Pedagogy: Use technology for impact, not shininess. iPads are not good by default.

I witnessed a discussion on Twitter today, working out how to link an iPad to an interactive

whiteboard.  I have to say that this is insanity.  The concept of linking a touch sensitive device to a touch sensitive device is lunacy.   There is a place for an iPad to replace a podium presentation tool in a large lecture theatre, allowing speakers to be more mobile, and this can be achieved with some ‘jiggery pokery’ and an apple TV, as I understand this, it is viable as a one off solution but not as an enterprise solution for a large organisation.  An iPad can be run in a wired fashion through a projector, but to play that onto an IWB is slightly missing the point.  iPads are personal devices and have a significant role to play in the future of teaching and learning, IN THE HANDS OF THE LEARNER.

My explanation as to why begins with a film from Monty Python. This was suggested to me by a student @JCBarrington in his blog ‘Monty Python as an Analogy for the poor use of ICT in the classroom’ He spotted a killer link between Python and the use of technology that I had forgotten.

We must guard against spotting the next shiny gadget and finding tenuous way to justify it.  This is the tail wagging the dog.

I expanded on this, pulling together Bloom’s digital taxonomy and some material from the BSF programme which is soon to disappear following the ‘Great Cull of 2010’.  The film ‘e-words for ICT and classroom creativity’ by Martin Blows, who developed the thinking behind this is well worth watching and downloading while it is still available.

My version, ‘ICT and Bloom’s Taxonomy’ is available here.

The thinking is that there is a rubric for evaluating if the use of technology is effective and adding value:

Exchange: Much use of IWB could be perfectly well done with an OHP and some Acetates, this rig costs £200, much less that the total cost of the IWB + PC + Projector.

Enrich: The projector and PC can be used to enrich children’s experiences by providing  a wider range of film and activities to enrich a learning event.  The IWB has no part in this.  Do not kid yourself that any child learns anything by coming to the front and revealing a word.  You only need the projector and PC.

Enhance: Again the PC and projector can be used to great effect to provide experiences using Google Earth and other modelling or simulation activities to enhance the learning in a way impossible without the technology.

Now comes a change from technology being the lever to pedagogy being the lever.

Extend: If you provide the children with a compelling problem and then ask them to collaborate to solve it using the IWB then they will find their learning is extended and challenged and they end up Empowering themselves to try harder and more involving tasks.  These must require a visual/spatial element to capitalise not he functionality of the board. (think CSI).

We must always challenge ourselves to look at the impact on learning of a new technology.  We have been guilty of buying machines that go ping, not choosing the right tool for the right job.  ‘It went well’ is not good enough a justification, nor is ‘the children enjoyed it.’

21 thoughts on “Pedagogy: Use technology for impact, not shininess. iPads are not good by default.

  1. ‘It went well’ and ‘The children enjoyed it’ are not good enough justification but they do resonate with teachers who will push boundaries in the absence of research to use such technologies in their classrooms. I have also used these terms, quite abundantly throughout my teaching career in fact and I have no bother in admitting this as I firmly believe that a hook, in this case an ‘shiny’ iPad, can have the desired effect of grabbing interest. However, it’s what the teacher does next that’s the most important part of the use of such tools. An iPad is a very powerful content creation creation device but many teachers don’t know how to best utilise this potential for the classroom. These tools could end up being used for content consumption with the occasional foray into creation through writing stories or drawing pictures. That is the saddest part of it. Teachers lack the understanding to use these tools effectively and that, as you so rightly point out, is the issue. Teachers will continue to use these as teaching devices rather than giving them to the learners.

    • Hi Kevin,

      I think part of the issue is that we have a problem with lack of research – class teachers are the best positioned to do it, research informed teaching works. But it’s a royal pain in the behind. It requires planning before implementing the innovation, and dispassionate evaluation afterwards.

      Time to plan is never a luxury teachers have – and dispassionate evaluation is not a comfortable bedfellow with compassionate vocations.

      It’s catch 22

  2. This post brings to mind a tweet I read about a year ago which depressed me rather.
    A headteacher of a school said “I have just an iPad for the school. I will give it to year 6 children to figure out what to do with it. They understand tech more than us”
    Oh dear!
    Problem 1 = you bought ONE iPad with NO idea of what impact that would be – as we see in Pete’s post this is the equivalent cost of 3 OHPs for 3 classrooms to impact on 90 children at a time
    Problem 2 = you are telling children in Year 6 you have no idea how to use the thing you bought for learning – now I am all for children spreading their knowledge to others around the school – I have had digital leader-types since 2006. However, I check they know what they are talking about first and I input teaching and learning structures so they see a model of good practice for this. Dumping equipment (presumably with no apps yet either if you don’t know what it’s for) on them and hoping for the best is irresponsible to say the least
    Problem 3 = you think they know more about it than you already. So what is your role in this? And what learning objective can you possibly hope to fulfill if they know it all already? And if you think they don’t know it all you should be in charge of finding out what they DON’T know and teaching that NOT giving them non stop opportunities to show off what they already DO know.

