Tim Scratcherd (the School House Partnership) and I were recently asked to write a report for the Oxford Education School Improvement Series on the use of Tablets and Apps. The purpose of this report is to provide practical support and guidance for school leadership teams who are considering the purchase of tablet devices. The report is aimed at school leaders and teacher in England but the ideas within the report are transferable to other parts of the world.
With permission from Oxford I’ll be duplicating some of the report on olliebray.com over the next week. You can download the full report or order a paper copy over at the new Oxford School Improvement Tablet and App Help Centre.
Part One - Tablets and Apps: How to ensure impact on teaching and learning – The Big Picture
In many countries across the world we will move to ubiquitous 1:1 (one computer per child) learning environments within the next 5-10 years and it is highly likely that tablet technology will be at the heart of these deployments.
However, the technology itself will not be enough to drive the whole school transformation that is needed within many schools. Infrastructure, good pedagogical practice, school leadership and teacher professional learning are all key ingredients for success.
For the schools that get this right, good technology integration through the use of tablets has the potential to unlock the wonders of an education future that we are only just starting to imagine.
The Place of ICT in Schools
In the UK during the first part of the 21st Century there was a real focus on ICT in schools. In England ICT has been a statutory subject since before 2000. Many of the ICT lessons that were taught in both primary and secondary schools focused around office based administrative and productivity skills. In doing this, schools fulfilled their statutory requirement to teach ICT to young people but this was often at the detriment of children learning real computing skills. The result was a whole decade of children who were unable to code, build and create things digitally. The extent of this problem for the UK is well documented in two reports; the Next Gen Review, researched and written by Ian Livingston and Alex Hope and the Royal Society Report Shut down or Restart. Both reports found that the teaching of computing in English schools is highly unsatisfactory, based upon evidence provided by a wide range of stakeholders.
The political response to this emerging problem in many countries (including the UK) has been very interesting. Almost overnight schools have been instructed to teach ‘real’ computing again. There is also a third area of ICT in education, which is arguably even more important. This third area is the use of ICT to support learning and teaching in all areas of the curriculum and not just the domain of the computer suite. It is the use of ICT to make learning real, relevant and exciting for young people. It is the use of ICT as a methodology and a pedagogical approach to raising standards. The schools exemplified in this guide are already doing this well though the use of tablet technology.
ICT and the National Curriculum
Although specific support was lost as part of substantial cost savings, the current government in England sees ICT as an important subject on the curriculum, a tool in support of learning, and as preparation for life. To improve the current position of ICT in schools, the Programme of Study has been retracted, and future study of ICT will also include substantial elements of Computing Science. The aim is to provide schools with more freedom to develop the use of technology for learning, and to make taught ICT more relevant.
ICT and School Inspection
Although there is no explicit mention of ICT in the Ofsted Inspection Handbook, there remains to be areas where inspectors look to see the use and impact of ICT. As part of reviewing behaviour and safety, inspectors expect to see all elements of e-safety effectively in place. The Ofsted report The safe use of new technologies makes it clear that systems with excessive filtering are a barrier to learning;
“In the best practice seen, pupils were helped, from a very early age, to assess the risk of accessing sites and therefore gradually to acquire skills which would help them adopt safe practices even when they were not supervised.’
In schools where the National Curriculum remains statutory, inspectors look to see that there is appropriate use of technology, as required by their Programmes of Study, which remain in force. This includes ICT, even though it has no Programme of Study. Inspectors are aware that the use of technology in lessons can add significant value to the learning process, and it is becoming more difficult to demonstrate good and outstanding teaching without some use of technology. For Ofsted we need to know our pupils very well. In addition, the need to demonstrate that every pupil makes progress in lessons over periods of time, and the identification of pupils qualifying for the Pupil Premium are two examples where very good recording systems are required. These are only effectively delivered through the use of good information systems.
ICT as a subject of the Curriculum
School leaders will know that schools, unless they are academies, are required by law to deliver the National Curriculum. Many will also know that the ICT programme of Study was dis- applied after consultation. However this does not mean, as commonly believed, that schools do not have to teach the subject of ICT any more. ICT remains a National Curriculum subject, and therefore must be taught, and the retraction simply removes the need to follow the definition of what ICT is. Schools should still provide an ICT curriculum that is broad, balanced, relevant and progressive. One way to do this is to consider what the outcome of such a curriculum would be, and that is, ICT-Capable pupils. ICT-Capable pupils will be able to complete a piece of work or solve a problem by safely using their own choices of tools and processes.
ICT in Support of Learning and Teaching
There is an expectation from both government and Ofsted that technology will be used in learning and teaching to raise standards, and make learning more relevant and exciting. ICT in support of teaching should be considered separately from ICT in support of learning. Although ICT in the hands of a teacher may directly improve learning, it is more likely that the learning gain is indirect. An example relating to the use of tablets is for a teacher to use a tablet to record a wider range of evidence, including still images and recorded sounds for assessment purposes. A convenient way to separate these two aspects is to note that it is only when pupils are actually using technology that we can say ICT is supporting learning.
What the research tells us
Research over many years has largely established the connection between the use of technology and improved learning outcomes in a wide range of contexts. In England and Wales there have been two reviews, which provide increasing evidence and further detail of the relation between the uses of technology and the impact on learning; Becta (2007) The Impact of ICT in Schools – a Landscape Review found that there was some direct impact on attainment, and greater impact upon intermediate outcomes such as motivation and independence in learning. Nesta (2012) Decoding Learning – The Proof, Promise and Potential of Digital Education shows that technology can have an impact on learning outcomes if it is used to support learning through making, learning through inquiry and learning from assessment.
There have also been a number of other research projects that demonstrate the potential of technology to transform education. Of particular note is the recent Innovative Teaching and Learning (ITL) Research sponsored by Microsoft Partners in Learning;
￼“Innovative teaching that leverages ICT happens more where students have access [to technology] in their classrooms.”
On a smaller scale, research carried out by the University of Strathclyde on Future Schools includes a case study of Cedars Schools of Excellence in Scotland (which was the world’s first 1:1 iPad School). Amongst the many of the things that the report highlights perhaps the most revealing is the following statement from the school’s head of Computing and ICT;
￼“This is a device we bought, but it’s not just a textbook or an instrument, or a set of art tools – it’s all of those things and more.”
It is clear from emerging research and case studies that now populate the web that tablet technology has a vital role to play in the development of ICT in schools and the transformation of our education systems.
In my next post I’ll discuss what tablets and apps are – you can download the full “Tablets and Apps: How to ensure impact on teaching and learning” report now for free over on the Oxford School Improvement Site.