The iPad Trial – Half Term Report

Have we learnt anything from the first 8 weeks of a 1:1 iPad trial?

The comments below are based on observation and conversation during recent feedback sessions. They serve to inform our training programme as we seek to enhance learning with the iPad.


  • Use the device intuitively and are quick learners with new apps
  • Explore different avenues to find answers rather than ask the teacher
  • Want to find new ways to demonstrate knowledge
  • Take pride in their work as it is often shared with the group
  • Digital Leaders allow a class to learn together
  • Need help when setting up passwords and ways of remembering them
  • Require reminders of new procedures regularly to embed workflow – particularly with Edmodo and Dropbox
  • Can be distracted by other features of the iPad when learning
Students have impressed staff with their ability to use the device. If they are faced with an issue they will contact as many people as possible to solve it (usually through Edmodo or email). Of course, there have been issues with passwords and excuses made because of the technology, but these have been few and far between. It highlights the need to ensure students understand how to use the device/apps and that they should be a focus for training and support.


  • Assessment for learning is made easier by Socrative
  • Explain Everything has meant feedback and reflection are integral part of lessons
  • Very positive about communication, through Edmodo, with students to enhance learning
  • Report an ‘independence’ to learning with the right questioning and tasks set
  • Need more time with the trial group to produce hard data to support anecdotal evidence
  • Are concerned about the distraction element of the device
  • Some are resistant to the dramatic changes that other staff have made to their lessons – it is overwhelming
  • Need time to adapt lessons and schemes of work to truly implement the iPad in their lessons

With a variety of staff volunteering to conduct the trial we have been able to gauge opinion from different perspectives. A common theme centres around the need to invest time early to understand how the iPad can be used to enhance learning. Teachers who have ‘played’ with apps and asked lots of questions are now reaping the rewards with ease of use and lessons showing progress and varied learning opportunities. Those teachers who haven’t afforded as much time are on a slower learning curve. The iPad then seems to be a concern as the students are so adept with the interface. Personally I believe we are learning alongside the students, but this is a departure from the norm for some.

The iPad has been described as a ‘game changer’ for education and it has certainly made an impact inside and outside the classroom. This can be very difficult for staff to embrace and the ‘change’ must be properly supported. As previously suggested (blog), constant support is required to help the iPad become part of a teacher’s toolkit. I would therefore add to the lessons above – collaborate and share at every opportunity. That’s where twitter comes in . .

The iPad and Student Use

Students aren’t daunted by the iPad interface. They may take time to experiment and understand steps required to produce an outcome, but they will persevere. Having observed students at different stages of learning, across many subjects, it has become clear that students aren’t a barrier to learning with the iPad. If a process doesn’t work for a student they will try something different. They collaborate with peers to produce quality work and will heed advice to move forward.

It compliments our wish as teachers that students should be more resilient in their learning and I question why they are so prepared to persevere with the device? The answers given by students are telling:

  • ‘Because it’s fun?’
  • ‘My work will be seen by everyone and I want it to be right’
  • ‘I don’t want it to look the same as someone else’s’
  • ‘The apps help you for different things, so I have to chose the right one’

I am not suggesting all students are suddenly challenging every decision they are making and persevering until perfection is reached. Simply, the overall quality of work produced has improved and led to higher internal assessment grades. We still have the standard issues with organisation, particulalry with younger students, to maintain the flow of work from student to teacher. However, the variation and depth of knowledge demonstrated has impressed with students surprising staff with their approach. This has been particulalry evident where a teacher has set open ended tasks with the focus on discovery and creation.

Another interesting development has been witnessed in classrooms where the teacher is embedding the device with other methods to produce learning opportunities. For example, observing six students use one iPad for research and one for process suggestion whilst completing a new art assignment left me questioning how they came to that work station set-up?

The answer was simple. The teacher allowed the students to use any method to achieve their lesson objective. Consequently, two students produced material, two used the device and two managed and lead the working environment. The students had taken existing, ‘comfortable’ working methods and incorporated the device. It might not seem revolutionary, but after eight weeks of the trial, this observation supports the desire to provide another tool to enhance learning. The iPad is not seen as a ‘magic bullet’, rather it is an instrument that can enhance learning and the ease of use is encouraging it’s integration.

These observations and thoughts will form a small part of feedback in relation to the next step in 1:1 implementation for the school and there are still a number of hurdles to overcome. It is impossible to draw specific, data rich conclusions for this trial with external examinations an important part of any whole school measure. However, feedback from students and staff point towards learning enhancement and a 1:1 iPad programme is a definite possibility.

It seems student use of the iPad won’t be a barrier!

