iPad Trial – Reflective Discussion

iPad Trial Considerations

  1. Wireless Network
  2. Support
  3. Listen (Reflective discussion and concerns)


The number one consideration for iPad implementation is a wireless network. When the network functions, any issues with iPads can be overcome and usually are linked to the user not the technology. However, if the wireless is intermittent, learning with the iPad can be really hampered for some, particularly those who don’t have a firm grasp on use.
I have no doubt that when students and teachers are more comfortable with the technology they will be able to adapt to any wireless issue as the iPad has a myriad of applications for learning. However, if you have planned to use the browser,Socrative or Dropbox for example, then the network can provide a reason for apathy and barriers are formed.
Thankfully we have a resilient staff who are prepared for trial and error and if something doesn’t work then move on and find a solution. It may well be different if every class had an iPad but with one group, the odd problem can be overcome.


I concur that the only way to support the implementation of iPads is to allow for numerous training opportunities and troubleshooting time. Members of staff need to feel they have someone to talk to and the response needs to be as immediate as possible. In reality this means responding to emails, popping in to lessons and removing the fear of ‘what if?’. This contact time is already reaping rewards for some staff and there is a desire to learn more. For others, who are currently overloaded with assessments, it is much more difficult to progress as explanations aren’t easy to come by. Therefore, the ideal scenario is one centred around the availability of support.


This links to the learning curve and participants having a voice. Although it is early on in the process, the students appear to be very fast learners with the technology. Contact time with the whole group has moved on to selecting the right application for the right outcome and not referring to usability. Again it has helped that the class are working together so can help each other – a luxury not afforded to staff very often. Indeed staff are hampered by the trial being another add-on with little reduction in normal workload. Hopefully this will ease as the exam period passes but it is difficult to learn anything under the burden of out testing regime.

Even though the trial is a three month project, I firmly believe it will take at least twelve months for all involved to feel truly comfortable with the challenge of integrating new techniques. The pedagogy forms the basis for many a conversation and is a real prompt for debate. Depending on educational belief, the iPad and it’s apps will divide many professionals for months to come. Therefore the role of those leading the trial must continue to focus on reassurance, guidance and support.

No question too difficult and no problem too small.

What to do inside the ‘Flipped Class’

‘Flipping Activities’

The basic premise – students watch video lesson at home and work through problems in class. This allows the educator to advise and challenge the students inside the classroom safe in the knowledge content is delivered elsewhere.

Of course, this is not a new concept, students have always been asked to prepare for the next class. Technology has just made it more stimulating to learn at home. Educators can edit their videos to provoke thought and assign work to be collected electronically and annotated before the next contact time. More importantly it can be tailored to their particular students and not just follow generic material.

So what to do in the classroom?

My personal view – anything that can enhance learning. That isn’t supposed to be a ‘flippant’ (haha) comment. Students were receiving structured lessons during my course that followed a format dictated by school policy and government statute. This structure was followed by other educators and students were receiving the model four or five times a day.

There is nothing wrong with the delivery of content with stimulating development tasks and thought provoking plenary and those educators are very successful and students learn a great deal. I just believe if a student is numbed by replication then learning opportunities are lost and contact time becomes less desired, particularly by older students.

So what to do in the ‘flipped class’?

There are some great examples of learning opportunities on the Flipped Class Network and the ideas below are just a taster of generic activities. The availability of iPads in the classroom also allows scope for experimentation, thus app recommendations are included.

  • Set groups to produce visual, verbal or manual guidance for the material covered (Apps Explain EverythingAudioboo and iMovie) and have an ‘expert’ table run by the educator.
  • Give students a single stimulus to challenge their understanding of the theory and then produce their own extended writing task
  • Guess the learning objectives. Place the objectives in an envelope at the front of class. Complete tasks that allow for collaboration and discussion. Student/group guess the lesson objectives, closest wins prize. (Apps ICanAnimateAnimoto and Flipboard)
  • Ten sentence lesson. Educator is limited to ten sentences so students must chose their questions wisely. The fact that they already have content encourages collaboration and information filtering.
  • TV Quiz – Run by students based on ‘flipped’ video. (Apps Socrative and iMovie)

I am well aware that techniques, like these, have been used for many years by educators across the land. However, it has always felt that content delivery took up too much time to allow for real experimentation. Consequently, there was a default position where the powerpoint slide would creep in for a little too long. (Here I should refer to a conference I attended in 2006 that had one hour powerpoint presentations – and there were six of them!). Looking back I knew when my students were suffering in silence.

