iOS 9.3 has brought with it a number of features specifically for education. The one that interests me most at this stage is Apple Classroom. It does not hold much interest for parents or students specifically, but teachers might be very interested in the possibilities it holds for them in terms of iPad classroom management.
I find the name of the app a little annoying, especially when Google Classroom has been around for a while and now Microsoft has also bringing out Microsoft Classroom. This could be very confusing for teachers who are still trying to wrap their heads around the use of tools such as Google Classroom (as would be the case in GAFE schools), especially as they won’t yet have an understanding of exactly how different Apple Classroom and Google Classroom are until they actually work with both, and understand that they could use both quite effectively. However, iPad classroom management will look very different with the implementation of Apple Classroom and this is what, in my opinion, will appeal to teachers. I look forward to learning more about this product in training later this month.
Fraser Speirs, Head of Computing and IT at Cedars School of Excellence in Greenock, Scotland, always gives very honest and straightforward feedback on Apple initiatives. His blog post about Apple Classroom is a very informative read.
Note: It has been brought to my attention that Apple Classroom only works on iPad 3 and later models. This might be a problem for schools where there are staff members and students still working with iPad 2s (such as our school). Also, the devices have to be supervised in a Mobile Device Management programme (which makes sense).
Whilst we embarked on the 1:1 iPad journey in July of 2014, we have now come to the end of our first full year with 1:1 iPads in our classes. What an interesting, sometimes frustrating yet, exciting journey it has been. Along with our pupils we have learnt so much over the past year! The year started off on a somewhat shaky note with many network and wi-fi issues, but as the year progressed and the network was upgraded and our wi-fi was improved, so our iPad experience developed and grew in leaps and bounds.
The staff continued with regular professional development and training in our FaceTime sessions on Fridays. As they were exposed to new tools, especially with the implementation of the Google Apps For Education, so their confidence grew too. In creating and developing Deeper Learning Tasks the teachers were encouraged to focus on this catch phrase – “Used Effectively, or Simply Used?”, based on a presentation by Beth Holland that I attended at the iPad Summit held in Johannesburg in February. Their tasks had to take into account a model for teaching and learning called the SAMR model (Substitution – the most basic use of technology, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition – the most sophisticated use of technology). This model is used internationally to assist teachers in effectively infusing the use of technology in their lessons.They were also tasked with creating tasks that gave pupils a chance to make their learning visible. The teachers rose to the occasion and designed tasks of a high. The final step of the process is reflection, and the teachers spent time collaboratively reflecting on the tasks, looking at what worked and what needed improvement.
In July we returned to school and received the news that our internet had been totally upgraded. Fibre had arrived and we had a 100MB connection! No more slow internet! What a difference it has made. That, along with the implementation of Google Classroom, has had a huge effect on how the teachers view the use of technology in their classrooms. The ability to set tasks, assign them and have them submitted by the students for assessment via Google Classroom, has really been a wow moment for many of the teachers.
As a school we still stand by our statement that not all tasks are iPad tasks. Our pupils must still read real books, write or draw with pens and pencils and run around outside. However, in infusing technology into their classrooms we are striving to make their learning interesting, relevant and enhanced. Did we get it all right over the past year? Definitely not. We are constantly reflecting on our implementation and will continue to improve and tweak as we go along. However, we are on the right track and with the school’s move to a complete Apple platform, our pupils will be well prepared for what lies ahead in the High School. These are definitely exciting times!