Case Study – Blended Learning in St Vincent’s Secondary School, Dundalk
iPad enables seamless transition to Blended Learning in St Vincent’s Dundalk
Clíodhna McCusker, student
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Planning for Continuity of Teaching and Learning from Home in St Vincent’s Secondary School
As early adopters of an iPad 1:1 model in their school, St Vincent’s Secondary School in Dundalk gave teachers and students access to iPads and training to support existing teaching methodologies. The result has meant a smooth transition to home teaching and learning as Deputy Principal Linda McCusker tells us:
“As a school we had been using iPads for 7 years and, with the help of Wriggle and Louth Apple RTC, we had placed a large emphasis on training and upskilling teachers and students in order to harness the benefits of technology in education. This meant we were perfectly placed to continue teaching and learning remotely when school closures happened in March 2020.
From the first day of the school closure, our students logged into each class at their normal scheduled class time, and their teachers were online to deliver lessons in a variety of ways. Some teachers recorded themselves with a white board teaching new material, some used screen record with audio on the iPad to teach the content, others conducted lessons online or created videos or pages with voice notes to explain the learning.”
Teacher Eva Whyte agreed that “the transition from school-based learning to learning at home was seamless for students with iPads. They were set up and engaging with Showbie, our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), on a daily basis. As students were already used to organising their work and learning on an iPad, I was able to continue my lesson from the previous day.”
Juliet McGrath, student
Successfully Transitioning to Blended Learning
Communication with staff and students has been key to St Vincent’s School’s approach to home learning with daily interaction between staff and students to outline and clarify the learning as teacher Bernadette White explains:
“I have tried to keep the structure of my online classes similar to the face to face classroom by using familiar resources such as textbooks or keynotes and annotating them or adding voice notes to explain and develop content. Many of my students said they felt it was like being in class. They also liked being able to pause and rewind and go over points which allowed them to improve understanding.
Screen record on the iPad has been very useful to help resolve queries easily. If someone was unsure how to scan their work into our VLE, Showbie, a quick screen record was easy to do and upload in order to explain this.”
With additional demands on teachers’ time these days, Patricia McMahon shared how the recording features on iPad and apps for tracking student progress have enabled her to use her time more efficiently and monitor students’ learning:
“Posting pre-recorded assignments with full explanations to students has really cut down on requests for clarification via class discussion. Students also manage their own testing independently through Quizlet with pre-agreed testing dates and times which I can track through the Teacher Overview in the Quizlet app.”
With an home learning engagement rate of almost 90% from students, the response to the input from their teachers has been very positive:
“My teachers’ voice notes explaining the topic or giving me feedback on my work are very helpful to me. I knew if I was carrying out that task correctly and hearing teachers explaining or seeing the task being done really helped me to understand topics while learning at home.” Ailbhe Holmes, student
“When my teachers put up pre-recorded videos, they go through the lesson and explain everything step-by-step. This makes it a lot easier as you can rewind and listen to parts again which really helps me to understand new topics. The videos are especially helpful for Maths and I don’t think that I would have learned new topics as easily as I did during these past months without them.” Cliodhna McCusker, student
Student Juliet McGrath agrees that the iPad has been an invaluable resource since the school closure:
“Using the iPad has helped me learn over the last couple of months. Videos helped me most in Maths and Coding and voice notes on Keynotes helped me learn in Science, History and Geography. Online lessons are most helpful in languages to improve pronunciation.”
Ailbhe Holmes, student
How the iPad 1:1 model has helped facilitate Remote Teaching and Learning
The school have found their iPad program an enormous help to them:
“There are so many benefits to both myself and my students from using an iPad at this time.
Students having their own devices has been key. The challenge of our students getting access to a device in the home where multiple family members also need access to a device is removed. This reduces stress for the student and allows them to manage their workload more effectively.
With project work, students having iPads means that they can choose how to present their work. Some students write projects and scan and upload them, others use keynote and some use Clips and iMovie which allows students to be creative and suit their learning style” explains Bernadette White.
For students with additional needs, the iPad has been invaluable, especially at this time according to Linda:
“Using the inbuilt accessibility features on the iPad has had a great impact on students with additional needs. Speech to text is a fantastic resource for students with physical or motor difficulties and text to speech has been great for students with literacy difficulties. The iPad also allows groups of students to work collaboratively on the same document from home with ease.”
As iPad works seamlessly with their Virtual Learning Environment, assignments, resources and evidence of learning can be easily uploaded to one central location:
“Organisation is greatly improved for all students as all assignments are posted and retained in our VLE so they cannot be forgotten or lost. As a teacher, I have a record of students’ work and can very quickly identify a student who may not be engaging and can follow up on that” explains Patricia McMahon.
The importance of Safe Online Learning
In order to provide a safe, secure learning environment for students, St Vincent’s School decided to have their iPads managed as Linda describes:
“Our student devices are fully managed remotely by Wriggle. This means students only have a designated list of school approved apps available on their iPads and therefore students cannot download other apps or access inappropriate content on their iPads. Safely managing the iPads in this way is vital to ensure that the devices are used in a manner that is conducive to enhancing teaching and learning. Parents are very positive in their comments and feedback every year about the management system for the iPads and the security it provides.
Our relationship with Wriggle has gone from strength to strength over the last 7 years. The teacher training, the device management and the guidance they provide have been invaluable to the success of our digital learning program and enabling us to facilitate blended learning at this time.”
Linda McCusker, Deputy Principal, St Vincent's Secondary School
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