If the five techniques above are used across a module that lasts three weeks, you can see the opportunity for learners to be stimulated. That stimulation then creates an environment for collaboration and enhanced learning. As with all pedagogy the educator is still the most important tool but the ‘flipped’ model encourages a very different feel to a classroom.

Test results are up and the students are anecdotally favourable. I love to experiment in class and the ‘flipped’ model has given a feeling of security that allows for risk-taking. The extra time that seems to have been created has meant my classroom sometimes resembles a playpen. After all ‘learning is messy‘.

(With thanks to @jamesmichie for his superb post related to learning objectives.)

The Challenge of iPad Pedagogy

Staff training completed.


Make no bones about it, the use of the word completed couldn’t be further from the truth. My advice to anyone else undertaking an iPad trial, be more than prepared.

Imagine the most challenging class you have ever had to personalise learning for and double it. Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely grateful for the vigour with which the staff and students have approached the training at such a busy time. It isn’t the device either. The iPad may have tips and tricks but its intuitive functionality has been embraced successfully.

The challenge lies in the pedagogy.

Exposure to app use, productivity and possible implications has opened up the proverbial can of worms, and it’s fantastic. Over the training period I have had discussions ranging from ‘how could I use this app’ to the effect on behaviour management particularly with the ‘engagement of a focused mind’. The challenge lies in the application, and the variables suggest pedagogy is difficult to qualify.

Whether you subscribe to the device as a consumption, creation or discovery tool, the technology opens the eyes of educators when given time to investigate. The diversity of comments based on subject, age and (dare I say) educational beliefs were tricky to respond to.

Not that I didn’t have my own ideas!

It just feels like the trial has a real chance of success and not because of the new technology. It is the desire of teachers to enhance learning and it is my firm belief that the iPad has sparked a greater interest than any recent learning and teaching stimulants.

So what to do next?

The challenge of pedagogy demands contact time between staff, students and those of us charged with coordinating. A staff and student blog will now be supported by a staff twitter account to encourage daily feedback/debate as well as the built in googleforms and analysis. Every question/suggestion and discussion is valid because of the diversity of subjects, staff and students.

It’s a challenge and it’s not about the technology!

(We are lucky enough to be joined by Ian Wilson (@ian__wilson) for the training programme. An ADE who was superb with students and staff whether helping with functionality or the nuances of an app. Very highly recommended)

The ‘Flipped Class’ Report

Ah the ‘Flipped’ Class. Yet another educational concept based on previous practice and rebranded to suit modern vernacular?

‘Can you get the lesson recorded a bit earlier sir so we can see it?’ (student A)

‘Not sure about that but it seems you are happier about this way of learning now’ (teacher)

‘It’s alright’ (student A)

I think that’s progress and certainly a step ahead of where we were. I am a ‘flipped’ class convert, even if the term doesn’t quite fit, and I believe it has real merit as the pedagogy develops.

Aaron Sams and Jon Bergmann coined ‘The Flipped Class’ and their video explanation was the starting point for my trial. I concur that ‘learners can learn for themselves and by themselves’.

Students refer to classroom time being ‘different’ and ‘strange’. A sample lesson involves students viewing content delivery on youtube for homework. It only provides a framework for the lesson that seeks to embed knowledge and develop skills. Members of the class view the video, complete a set task in relation to the content, and then upload this to Edmodo (a secure social learning environment for teachers and students).

The initial reaction to this process was one of horror and rejection. A completely new working process that appeared difficult and ‘nothing like we do anywhere else’ wasn’t really the order of the day for a year 12 class. If I‘m honest I almost stopped after two weeks citing exam results and pressure as a reason to return to normal practice. BUT the students have already completed an old style lesson before they even arrive at school. How could that be a bad thing?

The period then begins with a ‘response to stimulus’ task and problems are given to groups that are varied to personalise learning and in particular stretch and challenge. As the students collaborate they are asked to complete an assessment for learning task on the class iPads using Socrative (a free tool) to inform learning. At this point the teacher usually panics, as the students have understood everything required and actually desire more stimulating tasks!

