Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Independent Learners

It's hard to believe that we are over half way through the 1:1 iPad trial now! Another four weeks and we will be giving them back... The pupils are already starting to mourn their impending loss, and asking questions like "Is there ANYTHING we can do to keep them?".

I have no doubt that when we give the iPads back, it will be difficult for a little while - just as it was a little difficult to start with when we got the iPads. But even though we won't have our iPads anymore, there are some invaluable things that we have learnt, and that will do our best to hold onto.

The most valuable of these is the confidence that has grown within the pupils to 'have a go' at tasks that they would previously have deemed "too difficult" or beyond them. Since beginning to use the iPads the pupils have been so much more willing to try tricky tasks - confident in the knowledge that their iPads will help them if they get stuck. I think (and really hope) that this is not just a temporary thing. Many pupils, and particularly those who find French more challenging, have been surprised at what they have been able to achieve in terms of language production. But more of that in my next post...!

The other thing that has totally changed the dynamics of our classroom is that the learners in the room are so much more independent. My role in the classroom has changed for the better - the amount of time I spend at the front of the room has reduced, and the amount of time that I can now spend with individuals, personalising learning, has increased dramatically. The first port of call when a pupil is stuck is now the iPad, not me. Pupils no longer have to sit with their hand up in the air, arm aching because I am 'busy' dealing with someone else - when stuck, they turn to their iPad, which invariable has the right answer for them somewhere!

A typical lesson for us these days involves me putting some lesson instructions and activities out to the pupils, either by email or on a learning platform like Edmodo. They then go through the activities at their own pace - differentiation is natural because they are working independently, meaning they access as much or as little of the information as they are able to. And because of the wide range of Apps that they could use to produce their work, they can work to their learning style, meaning that learning truly is personalised. When revising vocab, for example,if someone organises their thoughts best with a mind map, they use SimpleMind, if they prefer to use flash cards, they use Flachcardlet, for something more visual, Bamboo Paper. I am there to encourage them along when they need it, and offer them support. They are in control of their learning.

What is so lovely to see as well, is that in enjoying their learning, they are so much happier to help each other. Another dimension of their independence is that they have been going away from lessons and researching apps that they feel will help them in the classroom. When they come back into the classroom, they share ideas with each other and naturally begin to work collaboratively on tasks. One pupil will have an app open, the other an online dictionary, and they will produce high-quality pieces of work together.

So these are the two main things I want the pupils to have gained from being part of this 1:1 iPad trial - the confidence to 'have a go' and stretch themselves, and the ability to take charge of their own learning - using me as a facilitator and a resource to their learning.

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