Why we still need schools

With schools across the world getting their heads around home learning (with varying levels of technology and success), I don’t think anyone is seriously suggesting that we get rid of schools in the long term. But the fact that they are, for the most part, physically closed at the moment does help bring into focus some of the reasons why they exist in the first place.

  • Children need the important socialisation process of mixing their peers. Parents are vital for those first few years, but after that children learn how to relate properly with the rest of the world by learning how to get along with other children their age.
  • School provides an external institutional structure for kids, bringing an order to children’s lives. As children learn how to play by the rules of school, they then can become responsible adult citizens who know how to play and keep on playing the game that is civilised society (see Piaget).
  • Teachers provide the external motivational impetus to direct learning. Of course we want learning to be intrinsically motivating and engaging, but the reality is that reading, writing and maths is hard! Training your hand to write, your eyes to read and your brain to think might not be fun at the time but it pays off over a lifetime, and often requires an adult to direct a child to learn it.
  • It takes a village to raise a child. Schools provide much of that ‘village’ experience in our modern crowded and urban life. Kids get a range of input from a variety of people, both academically but also pastorally. This can be done remotely, to a degree, but is so much easier if everyone is the same room or building!
  • People who become teachers are generally the sort of people who are good at teaching (one hopes)! Not everyone has those skills or aptitude, nor indeed the depth or breadth of subject and pedagogical knowledge to introduce learners to a domain of knowledge. You generally need a piano teacher for a child to learn pianoforte…
  • Parents have to go to work. In Days of Yore, children were very useful to help their parents with agricultural jobs, such as bringing in the harvest (which is partly why we ended up with a 6 week summer holiday in the UK). It certainly is a challenge for parents to carry on doing remote working from home whilst juggling children and their learning as well.

It looks like schools in Demark are reopening, and I look forward to this happening in the UK too (at the appropriate time!).

Why iPad

When I was training to be a teacher back in 2007, I originally thought that I would teach Year 6. After all, I had done A-Level maths and so it would be fun to teach 11-year-olds algebra, right?

However, when I began my initial placements in school I was shocked by how boring this education business was for children: lots of sitting on the carpet staring at a whiteboard, then lots of pencil and paper work in books. There obviously is room for this approach, but it depressed me that children didn’t have much opportunity for independent exploration and discovery, working with rather than against the in-built curiosity of childhood.

I then spent a couple of days in a Reception classroom where I could see children showing independence and genuine agency in their learning, learning through play and exploration and in a way that matches the way that children learn. I then switched to the Early Years route in my PGCE and ended up getting my first teaching job in Nursery.

Fast forward to today and I now lead a 1:1 iPad deployment in a primary school. Is there a connection?

It stuck me, as I sat in some professional development from Apple about the ‘5 Elements of Learning‘, that there is a link! Those 5 elements are as follows:

  • Teamwork – working together on learning
  • Communication and Creation – expressing your ideas to a real audience
  • Personalisation of Learning – students have a choice about the approach to learning
  • Critical Thinking – students creating solutions to problems
  • Real-World Engagement – engaging in tasks that serve a genuine purpose outside the classroom

These elements make up effective learning, and iPad can be used effectively as a tool for learning in all of those elements. But actually, those quite nicely describe a decent early years classroom.

So why iPad? Used well, it allows children to learn in a more creative and meaningful way, not just when they’re in Early Years!

Why not to do 1:1 iPads

I had an interesting discussion last night with a friend about 1:1 iPad deployment in a primary school. She was horrified at the thought of every child getting an iPad which they could use all day long. She has an iPad at home that she lets her kids use, but she is always concerned to limit the amount of screen time her children are having, even if they are playing educational games. Life is bigger and wider than staring at and tapping on a glass screen all day. Maybe she has a point?

Thoughts on iPad

Now that the first full week of school has finished, here are some observations on how the iPad experiment is going.

  • Reception children love the iPads! Each class only got 3 each, but already the teachers are asking when we’re getting some more. The GripCase cases also seem to be doing the job, protecting the iPads but also giving handy handles for the kids to grasp.
  • The upper KS2 iPads seem to be getting some use, although only for some Internet research at the moment. But I’ve been told that teachers have planned in more iPad activities for next week, so I’m excited about that.
  • iFiles + WebDAV = joy! One of the features of iFiles is that you can easily browse the files on a WebDAV share, which is what we’ve done with our shared ‘school’ drive. I think it might need a step-by-step guide for the teachers though.
  • One of the Assistant Heads wanted to showcase some of the children’s maths learning in an assembly and asked me how it could be done using an iPad mirrored onto the hall’s big screen. I found the Educreations app, which lets you type, write and manipulate objects on a blank ‘whiteboard’ area. Apparently it went down a treat!
  • We had to do an ICT audit today to make sure all the new equipment had been included in our inventory, and using an iPad to assist us was invaluable. We did use a paper copy to highlight off what was there, but used a copy of the spreadsheet in Numbers to search for serial numbers for items that had moved or we could t find. An enormous time-saver!

I’m sure there will be more, but I’m really pleased with how iPads are already being used across the school.

New school website!

Our school’s new website is now live – hurrah! I’m pretty impressed with how it’s turned out, mainly due to the elegant and powerful wonder that is WordPress. It hopefully should be easy to update as well, particularly once I’ve shown the senior leaders how to add posts and edit pages.

For those who know which school I go to, the website is www…sch.uk. For those who don’t, post me a comment and I’ll email you the link!