About 12 months ago at Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College we made the radical move of giving each member of staff an iPad. The iPads arrived to considerable enthusiasm; there were several staff whose speed from the staffroom to the CPD session where they were given out was truly impressive. Shortly afterwards I was given the role of lead practitioner with responsibility for developing educational technology. After a term I did a survey as to how they were being used. This was followed up by staff training where a number of staff were able to share their favourite and most useful apps.
This article was originally published in the January 2016 Edition of our UKEdMagazine
Like many institutions it is perhaps worth pointing out that our ILT strategy has evolved over the years; there are a range at times of different devices rather than a clearly thought out move in any direction. We have a couple of sets of iPads, a number of trolleys of chrome books, and as a sixth form College where learners are generally more mature and responsible we feel able to allow students to bring their own devices and use phones in class where appropriate. Hence it is important to us that Apps work on various platforms. At the time of writing, these are probably the Apps that have had most impact:
1. Google Classroom bit.ly/uked16jan52 – We have moved beyond Google Docs and Google Drive! The Google classroom App is proving invaluable for us as we attempt to do two key things: to ensure that students are working hard outside of class, and to save money on printing. A number of us are asking students to upload revision notes and keep an electronic folder. This is helping us to identify who is working and who is not far quicker than in previous years. The ability to give verbal or written feedback on the work submitted is allowing us to correct misconceptions in real time.
2. IDoceo bit.ly/uked16jan53 – is an excellent organiser. It allows you to have an electronic markbook, store several seating plans per class and even communicates with the college system. There is also a dice function which allows random questioning. There is a communication function that enables messages to be sent to students and it also links to Google drive. Projecting the seating arrangements for the lesson onto the whiteboard at the start certainly speeds things up.
3. Socrative bit.ly/uked16jan54 – has become our go to ‘Assessment for Learning’ App. It has been widely used for quizzes in various contexts. In our subject area it has been used as a starter to check that reviewing of past topics is taking place. It allows quick multiple choice testing as well as offering more open questions where you can see everyone’s answers at once but just the keen student or the one you pick. To be fair some staff are ditching Socrative in favour of Kahoot but there is probably a place for both.
4. Twitter bit.ly/uked16jan55 – is fast becoming the no.1 source of CPD for the newer generation of teachers. By following key educators and the links they provide you can ensure that not much is missed. We have set up a @stoke6thTLA twitter feed that is separate from my personal account that aims to signpost useful resources and articles. We have at least 25% of our teaching staff active on Twitter and it is growing.
5. Random Name Picker bit.ly/uked16jan56 – it is a little cheesy perhaps but students love the random name generator. The background music is a little embarrassing but it this only adds to the fun. The serious point is that they don’t know who is going to be asked a question next; in fact neither do I which often means that I need to differentiate the question once the name has been picked. However the point is this it keeps all students on their toes!
Initially we wondered if the iPads were of more use as an admin and CPD tool than as a tool in the classroom for learning. However with the purchase of a few leads to connect the iPad to the whiteboard, and a little time for staff to play and become familiar with the technology themselves, I would say that the iPads on the whole have had a good impact on learning in the classroom. It is not unusual to walk into the staff room and see staff coaching each other on Google classroom and IDoceo. In fact I rather suspect that the lead practitioner part of my role may soon be surplus to requirements!
Chris Eyre @chris_eyre is Curriculum Manager for Religious Studies and Philosophy, and Lead Practitioner for ILT at Stoke-on-Trent sixth form college. He is an experienced examiner and has co-authored A Level textbooks. He blogs on well being and other issues at – chriseyreteaching.wordpress.com