Interactivity in your class’s hands: Why touchscreens are the next big thing

Interactivity in your class’s hands: Why touchscreens are the next big thing

If there’s one thing that I’m convinced of, it’s that multitouch technology is far easier to pick up for children than it is for adults. 

We’re already seeing it in the classroom (research has shown that 47% of schools are now trialling or using iPad) and more than ever we are seeing it in daily life; I recently found myself at an exhibition about space in a room full of six and seven year-olds who all expected to be able to move the stars around on screen with their fingers – much to their disappointment, they couldn’t.

It’s not surprising then that, at this year’s BETT show, giant interactive touchscreen displays were one of the hottest topics. Best thought of as giant tablets or TVs with multitouch technology, they proved a hit with teachers because they open up interactivity and collaboration in a way that’s not previously been available. On a basic level, they improve engagement letting pupils physically interact with a subject, but the learning benefits go far beyond that…

What exactly is an interactive touchscreen?

The best way to describe an interactive touchscreen is a giant iPad that can be either wall-mounted or used flat on the desk. You get all the same visual functionality as you do on an iPad – an HD screen for streaming video and images and built-in speakers make them ideal for presenting to the class.

And the multitouch aspect also means they’re ideal for letting pupils get hands on with activities too – using simple finger touch, they can intuitively interact with programs onscreen. As well as encouraging pupil interaction and group activities, teachers can also lead the class from the front, or even get pupils to connect wirelessly with their mobile devices to get involved with activities.

What are the learning benefits of interactive touchscreens?

Touchscreens are perfect for making sure you’re targeting 21st century learning skills. They’ll improve collaboration, boost critical thinking and problem solving, and can be used with all the great content that teachers and pupils have already prepared. The main benefits include:

Greater increase in pupils’ attention

Pupils are naturally drawn to touchscreens, and the interactivity really helps them engage with subjects. If you have pupils with a short attention span who struggle to engage with topics, touchscreen displays can help. Up to four students can use them at one time, so there’s less chance to switch off as they’re engaged in learning full time.

Better collaboration between pupils and with the teacher

Set pupils a group challenge and they can use the display to complete it – for example, a simple jigsaw puzzle that they would normally complete themselves can be turned into a group activity. Another option is for pupils to use iPhone or iPad to connect the display for mirroring (displaying their iPad screen on the touchscreen) and annotation.

Reduced replacement costs and better visibility

Unlike a data projector, a touchscreen uses an LED screen rather than a lamp. That means you won’t find yourself having to replace costly projector bulbs when they come to the end of their life (to put it in perspective, the approximate life of a touchscreen like the CTOUCH before any element needs replacing is put at 15 years, or 45000 hours!). It also means there are no shadows obscuring your work as you walk in front of the screen!

Increased class attendance

We’ve had great feedback from our schools who say they have integrated innovative technologies like touchscreens with a 1:1 iPad scheme, and it has actually increased attendance levels because the pupils have been so engaged with the technology.

How could we use touchscreen?

One use we really like for interactive touchscreens is collaborative storytelling. For example, you could get a small group of pupils to work together to plan a story and write it by dragging and dropping images, video and other elements into the plan. Because up to four pupils can be working on a touchscreen at once, it means everyone gets to join in and interact with the process, and annotate sections with thoughts and ideas.

Jigsaw24’s top pick: the CTOUCH!

HD display. From 47” right up to a whopping 84”, the CTOUCH’s antiglare screen gives a great picture, even in the brightest classrooms.

Multitouch functionality. There’s no need to hold a stylus – the CTOUCH’s screen works with the touch of a finger, and supports up to four pupils.

Built-in speakers. With 20W speakers included, you get great sound quality, or the additional Sound Bar gives enhanced surround sound.

Mobile device connectivity. Connect iPad and iPod with included Smoothboard Air software for displaying iPad screens and annotation.

Adjustable trolley. Fully height-adjustable for all students, including those in wheelchairs. This means smaller screens are just as usable, and can be wheeled to wherever they’re needed.

Budget check: CTOUCH interactive touch screens range from £2730 for the smallest 47” model up to £13,194 for the 84” option. See the full range of CTOUCH options here.

Want to know more about how touch screens could help in your classroom? Give us a call on 03332 409 333 or email For all the latest news and recommendations, follow @Jigsaw24Edu on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

Congratulations to Netherfield on winning Teacher of the Year!

Congratulations to Netherfield on winning Teacher of the Year!

One of our earliest e7 adopters, Netherfield Primary School, have just had some amazing news: headteacher Sharon Gray has won teacher of the year at the Pride of Britain awards!

