The Junior School Digital Journey
In February 2011, Apple lent the Junior School 25 IPads for a month following the Apple conference in London. A small pilot project commenced with P1 students and it wasn’t long before the staff and the rest of the children were requesting the use of the iPads too. From very early on, the iPad proved to be a successful educational tool which enhanced lessons, enabled differentiation of lessons more easily, and helped improve children’s confidence and concentration levels. During this initial stage we certainly saw the positive impact on students’ academic achievement, especially with the speed of their mental maths as a result of iPad use.
In March 2011 the Junior School purchased the first set of classroom iPads. A structured timetable was set up across the school and all classes shared the iPads from day to day. Professional Development training was provided for all teachers and students completed checklists before being given the devices. Students responded really well and took on the responsibility of maintaining and storing the iPads correctly. However the sharing of the iPads across the whole school proved difficult as it meant each class had them only once or twice a week
We were extremely fortunate in that Butlers Chocolates kindly sponsored the an additional 50 IPad2s for the Junior School. We are still extremely grateful to the company for their generosity. The launch of the 75 iPads in September 2011 meant that only four classes shared one set of iPads enabling them to get more usage throughout the day. Teachers began using them either as a research tool for older children, creating mind maps, reinforcing maths concepts or writing stories using story cubes.
In-depth research throughout the 2012 school year into the range and quality of educational apps has led to the conclusion that the iPad allowed for greater independent learning on a cost effective, resource rich platform. The staff were involved in ongoing training so that they felt confident and equipped with integrating iPad’s across all curriculum subjects and to be enable to use the technology available to them most effectively.
Since 2012 it has been an upward and fast-paced journey as is the norm in the technical world around us. Fast forward to 2016 and the school now has a very impressive iPad programme that is fully integrated in all classrooms. Students are extremely fortunate to have one-to-one iPad use on a daily basis. The junior school now boasts an infrastructure that includes a set of iPads per class level. Each student in each level has access to a device daily. The increase in student proficiency, confidence and competency has been remarkable and continues to develop.
New educational apps are being regularly introduced during ICT class. The junior school students attend ICT class once a week where they are taught explicit computer programming skills. Ms Larkin, the ICT teacher over the past two years has brought our students forward to a level where they are now highly capable young programmers and responsible cyber citizens. From K1- P1 the students use iPads during ICT class.
In addition to the iPad’s the junior school also has three sets of MacBook air laptops. P6 students have their own MacBook air set which they use on a daily basis for researching communicating and presenting. P5 also has a set of MacBooks a which were acquired in 2015. In 2016 an additional set was purchased bringing the numbers up to a level where all senior classes have one-to-one MacBooks available to them throughout the week. From P2 upwards MacBook’s are used in ICT class where the students are explicitly taught a range of computer skills such as:
- Programming and Development
- Communicating and Presenting
- Researching and Analysing Data
- Designing and Making
- Reasoning and Sequencing
- Editing and Debugging
- Producing and Composing
ICT has become a normal part of everyday life in learning in the junior school. The bountiful digital devices are utilised to the max in every way possible from national geographic to IXL from Prezi to Sketch Up.
The most recent step on the digital road in the junior school has been the introduction of Robots. In October 2016 our class set of Bee-Bots arrived which have received a highly enthusiastic response and very warm welcome in the junior classes. These colourful little additions are called Bee-Bots which are programmable floor robots suitable for students from Foundation to Year 2. The Bee-Bot may be used by students individually, in pairs or in small groups. They allow the students to experiment programming the Bee-Bot to move forward and back 15cm, to turn left or right 90 degrees, and to pause for 1 second. The Bee-Bot can be programmed up to 40 steps so the students can explore different programming steps with sounds and flashing lights to confirm and reinforce each step. Once the students are confidently programming the Bee-Bot, Mats can be introduced with specific activities to extend their learning experiences and can be used across a range of subjects such as literacy numeracy and SESE.
These programmable robots develop and extend the following important ICT skills in the early years;
- Programming, control and direction– forward, back, right, left, pause;
- Problem Solving, exploration and prediction
- Sequencing and ordering