Fraser Spiers’s Scottish iPad-in-schools experiment (not pictured above) continues apace, and he’s just blogged some of his thoughts so far.
What we’re reaching in some classes is the transformation stage. We’re seeing the iPad completely change the way that certain subjects are taught. Our best example so far is Art. I will write and share more about what we’re doing in Art over time but it’s fair to say that it is already far beyond anything I expected in the first year, let alone the first month.
At this point, all I can give you are some practical anecdotes which, I hope, will give you a flavour of the change.
- I picked up a ream of printer paper yesterday. It had dust on top of it.
- Primary 2 pupils have now memorised their passwords. That’s not something that happens when they get 40 minutes a week on computers.
- Last week, we couldn’t get the Primary 3 pupils to stop doing maths and go for lunch.
- My daughter April asked me if I could install the educational apps from school on my iPad so she could use them at home.
- We’re seeing a reduction in the amount of homework forgotten or not done.
- “Forgetting your folder” for a subject is now a thing of the past.
via Fraser Speirs – Blog – The iPad Project: How It’s Going.
I’m intrigued by how it’s affecting art education, and suspect it would give some of the more traditional educators in this area a coronory, but I’m more interested in design education or if, in fact, what the iPad is doing is integrating previously distinct areas of the curriculum.
For example, earlier today I read a tweet from a teacher who was wondering why no schools in the UK claimed to specialise in “creativity” – a fair point. But my response was that I’d hope creativity would be part of the fabric of the place. Creativity isn’t a subject in its own right, and it certainly doesn’t belong solely in “art”. Instead it is the lifeblood of every subject from science to maths, from languages to music, from – well you get the idea. Why creativity is seen as something “separate” is, I suspect, one of the reasons why we’re not especially good at teaching it.
So take technology. When I was at school, technology was a subject in its own right, confusingly split in to “craft, design and technology” (or learning how not to cut your hand off with a bandsaw, as it really was) and “computer studies”, a subject so new in the 1980s we were still being taught about punched cards while loading programs from floppy disks – the curriculum had not only failed to catch up with reality, it probably never would. But what technology never did was encroach into other subjects. Oh dear no. Even calculators were still viewed with suspicion in maths where until a few years previously slide rules and log tables were about as exciting as it got.
In Fraser Speirs’s “experiment” (I hesitate to use the word as it suggests it’s something risky, temporary or bad) it’s clear just from the impressions above that the kids aren’t being taught “how to use technology” or even “taught using technology” but simply being taught. And actually, not so much being taught as “learning” – there is a difference.
Forcing them to put their maths down and go to lunch is a great story. But is it because they’re enjoying the maths, or is it because they’re enjoying the iPads? And does it matter? I hope someone’s doing a study of this process otherwise people are going to jump to all sorts of conclusions, but in the meantime what I think is interesting from a design point of view is that this is the implementation of technology as part of an action research project, i.e. “give them iPads, see what happens. If something goes wrong, adapt. Carry on”. That’s “design thinking” in action.
Having worked with technology in industry and education now for twenty years, and been frustrated by the (to my mind) overly cautious implementation of new products and approaches (which usually boils down to “IT say they’ve not approved that for general use”) this is refreshing. But at some point the powers that be will need to see the reports, the data, the graphs and so on to spread this further. I’d love to see them myself because I bet they’re interesting.
So what do you think? Take a look at Fraser’s blog and give us your responses.