A Newly Qualified Teacher's Views on Education

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Personal experience of using iPads in the classroom – The pros and cons!

This is a post that I wrote almost a year ago and thought I had lost it!


[image courtesy of techreviewer via photobucket]

During this summer I had the pleasure of working at an international language centre. I taught English to young people of varied nationalities aged between 13 to 18 and in classes of 15 to 17 students.

This gave me the opportunity to get to grips with using iPads in two different situations; the first involved following the app which had been created by the company with the students in pairs, and the second was an exploratory task in which the children were in groups of 3 or 4.

The first problem I experienced, even before my first lesson with the iPads was a logistical one. The iPad app lessons required 9 iPads for one class, and a flight case holding 9 iPads is heavy! I had to carry this along with textbooks and folders up a flight of stairs and through various doors – which was tricky to say the least. Other issues outside the classroom were; starting a lesson and only having around 3% battery power left in the iPads, iPad memory being full and missing iPads.

Being in the classroom, with all the iPads in the students’ hands and fully charged was pretty good. Although the dedicated educational app read similarly to a textbook, and felt rather linear at first, it was surprisingly fun! The students were able to listen to as well as create audio and video relating to topics such as sport and shopping. I will say that during the first session I allowed the students around 15 minutes to play around with the iPads, taking morphed photographs of each other to get it out of their systems. I definitely think this helped but there were still some instances where the students weren’t following the app.

The exploratory task was where it became obvious to me why iPads are such great learning tools. In groups of 3 or 4 mixed nationality students per iPad, their task was to create a short film about their time in the UK. They used the iMovie app to add video clips, images and music. The results were excellent but the journey was where it mattered; the children had to use their knowledge of English to communicate how they wanted their videos. This task carried on over their 3 week course and by the end we had built up a huge bank of vocabulary just from those sessions. I think the reason this was so successful was because it was up to them how much they wanted to speak to the others in their group and they decided how much they wanted to develop their language.

This private education setting was very different to teaching in the classroom. The teaching had already been structured so that all ‘customers’ received the same service, so there was very little room for me to make it my own. However throughout my experience with the iPads I was always thinking of how it would work in the primary classroom and which things would be easy to replicate and which things maybe I would change.

Firstly the logistics; for a larger class a teacher would need some sort of trolley to transport them from one room to another. The memory needs to be wiped and any projects etc saved to some kind of cloud storage to ensure that the iPads are ready at the start of each lesson. This is something that, after some time the children would get to know and be able to do fairly quickly at the end of a session. We say things like ‘create video then upload to blog’ but there are many steps to take with this and it could take some time before the children know how to do it on their own.

The way the iPads worked best in my experience was when the students were given a goal, or a finishing point and allowed to explore the iPads and work out how best to use them to achieve, or indeed exceed that goal.

Using the iPads in a linear way, ie following instructions and steps during a lesson may be useful for younger children or those that aren’t familiar with how to use it, but I found that some students would follow things a lot quicker than others and then resort to taking photos of their friends.

Main bad point: After finishing the iMovie projects there was a long process to upload them to youtube which involved exporting to iTunes, then dropbox, then signing up for a youtube account, then uploading the video to youtube. The files could then be deleted from the iPad. Obviously this is a longer process than would be in a primary classroom, however organising children’s work will take a lot of time. A possible solution to this could be (and I don’t know if this is possible) some kind of GPS tracker for each iPad so that it can recognise which classroom it is in. This would mean that saving projects or work would automatically go to a cloud storage folder (such as dropbox) related to that classroom. App idea there for someone!

Main good points: Where do I start? Collaboration, creativity, development of language, the possibility of feedback from people all around the world. These points a often related to using iPads, but until you see them in action you can’t appreciate just how powerful these things can be!

The Interview…

Interviews can be a very daunting; no matter how confident or well prepared you think you are, there is always a possibility that you may be asked something you haven’t prepared for.
There are a lot of websites and blogs to help with getting a job in education, so I thought I’d join in too.

I don’t pretend to be the perfect interviewee but with a good idea of what questions you may be asked, you can prepare yourself with an idea of some answers.
I wouldn’t recommend writing and rehearsing answers to any of these questions as this gives you false confidence; they WILL ask you a question you haven’t prepared for and you’ll struggle because you haven’t rehearsed an answer!
I have begun to compile a list of questions that various friends, colleagues and myself have been asked at interviews, as well as some advice given by some head teachers and will continue to add any that I receive in the future.

The first question is likely to be a ‘settling in’ question; it should be something that you will be able to talk about easily such as yourself or your teaching.

