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The future of learning with the youngest children

Published on 08/10/15

At the Stephen Perse Foundation we have embraced technology. The way in which we use iPads and technology to enhance and transform the curriculum we provide to students has been internationally noted.

IMG_8358As a result, we were invited to present in Karlsruhe, Germany at the Erasmus, Mobilising and Transforming Teacher Education Pedagogies conference.

As an educational establishment we have been recognised for our use of iPads and for this conference, especially for the way in which we are publishing, sharing and co-authoring iBooks Textbooks for the benefit of our pupils, parents and teachers.

The conference was an excellent opportunity to meet leaders from like-minded schools across the world: from Japan to Ireland; Australia to Norway. It was heartening to see that teacher training institutions are beginning to consider how newly trained teachers need a better base in technology and the way in which it can be utilised to transform teaching and learning.  

Throughout the conference, the focus was heavily rooted in learning and the cognitive process of learning. Using technology to maximise the way in which a learner can learn in different styles, at their own level and at their own pace. My thanks to the Pre-prep parents and colleagues, who took great interest in the conference and it was great to share the experience with different members of our school.

Here is an abridged version of the content that I presented to explain why iBooks are of benefit to learners and the wider community.

As a teacher, it excites me that I can create a resource that children can easily access using digital devices, which unleashes previously unknown possibilities. The way in which an iBook allows the author to place a variety of content at the touch of a screen without, for the younger pupils, getting lost on the internet via link upon link, gives a rich level of depth to what we can provide our learners, who are able to maximise the resources and support we offer them. No longer do we need to rely on the still image and unchanging text. Now text can talk to you in your teacher’s voice, another child can explain a task to you, you can see activities in action, videos of how something works, a problem in context really happening, how does this relate to someone on the other side of the world? – click here to see…the list is endless. We have a one-stop shop for an enriched repertoire of tasks. Not only are iBooks accessible but they are easily used and intuitive for the reader, viewer, listener – there are just too many possibilities. The Stephen Perse Foundation Biology iGCSE iBooks Textbooks have been a real example of a way in which iBooks have enriched learners’ resources and reduced the need for textbooks in school. Students’ preference is the iBook due to the way in which it truly reflects the course and the way in which it is taught in school, not to mention the reduced mass to carry! The iBook enriches the way in which we teach in school allowing ways to share concepts, processes and reach a mutual understanding that was previously not possible.

Classrooms are changing, students are changing, expectations are shifting and pedagogy is changing. We must change, develop and be innovative to keep up. There has been a significant shift in the dynamic and desire to learn beyond the classroom. At the Stephen Perse Foundation we promote life-long learning and we want to develop and utilise resources that support this. This is why we are passionate about iBooks and supporting our staff in making them to support our pupils in having high quality varied resources to access when they want. In a world of change we want our students to be able to independently stretch and support themselves and take their learning forward with the support of a teacher but without the boundaries of a classroom. The boundaries between work during lessons and beyond have become blurred and we need and want to enable this blur to continue. Learning is ongoing and we want and are committed to supporting our learners in this and iBooks facilitate this. iBooks bridge the gap between what is taught in school by a classteacher and independent self study – it is the nearest you can get to taking your teacher home in your pocket at your own beck and call!

The advantage of the iBook is that everything is in one place. You can have written explanations, with teacher commentary, video modelling, videos of concepts in action, pop up activities and all without getting directed elsewhere. The way in which apps can combine to create a multitude of ways to present content, the possibility for re-explanations in a differing format or just repeated is easy and can be considered to appeal to all different types of learner. In our MFL department iBooks Textbooks are part of the device’s Language Laboratory,  a resource that is used in and out of school with equal usefulness.

Gone or going are the days when we relied upon the same textbook but now we have opened the opportunities for our classroom resources to reflect exactly what we want to teach in our own voices, with our own images and ourselves in video – if that is your thing. I never seem half as convincing on video!  Such activities in school that are reliant on a teacher being present such as speaking and listening in a native tongue, now happen with ease outside the classroom. Often parents will say “…but it is different in school” or “…you explain it in a different way” or “…things have changed so much”. Now we can give personal explanations without needing to be there in person or having to repeat ourselves for the benefit of just one while holding others up. Obviously, our endeavour is to access all children in our teaching but there will always come a point when a pupil will just not want to ask that extra question for further clarification – well, now they don’t need to. Homework and classwork are no longer solitary activities with potential misunderstood tasks or processes but an interactive tool with a teacher on hand to support - the power of the teacher’s voice in a consistent learning message to be heard and shared with pupils, parents and other teaching colleagues wherever in the world they may be.

The main advantage of an iBook is the width of appeal that it has for today’s learners, who have grown up and continue to do so in a digital age. iBooks embrace this digital age and utilise it for learning. Through iBooks we are making and enabling activities to have a greater sense of fun and interactivity for the learner, something that we strive for at the Stephen Perse Foundation for every child. Any student who feels the need has greater accessibility to further support or repetition. The iBook content can be created and tailored to have specific content to match pupils' needs, there is no limit to the number of iBooks that can be created and who can access them. In our passion for the creation of iBooks the Stephen Perse Foundation are equally passionate about who should be able to access these fantastic learning resources. I am personally proud to work at an establishment, which values sharing iBooks, taking a philanthropic approach where they will be made available to ALL regardless of location or means, age or stage of learning. Free to all. We are proud to be able to tailor the iBooks to the needs of our pupils but as a Foundation we hope to inspire learners outside the Stephen Perse Foundation; a wider group of students in the maintained sector. In a world that is so connected and has resources that are not equally shared, we want these iBooks to be globally available, as educational content and learning should not be ring-fenced for the benefit of those who can afford it.

I admit, at the Stephen Perse Foundation, we do aim high. As educators,we do have to in some way predict the future and grasp it with both hands in the best endeavours for our students, be they 3, 10 or 19. Some will try to hide from the digital age but to their peril and to the detriment of their students. At the Stephen Perse Foundation we have opened our arms and embraced technology fully. We see iBooks as the next dimension that will take learning and our learners forward. The ability to draw on resources anytime, anywhere, by anyone gives access to a digital Eco system,where teachers are virtually with students at any time. Lifelong independent learners will use iBooks. Will you?

Look out for the primary iBooks soon.

My thanks to Aisling Brown (@Aislingbrown2), without whom these iBooks Textbooks could not exist. At the conference Aisling talked about the way in which pedagogy and cognitive theory supports the way in which we create, use and value the iBooks as a learning tool.