In September 2011, Longfield Academy launched an iPad scheme to all 970 students aged 11 to 18, the first large-scale deployment of its type in Europe.
The aim was to provide all students with one-to-one access to an iPad at school and at home and it included a home access programme so that parents could lease a device from the school for their children.
A trial in 2010 confirmed that there was support for the idea and from the outset we were keen to ensure that the introduction of technology would enhance the educational experience of the pupils and not be simply for the sake of it. The key was to ensure we had a clear strategy and vision for the programme and that everybody was involved in its delivery from the start.
It is to be expected that some concerns would be raised. We found that some staff members were hesitant through their own personal lack of experience in using such technology. Parents also wanted reassurance that the iPads would be used effectively within lessons and represented good value for money.
By talking to those involved and sharing our vision we were able to address any potential issues and ensure that the introduction was fully supported by all concerned.
As was probably to be expected, the pupils were extremely positive and they are very much in tune with how the technology works and supports their approach to learning. It is vital that you understand the learning culture that exists within your establishment and how technology can best enhance and support this. We have seen an increase in productivity among the students and there is far more evidence now of collaborative working in place, but we have been keen to ensure that any technology should only be used where it brings something extra to the subject.
The use of iPads is encouraged to enable teachers to deliver lessons in different ways but while iPads are very much used across the full timetable of lessons it is certainly not the case that every lesson on every day will be dependent upon the technology.
Anyone looking to introduce technology into the classroom should be clear on what they want it to bring and how it can best be used to improve what is already in place. It is also important to understand just how many pupils, and indeed staff, currently have access to and use the technology to be introduced – at Longfield an evaluation was done on the usage of iPads.
Understanding the current levels of knowledge and usage of the technology you are considering is key – this will help to shape the strategy you adopt and will also highlight any areas of additional training that will be needed.
Once the decision to go ahead is made, it is important to get the devices into people’s hands as soon as possible and get them using them. We found that the introduction of iPads certainly made learning a two-way experience; pupils are keen to demonstrate what they can do and what research tools are available. The ownership of learning has been transferred to the children – they are interested in discovering what else is available to help with their school work and developing their own knowledge.
Not everything will be straightforward. We expected that there would be some hiccups in the beginning and there were, but these were primarily down to operator error and a personal lack of understanding as to how the technology worked.
We made sure that we identified a group of trouble-shooters who had a keen interest and knowledge of the product and those who were experiencing any problems could go and speak to one of these individuals and get the help and support they needed. This has proved to be a very successful scheme with the majority of issues resolved quickly and effectively.
It is essential that there is a robust management and review programme in place. This is simply good management practice but it is vital that you have the processes in place to identify and tackle any issues that may arise and the means by which to assess and review the benefits and outcomes of a technology’s usage.
This is something that will be continually evolving with new learning coming through so it is important that you are reviewing and developing your strategy and vision accordingly. Make sure that there is provision for ongoing evaluation so you can embrace and capitalise upon its success and share best practice and learnings among your colleagues and peers.
Finally, make sure you record and share your experiences with others. The use of technology within education establishments is only going to increase and if we can all share best practice then we can ensure that this is something that enriches the learning experience of our students and leads to higher standards of learning and development.
Anne Davis is principal of Longfield Academy in Dartford. One of the uses Longfield has for its iPads is GCSEPod, which offers a range of revision and learning materials.
CAPTION: Hands-on: Longfield Academy students working on their new iPads