And onto the list:

  • Tell us about your pedagogic approach.
  • Why do you want to be a teacher?
  • Can you give an example or scenario of a safeguarding issue and how you dealt/would deal with it?
  • How would you raise standards in our school? (research their Ofsted and possibly link to areas for improvement or make reference to subject leadership)
  • What is the purpose of pupil tracking?
  • Can you give an example or scenario of a time when you have had issues with parents and how you dealt with it?
  • Tell us about your approach to behaviour management.
  • How do you cater for children with SEN in your class? (remember G+T here too!)
  • Why do you want to teach in our school?
  • If we walked into your classroom, what would it be like?
  • How would you use assessment of learning?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  • What would you change about our school?
  • How do you use TAs to ensure you get the best from them?
  • Can you think of any times where you have had issues with other members of staff and if so how did you resolve this?
  • Areas of development for you as an NQT?

They are also likely to ask you to reflect on your lessons if you have taught one, so make some notes!

Questions specific to interviews relating to subject leadership:

  • What personal and professional skills do you have that will enable you to be a good subject leader?
  • Why do you like the subject?
  • Why is the subject important?
  • What to you think about the new national curriculum in relation to the subject?
  • How would you change the national curriculum for your subject? (what would you add or take away?)
  • How would you monitor the subject?
  • What would be your first actions in your first term?
  • How might you use ICT in the subject?
  • Can you give us some examples of activities in the subject?

This is by no means a comprehensive list and will be updated. It would be good to have an overview of how you might answer these questions, or questions on a similar topic, rather than rehearsed answers.

If you have had an interview and had any questions that are not on the list that you feel may help others then please add a comment and I will amend the post.

Good luck and remember that everyone interviewing you has been in that position before… even if it may have been a long time ago…

Please also see here for advice on applications, interviews and interview lessons: http://peteyeomans.wordpress.com/2012/02/17/giz-a-job-writing-a-personal-statement-or-letter-of-application/

“But Sir, how big is the universe?”

“But Sir, how big is the universe?”

As a Science specialist, I love it when children ask questions like this. Their inquisitive nature is truly inspiring. As adults, why do we tend not to ask questions like this? Why do we not ask BIG questions?

Understanding the scale of the universe is something that we find it really hard to get our heads around, let alone describe it in a way in which children will be satisfied with the answer. I can remember asking my teacher how far the Sun is away from Earth and getting a response such as “really far” or some other inaccurate estimate. My Dad was far more helpful:

After explaining how unsatisfied I was my Dad realised that I needed an answer. He took me to the canal near where we lived. There we took the ‘space walk’ which can give some insight as to how big our solar system is. If you’re lucky enough to live in Somerset then you should definitely give it a go.

This description was taken from http://www.somerset.gov.uk:
The Somerset Space Walk is an attraction that forms part of the Bridgwater to Taunton Canal route. It was designed by inventor Pip Youngman as a way of challenging our perceptions of space and experiencing the vastness of our own Solar System.

In August 1997 British Astronomer Heather Couper opend the Space Walk. It depicts our Solar System as a true scale model and runs the entire 15mile (22 km) length of the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal.

Centred on the Sun at Higher Maunsel Lock, the model shows the planets in their orbits on both sides of the sun. Take your choice, heading to Taunton or Bridgwater the distance to Pluto is 11 kilometres (6.8 miles). For the less hardy the inner planets make a comfortable stroll and there is a tea garden at the lock.

The scale is said to be 530 million:1 and is quite a trek. If you are able to take a class of children to walk from the Sun to the Earth then they will soon realise just how far ‘really far’ is.

Of course, for many this would be a difficult. At the time when I was confused and interested in my place in the universe, we couldn’t ask Google or Wikipedia, so the only way for me to get a feel for this scale was for me to be dragged along the canal. Our world is far more open to us now, for some the idea of taking a stroll along the wonderful Bridgwater to Taunton canal is blissful and an ideal way of spending a Sunday afternoon. For the rest of us, there is another solution:

The solution can be found at www.scaleofuniverse.com. This allows you to drag the slider bar to zoom in and out of ‘the scale of the universe’. I was playing with this for a good few minutes and it reminded me of my adventure on the canal, but less exhausting!

So now when (inevitably) a child says something along the lines of “Sir/Miss, how big is the universe” you can reply, in the style of Jeremy Clarkson, “Aha, watch this!”

LukieJ

First Post – Any Advice?

This is my first blog post. Still trying to navigate my way around the wordpress ‘dashboard’ so any advice would be great!

My blog posts will mostly relate to aspects of Primary teaching and other educational subjects.

Thanks

LukieJ