105 pupils, 105 iPads and a multitude of applications
On the first day of the 2010-11 school year, teaching changed forever for the staff at Cedars School of Excellence in Greenock. That morning, every one of the 105 pupils at the independent school found a brand new Apple iPad on their desk, with their surname printed on the protective sleeve.
While the teaching staff had been looking forward to the benefits of immediate access to internet resources and word processing for all pupils at all times, they did not predict the impact the iPad would have on all parts of the school day.
"I thought it would be very useful for reward time and little apps; I didn't think how big a part of teaching it would become," says Andrew Jewell, head of middle school. Hardly a day went by when the iPads were not used in every subject.
His colleague Fraser Speirs, the computing teacher, conceived the idea to make Cedars the first school where each child would have his or her own iPad.
"The problem we had," says Mr Speirs, "was that we had a lab with 12 computers and 12 laptops, and teachers wanted to teach with more technology. People sometimes say they are planning to buy five iPads and put one in each class, but the one-to-one aspect is the important thing."
The project's success depended on teachers using their initiative to source appropriate apps. "If you can encourage teachers to be flexible, expect the unexpected, you can imagine so many uses for it," he says.
Teaching staff constantly think up new uses for the iPad, from using the Notes app for writing texts and stories, to attaching probes, such as wind turbines, an anemometer or a giga counter for science experiments. Before Christmas, they started an iPad band, with up to 50 pupils at a time playing carols on virtual instruments.
"It is more fun to teach this way, because we don't just teach, we learn as well," says Mr Jewell. "And a lot of things that were previously tedious can now even be fun."
Pupils regularly put together presentations on Keynote, do artwork on the Brushes application, research on Safari, or improve their numeracy with a "maths mingle".
The devices have proved especially beneficial for dyslexic pupils, who are able to increase the font size for texts to de-clutter their vision, says Mr Jewell. When reading complete novels, the technology enables them to highlight words they may not recognise and immediately access a dictionary definition.
Mr Jewell found out about this when a dyslexic pupil started providing perfect definitions for difficult words when the class was reading Airman. "I asked him how he did that. He turned his iPad around and showed me."
P7 pupil Mete Mercan was recently inspired to create an animation, instead of a presentation or an essay, to explain the way the water cycle affected Greenock. Clouds and rain he had drawn emerged over photographs of Greenock, accompanied by explanatory notes.
"My iPad is way more easy to navigate than a PC. Everything is so simple and they are constantly updating things," he says.
Upper primary and secondary pupils not only have access to their iPads during the day, but can take them home with their parents' permission. So Mr Jewell now emails his class their homework and receives their work on his iPad. This allows him to record it all.
P6 pupil Alexander Easdale says the technology also allows him to share his work with his family in an instant. "I just email my dad - he has an iPhone. He can email me back."
Even the youngest pupils at the school use the devices regularly. "They are quite careful with them. They can do everything, turn it on and off. They are able to concentrate so much more with the iPad than with any other task," says P1 teacher Lorna Speirs.
The school purchased the iPads at a retail price of pound;429 each. "pound;12 per pupil per month is what it costs," says Mr Speirs. "Divide that by subject and you end up with a couple of pounds."
Some of the ways it makes a teacher's life easier
? Instant accessibility of internet resources for every child means losing lesson time taking classes to a lab and logging on to computers is a thing of the past.
? In science lessons, each iPad can be connected to sensors, replacing complicated and expensive equipment with an "iPad plus sensor" set-up.
? Teachers can email homework to pupils, ensuring all children have the same information to hand. They can then receive pupils' work on their own device, which enables them to keep a close eye on performance.
? Classes can be split into groups to work on different apps, ensuring different levels of ability can be taken into account.
? Work can be drafted and re-drafted and then saved on the individual pupil's device or shared with the class.
? Teachers and pupils can set up blogs and podcasts, allowing parents to remain informed about pupils' activity and progress.
? Mind maps can be drafted in iThoughts to set out a lesson plan and connect each topic with the desired Curriculum for Excellence outcome.