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Ofsted, Outstanding Teaching and the iPad

Published on 12/11/13

If a schools' inspector were to walk into a lesson tomorrow they would see the following:
Prior to the lesson students would have viewed an 8-10 min screencast introducing the topic. This resource would have been produced and sent via twitter to the students when appropriate.

Students would have uploaded work required to Edmodo that is then assessed, annotated and sent back to students again prior to the lesson. The nature of the work is determined by perceived difficulty of the topic.

The initial task would be a Socrative quiz to establish understanding for the lesson (AFL) – this often includes one multiple choice and two short answer questions.

With a given problem the students would then have to produce an explanation of the problem on the interactive whiteboard app ExplainEverything - collaboration in groups of 3. These problems would be tailored to the groups and range in difficulty. All the while the teacher would be working with groups to overcome difficulties or promote discussion.

Socrative would then be used again to assess where the students are and the lesson would be adjusted accordingly. There would be a multitude of scenarios for the students to relate to lesson content and these would be directed depending on the Socrative answers

The lesson objectives would then be teased out of the group and suggestions would be highlighted using the mind-mapping app Popplet. At this stage the students would be comfortable with the subject matter and would be encouraged to offer their ideas.

The final task in the lesson would be to complete an exit ticket on Socrative. This would typically include a question worth five marks. This exit ticket, including the student’s name and how they would describe their ‘level of learning’, would then be emailed to the teacher for post lesson AFL.

(It has to be said these methods are made possible by the presence of iPads in the classroom and a functioning wireless network.)

The structure of the lesson is nothing new and indeed the pace and variation are very similar to previous years. The enhancement of learning comes from the continual AFL and the collaboration using the iPad. Students are able to feedback to the teacher individually and at any point during the learning process. If the pace of learning demands so, the difficulty of each problem increases. The important part of collaboration centres on the requirement for visual, written and verbal communication through the ExplainEverything app. Again this can be sent to the teacher for feedback at any point during the lesson.

So what would OFSTED make of this standard lesson? The only judgement I can make is to compare the lesson to the ‘Quality of Teaching’ grid. I appreciate this is not designed to judge a single lesson, but it is held as:

“These grade descriptors from the 2012 inspection schedule describe the quality of teaching in the school as a whole taking account of evidence over time. While they include some characteristics of individual lessons, they are not designed to be used to judge individual lessons” (OFSTED 2012)

This fits as a frame of reference as the lesson is not subject specific in its structure. The quoted statements refer to the ‘Outstanding’ section of the grid.

Teaching that leads to Progress

‘Much of the teaching in all key stages and most subjects is outstanding and never less than consistently good. As a result, almost all pupils are making rapid and sustained progress. All teachers have consistently high expectations of all pupils.’

The lesson aims for expectations to remain high as the teacher will be monitoring progress of every student and adjusting the lesson accordingly. Progress is monitored throughout.

Sound subject knowledge, use of assessment.

Drawing on excellent subject knowledge, teachers plan astutely and set challenging tasks based on systematic, accurate assessment of pupils’ prior skills, knowledge and understanding’

With content delivered outside the classroom walls and then knowledge assessed and developed before, during and after the lesson. AFL drives the learning process and technology makes this easier for the teacher.

Focussed support, matching to pupils’ needs, strategies for teaching, AfL

They use well judged and often imaginative teaching strategies that, together with sharply focused and timely support and intervention, match individual needs accurately. Teachers systematically and effectively check pupils’ understanding throughout lessons, anticipating where they may need to intervene and doing so with notable impact on the quality of learning.’

Again the technology appears to aid the teacher in matching this criteria. Socrative as an AFL tool is second to none in my experience.

Learning across the curriculum. Attainment of pupils in English and Maths.

‘Time is used very well and every opportunity is taken to successfully develop crucial skills, including being able to use their literacy and numeracy skills in other subjects.. Pupils learn exceptionally well across the curriculum. The teaching of reading, writing, communication and mathematics is highly effective’

Taking the written work that is uploaded to Edmodo prior to the lesson as an integral part this is perhaps more difficult to evidence. There is a requirement for every student to respond with written and verbal communication (ExplainEverything) and written work is annotated before they step into the classroom. Work is handwritten when required and still uploaded to Edmodo for annotation.

Engagement, interest, motivation, resilience, marking and feedback

‘Teachers and other adults generate high levels of enthusiasm for, participation in and commitment to learning. Teaching promotes pupils’ high levels of resilience, confidence and independence when they tackle challenging activities. Marking and constructive feedback from teachers and pupils are frequent and of a consistently high quality, leading to high levels of engagement and interest.’

I can only refer to anecdotal evidence and in-house observation but the new technologies certainly seem to engage students. Constructive feedback has been made even more effective using Edmodo with the iPad and dictation to annotate notes. Student engagement appears to be a real positive from the increase in technology use.

Homework contributes to learning

‘Appropriate and regular homework contributes very well to pupils’ learning.’

In my view the screencasts are the most effective use of homework time as long as they are supported by feedback.

Attitudes to learning.

‘Pupils show very high levels of engagement, courtesy, collaboration and cooperation in and out of lessons. They have excellent, enthusiastic attitudes to learning, enabling lessons to proceed without interruption. Pupils are consistently punctual in arriving at school and lessons. They are highly adept at managing their own behaviour in the classroom and in social situations, supported by systematic, consistently applied approaches to behaviour management.’

Again observational and anecdotal evidence suggests that the new technology promotes a positive attitude to learning.

There are many reasons why an actual lesson using the technology may not have received an ‘outstanding’ rating in the past. I have used over forty apps in my classroom and there is no doubt some have been more successful than others. There is also delivery to consider and the adaptation of the lesson where it is most appropriate.

However, when comparing the lesson structure to the new OFSTED ‘Quality of Teaching grid’, it appears that an outstanding rating can still be achieved even though the ‘flipped’ model is a somewhat contentious area.

For what it’s worth I will continue to use the method, where appropriate, as the unit test results and student reaction point towards progression. The iPad and apps have made a real difference to the dynamic of my classroom.