iPad Class Sets Facilitate Safe, Effective Learning during the ‘New Normal’ in Firhouse Community College
When school closures happened in March 2020, many schools experimented with a number of different methodologies to ensure continuity of learning. Luckily for Firhouse Community College, a school of almost 800 pupils in Dublin, their investment in iPad Class Sets and the skills they built through their use, meant they were in a better position to pivot to remote learning.
‘We invested in managed iPad Class Sets with Wriggle to foster students’ independent learning skills and formative and summative assessment strategies’ explains Deputy Principal, Denise O Flanagan. The iPads are in high demand and their use has facilitated project-work and the development of key skills such as ‘Communicating and Working with Others’ as collaboration is much easier for students when they are using iPads.’
Building the Skills for Flexible Learning
Whether it’s for CBAs, ePortfolios, project work or personalising their learning, Denise maintains the iPad Class Sets have been an enormous benefit to their students:
‘It’s not unusual to find small groups of students in the corridor using iMovie to make a film, photographing their work with the camera app and sharing it with the teacher for feedback or using Kahoot and Socrative to check students’ learning. Using iPads has also meant that student work can be quickly shared on the board or with others, enhancing peer-to-peer collaboration. Mirroring work to the board in this way has been particularly invaluable in the current circumstances.’
Increasing Confidence and Self-directed Learning
ICT team member Michele Crossan has seen quieter students blossom and independent learning skills strengthened through the use of iPad in class:
‘When completing spoken French CBAs with second year students we used Puppet Pals and iMovie on iPad. As a result of their faces not appearing on screen the students were less inhibited when speaking and were determined to re-record until the pronunciation was correct. This meant that they took more time over the task and resulted in deeper learning and mastery as the task was repeated many times.’
Firhouse Community College also embraced an interactive ePortfolio project with the PDST where both staff and students learned a huge amount from working with the schools taking part:
‘Many schools in the project are 1:1 schools where every student has an iPad. These schools have a lot of experience to share so it was a very informative exercise to participate in as a school with shared iPad class sets.’
How Connecting Online Improved Engagement and Wellbeing
‘Levels of engagement varied across the year-groups during remote learning’ notes Denise,‘but the introduction of Teams as our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) meant we were able to have live classes and assemblies via iPad which helped to re-connect students. While online learning does not replace face-to-face interaction, using the iPad in this way created a sense of connection which is very important, especially in the current circumstances.’
Michele also agrees that the seamless interaction between Teams and iPad allowed for greater interaction with students and facilitated easy, effective assessment to guide students’ learning:
‘Since moving to a virtual learning platform it has made teaching easier. We can facilitate live classes on the iPad, securely and effectively. We can upload all of my resources and share worksheets and interactive assessment tools easily with my students and I have a record of all their work and can mark and give feedback in a much more efficient manner. Lessons can also be stored there for any students who have missed them.’
Turning Challenges into Opportunities to plan for the ‘New Normal’ this year
While the reaction to remote learning was mixed, the school did their best to provide for the learning needs of the students explains Michele:
“Some students borrowed iPads which helped them to continue their learning. However often access to devices was an issue. Either the student was sharing a device with family members or using a phone to engage with school. Neither of these situations is ideal. While loaning devices to some students helped, we did not have enough to reach all students before the school term ended.”
Despite this, the school made huge progress during school closures, and are keen to use what they learned during this time to benefit teaching and learning going forward:
“Many students liked the self-paced aspects of remote learning and have found it helpful to be able to access lesson content for clarification or revision” says Michele. “We will continue to use our VLE and blended learning model for this reason going forward and in case of school closures this year. If we are proactive and if all work is accessible online then it would be a more seamless transition to remote learning should the need arise.
Because of using Teams on iPad we also have peace of mind that any student who misses school will be able to access lesson content easily. It is also extremely useful to use an iPad to correct homework as it is not be feasible to regularly collect and correct student copybooks currently.
Using iPad as a whiteboard in class is another feature which has been invaluable since schools reopened. This enables teachers to save lesson content and create videos with it to enhance student learning, or act as a revision tool.”
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