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Inspiring iPads

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Bolton School has now issued iPads to all pupils as part of its Foundation wide initiative and this includes Beech House, the infant school for 4-7 year olds, where each year group has a set of iPads for use during the school day. The older children in the two junior schools and the two senior schools have their own individual iPads. That means that over 2,000 pupils attending the school, from Reception to Sixth Form, use iPads to enhance their learning and build their skill sets in preparation for adult life. Technology is changing the way that pupils learn and how they are taught and this is now being woven into the curriculum at Bolton School.

Head of the Infant School, Mrs Debbie Northin, said: “At Beech House our children struggle to look after their own coats and are still acquiring independence skills, so the idea of having their own school iPad to be taken home each evening and returned to school each morning seemed unrealistic. Instead we have opted for banks of iPads to use for planned activities throughout the curriculum and to run alongside the teaching of computing. The iPads support the children’s learning across the board, but do not replace or diminish pupils’ engagement with traditional topics such as handwriting, which are vitally important in early years’ education.

“We are still discovering a myriad of different ways to use the iPads but the children have already face-timed family members to glean information about how toys have changed since their grandparents were children, created comic strip stories with punctuated direct speech by using speech bubbles, made interactive calendars, filmed presentations of conclusions to a science project on weather and used Book Creator to record the information gleaned about animals who live in cold climates. As well as being exciting, creative, challenging and engaging it prepares the pupils for life in our junior schools where each child will have their own iPad. The school has invested in high quality training for staff, identifying the high flyers, and supporting the less confident.  Further staff training is ongoing and a vital investment to any establishment considering a similar project.”

The new computing curriculum for 5 to 7 year olds says: “Children will be learning what algorithms are, which will not always involve computers.” When explained as ‘a set of instructions’ teachers may illustrate the idea using recipes, or by breaking down the steps of children’s morning routines.  But they will also be creating and debugging simple programs of their own, developing logical reasoning skills and taking their first steps in using devices to “create, organise, store, manipulate, and retrieve digital content”.  Linda Liukas, author of the Hello Ruby coding book, says, “Code is the 21st century literacy and the need for people to speak the ABC of programming is imminent. Our world is increasingly run by software and we need more diversity in the people who are building it.”

Mrs Northin continued: “So, if computing is taught correctly, children will not be studying a single subject such as history or geography; they will be thinking about thinking. About how thinking works. They then have to imagine how this technology is going to do something for them. There are loads of transferable skills and the iPad then becomes a wonderfully creative way of being articulate and thinking logically. Ultimately they are acquiring the skill sets required to contribute to the future workforce at the highest level.

“We used to think of iPads, computers, Kindles and PCs as tools for learning but now children will learn how to make each device solve a problem for them and in doing so they will have to break down and analyse what’s happening and predict what might happen next.

“Children may well come home chatting about coding, algorithms, debugging and Boolean logic in the future and parents can find the idea of their children learning coding and beginning to program rather daunting.  We have all read the articles discussing whether children spend too long communing with screens and we understand how technology has transformed our own working practices.  It’s really important for parents to listen to their children as they learn and to keep pace with them in order that, when away from the safe practices of the school-net-nanny, their children will continue to be as safe using technology at home as they are at school. We have to learn with our children so that we can ensure our homes are as safe a place as school, for them to explore, create and express themselves using technology.

“Rather than be intimidated by these changes the staff of Bolton School have embraced iPads and are working hard to embed their safe use. We have found that rather than removing the need for collaboration and discussion, the iPad activities promote interaction between the humans using them and this emphasises the importance of an adult to plan, guide, encourage and yes, inspire.”

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Two pupils using the iPads

Two pupils using the iPads