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iPads in Education: Reception/ EYFS ICT Review 2011/ 2012

We are coming to the end of another Year at your school. The ICT dept. is gaining strength and is asiPad with Children's Book impermanent as ever: we are to become facilitators instead of discrete ICT teachers (albeit our new guy is 'front loading' skills for me to transfer in cross curricular lessons).

The problem we both face now is that the Reception children are demons on the iPads. They have been utterly sublime all the way to the Easter break. We have tackled some really tricky clusters of skills such as in-app camera work (MadPad and Puppet Pals) and other combinations such as animation using imports of various kinds via DoInk.

While these successes are great on their own and sharing the glorious depth a 5 year old has had to go to to achieve this - its not till we switch to a desktop that we see that the skills are so far removed from each other I am now trying to fast-track our classes in readiness for Year 1.

By Year 1 my set baseline is that they should be able to: Log in unaided (Ctrl + Alt+ Del), find a folder, open an application either from the folder or from the programs menu, use the application from a demo and then explore the application's buttons (lets take MS Paint or Purple Mash as a picture cue here). I have to say that the children just fail at the middle parts of that list. But it's not their fault.

There are many pluses that I will come to in a moment but the alien world these children now find themselves in is quite scary for me and them. Once articulate boys who are very versed in the use of the iPad and very much able to laud their abilities like some champion athlete are dumbfounded by the use of a rigid menu structure and a set of hard, fast rules that govern Microsoft (Linux and Mac to a similar degree) applications. This is a steep learning curve. One boy is almost mute by what he is new to.

The children now have to travel to the ICT suite (up a flight of stairs and some way down the school. Sometimes across a bridge!) where I once used to arrive in their classroom with a iPads set out or for them to gather from the trolley (tool chest). They would come to the carpet and see what new app I had for them this week or how we were going to take last week's introduction further. We would demo, talk, explore and revisit in a very fluid manner that was social and very mobile. Children are paired and in small huddles sharing advice like an infant notice board. This is now very different. I could almost play the theme tune to 2001 Aspace Odyssey and all would fit into place.

They now have a terminal to sit at in a big ICT suite that isn't mobile by any sense and they have only two people to share their learning with or lean on for advice before our wonderful Learning Assistants or I arrive as surrogate triage and apply TLC via Ctrl +Z. I feel for them.

They now have a mouse. Not the thing that 'eeks' and 'squeaks' and certainly isn't call Jerry. It's green and its best used with a thumb. Apparently. I've never had so many children use a mouse with a thumb in the near 8 years as an ICT leader. Every time I revert their hand position so that they use the mini-mice correctly that as soon I turn around it's back to a trigger position with the mouse sideways and the cable pointing left.

The mouse is peculiar to them. The remoteness of the gestures in relation to the screen and indeed the cursor, has at least 10-15% of the children looking at the mouse like a learner in a car checking the gear leaver by looking down (right before they have a prang). The problem is that this remoteness has a knock-on effect: Flash-based activities are forever being right-clicked leaving the child lost for words as to why its asking them do they either want some kind of hardware acceleration altered or grant access to the web cam or microphone. Alternatively it will just zoom in to 800% via right click and leave the eye of a cartoon Monkey blinking repeatedly at them. When you're 5, got your headphones on and seemingly in the jungle; to be 3cm away from the cornea of an Orangutan I too would wonder what this mouse is doing for my education.

What I find the most difficult is the change for my own teaching. Last week I set up videos for the children to watch and follow as I usually do for all other year groups. My own displacement was as plain as the nose on my face as I had completely overreached my audience. The video was set up for them and in my thinking, my experience, the deftness of their ability of using an iPad and that they are term 3 Reception, I thought that they could switch a window and play a video return to attempt the task. I cannot explain the look on their faces - imagine they'd asked for a pony and I gave them a goldfish. Without a bowl. You're someway close.

iTunes EulaIt's not as if they don't use a desktop in their classrooms - they can if they elect to as part of their child based learning it's just that the iPad is the all singing all dancing poster boy of Infant ICT. And therefore they don't opt to use it. It's what I have installed, championed even and I must re-evaluate its use in Reception. It's great, it's fantastic but the desktop, as with laptops still have a very firm place in young educational technology and for a log while yet.

I think we (read the tweets) have gotten carried away with the plethora of opportunity the iPad offers. I mean, its a complete device for Infant ICT. It's cartoon, a book that speaks, it has two cameras, records voice, dictates, apps galore, games, creativity (for the nay sayers drop: me a line I'll set you right!) and above all it is tactile. This combination is a 5 year old's dream.

Yes, there are issues with a device without a proper file system and walled garden of an ecosystem whose Eula can change at any time (especially where app purchases for schools are concerned) but this week has taught me something: it's not the be all and end all. And those of you who come across this transition will know what I'm talking about. Depth, breadth and balance is going to be mantra next year as we move into the new territory of facilitation.


iPad in the Reception Classrooom. EYFS

This is a snippet of the latest use of the iPad in Reception.

The children have used the app called MadPad that essentially turn the iPad into a musical instrument via video buttons.

This was a two part lesson - the first being to get to know the mad pad app and record percussion.

Then the second to import other children's percussion into new set of buttons.

They had to review what was good sound and what was poor sound. They also had to make sure we could see the instrument being played. 

The result was a mixed bag really but the children understood immediately that they could use Johnny's hammer sound as it was the best and he was from another class. Collaborative effects next time where we chose who we want to send our sounds to. 

Baby steps as they say as this is only really the end of the first half term.

Next up, drawing and painting with a stylus.