At Stoke Newington School this September every sixth former will receive a free iPad. I am Chair of Governors there, but can't claim much responsibility for this as it was mainly an internal decision. However I am very excited by it and by the possibilities it brings.
Is there a clear plan for how they will be used, some have asked? Have we defined what the benefit will be? The answer is no, not completely. The school has taken an educated guess that this will both make it more attractive to students and lead to new ways of learning, though exactly what we do not yet know.
There are many obvious uses in subjects like Art, Photography and Media but all teachers in all subjects are getting excited about the possibilities. Take the app Nearpad. This enables teachers to pose a question to the class, students work separately or together on the answer and, when completed, they are collated (instantly, in real time) on the teachers' machine. The potential for involvement and peer learning is huge.
The school is also experimenting in the earlier years. There is a set of iPads for GCSE Maths classes and today my 14 year old son has been sent out on a geography trip to explore Hackney. Each group of seven students has an iPad to help them discover the features of the local area.
This is part of wider experiments going on to find new ways of learning. The Learning Trust, Hackney's education authority, has distributed thousands of iPads to Hackney primary schools. In the US there is much talk of using resources like the entirely free Khan Academy
to "flip the classroom
": as homework the students use the online resources to learn, freeing up the classroom for discussion and recap. I've also written
of adopting Facebook founder mark Zuckerberg's approach for peer learning. Other technologies enable schools in the UK to connect with others around the world.
I was going to make a jibe about how the school is looking forward, in contrast to those focusing on Latin and O levels as the way ahead. But then I remembered we are also introducing optional Latin for next year's 11 and 12 year olds. The parents have been asking for it. So there is going to be a combination of technology and tradition.
It does often seem that some at the DfE want to return to the halcyon days of the fifties, and traditional teaching. However there are experiments taking place in local schools across the country, using technology to engage students and find new ways of learning. If you are involved in any of these, please do post your thoughts here.