Apple in Education Profiles

Hurstpierpoint College finds iPad is perfect for independent learning

iPad is driving a new and dynamic way of learning for 12-year-olds at Hurstpierpoint College. It helps bridge between traditional subject areas, and motivates students to take responsibility for how they work. iPad is now integral to the curriculum, and the school plans to explore its potential for all ages in the years ahead.

Deputy Head Vickie Bacon says the iPad has ‘reinvigorated’ Hurstpierpoint College’s learning program for 12-year-old students in Year 7. The traditional curriculum was organized by separate subjects, and classroom-based teachers were the main source of information.

The school in West Sussex in the south of England is committed to assessment for learning, so the innovative curriculum is being rigorously tested. Evidence so far shows the new approach is boosting progress subject by subject, as well as helping to hone children’s learning skills.

“We carefully measure children’s understanding of individual subjects, but digital tasks mean we can check on a range of wider skills against ‘challenge grade’ targets,” says Vickie Bacon. “We can also show work to parents online, and report assessment results much more comprehensively and regularly. So if a child needs extra support, we can engage parents and respond quickly.”

Improving standards of work in Year 7 reflect impressive changes in the children’s learning styles. Teachers report significant advances in confidence. Students are very comfortable presenting projects in front of classmates. They collaborate and share ideas with each other and even show a ‘willingness to take risks’ — the ultimate sign of self-assurance in learning, according to Vickie Bacon.

iPad is a ‘Digital Pencil Case’ for personal learning

Hurstpierpoint College is independent, with 300 boys and girls between the ages of 3 and 13. As a part of the college, the school is committed to preparing its children for academic challenges ahead by helping them to become independent learners.

“Seeing for the first time what children were doing with the iPad was exciting,” says Vickie. “They were being incredibly creative, but what came across most strongly was that each child was accessing information quite independently. I could see that the iPad offered a fantastic set of integrated tools to achieve learning differentiation.”

Vickie made a business case to the Head, governors and parents, and the school equipped its 65 Year 7 students and all its 35 teachers with an iPad — creating what it called the ‘Digital Pencil Case’ project.

“Each child now has online research opportunities, apps and ebooks support, and the ability to communicate learning and present projects in highly imaginative ways. Above all, the iPad offers truly mobile learning. It is small enough to be carried by young children between classes and from school to home, and it has great battery life.”

Children are trusted to be independent

Hurstpierpoint College planned the iPad introduction carefully to ensure maximum success. Year 7 children were selected because teachers felt they were mature enough to take responsibility for their learning, and were old enough to look after the device itself.

To make sure teachers were comfortable using iPad in the curriculum, training was provided in the term before the children’s devices arrived. Five ‘champions’ were selected to help mentor other teachers. Parents were also offered training, so they would be able to support their children’s work at home.

Most importantly, Hurstpierpoint College decided that if children were to be made responsible for their learning, they would have to be trusted to use the iPad wherever they were, and whenever they needed it.

“We saw one-to-one use of the iPad as critical to the way it could transform learning,” Vickie says. “Of course, we made sure that parents and children had plenty of advice on safe use of the iPad online, but this was all about letting the children be independent, and giving them the freedom to learn on their own terms at home or at school.”

Although the Digital Pencil Case project was funded for only one year group, the school recognized its deep impact on the way technology would be deployed in future for all ages. ICT rooms that used to teach basic skills were now dismantled, and each class in other years was given a ‘Learning Box’, which included an iPad, desktop and laptop computers, and iPod touch devices. With mobility now the watchword, the school also made sure it had excellent Wi-Fi access.

Confidence is soaring

Year 7 classes now look very different from in the past. In science, children move freely around the lab, stopping to enter notes, draw diagrams of battery circuits, or present findings on the Apple TV screen — each using their personal iPad.

In other classes, collaboration works best in pairs, with students sharing and critiquing information and images researched with iPads to understand the topic at hand — Sunni and Shia Muslim traditions, for example.

One student used her iPad to complete a compelling digital learning task on ‘patterns’, a cross-curricular way to help her study Math, French, and Art. Another created an impressive iBook from her project on ‘conflict’ in History, English, and Drama. And a third used the Numbers app to create his own highly sophisticated calculator.

“The iPad has empowered children to do things they had no idea they could do,” says Year 7 Tutor Luke Gasper. “It has helped them understand that the key to research is finding information and assessing it yourself in order to learn from it — not be handed it on a plate. They are also embracing completely new ways to manage their own learning, using mind-mapping apps, for example.”

Children can download any apps they want, but the school provides basic Apple apps such as Pages for writing documents, Numbers for calculations, Keynote for presentations, Photos for images, iMovie for video, and GarageBand for music. Teachers comment on how easily Year 7 children find they can now make good-quality presentations as a result, and their ability to present confidently has soared.

Parents are involved in the learning process

After just two terms, Vickie Bacon believes the project has had an amazing impact on Year 7 children’s learning.

“The best thing is that the children themselves are causing us to think and rethink the way the curriculum is organized,” she says. “They are so immersed in learning now that we have to constantly devise new learning programs that stimulate them.”

Evidence of success is clear amongst parents too. The Digital Pencil Case has helped to create a close partnership between teachers, parents, and children. Vickie’s mailbox is full of correspondence from supportive parents, who say that children show them their work much more readily, and the intuitive nature of the iPad means parents can understand the underlying learning processes much more easily than before.

Ambitious plans are now in place to extend the project. Another 250 iPads will be deployed in the next six months for Years 8 and 9, and Hurstpierpoint College is rapidly becoming a beacon of good practice, locally and nationally.

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