It is easy to forget the speed at which an inquisitive mind will work. Students arrive with content already reflected upon and the classroom contains endless opportunity for skill development. Some might say my classroom should have contained these opportunities anyway. However, the fear of content delivery always effected planning.

There is also an element of ‘trust’ and ‘engagement’ when the student is confident in the material that is presented. True it was unsettling that students reported  ‘it’s weird as your face popped up on the video’. However, they have got used to this and actually request ‘make sure you appear on the video now and again so we know things are important’.

This model works best when the teacher, not a third party, delivers content. The ability to pitch the online lesson to students, understanding their level and learning styles, is invaluable. There also needs to be a framework to engage the learning outside the classroom and in school activities must stretch the students to justify the technique.

The main advantages of ‘flipping’ my class therefore centre around the increased interaction and contact time with students. It also allows students to take more responsibility for their personalsed learning

Whilst the real ‘hard’ evidence will come on results day I can refer to the unit tests the students have completed. An average 20% increase in performance, compared to last year’s cohort, suggests the model is worth pursuing. This also compliments the use of independent learning skills and the wide range of problems and discussion that have occurred on the learning journey.

‘Flipping’ my classroom has changed the way I approach learning and has encouraged me to flip all my classes from September. I appreciate that the model won’t be suitable for all learning but I advocate trialling the technique for a term.

The same student who referred to it as ‘strange’ was heard to say at parents evening ‘it’s much easier to learn like this as I can pause and rewind Mr Edwards so I can understand him’!

(I let him off that one)

Teacher’s Trial by Tech – iPad and the Lesson Observation


With the spectre of OFSTED hanging over schools and the new framework unsettling leadership teams across the land, it seems pertinent to link the ‘Quality of Teaching’ grid to my technology filled ‘flipped’ lessons.

The ‘flipped class’ is best summed up by Jon Bergmann, Jerry Overmyer and Brett Wilie in:

The Flipped Class: Myths vs. Reality (2012)

The Flipped Classroom IS:

  • A means to INCREASE interaction and personalized contact time between students and teachers.
  • An environment where students take responsibility for their own learning.
  • A classroom where the teacher is not the “sage on the stage”, but the “guide on the side”.
  • blending of direct instruction with constructivist learning.
  • A classroom where students who are absent due to illness or extra-curricular activities such as athletics or field-trips, don’t get left behind.
  • A class where content is permanently archived  for review or remediation.
  • A class where all students are engaged in their learning.
  • A place where all students can get a personalized education.
Whilst definitions of the ‘flipped class’ remain a discussion point, there can be no doubt it has created extra time inside my classroom for collaboration and problem solving. I am interested in what the current assessment criteria for lessons would make of my classroom practice.

If OFSTED were to walk in tomorrow they would see the following:

(Please click on each application for an explanation of its purpose)

  • Prior to the lesson students would have viewed an 8-10 min screencast introducing the topic. This resource would have been produced and sent via twitter to the students when appropriate.
  • Students would have uploaded work required to Edmodo that is then assessed, annotated and sent back to students again prior to the lesson. The nature of the work is determined by perceived difficulty of the topic.
  • The initial task would be a Socrative quiz to establish understanding for the lesson (AFL) – this often includes one multiple choice and two short answer questions.
  • With a given problem the students would then have to produce an explanation of the problem on the interactive whiteboard app ExplainEverything – collaboration in groups of 3. These problems would be tailored to the groups and range in difficulty. All the while the teacher would be working with groups to overcome difficulties or promote discussion.
  • Socrative would then be used again to assess where the students are and the lesson would be adjusted accordingly. There would be a multitude of scenarios for the students to relate to lesson content and these would be directed depending on the Socrative answers
  • The lesson objectives would then be teased out of the group and suggestions would be highlighted using the mind-mapping app Popplet. At this stage the students would be comfortable with the subject matter and would be encouraged to offer their ideas.
  • The final task in the lesson would be to complete an exit ticket on Socrative. This would typically include a question worth five marks. This exit ticket, including the student’s name and how they would describe their ‘level of learning’, would then be emailed to the teacher for post lesson AFL.

(It has to be said these methods are made possible by the presence of iPads in the classroom and a functioning wireless network.)

The structure of the lesson is nothing new and indeed the pace and variation are very similar to previous years. The enhancement of learning comes from the continual AFL and the collaboration using the iPad. Students are able to feedback to the teacher individually and at any point during the learning process. If the pace of learning demands so, the difficulty of each problem increases. The important part of collaboration centres on the requirement for visual, written and verbal communication through the ExplainEverything app. Again this can be sent to the teacher for feedback at any point during the lesson.

