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Pencils down! How tech took over the classroom

By Heather Large | Wolverhampton | Education | Published:

Classrooms used to be dominated by paper, pens and textbooks. But they are increasingly being swept up in the digital age.

Children have been surrounded by the internet, mobile phones and tablets all their lives and take to new technology very readily.

Recognising the much bigger role it’s likely to play in their lives in the future, schools are now embracing new ways of teaching and learning.

Wolverhampton Grammar School, which has pupils from the Black Country, Staffordshire and Shropshire, has gone one step further by incorporating iPads into every aspect of senior school life.

The electronic devices are used as exercise books, for reading e-textbooks and for completing classroom and homework tasks.

“We’re preparing them for the world’s future, not our pasts,” says Kathy Crewe-Read, who became headteacher in 2013.

“It’s very easy to model a school on what a good education looked like when we were there but we need to consider what their future is going to look like.

Kathy Crewe-Read at iPad-friendly Wolverhampton Grammar School

“Our young people are being brought up in a digital world and it’s only going get more digitalised.”

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All pupils in years seven to nine have one of the tablets and can choose to record their work using a stylus – used in the same way a pen on paper, typing on the keyboard or writing in their exercise book – whatever works best for them.

All work is captured and recorded on their iPad, with notes made in their exercise book photographed and uploaded.

This creates a database, personalised per subject by every student, that can be accessed by the teacher, who marks the work digitally too.

Traditional handwriting with pen and paper still has a place, as all assessments and end of year exams are written. And in preparation for their GCSEs, pupils in years 10 and 11 have paper exercise books for each subject but also use iPads.

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“Nothing can be lost, there’s no paper homework to be eaten by the dog,”Mrs Crewe-Read says. “There’s no worksheets or books being handed out because they are all there on the iPad, and no photocopying.”

The iPads can only be used for educational purposes and pupils aren’t able to download any app they choose.

Screen time is also monitored to ensure they aren’t staring at the devices for too long and they come with a function that sets a time when they shut down for the night.

Welcomed

“In lessons they will only be looking at the screen for as long as they would an exercise or text book. The rest of the time there will be discussions going on, or science experiments where they won’t be looking at them,” says assistant head Alex Yarnley

Mrs Crewe-Read says parents have welcomed the introduction of iPads which have given them the ability to view all of their child’s school work in one place.

“Parents benefit from knowing how to use the technology. They can see any element of their child’s work at any time and get instant feedback from the teacher. It makes parents more in contact with the day-to-day work their child is doing at school,” says director of marketing and communications Carrie Bennett.

“Technology is here, we can’t avoid it. We’re trying to prepare our students for future and show them technology can be used fantastically and efficiently in their work,” adds Mr Yarnley.

But technological advances aren’t restricted to paid-for schools which can meet the cost with fees.

Andrew Burns, principal at Ormiston Forge Academy in Cradley Heath and Ormiston New Academy in Fordhouses, Wolverhampton, says he also believes technology has a place in the classroom.

“It’s crazy to be in the 21st century and for us to be using only paper and pens when we don’t at home or in the world of work,” he explains.

“It’s part of our role to prepare pupils for the real world and show them how to use ICT smartly, effectively and safely.”

But he says that purchasing the latest gadgets and innovations would be out of the reach of most of the country’s schools due to restricted budgets.

Kathy Crewe-Read at iPad-friendly Wolverhampton Grammar School

“Having such hardware isn’t as easy as it was 10 or 15 years ago unless you’re a well-funded school. There are lot of children that won’t have access to it at home or school,” he adds.

“It’s something the Government needs to look at.”

Technology is also making an appearance at primary school level but Dave Tinker, headteacher at Brockton CE Primary School in Much Wenlock, says his priority is teaching pupils how to use it safely.

“We’re a small rural primary,” he says.

“We see technology as important as it’s what children are using and engaging with at home so we use touch-screen technology to reflect that.

“Our priority as a primary school is making sure they can use it appropriately and know the dangers and pitfalls.”

Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.

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