iPads have long been common place in primary settings, but of course the way they are used varies somewhat from school to school. It can range from little more than occasional internet research, to multimedia content creation, to classroom interaction and more.
I paid a visit to one Hertfordshire infant school to find out how they were using their iPads and share some of their practice.
Icknield Infant and Nursery School in Letchworth Garden City is a three form entry school with 315 children on role. They currently have 30 iPads for pupil use and teaching staff are also issued an iPad, in order for them to be able to explore more deeply their potential in the classroom, and lead activities – something that can be difficult to do if the teachers do not have access to their ‘own’ device. The iPads were set up and are managed by Herts for Learning, who also provided training to teaching staff when the devices first arrived.
They also use the iPads to support ‘senses walks’, where children may record noises they hear outside using a simple recording app
At Icknield, the iPads are regularly used outside. Protected by rugged rubber cases, one example of use is as a simple data logging device, where children use apps such as Too Noisy to find loud and quiet areas. This type of activity helps children explore how technology can help us find things out, in this case with a visual, graphical indication of louder and quieter sounds. It also starts to build an understanding of input and output (in terms of computing.) They also use the iPads to support ‘senses walks’, where children may record noises they hear outside using a simple recording app such as Quickvoice Recorder, or take photographs of what they can see. Back in the classroom, they can replay the media they have captured and talk about their experiences.
During lunch times the iPads may be utilised as part of the school’s lunchtime club, and in particular they may be used by children with additional needs as a focused activity.
On Friday afternoons, the children can sign up for different clubs. One of these, Photography Club, uses the iPads to develop the children’s skills in capturing images, but equally importantly in asking permission before capturing images that include people. This is something that the school puts great importance upon, right across the school, so that all children always ask for permission and respond accordingly – an essential part of being a responsible digital citizen.
There had been a burglary, and the chief suspect was the Big Bad Wolf, who had left muddy footprints around the scene!
During the 2017/18 autumn term the children arrived in school one day to find a crime scene! (Don’t worry, this was set up by the staff as part of an extended ‘Talk for Writing’ activity.) There had been a burglary, and the chief suspect was the Big Bad Wolf, who had left muddy footprints around the scene! The children used their iPads to investigate and collect evidence, writing down the clues they had seen and taking photographs that they could later print out to form part of their records.
The school iPads are used extensively to support Computing. Icknield Infants uses the Herts for Learning Primary Computing Scheme, which includes mapping between the termly computing themes and different iPad apps that may be used to support the learning. They use age appropriate programming apps for developing instructional skills, such as Blue-Bot (a programming app that wirelessly links via Bluetooth to a physical, programmable floor robot.)
The devices also serve as a practical way of learning about the differences between digital and non-digital, as part of the ‘Finding Out’ theme within the Primary Computing Scheme. What can we do with digital that we cannot do with something that isn’t digital? For example, a digital book may include sound support, and a digital photograph can be changed. When digital is involved, we can even bring non-digital things to life through augmented reality. (The children use the Quiver 3D Colouring App for this.)
Icknield Infant and Nursery School have found iPads to support effectively their aim of providing a ‘hands-on’ creative curriculum, and they plan to develop further their use throughout the 17/18 school year and beyond.