John Hart: How the iPad revolutionized my teaching

John Hart
John Hart

From consumers to creators of content, the iPad changes the role of children in the classroom

My journey of using tech in teaching began right at the beginning, while training to be a teacher in 2005. For the duration of my studies I was given a Macbook, along with a digital camera. During my first teaching practise, I used them to film and edit a group of children completing a ‘diamond nine’ speaking and listening task. From the film I could pick up comments I would have otherwise missed and also got a better picture of how the children interacted in the group.

I shared this with the other trainees and then ran a workshop to show them how they could use iMovie to do this themselves. So from the very beginning, technology, and sharing what can be achieved through its use, has been at the core of my work.

Since those days there has been a big change in how I use technology as a teacher. In the early days I used it to author content for use in the classroom or to celebrate and promote the work we had been doing. Nowadays it is the children who produce the content: they have become creators rather than consumers. The driving force behind this shift has been the introduction of the iPad.

The advantage of iPad isn’t just the intuitiveness of the interface but also the general management of ‘teacher time’. An iPad is on instantly, doesn’t require a complicated login process, has a long battery life, an integrated camera &  microphone and doesn’t start updates in the middle of a lesson.

Previously laptops took a considerable amount of my time to log on to and often interrupted my work. This is especially true when I wanted one group to work independently and I was giving my attention to the other group. After iPads were introduced these problems were largely negated and I’ve had more – and better quality – time to work with the children.

Because I work with the youngest children in the school, the biggest impact that the iPad has made is that technology is now much more accessible for them. Its intuitive interface means that they can quickly learn how to use it to create work that would have been unimaginable even as recently as ten years ago.

The delight and wonder I have witnessed in children, parents and other teachers when they see what they are capable of and what they can do with tech, is one of the things that makes me love my job.

Of course we’d still get those moments without tech; children will never cease to impress us with what they are capable of. With this in mind, we should never use tech for tech’s sake, but we should also not bury our heads in the sand either. Accept that tech is here and here to stay and that your students might be more familiar with it than you are. Nevertheless, you remain the expert of pedagogy.

A friend of mine, Mark Anderson, uses this analogy; ‘pedagogy is the driver, tech is the accelerator’ and it’s something that rings true with me. While some argue how tech can be detrimental or even harmful to children, when it is used correctly it undoubtedly supports and enhances good teaching and learning.

To achieve this outcome, time and money must be spent on training teachers. They need to be taught how to harness the technology and use pedagogically sound methods, such as those employed when using Seppo, to be able to use tech to it’s full potential, and to enable students to better reach theirs.

John Hart

John Hart is a teacher and a technology coach in the European School of Helsinki. He has been an Apple Distinguished Educator since 2015.

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