Last week I attended a ‘No Pens’ session as part of staff development training. I read the information and the basic gist of it was how students often turn up to college without a pen but always remember their mobile phone. Therefore the idea was to explore ways to have ‘pen free’ sessions.
I wandered off to this training session armed with my iPad and iPhone (also a pen just in case) and a large Starbucks (one of the wonderful new additions to our college). It was a two hour session with twenty staff from various departments, a mixture of teachers and student support mentors.
The session itself was looking at a particular online software package. The package allowed you to engage students with open and closed question specific to your subject and in addition students had the option to ask questions themselves. All the data collated from each session could be shown to the students in various graph formats and more importantly stored for evidence of learning. The only problem with these types of training sessions however is that often you only get to engage in the tech as though you were the student. It would be more beneficial to have the opportunity to also explore and experiment as the teacher.
During the session we were put in to groups where we discussed tech issues and looked at ways to remove the barriers. The group I was in were discussing the use of iPads in the classroom. unfortunately we don’t have a large supply at college (to be honest many other colleges seem to be in a similar position). We have PCs and laptops and a decent wi-fi system, but like any building it can be difficult to connect to in specific areas due to ‘dead spots’ or the type of mobile phone network used. This means that sometimes getting students to do an activity on their phones can be frustrating if in said areas or using a specific phone network. So the barriers that we felt needed addressing were trying to solve those ‘dead spots’ and the financial cost of mobile devices, not sure what could be done about the mobile phone network one though. We also agreed that if we are going to be more ‘tech savvy’ using online resources in response to FELTAG (see here – FELTAG report) we clearly needed these barriers removing. If we can’t then surely it really isn’t going to work and be another frustration to deal with in the classroom.
Several days later I was still pondering over using tech in the classroom following the session (which was really good and would have been perfect if I’d been able to have the afternoon experimenting with it). I came across three blog posts specifically aimed at the use of iPads by @solvemymaths (see here), if you are interested in some of the issues it is really insightful. The issues for me (and many of my teaching colleagues) is ensuring that tech isn’t abused by our more crafty students, college iPads could be good as they would eliminate the distraction from students looking at personal notifications on their phones. In addition to this regardless of what device/software we use all staff need to feel confident using it. The only way we will feel confident using it is by giving us time and support to practise before letting us loose in the classroom!
I’d be grateful if anyone has any thoughts on what I’ve written as I’m only going off personal experiences.
Further information on some FE teachers thoughts on FELTAG can be found from the results of an online survey (see here). Survey was created by @UK_FeLearning.