Netherfield Primary School students working with their e7 iPad

We couldn’t be happier for Sharon and the rest of the staff over at Netherfield, who have put a huge amount of work into creating an inclusive, nurturing environment that plays to their students’ strengths. As our interview with assistant head Nadeem Shah shows, the school has put some fantastic ideas into play, including creating a week-long investigation into an ‘alien landing’ that included every school department as well as the local community.

As well as working with them on their e7 iPad deployment, we’ve helped Netherfield Primary bring literacy to life with NewTek’s TriCaster, and can attest the staff there are some of the hardest working and most enthusiastic we’ve seen. Congratulations to everyone there on their well-deserved win!

To find out more about how technology can bring out the best in your classroom, get it touch with our team on 03332 409 333 or at For all the latest news, tips and reviews, follow @Jigsaw24Edu on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook

Education app of the week: Brushes for iPad

Education app of the week: Brushes for iPad

Every teacher I’ve told about the Brushes app for iPad has gone mad for how easy it is to use, how it can inspire students to get more involved in art lessons and the fact that it’s completely free too. It’s even made a splash with David Hockney…

What is Brushes?

Brushes (Taptrix Inc, free) is a painting app for iPad that, compared to others out there, is actually very complex and offers a variety of different brushes and techniques which usually cost quite a bit within an app. Now in its third version, it offers 14 different brushes with simulated pressure, huge brush sizes up to 512×512 pixels, adjustable brush settings (spacing, jitter, scatter etc), adjustable colours, hues, saturation and more. It’s also optimised for the incredibly high resolution Retina displays on the latest iPad devices, and has a wide range of sharing options via the cloud, email and social media.

World renowned British artist David Hockney is also a convert, and last year introduced a whole exhibition – A Bigger Picture, at the Royal Academy – devoted to paintings of the English countryside composed entirely using iPad and the Brushes app.

How can it benefit the classroom?

While the glut of features on offer may sound complex, Brushes is actually perfect for all levels, from primary up. Its bright, breezy interface is perfect for beginners, and it takes full advantage of iPad’s multitouch gestures so students can paint using just their fingers – zoom with a two finger pinch, toggle interface visibility with a single tap, tap and hold to access the eyedropper tool etc. In fact, one of our e7 customers Congleton High School have just started using Brushes in art lessons, and have blogged about it here. They said:

“This year I am trying to encourage all curriculum areas to get into mobile computing. One success is with art. They are now using Brushes (a free app) with their students […] The art teacher said that they all really got inspired and excited about using the iPads and software.”

What’s the best feature?

I love pretty much everything about Brushes, but one of the most useful bits has to be the redo/undo and versioning features. The app records every step of your painting, so you can quickly go back if you decide you don’t like the direction it’s going, and also watch the whole process back from your first stroke to your finished project. While this is very cool, it’s also a valuable tool for evaluating the processes students use, and assessing their progress in art classes.

Where can I get it?

Brushes 3 (Taptrix Inc) is free to download straight from the App Store to your iPad deployment, or from iTunes. If your students want to take their painting a bit further, there’s also an upgrade that lets you experiment with different layers, and that’s available within the app for an extra £1.99.

Want to know more about our favourite apps and Apple iPad in the classroom? Call us on 03332 409 333 or email You can also keep up with all our latest education news and reviews by following @Jigsaw24Edu on Twitter or ‘Like’-ing our Jigsaw24 Education Facebook page.


e7 resources: Design Day with iPad at Fernwood School

e7 resources: Design Day with iPad at Fernwood School

We were recently at Fernwood School, Nottingham, to lend them some iPad devices they could use as part of an upcoming Design Day event. This was a chance for staff and students to find exciting ways to use iPad for a wide range of creative subjects such as home economics and CDT, as well as get to grips with using iPad as part of a real lesson environment, before embarking on our free 1:1 iPad trial scheme, the e7 Project.

Handily, they filmed the whole thing, so you can check out how they got on below…

Want to know more about 1:1 iPad deployments in schools? See our e7 Project here, call 03332 409 333 or email You can also follow @Jigsaw24Edu on Twitter or ‘Like’ our Jigsaw24 Education Facebook page.

How to start an iPad band: Leamore Primary School

How to start an iPad band: Leamore Primary School

As an Apple Regional Training Centre, Leamore Primary School in Walsall are always trying new ways to get the most from their technology. Recently, they decided on a project to create a band using their iPad deployment that would involve the whole of Year 5 and get them really engaged with digital music alongside traditional instruments. Here, deputy head teacher Michelle Hill explains what they were aiming to do, and how they went about it…

Why did you originally decide to start the iPad Band project?

The children of Leamore Primary School are well known for their musical ability. We were keen to utilise the children’s musical knowledge and ability, whilst also incorporating our innovative approach to technology.

