I wrote this post a couple of years back when I was a bit giggly over having an iPad. I tried to use lots of apps with classes – some seemed great, some less so – but found it frustrating having only one device in the classroom. Two years on and I don’t use the iPad any more. I’ve used less technology this year than ever before because the elephant in the room in a lot of schools in Scotland is a worrying lack of hardware. Outdated computers and not enough of them, to paraphrase a Woody Allen joke. For every incredible project we hear about where schools have one-to-one devices, iPad experiments, chrome book projects, there are far too many which have little. The future hasn’t yet arrived for some.
However, for me, the most important lesson I learned from my ‘the iPad year’ was a closer awareness of how the pupils in my class learn. Class Dojo forced me to face up to my classroom behaviour strategies and whether I needed an app for that in the first place. Three Ring, an app used as a sort of e-portfolio, made me think about why I was collecting pupil work and the process which lead up to that. Essay Grader promised to cut down hours of marking time; it didn’t. What it did do, however, was allow me to think more carefully about the feedback I was giving. I’m better at all of these now, ironically thanks to the iPad.
When I use IT in the classroom now it is more or less to extend the learning through homework tasks. I use Edmodo to store documents and pass on weblinks to students for further study. I use QR codes on praise postcards to send home to parents – they scan to find a picture of their child’s essay or a particularly good piece of class jotter work. I set homework which may involve using their phones to collect photos or short films. But very little in class. Both my pupils and I have have limited access to the ICT required to make it worthwhile.
I’m not dismissing the importance and future of technology in class, far from it; just aware that it’s not a level playing field yet. Having an iPad helped me to organise my day in a much better way. I have a Macbook Air now and use Planbook.com for planning lessons and organising my week, Pocket to collect blogposts and weblinks I want to view later. I complete admin tasks in a much more organised manner now. However, if you watched me teach you’d rarely see ICT in use. I’ve spent too much time sweating over poor internet connection and a projector which has a life of its own. It just ain’t worth it yet.
In what might be the most tragic country and western song title ever, I loved my iPad for a while. We went everywhere together. However, within a year or two we started drifting apart. The things I wanted to do, I couldn’t. The things I could do were really nothing to do with my teaching. However, I’m a much better teacher because of the relationship. How children learn is something I’m much more aware of if I try out new strategies. Now, I look at my iPad, sitting forlornly in the corner, and I sigh. Sigh for the memories of the times we had and the dreams of what could have been. There is a serious point here, however, that if we are to truly make use of technology in the classroom then every pupil and every teacher needs access. In Scotland anyway, we are a long way off from that.