When their site was rebuilt as part of the Primary Capital programme, Hartlepools Jesmond Gardens Primary School moved from PC to Mac and launched an ambitious 1:1 iPad rollout across years five and six, as well as using the devices with EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) pupils. Deputy Head Paul Martindale explains how Apple technology is helping staff transform the way they teach.
'Buying time' by moving to Apple
In September 2011, Jesmond Gardens received funding for a new school build as part of the Primary Capital programme. As part of the refit, they decided to move from PC to Mac computers because, as Deputy Head Paul Martindale explained: we liked the concept of being able to buy time, and we felt like the Apple equipment would let us do that because the software was very intuitive and the transitional workflow between apps was much easier. We felt the whole Apple solution enabled us to use technology as an aid to learning instead of a barrier.
At the same time, the school introduced iPad to its EYFS classes, and rolled out a 1:1 scheme among older students in years five and six. We felt tablets and smartphones were going to be part of our childrens lives soon if they werent already, explained Paul, and we wanted their education to be purposeful and real, so we tried to replicate some of the learning that goes on outside of school in our classrooms.
This has also been reflected in the schools approach to iPad training theyre letting students take the lead, with appointed Digital Leaders holding after school workshops every Wednesday to recommend apps and demonstrate new things theyve learned to do on their devices. (There has also been a days training on iLife from an Apple Distinguished Educator, in order to take away the fear factor that surrounds new software.)
Aside from making classroom learning more relevant to the outside world, Paul and the rest of the staff saw another immediate benefit from using iPad: instant access to teaching resources through the App Store. Very quickly what we noticed was the quality of materials that we could provide our kids with was 100 times better if we were using the iPad than if we were just using a traditional textbook approach, he said. Weve also had brilliant outcomes from apps like Talking Larry and Puppet Pals with our EAL children and a couple of children we had who were diagnosed with selective mutism. The first time those children talked to our staff here was via those apps, so they certainly helped to break down barriers and to give children access to learning more quickly than they would have had usually.
Embracing multi-modal learning and assessment with iPad
Another area which was unexpectedly transformed was assessment, where Paul and his team now have more evidence than we know what to do with thanks to the cameras and microphone built in to iPad. We have visual and verbal dual feedback, which usually you wouldnt have any evidence trail for, but now we Dropbox video files and explain everything.
But its not just assessment where teachers are taking the initiative and using iPad to deliver more detail. Staff who were encouraged to take their iPad home and experiment with it soon found out that they could film themselves delivering lessons, effectively allowing them to have multiple teachers in a single classroom. Theyre a vain bunch, Paul explained, so the first time they got an iPad, they went home and videoed themselves. They loved the fact that activities that would have been independent could be structured by the teacher. They could [make videos saying things like] Play the first 40 seconds of this video and then press pause and see if you can do activity one.
Staff have also embraced creating different inputs for different ability levels within mixed classes, so children with similar needs can sit together, share an iPad and work with a virtual teacher who gives them the level of support they need. It means that while the teachers doing a traditional input, all those children are getting what they need too, said Paul, adding that it was an initiative spearheaded by one of the teaching staff, who then passed the idea through the school. The biggest successes for us have been when staff discovered things for themselves.
Ensuring the setup is supported with Jigsaw24
As well as supplying iPad devices and accessories to Jesmond Gardens, we provide Jesmond Gardens and their Windows-based IT service provider with support for their Mac and iPad hardware and software. Working with Jigsaw24 has been absolutely brilliant, said Paul. They can provide levels of technical expertise that we couldnt hope to get to access otherwise, and have been absolutely brilliant about understanding the direction we want to go in from a pedagogy perspective, then making sure that the solution and the infrastructure help us to deliver that pedagogy.