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At The Leys we strive for excellence in teaching and learning. It is therefore appropriate that we endeavour to make the best use of the digital tools available to support and enhance pedagogic practice and pupils’ studies. To that end we are in the process of deploying tablet computers to all teachers and pupils through our 1:1 mobile device initiative. At present, all pupils in Years 7-10 and the Lower Sixth have been issued with a school device to support them in their learning. From the start of the academic year 2016-17 all pupils in the school will have personal use of an iPad.
The decision to begin the 1:1 iPad initiative was made following a successful trial with Year 8 in the academic year 2013-14. At that time there were a number of key reasons why we believed that iPads could be effectively integrated into teaching and learning in order to enhance the learning process and impact educational outcomes positively. These range from practical advantages such as portability and connectivity to pedagogical advantages such as enhanced opportunities for creativity and high-order thinking.
As the devices have become an integral part of the working life of the school we have seen great impact in some areas and limited impact in others. We remain committed to the idea that mobile devices can have a transformative impact on education but should qualify this by saying that we firmly believe the iPad to be nothing more than a tool in the pupils’ and teachers’ armoury, which they can use to tackle the challenges of 21st Century education.
In our efforts to ensure that The Leys develops as a centre for excellence in teaching and learning we are indeed conducting research into the benefits and effectiveness of the programme. To that end, as Head of Digital Learning, I am currently a postgraduate student (MSc) exploring and designing research specific to the educational impact of mobile devices. I have conducted a critical review of the research literature and identified ten positive educational outcomes related to the deployment and integration of tablet computers. It is my belief that these outcomes can only be achieved with careful consideration of how they are integrated into teaching and learning as well as the design of learning activities.
At present I am designing a research study that will investigate the link between mobile technology and metacognition to be conducted during this academic year. The study will specifically focus on the way in which mobile devices can enhance pupils’ metacognition. In the existing research there is an established link between enhanced metacognition and improved attainment, obviously something that we should be keen to exploit. I will be making details of the study and its findings available to parents.
Based on all that I have mentioned above, we are seeking to support both teachers and pupils in the challenges they face by giving them access to a powerful educational tool. This is a journey, and as such, we are aiming to develop a culture within school where both pupils and teachers feel empowered to approach their work in a way that suits them individually as well as being appropriate to the demands of the education system.
Some will find the iPad can have a transformative impact on their work immediately, whilst others need support and guidance; however, we are firmly of the opinion that pupils should be encouraged to develop an independent approach to their studies that is personalised to their needs and attributes. As such, some may discern that the iPad is not the appropriate tool for some tasks and we strongly emphasise the need to consider what the iPad can add to any task rather than just using it for the sake of it. Many teachers and pupils continue to find that the more ‘traditional’ approaches continue to serve them well and it obviously makes sense for them to persist with these methods.
I should also emphasise that we do not believe that there should be such a thing as an ‘iPad’ lesson, rather the focus should always be on arriving at the desired learning outcomes in an optimal way. Furthermore, we recognise that the perceived advantages are counterbalanced by potential pitfalls such as the distraction factor of social networks and games. To that end we aim to support the pupils through the pastoral and PSHE programmes to develop strategies to help them deal with these difficulties, indeed we are in the process of designing a discrete Digital Literacies strand to begin next academic year.
Neil Dix-Pincott MA @njdixpin
Head of Digital Learning
Neil Dix-Pincott MA - Head of Digital Learning
Anshul Lau - Learning Technologist
Nicholas Robinson BSc MBA CEng