iPads in the classroom… a no-brainer

How would you respond to a parent who is convinced that having an iPad in the classroom will make her child less smart?

‘What’s to stop him just looking up answers instead of using his brain?’ she asks.

I explain that education isn’t just about ‘knowing the answers’ any more, since ‘answers’ tend to be readily accessible to all.  It’s more about learning how to ask questions and to find, interpret and critically analyse the answers. It’s less about remembering facts and more about conceptual understanding. It’s less about knowing stuff and more about knowing how to learn...

Half an hour earlier, my presentation had, I thought, included wonderful examples of ways technology has enhanced learning; kids ‘using their brains‘ not just to ‘find answers’ but to apply their knowledge creatively, such as…

  • videos created by kids demonstrating their understanding of mathematical concepts.
  • animations in which learners have applied knowledge and skills in a second language.
  • connections with classes in other parts of world, via Skype and blogs.
  • an exciting inquiry in which images of plants growing in different environments were gathered from contributors around the globe.
  • students writing, creating and sharing their own iPad books. (link to simple version)
  • a host of images showing learners engaged in a range of trans disciplinary skills.

But this parent remains unconvinced.

What more can I say?

Below: Some images of kids ‘not using their brains’…


Kids not using their brains?

In the picture…


What does this image reveal?

One of my colleagues sent it to me, in response to a request I sent teachers for photos of kids learning, for a presentation to parents. It shows a group of 4th grade students applying their skills and knowledge in Hebrew creatively, using iPads. I’ve had fun with it!

To begin with the Learning Team Leaders examined it for evidence of the IB PYP standard and practices in Teaching and Learning. They felt it might show these-

  • Teaching and learning engages students as inquirers and thinkers.
  • Teaching and learning builds on what students know and can do.
  • Teaching and learning supports students to become actively responsible for their own learning.
  • Teaching and learning addresses the diversity of student language needs, including those for students learning in a language(s) other than mother tongue.
  • Teaching and learning uses a range and variety of strategies.
  • Teaching and learning incorporates a range of resources, including information technologies.
  • Teaching and learning engages students in reflecting on how, what and why they are learning.

Next, I tried to decide which of our school’s learning principles it best depicted so I could place it appropriately in my presentation. The scene could easily represent all of these –

  • We learn in different ways, depending on abilities, preferences and interests.
  • Learning takes place through inquiry: questioning, exploring, experimenting and problem solving.
  • Learning occurs by acquiring skills and knowledge, constructing meaning and transfer to other contexts.
  • Learning is active and social and best takes place through collaboration and interaction.
  • Learning needs to be challenging, meaningful, purposeful and engaging.
  • Learning includes meta-cognition and reflection, and requires learners to take ownership of their learning.

If we wanted to, we could probably unpack the trans disciplinary skills that are evident and the attitudes being demonstrated. Or we could check the scene against the so-called 21st century skills. It’s interesting how much we can see in one simple image (with minimal explanation from the teacher). Examining classroom photos to see what they reveal is a great way to refocus on beliefs about learning and a host of other big ideas.

What might this image reveal?


Ignite, Engage, Inspire

Greatly inspired by Marco Torres‘ presentation entitled ‘Ignite, Engage, Inspire’, my colleague Jocelyn left saying, “I am going to try something new tomorrow.” Undeterred by the fact that she is not an experienced film-maker and had never touched an iPad, the plan was to have her students create films, using iPads.


Create a film to express the essence of the social inequity that you have explored for your personal inquiry.


  • Write a key sentence for your social inequity that has  possibilities for a story.
  • Highlight key ideas in the sentence that you will use in your story.
  • Create a story-board by telling the story in words.
  • Include directions for camera angles such as: Wide establishing shot to set the scene, medium shot to draw you into the character and story, close-up to show emotion, over the shoulder shot to show someone’s point of view, bird’s eye view for effect.
  • Create a story-board in pictures, showing exactly who stands where and does what. 
  • No more than 6 frames. At the top of each box write the camera angle.
  • Camera, lights, action with an i-pad of course!
  • Edit in i-movie and insert text and music.
  • Get excited by what you have achieved!
I stood alongside Hannah, Oliver and Bianca as they filmed. I learned a great deal as I watched these 12 year-olds create a film, scene by scene, from their well thought out story-board…. not just about film making, but about engaging and meaningful learning. The only practical thing I did to help, was to stand in a particular place to block the sunlight, in order to enable a better shot. Always nice to feel useful!

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Here’s an example of what kids can create in just a few hours:

Vodpod videos no longer available.


  • All the so called 21st century skills in action: creativity, collaboration, communication, critical thinking.
  • A huge range of trans-disciplinary skills, including planning, decision making, writing, filming, organisation, time management, cooperation….
  • Seamless integration of technology into learning.
  • Authentic involvement of the ICT Facilitator and Teacher Librarian (Ours is so much more than that!), unlike the isolated weekly lessons they used to give a year or so ago.
  • Meaningful use of our new iPads to enhance the learning and achieve an end.
  • True inquiry, as students experimented with the iPads and iMovie and figured out for themselves how to achieve the results they wanted.
  • A learning community, in which several teachers were involved in learning along with the students.
  • An unbelievable level of engagement and excitement about learning… for students and teachers alike.
  • Letting go of control and handing over the learning to the students can have outstanding results.
  • If you have an idea, run with it. Don’t wait for a better time, particular conditions or permission to try. What’s the worst that can happen? (If you read this blog, you will recognise that mantra).
Ignite, engage, inspire? I think so!


Ethical dilemma: Can we have iPads?

I love my iPhone. I’ve experimented with iPads and think they would be excellent tools to enhance learning at our school.

We’re a PYP school. We promote global citizenship, intercultural understanding and international mindedness. We want our students to become socially conscious, mindful citizens working towards creating a better world. Through our units of inquiry, we try to develop awareness of issues such as child rights, sharing finite resources, social inequities and fair trade.

We encourage our students to take action as a result of their learning, to consider, among other things, their choices as consumers…

This morning I read this article in The Age.

A new report into conditions at Apple’s manufacturing partner, Foxconn, has found slave labour conditions remain, with staff complaining of being worked to tears, exposure to harmful disease, pay rates below those necessary to survive and military-style management that routinely humiliates workers.

Read the whole article here at The Age.


Can we have iPads?