The iPad and the Teacher

The role of the teacher is changing. From the ‘flipped class‘ discussion to the curriculum ‘focus’, a teacher’s remit is evolving. There is a developing pedagogy with new technology and the phrase ’24/7 learning’ permeates discussion. There are always opportunities to learn for students but the confines of the classroom are no longer the perceived determinants of education.

The iPad assists learning in many ways with perhaps the most significant being the continuity of learning between home and school. A student can open the device and continue with the work they have been set or need to complete. An application automatically stores the last student entry and this is instantly accessible whenever it is required. This may seem a small matter but we have found that it has removed a number of the processes that present barriers to learning – a compact working environment with instant on capability.

Students are also immersed in learning as the application features are designed to be engaging. The competition for app sales has meant that developers seek to engage the learners to maintain traction in the market. This is of great significance to educators as the software is consequently updated to meet the user and iPad requirements. This also leads to variations in use with teachers using subject appropriate applications, as well as the general workflow apps, to enhance learning.

Our staff training usually centres around a couple of suggested applications and an opportunity to discuss any issues with the device. However, talk quickly turns to how the device could be used to enhance learning. There are often methods that are transferable but it is still down to the teacher to guide the learners in their class. I am impressed with the way individual teachers apply the device at certain points and develop their own methodology to suit both subject and learner. There is talk of being a facilitator at times and how ‘I do less as a teacher’. Of course the teacher isn’t doing less, they are just performing a different role from ‘the Sage on the Stage’ (Alison King 1993 College Teaching).

It appears an iPad trial promotes more discussion about learning than it does about the device and this is a desirable by-product of what was once a controversial scheme. Informal discussion tends to involve challenging the use of the device and it’s impact on learning. There is less conversation around ‘is there an app for that?’

The hard evidence to support these anecdotal conclusions will hopefully come in time. However, it is already clear that the iPad has a place in education and it is up to teachers to determine its impact in their classroom.

The iPad and Twitter

We are all learning together. If you have a problem, your PLN (Personal Learning Network) may be able to solve it. If you are struggling for ideas, there are people to ask. The iPad and twitter make the process easier.

Learning has always been based on exposure to new stimuli, research and communication. Ideas are formulated through external opinion, reflection and conclusion. The availability of these components lead to increased productivity and informed decisions. The iPad and twitter make the process easier.

Some applications for the iPad are dedicated to productivity and have challenged existing working practice. Evernote now acts as a mobile filing cabinet, Dropbox is an always available store of resources and WordPress a site for reflection and feedback. There are many blogs referencing the use of these apps and their widespread appeal points to their effectiveness. However, on their own, they would not be as useful without the aid of twitter.

I, like many others, signed up to twitter as it seemed the pertinent thing to do. I followed a few people, read some tweets and decided it didn’t hold much for me.
Problem number one, I was following the wrong people.
I posted a couple of tweets and had no response.
Problem number two, I had no followers. So I left it.

If I’m honest, I didn’t understand and didn’t make the effort to try. Twitter was for celebrity and of no use. Then, last Christmas with iPad in hand, I decided to tweet to a fellow PE teacher (@MrWickensPE) to ask if there was something I was missing. He suggested I followed the hashtag #ukedchat and see what people were tweeting about. Epiphany time!

For twitter to work you need to follow the right people. As an educator I needed to follow those who contributed to #ukedchat and there I found items of interest (@ICTEvangelist). Not only was it interesting to read the 140 character snippets but also the links that were posted. I was introduced to a range of teaching discussion that stimulated thought. There were blogposts that led to conversations in the staff room and links that could be passed on to colleagues.

As I became more comfortable with the etiquette of twitter I became more involved. Replying to the occasional tweet and posting a link prompted communication and the decision to blog. This is where the iPad came into its own. A mobile interface that allowed access to my resources, with an excellent view of posted links and interactions, meant twitter became part of the daily routine. It happened to coincide with the start of an iPad trial in school and increased confidence that the device should be introduced into the classroom. Sure the research could have been conducted on my desktop, the iPad and twitter simply made it easier and more productive.

Only yesterday a twitter conversation between myself and David Didau, about his superb blog, led to Andy Knill suggesting some tips to help me coupled with a link to his blog. This led to a conversation this morning with a colleague that led to us both feeling much more comfortable with an iPad idea we have been mulling over.

There is no doubt that twitter has changed my approach to learning and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for new ideas and conversation. The iPad has simply made the use of twitter and subsequent workflow manageable.

All thoughts welcome.


An iPad School – Top 10 Tips

There is no doubt that learning is central to thinking at ESSA Academy. A visit is based on talk of pedagogy and enhancing student life (iPad and Pedagogy). However, there are many lessons to be learned about the implementation of new technology in a school and ESSA, in particular Abdul Chohan, are very happy to help.