What were your goals?

Our goal was simple. We wanted the whole of our Year 5 class (who had at that point been learning the violin the longest) to participate in an iPad band using a mixture of iPad, digital instruments and a small selection of traditional percussion instruments. Our learning outcome was that all children would be able to musically contribute to a soundtrack.

How long did it take to plan and rehearse?

We knew we were going to be working with a fantastic bunch
of children, so we allocated two full days to learn and rehearse a soundtrack. The children exceeded our expectations and within these two days they were able to learn three complete soundtracks as a class and rehearse them to perfection.

What hardware and apps did you use?

As well as 30 new iPad devices, we invested in an Allen and Heath ZED16FX 36 Channel USB Mixer, five Alesis IO docks and iRig adaptors for connecting the microphones, guitars and MIDI keyboards. We also used Apple TV to demonstrate how to play various notes on specific instruments in GarageBand on iPad. Apple TV was brilliant for individual and small groups of children to play back their specific parts of the soundtrack and contributed to tighter quality assurance of the band overall.

How did pupils find making music with iPad?

In terms of engagement and enjoyment, the iPad Band project will be something that the children remember for the rest of their lives! The project made an impact on a number of levels, from Daniel – who found a natural talent for drumming – to other children who realised that they could play other instruments besides the violin. Our original learning outcomes were smashed. The iPad is more about the music itself – the playing and the composing rather than the ability to play the instrument correctly. It’s a different way of looking at and approaching music. So children can use the iPad to play complicated soundtracks without needing to invest time in the technique of plucking strings, for example!

Do you have any tips for other teachers?

Just go for it! We spent a lot of time talking the project through and invested in a substantial amount of kit, but it is possible to set up
a basic iPad band without these aspects. Apple TV is fantastic for teaching and demonstrating music-making on the iPad, but it is also brilliant to use during a live performance.

What else are you planning to use iPad for in future?

The investment that we made into iPad music technology has meant that our original Year 5 iPad Band and all subsequent iPad Bands will have the opportunity to go ‘on tour’, so any live performances will not just be a one-off wonder. We’re also planning to work collaboratively with the Royal College of Music to offer the equivalent of a GCSE in iPad music-making from September. We have lots of other projects in the pipeline: from experimenting with one-to-one iPad in a classroom to investigating the possibility of paperless learning, the use of iPad with SEN children, and specific projects in all areas of the curriculum.

About Leamore…

Leamore Primary School, Walsall, is an official Apple Regional Training Centre which focuses on teaching with creative ICT (they won an NAACE Impact Award for it recently). They regularly run iPad training events for teachers, and you can see more of their projects in action at To find out more about how to become an Apple Regional Training Centre yourself, get in touch with us on the details at the bottom.

Have a go yourself! Our six step guide to starting your own iPad band

Fancy taking a leaf out of Michelle’s book? Starting an iPad band is easy, and a great way to engage learners and get them working together with music technology, even for those with no previous skills. Here’s how:

1. Get started

First of all, you need your iPad devices. The iPad band is a collaborative project, and you can scale it up to include a whole class of students (we’ve worked with class sizes of 25-30 before with great results). You’ll also need a mixer to control the audio output of all the devices with enough channels to support them – 32 is enough.

2. Fire up GarageBand

Apple’s GarageBand app (£2.99 from the App Store) really is the best app for music-making at this level, with a huge base of ready-made loops and virtual instruments including keyboards, guitars and drums.

3. Get pupils in time

Start students off by making sure pupils are in rhythm, especially those with lower musical ability. The Smart Guitar instrument in GarageBand lets the learner simply tap the chord symbol to strum a chord in time, like striking a triangle, but far more engaging.

4. Develop musical skills further

The great thing about GarageBand is that it allows each learner to learn at their own pace and develop their skills. Once pupils are comfortable with timing, you can start to look at chord sequences, structure and song writing, then develop roles for learners based on ability, and incorporate ideas from students too.

5. Add some real instruments

For anyone who’s had peripatetic music lessons, you could think about adding some physical instruments. Using adaptors like the Alesis IO dock, and iRig and iMic, you can connect guitars and microphones directly through the iPad’s headphone jack, and an additional Camera Connector kit lets you hook up a MIDI keyboard via USB.

6. Plan the pay-off

To complete the project, and see how well pupils have achieved the original learning outcomes, plan a one-off performance. This will also help the project create a bit of buzz around the school, governors and parents. You can even get more of the school involved by adding some backing singers, dance sections and percussion like djembes and glockenspiels to supplement the digital instruments.

Want to know more about starting a band with iPad? Get in touch on 03332 409 333 or email