Simple

“It used to be ‘simple when you know how’ but now it’s just ‘simple.'” That’s how Abdul Chohan from Essa Academy summed up making use of the Apple ecosystem in his school (AppleTV, iPod Touch, iPad and Mac). However, watching one Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) try and demonstrate an iPad workflow to a room of beginners made me think that using iPads in schools is not always as easy as one might think.

The South London Apple Education Leadership Summit was pretty good fun though. It was held at the Kia Oval, with fantastic views of the cricket ground (and cricketers) as we drank coffee beforehand on a sunny balcony. Great hospitality and very friendly delegates.

The events started with an Apple spiel, explaining Apple’s commitment to education right from the beginning and how the iPad is part of the disruptive post-PC world. I’m not sure quite how true the historical sketch was, but I liked the comparison to the introduction of the printing press (One book per student? Are people crazy?). There was also the emphasis of the 4 sources of content for the iPad – web, iTunes U, iBooks and App Store. I am eager to get my hands on iTunes U a bit more once we get some iPads in!

Then came a case study from the principal of Fitch Green Primary in Essex. She showed loads of clips and videos of the impressive work children had been doing with Apple devices. It was very inspiring (sickeningly even!). She talked about the importance of getting children to think and mentioned how the National Curriculum has, in a sense, deskilled teachers as they don’t have to think as much. Perhaps.

Joe Moretti, an ADE, then talked us through lots of different apps we had on our (Apple-supplied) iPads. The wireless USB microscope was pretty cool.

A brief introduction to a new purchase programme then followed, which allows parents to contribute to a school hire-purchasing iPads. This includes a very comprehensive insurance package as well. Might be something to look into…

Before and after lunch was a hands-on workshop about the iPad from another ADE. I went to the ‘introduction to the iPad’, which was I think aimed at those who had never really touched an iPad before. It was quite helpful for seeing how to introduce the iPad to members of staff. There were quite a few questions about the practicalities of deploying iPads and quite a lot of confusion about getting files on and off iPads. DropBox was promoted highly as a solution to this, but it still seems pretty fangled to me. Maybe I need to look into it more.

One thing that particularly interested me was a mac app called Reflection. This allows an iPad to be mirrored to the screen of a Mac, wirelessly. It’s only $15 and could well be a cheaper solution to an AppleTV. My concern with the AppleTV is that it’s adding one more layer of complexity with the projectors – switching sound sources on amps, changing the projector channel etc. If it works, that would be awesome!

The event closed with a talk from Abdul. He covered much ground to what he said in January, but put in a bit more detail about how they use the iPod touches that they have deployed to every child. What struck me was how they always ask ‘why’ when evaluating traditional education technology (such as the ├╝ber-expensive IWB) and spend the savings they make on Apple kit instead. Nice.

I came away feeling that it was a useful time, but now I think I want to go to a more super-technical Apple event. They did say they would be trying to organise one, so we shall see.

Learning with Apple

I’m currently on the bus, on my way to the South London Apple Education Leadership Summit… should be fun! There’s very much going to be an iPad focus, which is good as I want to really get my head around the best way to deploy, use and manage iPads in a school. I’m not sure how technical it will be, but hopefully there will be some techy people there for me to interrogate.

LGfL at the Mermaid (pt.III)

The last session of the LGfL conference was an update about the LGfL 2.0 migration. Basically, it’s a big job and it’s taking longer than we expected but will result in a faster, more secure and more resilient broadband connection for schools. Yay! One guy even tried enlivening his presentation by including Disney quotes. Fair dos.

The final 10 minutes or so was a very short presentation from Roger Larsen, the founder of Fronter. He gave a blistering tour of the history of education, starting with the Gutenberg press, through the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution to the computer revolution of the last 30 years. It was a bit similar to the metanarrative I heard at the Apple European Summit, only without mention of who invented all those computers. The contrast between the classroom of 100 years ago and today was also mentioned, albeit uncritical of the seeming lack of real change because we now have the data projector screen which lets you view your MLE (i.e. Fronter). Hmmm!

So, what did I make of the conference? I guess, because LGfL fundamentally is a broadband provider, the unspoken emphasis was on all the wonderful educational things you can do with the Internet. Conversely, the paradigm shift that the iPad is causing was hardly mentioned at all, maybe just in passing. A web browser is all well and good, but the interesting things are happening when you combine native software and web services (i.e. iOS).

However, LGfL (with Virgin Media and Atomwide) are doing a super job of providing broadband+services for schools in London and it was certainly interesting to hear more about that.

And I got a free mug.

