Assistant Head Nadeem Shah explains how iPad is helping to engage students at Netherfield Primary, an inclusive urban primary school in the second most deprived quintile in the East Midlands whose head teacher was recently named teacher of the year at the Pride of Britain awards.
You provided staff with iPad devices back in 2012 – what were your main goals in doing so?
We wanted to introduce staff to the new technologies available. With iPad, that was mostly
the vast App Store, that would open up so many new opportunities for the children, and also the touchscreen technology that made it so accessible for students and for adults. We took an educated guess as to whether people would be totally involved with it, and they were. Some of our staff who were maybe reluctant ICT users actually turned to keen ICT users very quickly.
Was it important to you that staff got comfortable using the devices before handing them out to pupils?
Absolutely, which is why we invested in having 18 for staff across the school, mostly in areas where we were going to deploy iPad devices to students. When we had the whole school iPad training session it was just such fun. The laughter around the staff room was fantastic. The staff engaged very much straight away, and giving them that time to go away and get familiar with the iPad first meant that they were able to engage fully with the learning on the iPad in the term that followed. It was absolutely the right decision to make.
What made you decide it was time to trial a student 1:1 scheme?
We need to keep up with the times. ICT is constantly evolving and developing, and this is what they’re used to at home. They have access to this kind of technology on a daily basis, and if we don’t provide them with it in school then very soon […] children aren’t engaging with ICT because the technology that we’re using is obsolete, and then the learning across the curriculum can be at a disadvantage. We obviously want to keep up to date so kids are engaged and involved with new technologies as they happen.
Why did you choose the e7 Project?
We stumbled across the e7 Project and are delighted we did. We were at a seminar where Apple and some education agencies were running a session, and one of the teachers mentioned that they were having an e7 rollout and that the Jigsaw24 team were at the event. In our inimitable style we tried to crash the party and see if any more iPad devices were going.
Did you have to do any work to prepare for the trial?
Yes, we had to make sure the WiFi was capable of handling the workload, so we actually had some guys from Jigsaw24 in to do a survey for us. We’re really glad we did it because it brought up some blips and some gaps as well as some over-use of the WiFi – where the signals were too close and bouncing off each other. We had a bit of a redeployment and moved around some of the access points, and it made a big difference.
Talk us through how you used the iPad devices during your e7 term.
We had 16 based in our Foundation unit along with ten staff ones. We had eight in our Nurture provision classes, and then the other 16 around school to be booked out. They were out in every class, all the time. We had to create a separate log out book for the tablets because they were being used so often and so positively, to move the students’ learning on with the fantastic array of apps available, so that was brilliant.
Tell us a bit about how you went about finding apps for your classes.
Because we were able to give staff the opportunity to try out iPad over the holidays, they
found some fantastic stuff app-wise that we were able to install, and as the weeks and months progressed we would have regular weekly meetings where staff would talk about apps that they’d found and recommend that we should roll them out.
GarageBand was phenomenal for our music tuition. What has been particularly good for us has been being able to target specific aspects [of apps] to pupils’ individual learning. So if a whole class is doing something, you can tailor the apps to suit their individual needs and learning gaps.
It’s not just, ‘Right kids, you’re all going on this program’; they might be going on different apps, or they might be going to different aspects of the same app to hit their individual needs, which is perfect for us. Rather than generic teaching, it’s all about personalising the learning, and iPad and the apps are a fantastic tool to help personalise learning for the children.
What were the main benefits of the trial for students?
We specialise in supporting children with challenging behaviours, and this is a fantastic carrot for them to have. I’ve got a pupil with me now who’s a great example of a pupil who’s gone from having specific difficulties to really turning himself around and getting on in class, and the iPad has been a fantastic tool for doing that. Not only does it engage the children, who want to learn through those devices, it supports them in being occupied but in a positive way, a learning way.
You’re not just saying ‘Here, play on this game,’ it’s about learning. And it’s a fun way for them to engage with their learning, he’s telling me. The opportunities that they may have had to switch off in a classroom, which led to negative behaviours, become much less of an occurrence because they’re engaged in their learning full time.
How have parents responded to the scheme?
It’s been great, the parents are getting involved and the kids are coming in saying ‘We’ve downloaded this app at home, Sir, have a look at this one, it’ll be great for what we’re doing at the moment’, so the home learning is being engaged in that way as well.
Did you encounter any problems, and if so how did you overcome them?
There’s always the funding thing. Obviously ideally we want one per person full time, but the funding issue involved in that is what it is. Because they were so popular, getting them to everyone who needed them was an issue, but it was workable because we had what we had. I think if we had any more it would have been easier.
The one issue we did have was that we weren’t able to get Apple TVs working, but straight away Chris came to me and said that he’d found a solution to that at another school, so we should be able to use them effectively now.
What were the key factors in deciding whether or not to keep the iPad deployment?
Once that resource had been in school and the children had access to it, there was no way we could take it away from them. The learning that they’d done, the enjoyment they got out of it and the engagement that they’d had meant we couldn’t. And the staff ’s faces when we said that the iPad deployment was going back were, ‘What are we going to do now?!’
How did you find working with the e7 team?
Great! Chris was always at the end of the phone.
I’d often call him or send him an email and to his credit, he was available at hours I wasn’t expecting him to be. I’d send an email at nine, ten o’clock at night expecting him to pick it up in the morning, and I’d get a reply within a couple of minutes nine times out of ten. And he was local as well, so if there was an issue we couldn’t handle over the phone or digitally, he would pop in either for an extended period of time or on his way to somewhere else, so the support was always to hand, prompt and of a very professional standard.
We’re just delighted with the project and long may it continue!
Want to know more about the e7 Project? Give us a call on 03332 409 333, email e7@Jigsaw24.com or visit our site. For all the latest news, tips and reviews, follow @Jigsaw24Edu on Twitter or ‘Like’ our Facebook page.