  1. Technology must not be a barrier to learning – if the technology doesn’t work for staff and students then it won’t work to enhance learning.
  2. If technology works then its use must not be hampered by minority issues. The fact that the devices may get damaged or lost should not be a reason to ignore them.
  3. The ‘moral imperative’ to provide suitable education includes preparing students for the world we live in. Digital literacy and safety must be embraced in school.
  4. Teachers should be prepared to learn with the students and the devices. A ‘democratic and collaborative learning environment is key to successful implementation’.

These general considerations are supported by the practical nuances of new technology. There will always be problems associated with change but this should not distract from the main aim of ‘allowing learning to happen’.


  1. The ‘ecosystem’ must compliment users needs. Apple are currently the market leaders with iPodtouch, iPad and Macbook. With these devices and cloud integration, ease of use can overcome scepticism.
  2. The MacBook allows for creation of content, iPads are used in the classroom as ‘conversational technology’.
  3. Dropbox is the most effective way to share resources. Current spend, under six pounds per month for each department, represents tremendous savings on photocopying of resources. There is only one working photocopier in the ESSA academy building.
  4. Students value the new working environment. Sharing resources and receiving assessment materials via the device is a desirable methodology.
  5. iBooks Author is not just a way of creating textbooks. It allows for pedagogical language and course administration to be linked to enhance student learning.
  6. Current classroom dimensions should be challenged to provide the foremost learning conditions for students.

True, ESSA Academy was presented with a blank canvas to make the transition to their learning model. However, the process began before the new building and is underpinned by the philosophy ‘All Will Succeed’. There are many barriers to the implementation of technology but there are solutions.

Overcoming barriers must be worth it?

ESSA Academy GCSE Results

A* – C 

2009 – 22%

2011 – 56%

The iPad and Pedagogy

There is a running theme on this blog – ‘it’s not about the device’. I expected this view to be challenged by a visit to ESSA Academy in Bolton where they refer to an ‘ecosystem’ using Apple technology. I was prepared for technological practice that would be difficult to comprehend and a new building with an infrastructure we couldn’t hope to replicate. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Sure the devices are everywhere you look. Every student has an iPodtouch, every teacher has an iPad and MacbookAir which makes it easy to transfer work from student to staff and from home to school. However, ESSA staff don’t talk about the device in isolation. They talk about learning, pedagogy and making a difference to students lives. The device just makes that difference ‘more achievable’.

Showk Badat (Principal of ESSA academy) refers to a ‘productive pedagogy’ where collaboration is essential to learning. There is an emphasis on faith and learning that is supported by asking the question ‘why are we teaching?’ It is clear that Showk’s vision is that learning is paramount and technology used to be a barrier. Apple products now enhance learning with instant-on and tools for collaboration. Apple has been chosen because it is the market leader for what they are trying to achieve at ESSA, high quality learning.

On an ancillary level the academy appears to be finding ways to adapt much easier with the technology. Their philosophy of ‘if it doesn’t work, change it’ is hastened by the ability of students and teachers to modify their working practice. True, the working environment allows for ‘pods of learning’ and 21st Century classrooms that lend themselves to creation and discovery. However, the learning would not be enhanced without the vision of the Principal and teachers in the Academy. You only have to speak to the students to realise that there is now a learning culture at the school that didn’t exist before.

The device has been part of the transition and promotes pedagogical discussion as it is a tangible resource. It won’t work as a learning tool on it’s own and requires an infrastructure led by a Principal who believes learning and students are the drivers of decision making.

Solo Taxonomy and MentorMob. A Match Made in Heaven?


The concept was first developed in 1982 (Biggs and Collis) and has since been defined as: ‘Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome, a means of classifying learning outcomes in terms of their complexity, enabling us to assess students’ work in terms of its quality not of how many bits of this and of that they got right.’ John Biggs (2007)

The use of this linear structure allows teachers to focus a class and add layers to learning. James Atherton describes SOLO taxonomy as: ‘levels of increasing complexity in a student’s understanding of a subject, through five stages, and it is claimed to be applicable to any subject area. Not all students get through all five stages, of course, and indeed not all teaching (and even less “training” is designed to take them all the way)’ (James Atherton 2005).

Personally I have heard SOLO taxonomy described as ‘levels of learning’ and ‘degrees of difficulty’. In practice some educators comment on ‘tricky terminology’ and have the view ‘it’s what we do anyway’. Therefore perhaps the simplest description of SOLO refers to a ‘learning journey’ (Paul Mcintosh 2012) where students make their way from prestructural to extended abstract, or little understanding to reflection and theorisation.

