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The use of iPads in college and lessons


One of Catmose’s core values is regarding the use of technology, we believe that: “Students take technology for granted; they use it as naturally as we would a light switch. We need to ensure that our students can use new technology appropriately and in ways that maximise their productivity. Our ICT facilities should be robust enough to allow students access using their own portable devices and from home; learning anytime, anywhere. It is a long-term priority that every student has access to an individual device. Interactive, interesting and engaging lessons are the best way to ensure that our students behave well and are motivated by what they are studying. Students should be able to access new technologies at all times without restriction.” It is an aspect of the College I have written about before, on this occasion however the focus will be on mobile devices, particularly the iPad which the College  and Catmose Primary have ben piloting for some time.

The move to our new building gave an unprecedented opportunity to make a large step to achieving this long-term education objective, in particular by giving students greater access to their own devices. The College currently offers students access to a robust physical network from 8:00 am until 5:00 pm each day but many of the PC devices are located outside of classrooms requiring students and staff to move to gain access. This creates a barrier to ease of use, in particular time, which reduces the likely hood for unplanned use. It is the latter which I believe is critical to improve the quality of lessons and students engagement as a result. The planned use of computers is very well embedded at Catmose to enhance the educational experience, to research and write assignments, to plan and deliver presentations, to record and edit video or music. The unplanned use of computers to create a podcast, watch a video clip on youtube or access a simple app using portable devices such as tablets and laptops is the critical next step for the College’s development in the use of technology. The flexibility these devices bring will allow for much greater personalisation. We have approached this development cautiously to ensure that our ICT network could manage hundreds of wireless devices, that staff were confident in their use and that they would enhance the learning experience.

Pilot Project
We initially deployed 40 Apple iPads to the library as a resource that students could borrow, very much in the same way as they might borrow a book for the day, students are encouraged to use them in lessons for research writing notes and using the apps that staff have selected as being useful for particular subjects. We complemented this offer with 40 laptops which can be used by students in a similar way. We have found the iPads however to be far more useful in that they take up little desk space, have far superior battery lives that last the College day and are ‘instantly on’ meaning they are ideal for casual use during lessons. In a matter of seconds a quick test can be taken on an app, a photograph taken or research carried out using the internet. If you contrast this with using desktops and the need to leave the classroom and then log on, a significant amount of time can be lost in order to carry out simple research work. We made the decision to adopt the use of Apple’s iPads, the well developed app store, proven reliability and the well supported operating system made them the natural choice for the College.

The positive experience at the College also led to the deployment of a class set of iPads at Catmose Primary, without the need to use a mouse or traditional keyboard they are accessible for even the youngest of the children at the primary school.

A number of apps have proven particularly useful:

eBook reader for example: iBooks and Kindle. The iPad is the perfect text book, able to carry hundreds of books in the one place, often animated easy to search and as more publishers start to develop the format prices are becoming more reasonable. The app iTunesU is perhaps the single best example of this at the moment and is well worth a look.

Web Research The iPad is the ideal tool for research on the internet, this is complemented by apps such as wikipedia mobile.

Presentation The iPad is a great way to put together a short presentation for a small group, we are also trialling the use of Apple TVs to ‘project’ the image wirelessly onto the smart screens in each of our classrooms. This allows students to present from anywhere in the classroom using the iPad as a table to control the screen. A personal favourite of mine is Prezi which allows editing and viewing of presentations using the iPad version of the software, all files are stored in the cloud so can be accessed on the iPad or a tradition desktop computer or laptop. I am also very impressed with the Comic Life app which allows comic style magazines to be created very easily giving students greater opportunities to be more creative with their work.

Publishing The release of iBooks author allows staff and students to create their own text books which can be published for use within iBooks. A tool I have used for the creation of a Unit 2 text book for the Physics course we teach at the College. The new computer science GCSE we are offering will also exploit this free tool. We have of course been publishing student work through our award winning on-line blogging page ( the iPad makes this even easier with its own dedicated app, makewaves.

Art Work David Hockney has already used the iPad to create celebrated art work ( using the app Brushes which is a fully featured art package currently priced at £5.99. The College has digital styluses and similar software installed on all our iPads which the art team will be using with students next year. We are using apps such as whiteboard, to allow students to give instant feedback in lesson regarding their progress, they simply write on their answer and hold it up for the teacher to see along with the rest of the class.

Notetaking There are a number of apps worth looking at for this crucial part of most lessons, evernote and pages are perhaps two of the best known.

Cloud Computing iPads are not great for storing large files, however this is no longer a problem with cloud computer where most of your files will be stored off-line, many of the iPads apps make use of this ensuring work s never lost and always available (no excuse for forgetting homework anymore!). There are also dedicated apps to allow staff and students to see and edit work on their main desktop computer, these include dropbox, googledrive and skydrive. All offering significant storage for free.

Video Clips YouTube provides a fantastic resource for staff and students, I have been using Physics clips to illustrate key principles, these are just a few seconds long but make even the most difficult concepts much easier to understand. I have created lists which make it very easy for students to find the relevent clips, they can be found here. TED is another fabulous resource giving access to thousands of inspirational speakers. In the past a considerable amount of time would be wasted either watching a 30 min video or finding the right place, these clips are ideal as starters to the lesson, for when individual students are struggling with a particular topic or for revision.

It is well worth a read of this site, iPads in education which gives a great deal of further information about the iPad and in particular the apps available for specific subjects.

Pre-School As a parent of a four and two year old it has been fascinating to see how they have adopted the iPad as their own (quite literally!) and how well the skills they have developed on it have transferred to improved writing and numeracy skills. I was initially concerned that the touch pad would de-skill a child from using a pen or pencil, this has not been the case, the tactile nature of the iPad has given greater confidence when picking up a pen for the first time. I have found a number of apps particularly appealing to the pre-schooler (photo of them all in the gallery below).

  • Interactive books such as Rumpelstiltskin, Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretal, Seuss ABC and Red Riding Hood re-tell the traditional stories but with interactive games that improve children’s fine motor skills and help develp a great love of reading.
  • Literacy based apps such as Singing ABC (a phonetically singing alphabet), pocket-phonic (a listening and writing app which introduces phonetics), Happipets (graphical based use of letters).
  • My Very First is an app which is a series of increasingly difficult pair matching for example colours or where different animals live.
  • Numeracy apps including Umi-numbers (counting, number recognition, number lines and basic addition and subtraction), Intro to numbers (Montessori based approach teaching  reading and writing numbers, number symbols, sequence order and spatial relationships, odds and evens, fine motor skills).

The Next Steps
We have just purchased 90 iPad 2’s for the library, students and staff will be able to loan these for a day in order to complement the other PC resources the College has on offer. In addition we have been able to offer to parents/guardians an iPad 2 to purchase for their child for use in school. This will save parents around 20% of the retail price. The letter offering this to our parents can be viewed here. The Federation has absorbed the delivery and admin costs associated with purchasing these to ensure we keep the price as low as possible. Students who do have access to their own device will not be disadvantaged in any way however as they will be able to use the College iPads throughout the day.

Over the next five years it is our aim to ensure every student has access to a personal device that can access the internet, we are in a strong position to accomplish this.



  1. Mrs K Wallace says:

    I have just read about the wide range of use of iipads in college and I’m very impressed. I was wondering if it would by possible to still place an order for an iPad so my son can use it solie for school work?

  2. […] more about how we are using the iPads there is a short article written by the Principal available here. Other News Features Copyright 2009 – 2012 Catmose College All Right Received. Catmose […]

  3. […] the College is a topic I have written about on a number of occasions (new technology, video wall, ipads) this year my new year 10 Physicists have experienced some of the latest developments in this field […]

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