LGfL at the Mermaid (pt.II)

Here’s some of the other things I heard today…

Best Value Technology

Helpful insights from Paul Shoesmith on how to make the most of your money and ICT resources in schools. Some of his suggestions:

  • Use what’s in your cupboards already. That USB webcam could also make a cheap visualiser!
  • Think about your total cost of ownership before buying. Cheaper upfront may not be in the long term, i.e. cheaper printer but expensive toner.
  • Paper. Huge amounts of money is wasted on printing that is unnecessary. In what ways could schools go paperless and save money?

‘Leading Creatively Costs Nothing’

The CEO of the Pearson Group came and talked about the importance of creativity. It was quite inspiring really, although trickier to put into practice due to the limitations and structures of our current schooling system. I loved her accounts of how six-year-olds might finish well-known sayings. For example: Strike while the…bug’s near. Don’t bite the hand…that’s dirty. A penny saved…is not much.

Anyway. Stuck for creativity? Go for a walk. Put things aside. Make links between unlikely concepts. Ask “What can go right?” when calculating risks.

LGfL Content Highlights

Showcasing new content on LGfL, such as Royal Mews and Romans in London. Not bad!

E-safety 360 Scheme

Ken Corish from South West Grid for Learning talked about a school self-assessment for e-safety called 360 degree safe. It seems pretty thorough and can result in an official ‘E-safety Mark’ for your school as well.

Fronter Updates

This was quite interesting, with lots of information about where Fronter is headed. They seem to be making it more attractive to look at and easier to use. Good news indeed!

More to follow…

LGfL at the Mermaid (pt.I)

On this remarkably sunny and pleasant morning I travelled to the Mermaid conference centre near Blackfriars station for the LGfL Schools Conference. It’s been interesting so far, and I’ll try and post throughout the day.

After some refreshments in a bar areas overlooking the Thames, the conference kicked off with a welcome from Brian Durrant, the CEO of LGfL. He’s a good guy, and was helpful when I had to email him to try and sort out our LGfL 2.0 fiasco. There was then a brief video welcome from Sir Richard Branson himself, as Virgin Media now provide all of the broadband for schools across London.

Niel McLean was the first keynote speaker proper, talking about ‘What next for online education’. Niel helped put together the original ICT curriculum in the UK and had lots of interesting things to say. I was particularly struck by his thoughts on the 5 basic competences in ICT (awareness, user, maker, evaluator, holistic) and we hopefully will be using them to think about reshaping our ICT curriculum over the next term. He also talked about the way that technology gets adopted in schools and that it has to reach a certain point for it to begin to give a return on the financial investment. For technology to really make a difference, the whole system needs to be redesigned in order to enable really innovate use of ICT.

The first seminar was done by a guy called Mike Briscoe, all about ‘Critical Leadership Decisions’. He outlined 9 different areas that need thinking about (direction, new technologies, future living, e-safety, teaching & learning, value for money, data, provision, beyond school) and posed us lots of questions. One thing I found fascinating was the off-the-cuff comment that most schools are now considering deploying iPads/tablet computers. This is pretty mind-blowing, considering that the iPad was only released a mere 2 years ago. The question is, what are the impacts for teaching & learning for things like iPads (apart from motivation)? Hmm…

Anyway, best listen to the seminar I’m in about ‘Best Value Technology’…

In real iLife

Yesterday was fun and got to see a bit how useful iLife apps can be with children.

In the morning I was teaching music with Year 3, where we were doing some preparation for making a radio show all about saving the environment. I had pre-chosen some songs with an eco-theme and then got children listening to some of them to try out work out the environmental message and to decide if they liked them or not. To do this, I got children to search for the songs on the iTunes Music Store and then listen to the 90 second previews you can now get. It would have been more ideal if we had headphones for everyone as it was a little noisy, but that will have to wait until the next financial year.

After school, I had another instalment of iMovie club. We ended up having a go at using the ‘trailers’ feature of iMovie 11, which groups of 3 deciding which film genre they wanted to do, printing off a storyboard and then starting to film their footage using Flipcams. The final product may not make a huge amount of sense, but it’s definitely giving children the experience of sequencing shots together and trying to tell a story. We’ll see next week how good the final product is.

iTunes U

Very interesting post by Fraser Spiers about iTunes U. Take a look!

This could be very interesting and useful if/when we deploy some iPads in September! It seems to be able to take the concept of using the iPad for learning, rather than just learning to use an iPad. It also makes the case very strongly in my mind for having one apple ID per device; the whole iCloud ecosystem opens up for you in very useful ways.