(SOLO Tasksheet – Tait Coles 2012)

This step by step process has been successfully defined and used by a number of teachers in the classroom who have kindly given permission for their findings to be discussed (see recommended blogs below). The current trend follows the creation of ‘SOLO stations’ (Tait Coles 2012) where students can progress from table to table as their understanding improves. This allows them to move from ‘shallow to deep learning’ (Tait Coles 2012) and make progress, OFSTED take note.

It seems the skill of using SOLO lies in the ability of the teacher to set appropriate learning opportunities. If the learning cannot advance from multistructural to relational, for example, then the concept is ineffective. David Fawcett in his GCSE PE class utilises ‘hot maps’ to focus the learning and found: ‘many students were really beginning to develop and map out a cycle that included all the physiological systems from circulatory to skeletal, specifically identifying how they adapt or work when involved in physical activity’ (David Fawcett 2012). Hot maps are a very effective tool for teachers when structuring the lesson as described by Pam Hook and Julie Mills in their excellent Solo Taxonomy, A Guide For Schools.

‘HOT SOLO maps clarify the nature of the learning task – the maps act as effective strategies for each declarative SOLO verb. There are HOT SOLO maps for:

  • bringing in ideas – unistructural and multistructural learning outcomes (define, describe)
  • connecting ideas – relational learning outcomes (sequence, classify, compare and contrast, explain causes and effects, analyse, form an analogy)
  • looking at connected ideas in a new way (generalise, reflect, predict, justify, evaluate).’ (Pam Hook and Julie Mills 2004)

Mark Anderson in his work with ICT students remarked: ‘What I saw was that students had gathered their unistructural knowledge, worked collaboratively to compare that to multistructural and worked together to make a presentation to the rest of the class which was relational’ (Mark Anderson 2012). Again this came from the skill of the teacher organising the lesson and using iPads to enhance the learning across each stage.

It appears a students desire to move on and the skill of the teacher in setting appropriate tasks combine to make SOLO taxonomy a powerful concept.


So where does figure in all of this? Well, I have been compiling playlists to help with learning new skills particularly in relation to an iPad project. Put simply allows the user to link stages of learning to articles/videos from the internet. Anyone can then view these steps and learn how to do something new e.g. iPad Tips and Tricks.

Whilst I was trying to understand SOLO taxonomy and its application I found myself reading fascinating summaries by educators such as Mark Lovatt and Darren Mead. It then occurred to me that the Mentormob playlist structure would suit my learning so I added the articles. As I found further examples I added them by degree of difficulty until I ended up with the SOLO Taxonomy Explained playlist.

As you can see the learning begins with basic understanding and progresses to how to use SOLO in the classroom. Then it struck me! Isn’t the Mentormob playlist following the same principle as SOLO taxonomy? There is also a quiz section that allows for interaction with the site and can test knowledge. I appreciate it isn’t in the lesson setting but progression occurs along the steps only when each level is understood. Would it be possible to utilise the Mentormob platform to embed SOLO taxonomy terminology? Furthermore could students use the platform to develop their learning outside the classroom?

This stimulated the brain as perhaps an article or video published by a teacher could be supported by questioning that a student could complete. If they were successful in answering the question(s) they would progress to the next stage. The playlist would not be named steps but would include SOLO taxonomy terminology. As David Didau discussed at a recent Teachmeet: ‘SOLO terminology is important for students as it forms part of the language of learning’. The playlists could certainly move students from pre-structural through to relational with extended abstract assigned in a different way (perhaps the final stage would be a task set directly by the teacher to support extended writing?)

Enter Eric Pitt, an Education Partnership Builder for Mentormob. Following discussions with Eric the development of SOLO stations for educators and students is in progress on the website. Whilst SOLO is gaining traction amongst teachers, it is hoped the website will support student learning and maintain consistency for students when required. A teacher could then set up a learning playlist to support a students progress or a ‘flipped‘ class. These playlists could certainly allow students to develop from pre-structural through to relational with extended abstract assigned in an appropriate way (perhaps with a task set directly by the educator?)

Watch this space.

Recommended Blogs

Tait Coles:

Darren Mead:

Mark Lovatt:

David Fawcett:

Mark Anderson:

David Didau:

Paul Mcintosh:


Biggs, J.B., & Collis, K.F. (1982). Evaluating the quality of learning: The SOLO taxonomy. New York: Academic Press

Hook P., & Mills J (2011) Solo Taxonomy, A Guide For Schools. Essential Resources

Biggs, J., & Tang, C. (2007). Teaching for quality learning at university. What the student does (3rd Ed.). Berkshire: Society for Research into Higher Education & Open University Press.