Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Beware false prophets bearing iPads ...............

iPads. If you haven't got them, you need them, or so you are told, even if you don't think you need them, you probably do, after all everyone has them doesn't they? If i don't have them I cant engage the children, or take pictures, or scratch my arse or blah blah blah blah.

One thing I really hate, and when I say this, bear in mind I really hate a lot of things, are IT consultants telling me how to deploy technology in my classroom when they have no teaching qualifications or any idea of the job I do. 

I had the misfortune to attend the apple store at the Trafford centre this morning for a talk entitled: iOS in Education at 8am this morning. Despite the ungodly hour  I was interested to see how iOS would help in stretching and progressing the children under my care. I assumed there would be some tricks, some possible downloads or apple mac apps that I hadn't seen, especially given the recent iOS 7 update. What I was treated to was an hour of absolute bollocks, delivered by someone who had clearly never been in a classroom in a teaching capacity and who said bedder instead of better and spoke in a half-Australian, half-London accent (he was definitely English by the way, just saying that so you know the sort of idiot I mean).

Apparently these are the best ideas on how to use iPads in schools:
1. iPad band. Pupils at Chiswick secondary school said that playing together in a 'band' using their iPads was the best day they had ever had at school. Firstly, that is pretty sad if that was the case and evidently Chiswick secondary school need to step their game up considerably. The main issue for me is that there is no need to use an iPad to play musical instruments. For many centuries a violin has been an instrument many have chosen to play and it has no real faults. Why replace it with an iPad? Ditto the drums, guitar or keyboard (most stupid). What really gets me is that we are selling a false impression to these children, basically we are saying: 'don't bother trying to learn an instrument, just get an iPad then you don't have to bother.' In today's instant culture that is a very dangerous thing to do. Learning a musical instrument teaches you a number of life skills it is impossible to teach in school.

2. Sending an email. Apparently the best thing the kids did at Castle Cary primary school was send an email to the Head - Mr Hansen. But wait I hear you cry, I send email every day! Most kids can knock up an email using txtspk quicker than we can! There was a twist, of course, that made the activity immensely engaging and desirable. This was: that the kids sat on the floor to do it. *sound of balloon being let down slowly* As the consultant said: "look at that picture, everyone sat at the desks (who were doing the kind of work you need to do to succeed in this world - note by me) wants to be sat on the floor." Woopie do! *massive sarcasm in this comment if you hand't noticed*

3. Making an annotated map of their school. This is another Castle Cary special - expect massive engagement and inspiring content. The children explored the school grounds taking pictures, then made a map with the main landmarks on it. Apparently the children included Mr Hansen in the 'landmarks' category too *polite but embarrassed laughter in the room*. Now I'm not being funny, but the kids in year 3 and above in my school could go to google earth on the pc and annotate a screen grab of our site and put some landmarks on in about 45 minutes. Clearly though it takes a team of consultants and a massive investment in iPads to do this kind of engaging lesson.

4. Using QR codes for revision. We are back in Chiswick here. Apparently the science teacher Mrs Engagement *name made up* said that she had "never seen her children so interested to take notes to revise from" as when she used QR codes and an iPad to scan them. The children then wrote the nugget of information in their books (CROSS NB: WHAT IS THE POINT OF THAT WHEN THEY ARE CARRYING AN IPAD AND COULD COPY THE TEXT INTO AN EMAIL AND SEND TO THEMSELVES). Now I am sorry kids (not that any kids would bother getting this far into this blog, they would probably be comatose by paragraph 2, unless they were using an iPad of course) but revision is HARD. Making notes is boring. It is difficult to memorise the periodic table, or the different parts of the plant, hell, even I couldn't do that, as my C,C, at GCSE science attests to. However, in life you may experience some hardship. You may be in a boring job which you have to do in order to support your wife and children. This is life. Life is hard and very few jobs are engaging. GET USED TO IT!

One question that vexes me: What does engaging children actually mean? Does it mean them producing a great piece of work and being motivated to do so? In which case I do not need an iPad to do that. I was trained as a teacher. As part of my training (which was pre-iPads but post-IWB's) I learned how to design lessons to hook the children in and engage them in the activity I had planned. I really find it tragic that some leaders/teachers/parents feel you have use iPads to get this effect. I urge everyone to have faith in their abilities as a teacher.

One final word on 1:1 iPad to children ratio. It is assumed that 1:1 devices should be the goal of any iPad roll out. I often hear: "I've only got 16 iPads," or "I've got 45 but I want to buy another 45." I always ask WHY? Where is the evidence that this actually improves the education of the child? I will tell you the answer for free: THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO EVIDENCE THAT 1:1 DEVICES SIGNIFICANTLY IMPROVE STANDARDS. I also confidently predict that, unless the research is funded by the tablet providers (which it will be), that no research will conclusively prove 1:1 devices or even using iPads for that matter, will significantly improve standards. I will tell you why: there is no evidence that using technology has ever significantly raised standards in education. An iPad is simply the latest in a long line of panaceas which will turn out to not be a panacea for anything. We had PC's, then we had IWB's, then we had ICT suites where we could control every computer remotely, then we had better IWB's, then we had netbooks, then we abolished our ICT suites and bought laptops, only to be replaced with iPads. You watch, in 3 years time I bet that unless you have google glasses in schools, you will be considered passé and bollocked by OFSTED/parents/managers etc etc

A couple of ending notes:
Someone at the talk today used iPads to work with blind and partially sighted pupils? eh? Please tweet me on @teachric if you can answer this one. I get the partially sighted bit by the way.

I do understand that the way certain people see iPads as great for engaging children and they are superb versatile devices, I just cannot have that they are any different from anything we have had before. Use the right tool for the job, whatever that may be.

Sorry to those people and adios.

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