Archives For September 2013

The $1 billion dollar iPad roll-out in Los Angeles is on hold for the time-being since three students hacked their district-issued iPads within days.

Far more disturbing than this is that there appears to have been little or no discussion with LA teachers regarding the educational content on these devices. Pearson appear to have this sewn-up.

Teachers are all different. They have their own individual styles, strengths, habits and foibles; it is getting the right blend of these characteristics that makes a school great. Children are all different, too, and this means that each child will always find a teacher in an educational institution that they admire, respect, and see as a role model. It’s this unique blend of individuals that makes every single school develop its own culture and ethos, and thus allows (some) parents to have a choice in the education of their child.

Given this, it should come as no surprise that teachers like to choose resources which supplement their own good work – resources that complement their own style of teaching and will work with the blend of individuals that are in their charge. I have taught in four very different schools and had to adapt my teaching style every time. “One-size fits all” just does not work. Teachers have been prescribed enough with the Common Core Standards (or the National Curriculum in the UK) without having to be told exactly how to deliver them.

So that’s my first problem with Pearson providing the content for these iPads. My second is this: I’m afraid that for all their vast financial investment, the Pearson Common Core System of Courses is uninspiring, and in no way matches the innovative nature of the iPad itself. They do not delight. As I have stated in previous blogs, subject-specific apps need to offer something new: technology alone does not raise standards. The simple rule is this: educational apps need to enhance existing provision, rather than simply replace existing teachers, worksheets and textbooks if they are to have an impact. Innovation of this nature tends to come from individuals finding solutions to their own problems, rather than corporate, salaried employees being paid to search for them.

I’m sure educators in Los Angeles will be able to introduce and use other resources apart from Pearson’s. If not, it won’t be the students hacking their devices – it will be the teachers.

Tabitha’s Blog Part 3

September 18, 2013 — 1 Comment

In the third part of our real-life insight into the way DoodleMaths works, our two guest bloggers give their view on the app’s benefits. Following the start of a new school year, six-year-old pupil Tabitha and her mum, Sophie, consider what impact the app has made to Tabitha’s maths over the summer holiday.

Tabitha stairs montageThe Pupil’s View – Tabitha, six-and-a-half

DoodleMaths has been fabulous even throughout the very, very end of the summer holidays. Going back to school it has helped me do amazing at maths!

At school, I got a sticker that said “You did it”!!! because I got all my divide sums correct!!!

I am better at amounts of money and three digit number sums. Everything on Doodle Maths has helped me do better at school because it is an awesome app.

It’s great because there is so much to do on it like: New This Week, Seven- A- Day, Games Pages, Topic Index and My Back Pages. There’s a Parents section for mum and dad.

I’ve given my pet cat on the app a name, she’s called Molly. I have reached 350 Doodle Stars, which means I can choose different things for her to wear.

I’ve started doing algebra with letters like n or x or p. And the 14 times table, it’s brilliant.

On the Topic Index I’ve done things like Word Solving, plus, minus, times tables and division.

It is perfect and amazing doing DoodleMaths most days and peaceful too.

The Parent’s View – Sophie, 33-and-a-half

It’s been just over two months since we downloaded DoodleMaths as part of a plan to keep Tabitha’s maths ticking over during the summer holiday. Has her enthusiasm for the app dipped during that time? No. Does she still ask me every morning whether she can do an exercise or two on it? Yes.

But I suppose the most important question is whether the time she has spent on the app has improved her mathematics. And, judging by the response from Tabitha and her teacher in the first couple of weeks back at school, the answer is a resounding Yes.

Many schools are introducing iPads, or other tablets, into the classroom. They’re popular with parents (and especially prospective parents). There’s undoubtedly a media buzz around what is still considered new technology. The potential benefits are becoming more and more apparent, both educationally and arguably financially, with ESSA Academy reporting an annual saving of £65K on photocopying budget following their introduction. The US is leading the way, with 4.5 million iPads sold into education institutions so far, and Los Angeles recently penning a deal with Apple to provide iPads for every one of 600,000+ students within the next year. But if they’re not introduced effectively, it can be a huge waste of money.

We have worked with a number of schools in the last year who have introduced, or are at the point of introducing, iPads. So in the spirit of sharing best practice, here’s a summary of what we believe works and doesn’t work:

  • Appoint the right person to oversee the introduction to iPads: someone who will embrace the opportunity and become ambassadors for the technology. The success of their use at Cedar’s School of Excellence, Greenock can be largely put down to the commitment of Fraser Speirs, Head of IT, in his commitment to their implementation. Without the right person, you may find them gathering dust.
  • Pilot with a few iPads, perhaps a one-third class set or a half set. A one-to-one program is a nice ideal, but perhaps bring-your-own-device will be more realistic by the time you are at that stage.
  • Are you sure you want iPads? The Kindle Fire is a reasonably-priced alternative, with the Amazon App Store working hard to develop educational content. Little fingers can work equally-well on an iPad Mini, too.
  •  Think about how to use them across the curriculum. There are many good subject-specific apps, but equally focus on non-subject specific and be creative in their use. The iPad is a Swiss-army knife of tools waiting to be unlocked. The camera can be used to snap artwork at various stages in the creative process. Experiments can be videoed. And these can be imported into a document in an instant. Combine with Apple TV: teachers or students can display their work, annotate it, work through step-by-step, and display to the rest of the class. Communicate: apps like Socrative allow teachers to quiz their students; it automatically collates their responses. Research the Internet – use a safe internet browser such as Browser for Kids to monitor content.
  • Of the good subject-specific apps, view these as supplementing and enhancing your teaching practice, and don’t slip into replacing your teaching with an app. Avoid apps which replicate worksheets – an expensive and inferior solution in many cases. Seek out subject-specific apps that can offer something beyond your usual teaching, be it a vast amount of content,  (Life and Death in Pompeii, for example), high levels of interactivity (try Solar Walk), or real-time monitoring of each individuals’ progress (like our very own DoodleMaths for Schools).
  • And apps are not just for students, either: great teacher planning apps – such as iDoceo – can enhance record-keeping, too.
  • Practicalities: you’ll need school-wide wi-fi, internet security, iPad cases and a secure stowage unit. Number each device. Each device should have its own Apple ID. And tablets are designed for personal use – sharing an iPad between two for an activity just doesn’t work.
  • Finally, don’t see iPads as entirely replacing PCs. They still have their role in the classroom. But for integrating technology directly into everyday lessons, the tablet is going to play a huge role.

I’m interested in any comments on this one!

September Newsletter Solution.

What am I? “I am an irregular quadrilateral with a single set of parallel sides, and one set of equal-length sides. I have two pairs of equal angles and one line of symmetry. I have no rotational symmetry.”

Do you have the mathematical vocabulary expected of a 10-year old?


If you answered trapezium, well done. If you answered isosceles trapezium, you get a bonus mark!