    Anyway that’s my (rather heated) two cents worth.

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  4. Thought I would share a few reasons why I link my iPad to my IWB

    * To show what the children have been doing (mini plenaries)
    * To start lessons e.g. Use of morfo booth as a ‘digital message’ to start a drama
    * To explain how an app works
    * As a quick visualiser
    * For whole class storytelling
    * To set a challenge (e.g. M+O maths – can you do this quicker than I can?)

  5. Blooms taxonomy is fine, TPACK looks like a pathway that could be useful in this context too. Yes there are lot of reasons for connecting an interactive white board to a touch based tablet. Now almost classical HCI talks about ubiquitous interaction , that addresses and highlights how we think about the scale of devices, and spaces, shiny or not, moving from personal foot scale inch scale “spaces”‘ to more public yard scale spaces, is like moving from the workbook to the board where you can share your ideas. A move from personal to public space, in turn making it possible to use the digital with all the flexibility and communication enhancements it provides in a way that is prevalent in most collaborative design situations. Just because it is shiny doesn’t mean it’s new.

  6. Thought I would share some ways that linking an iPad to an IWB can be useful (similar to Miss BB)

    – share your lesson, and what you are demonstrating on your iPad from anywhere in the classroom
    – share what the children are doing super quick, and then collaborate on ideas as a class
    – allow the children to display and lead with content they created
    – quickly move between interactive content and apps such as movies/storybooks/newspapers/shared text
    – share the content, quickly, and in any classroom wherever you are – I often move around and work in different schools, I can share anything on my iPad on any whiteboard.

    • That’s all lovely…. Bt what difference does any of that make to the amount kids learn? Until we establish that, it’s still just snake oil.

  7. It’s the fact that you can share things with the whole class at once. Learning happens without IWB/ipads, but ‘can’ be quicker, more effective and thus more efficient with.

    • I know teachers who can do that pretty effectively with a whiteboard & pen. Aren’t you making the case for the data projector?

      • Was talking about why I link an interactive device to interactive device (see comment earlier). Can’t get my children to show their knowledge of apps such as book creator to the rest of the class effectively with a whiteboard and pen 😉

      • Are you able to control the ipad from the board? Or the board from the iPad? Or are you projecting onto it?

        You assume the app makes learning better…is that actually the case? Or is it just different?

  8. Just projecting onto existing IWB.

    I’m not saying that any app makes learning ‘better’, but my year 2/1 children have created fact sheets/books in a third of the time (using the same skills) as when they have used textease. The ipads don’t shut down unexpectedly and work saves automatically. Sometimes I let the children explore apps without modelling first (using IWB as a projector) but then I usually get them to share their learning. So not better, just different – another tool that they can add to their repertoire.

      • I don’t agree. Apps generally are superb user experiences. They might support learning in other subjects but unless exploring the interrelation of apps to share and develop an idea, there is very little of the ICT subject knowledge and skills to be developed. The ICT is concealed from the user. Ipads support digital literacy. Not ICT

      • As I said, depends on context. E.g. Comic life/book creator with my year 2/1s – they find, copy and paste pictures, use keyboard skills, mouse skills (drag and drop, enlarge, move etc), carry out Internet research, writing for audience. ICT skills. Not concealed.

  9. I think that there is a real role for iPads to teach music. There are apps such as pitch painter and and read rhythm & GarageBand that really help children understand musical concepts. They still need lots of practical experiences and to be taught key concepts from teacher but the apps allow children to experiment and and get instant feedback. GarageBand is a real game changer as it allows non musicians to compose and create sound tracks. Since using it have found number of kids wanting to arrange instrumental tuition has gone up though this may be coincidental rather than causal.

    I also use iPads to record children’s work to play straight back to them. I have gone blue in the face repeating feedback over and over again only for it to be ignore. When kids watch from the recording on Ipad they are generally shocked at how poor certain aspects are and are able to modify.

    I have never been able to get to grips with my IWB and use it mainly as a projector. Agree that iPads are no more ICT than using a DVD player. I used my own iPad to help me with my own grade 1 theory exams

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