So what would OFSTED make of this standard lesson? The only judgement I can make is to compare the lesson to the ‘Quality of Teaching’ grid. I appreciate this is not designed to judge a single lesson, but it is held as:

“These grade descriptors from the 2012 inspection schedule describe the quality of teaching in the school as a whole taking account of evidence over time. While they include some characteristics of individual lessons, they are not designed to be used to judge individual lessons” (OFSTED 2012)

This fits as a frame of reference as the lesson is not subject specific in its structure. The quoted statements refer to the ‘Outstanding’ section of the grid.

Teaching that leads to Progress

‘Much of the teaching in all key stages and most subjects is outstanding and never less than consistently good. As a result, almost all pupils are making rapid and sustained progress. All teachers have consistently high expectations of all pupils.’

The lesson aims for expectations to remain high as the teacher will be monitoring progress of every student and adjusting the lesson accordingly. Progress is monitored throughout.

Sound subject knowledge, use of assessment.

Drawing on excellent subject knowledge, teachers plan astutely and set challenging tasks based on systematic, accurate assessment of pupils’ prior skills, knowledge and understanding’

With content delivered outside the classroom walls and then knowledge assessed and developed before, during and after the lesson. AFL drives the learning process and technology makes this easier for the teacher.

Focussed support, matching to pupils’ needs, strategies for teaching, AfL

They use well judged and often imaginative teaching strategies that, together with sharply focused and timely support and intervention, match individual needs accurately. Teachers systematically and effectively check pupils’ understanding throughout lessons, anticipating where they may need to intervene and doing so with notable impact on the quality of learning.’

Again the technology appears to aid the teacher in matching this criteria. Socrative as an AFL tool is second to none in my experience.

Learning across the curriculum. Attainment of pupils in English and Maths.

‘Time is used very well and every opportunity is taken to successfully develop crucial skills, including being able to use their literacy and numeracy skills in other subjects.. Pupils learn exceptionally well across the curriculum. The teaching of reading, writing, communication and mathematics is highly effective’

Taking the written work that is uploaded to Edmodo prior to the lesson as an integral part this is perhaps more difficult to evidence. There is a requirement for every student to respond with written and verbal communication (ExplainEverything) and written work is annotated before they step into the classroom. Work is handwritten when required and still uploaded to Edmodo for annotation.

Engagement, interest, motivation, resilience, marking and feedback

‘Teachers and other adults generate high levels of enthusiasm for, participation in and commitment to learning. Teaching promotes pupils’ high levels of resilience, confidence and independence when they tackle challenging activities. Marking and constructive feedback from teachers and pupils are frequent and of a consistently high quality, leading to high levels of engagement and interest.’

I can only refer to anecdotal evidence and in-house observation but the new technologies certainly seem to engage students. Constructive feedback has been made even more effective using Edmodo with the iPad and dictation to annotate notes. Student engagement appears to be a real positive from the increase in technology use.

Homework contributes to learning

‘Appropriate and regular homework contributes very well to pupils’ learning.’

In my view the screencasts are the most effective use of homework time as long as they are supported by feedback.

Attitudes to learning.

‘Pupils show very high levels of engagement, courtesy, collaboration and cooperation in and out of lessons. They have excellent, enthusiastic attitudes to learning, enabling lessons to proceed without interruption. Pupils are consistently punctual in arriving at school and lessons. They are highly adept at managing their own behaviour in the classroom and in social situations, supported by systematic, consistently applied approaches to behaviour management.’

Again observational and anecdotal evidence suggests that the new technology promotes a positive attitude to learning.

There are many reasons why an actual lesson using the technology may not have received an ‘outstanding’ rating in the past. I have used over forty apps in my classroom and there is no doubt some have been more successful than others. There is also delivery to consider and the adaptation of the lesson where it is most appropriate.

However, when comparing the lesson structure to the new OFSTED ‘Quality of Teaching grid’, it appears that an outstanding rating can still be achieved even though the ‘flipped’ model is a somewhat contentious area.

For what it’s worth I will continue to use the method, where appropriate, as the unit test results and student reaction point towards progression. The iPad and apps have made a real difference to the dynamic of my classroom.