar to the style of CBBC news show Newsround.

But Mrs Bowles said it is not just the pupils who benefit from the extra technology, as teachers were also using it to improve their skills. She explained: “We are also using the latest technology to support professional development and as part of our Coaching and Mentoring programme we have invested in digital video technology which videos teachers during lesson time which can be shared with other staff, monitored and evaluated and then targets set for continuous improvement.”

The school was helped by GHM Communications, a Garsington-based company, which works with electronics company Samsung. GHM’s director Neil McManus was a former pupil at the school in the 1990s.

Mr McManus, 35, said: “When I was at school I was probably not as engaged as I could have been and I just thought if the technology had been available 21 years ago, I would probably have been more engaged.

“I was more interested in kicking a football then, but now technology can open kids’ eyes to even more things than ever before.

“The children can do something called Flip Learning, where they actually teach the teacher. The teacher will present a subject and ask them to research that and then present what they have found to them.

“Then pupils can actually teach each other.’’ Mr McManus added: “They also have the ability to do 1:1 learning, so instead of having three kids gathered around one computer, each has their own. But the teachers can also see exactly what each child is doing and make sure they are on the right tracks and also if they are struggling.”

John Hussey, the executive principal of the academy trust, said: “We see the use of technology in education as key to future learning and the trial at St Joseph’s to date is a resounding success."

Abingdon School is also trialling a similar method. It has invested in iPads for all its Year 8 pupils to see what impact it has on their learning.

Deputy Head (Academic) Graeme May said: “What I do know though is that we are engaging with pupils in a world they already inhabit – the touch screen, instant information, multi-channel, multi-media environment.

“If we don’t move to meet them, they will simply move on without us and our educational world and practices will quickly look prehistoric.”

He added: “Our results so far are tentatively optimistic. The boys certainly loved having them, and continued to love them even when the novelty had worn off.’’ Budgets are squeezed across the county, and iPads for all might be a way off, but it seems that many would appreciate a long-term investment in such technology.

Despite this, Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for education Melinda Tilley said the council had no plans in place to enhance school technology. She said: “I would support them in classrooms as long as they are used properly and children aren’t on them all the time or accessing what they shouldn’t be.

“Technology needs to be combined into teaching.”

TEACHING THE TEACHER

CHALKBOARDS could become a thing of the past under plans to modernise classrooms.
GHM’s director Neil McManus believes interactive whiteboards will become more commonplace and link up with children’s tablets.

He said: “It’s flipped the classroom on its head, whereby the kid teaches the teacher.

“They go out and find information themselves and then come back and report back to the teachers.

“The teacher can see what they’re doing and if they see a kid struggling they can have a quiet word and point them in the right direction for where to look.

“It’s taking the interactive whiteboard a stage further. Rather than a teacher standing in front of the whole class and telling them to write things down, they have the ability to find out the information themselves in an innovative way.

“In the next 10 to 15 years all kids will have a learning aided device connected to WiFi and blackboards may not be needed.”

Mr McManus said children will be able to use a special S pen to write on the screen and can watch slideshows on curriculum subjects.

It will be pupils’ point of reference and include timetables and e-books.

TWO-YEAR-OLDS LIKE COMPUTER CHIPS

WHAT about the use of technology with much younger children?

A nursery in West Oxfordshire has “digital tables” installed for the toddlers to interact with.

The Old Station Nursery in Filkins encourages children to use the apps on the free-standing tables which encourage counting, matching shapes and colours, and even learning to look after a pet.

It is hoped that the tables will help children who qualify for funded two-year-old places to learn how to use technology they might not be able to access at home. The immediate thoughts of safety for 
those youngsters is combatted as the tables are not connected to the internet, and children are supervised during use.

Sarah Steel, managing director of the group, said: “Smart devices are fast becoming a way of life at home, in school and in the workplace. 

“Our goal is to equip our children with as many learning tools as possible so that they are ready to engage when they take their next step to big school. This digital table gives them a chance to get to grips with technology at an early age and will give our children the chance to be a step ahead.”

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