A short while ago I attended one of the RM Apple seminars. If RM organise further such seminars, should you attend if you can? Hopefully, you will be able to answer that question yourself after reading this.
The day started with registration, and the usual opportunity for coffee and networking. I mention this because I believe it’s very important to participate in this bit. It gives you the chance to look at the suppliers’ stands, and to chat with people. It’s always nice in these situations to see a friendly face, so I was delighted to see that, as well as the RM people I know, Bryan Plumb, Director of BEE Digital Ltd, was there. It’s worth checking their website, by the way, because it’s a useful source of ed tech news – but do that after you’ve read this article! Of course, it’s also good, essential actually, to chat with people you don’t know, because you’re likely to learn something. On this occasion, I met Emily Thompson, Reception Teacher at Fairlands Primary School and Nursery, who brought my attention to a video entitled “Code Stars” (see below).
OK, on with the seminar proper. It kicked off with a talk by David Mitchell entitled Raising Achievement with Apple. He included a shocking statistic: children born in Bolton, in the north-west of England, live an average of 8 years less than in other, more affluent, areas. He included some great practical examples of how different apps can be used in the classroom, including Explain Everything and Skitch. I very much like the “Well Done” blog he set up at his school when he was headmaster there (he is now independent). Like all good ideas it is very simple: when a pupil does a great piece of work, it gets posted on the blog for all the world to see!
I am not quite sure what to make of his assertion that when things are changing, data is the last place where it shows, so you need to keep evidence. I would agree that you need to keep a record of what you’ve done and what has gone well or not so well. That especially applies to those “wow” moments, which are valid evidence in their own right but almost impossible to quantify or replicate. When I asked him about this in the Q & A session, he said this was because it takes a huge amount of effort to make the data move by one or two points. I kind of get what he means, but it strikes me that if it takes a long time for the effects of changes to show up in the data, then maybe there is something wrong with the way the data is collected or analysed.
Andrew Richardson Medd gave a good talk from a secondary perspective. In his school, the Thomas Ferrens Academy, he uses Minecraft and an app I hadn’t heard of before, Flip Boom Cartoon, which enables you to create animated cartoons. One idea I really liked was that when the kids make a video about something related to the project they’re working on, they upload it to YouTube (I think) and then create a QR code that links directly to it. What a great idea: you could very easily compile a list of class videos that could be printed out and given to other pupils or parents or other visitors, as appropriate. Or the QR code could be in the form of a sticker in the pupil’s workbook. Having a link in that form makes it very easy to go straight to the video from your phone or tablet, without having to type in the usual horrible-looking URL.
Other talks followed, on using Apple TV (Gillian Penny), and the practical considerations you need to take into account when considering the implementation of an iPad roll-out (much of which would apply, of course, to the roll-out of non-Apple devices too); that was by Declan Tierney, of Our Lady’s Convent High School, who said that pupils worked very collaboratively with the iPads, passing them around as necessary, and that they made it easier for staff to communicate with each other by email. (I found the same at Harrogate Grammar School too.) Declan’s primary message was: do due diligence when planning technology for the future.
David Mitchell ended the day, and suggested that the criteria to use when evaluating a project are attainment, progress and what the pupils say.
I also asked David what was exciting him the most about education these days. He replied that he was inspired by the increasing willingness of teachers to share their ideas through social media, and more and more schools blogging, and teachers being excited and proud about what they’ve done.
Finally, the seminar was complemented by a booklet containing a list of the Top Ten Free Apps, and Top Ten Paid Apps. These were also available on an iPad should you choose to borrow one.
The seminar would have been very useful to anyone considering embarking on an iPad implementation program. A couple of the seminars would have been less useful to those already well on the journey, and perhaps for such people there could have been a couple of parallel sessions – although, of course, the RM Technical Seminar program and other events are always a possibility. The fact that the seminar was free to attend was the icing on the cake!
Here's the video I mentioned: