Head's Blog - Paul Dwyer | Redmaids' High School
Advanced technology is embedded within our everyday lives and is here to stay. As adults, we may feel like we are constantly playing catch-up, whereas for the new generations it is second nature as they have known no different. Can you remember having to use an encyclopedia, a dictionary? Now, everything is at our fingertips on mobile technology. The key is making sure we integrate technology successfully, whilst maintaining the more traditional values of education.
At Redmaids’ High, we are an iPad school. Each pupil has their own iPad on their desks, much as most adults will have some form of computer or technology on their work desks. Once over the initial excitement, the iPads quickly become a learning tool and asset in the classroom. Whilst technology often receives bad press, especially for social media and over use, it has so many benefits too. We teach our children how to use it responsibly.
Apps, such as Doodlemaths have significantly increased the level of mental arithmetic in the school; an intelligent software that responds to the individual child, practises their weaknesses and pushes forward their strengths. Within weeks of introducing a new spelling app, we noticed better engagement in learning spellings and subsequently higher achievement in assessments. Other apps like iFunface can alter the way history is recorded. It’s much more fun to animate a person from history and record yourself speaking as them, than writing a diary. You’d be surprised how good pupils’ recall is far beyond the end of the topic.
iPads also offer interactive learning, the ability to share and work collaboratively, to showcase examples and share good practice with ease. Pupils and their work can lead the way by being projected on the board. They enable sustainable learning where worksheets or prompts can be airdropped and sent electronically. Science experiments can be filmed, results photographed and annotated, e-books created; learning is enhanced through a range of media.
Programming skills are developed throughout the school too. Scratch and ScratchJr are a great way to introduce programming with an attractive interface….and it’s free! Why not download it yourself and get started at home?
Our Year 6 girls have just returned from the national finals of the First Lego League, winners of the regional heats, where they presented a robot design and programmed a robot to complete set missions. Although the event is about technology, it embodies so many aspects of education: team work, negotiation, problem solving, creativity, research, presentation skills and risk taking, to name a few. This is technology at its best. Enhancing and giving more opportunities for development and learning.
Teaching PC skills remains important because it is very noticeable that children joining us at age 7, no longer have such good mouse control as they are used to touch screens. Using computer keyboards and typing is part of everyday life - I’m doing it now! Our children have the opportunity to learn to touch type efficiently from a young age. We aim for our Year 6 pupils to finish a junior program and type at least 15 words a minute.
That said, we still have dedicated handwriting and reading time each week. We also have a huge uptake in outdoor educational activities, our sports teams often compete at a regional level, and we have a bustling theatre workshop club – the list goes on. Time away from screens is equally important - it’s all about balance, and recognising where and how technology adds value.