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The IT crowd: Bolton school hands every pupil an iPad in bid to push learning boundaries and cut bills

By Alex Bysouth

After pumping £18million into their state-of-the-art campus, a Bolton school has rendered pen and paper obsolete by handing every pupil an iPad.

Long gone is the screech of chalk on blackboard at the Essa Academy, where each of the 900 pupils carries an iOS device and studies from Apple’s free educational resource iTunes U.

The introduction of iPads is the latest example of ever-advancing technology being used in the education system, but is abandoning textbooks for touch screens tablets of genuine benefit to today’s child, or the mark of over-techie teachers?

Primary school teacher Christina Lamming believes in a world dominated by television and computer consoles, children have developed a need for constant interactive stimulation.

“Technology and times have changed,” she said. “Less time will be spent physically writing using pen and paper.

“But we will be teaching new skills that are highly valued in today’s society and will be even more important in the working world our primary children will be entering.

“Children have much more ownership of their learning in a stimulating environment and it is far easier to engage different learners using visual, kinaesthetic and auditory approaches.”

Katy Moore, head of PE at a Greater Manchester school, believes in an ever-evolving technological world the onus still lies with the teacher to deliver a successful lesson.

“Some of the technology used can almost take away the use of the teacher and does make some teachers a little lazier,” she said.

“But the use of technology will always engage pupils and, if introduced the right way, can make the lessons fun and interactive.

“For example, we have some Microsoft tablets on order as some apps are very handy, such as those which allow students to watch and give feedback between peers.”

Some parents have expressed concern over how increased technology will affect their children’s writing skills, but 23-year-old secondary school teacher Luke Jones is certain the archaic practice of putting pen to paper remains relevant.

“Ipads are becoming more and more popular,” he said. “But I don’t see this having an effect on pupil’s basic writing skills.

“Many tasks at school are written, as it remains a key way for children to retain knowledge.

“Technology plays a huge part in getting students engaged in lessons and it allows pupils to become more interactive in class, while also giving them the freedom to explore and expand their knowledge further.”

However, Honywood Community Science School in Essex came under fire last week when it was revealed almost half of the £500,000 worth of iPads they had installed 12 months earlier needed to be sent for repair.

And Peter Inson, a former school headmaster, told the Daily Mail he believed the breakages were hardly surprising.

“In my view you cannot expect children of 11 and 12 to be responsible for a delicate gadget,” he said. “They are still running around using jumpers for goal-posts and being generally rambunctious.”

But Mr Jones believes deserving students must be trusted and technological advancements mean teachers are able to differentiate and create better learning environments for their pupils.

“Within secondary schools, students are treated as young adults,” he explained.

“So teachers may give them the use of technology as a reward or a privilege in some cases, and if they misuse it then the privilege gets taken away,”

“Obviously sometimes technology can be a distraction, for example games and social media sites, and it is hard to keep track of what all 25 members of a class are up to on their computers. 

“But you have to be able to give the pupils the chance to prove themselves, and 9 times out of 10 they are trustworthy and use it in the correct way.”

This is a sentiment echoed by Miss Lamming, who has no problems in trusting her class of six and seven-year-olds with new equipment.

“Today’s children are often far more competent and proficient at using new technologies than many adults,” she said.

“In my experience, entrusting children and giving them joint responsibility of equipment results in them having ownership and respect for the technology.”

 

The National Curriculum, running until 2014, sets out varying criteria in regards to information technology for pupils throughout their school life.

 

Key Stage 1 requires pupils to explore ICT and learn to how to use it confidently and using this to achieve specific outcomes, the range of tools used increases in Key Stage 2.

 

However, in Key Stages 3 and 4 schools have more freedom to develop the curriculum in order to meet students’ needs or may choose to follow the existing programme of study.

 

A revised programme of study for ICT is set to come into force in September 2014.

 

Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, has suggested schools will be given flexibility to make the move from an ICT programme to a new computing curriculum.

 

Picture courtesy of the BBC via YouTube, with thanks.

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