Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Are you responsible for Interactive Whiteboards?

If you are responsible for buying new IWBs, or will have a say in the matter, what factors should you consider? Terry Freedman considers the issues.

To look at, you’d think that one interactive whiteboard is pretty much the same as any other – and to a certain extent you’d be right. However, there’s more to it than meets the eye, and there are several factors you ought to consider before signing the cheque.

Does the school already have whiteboards?

In some respects, if the school is brand new the decision is easier because you don’t have past “baggage” to consider. But if the school already exists and already has whiteboards, that’s a different matter. The reason is not so much to do with the whiteboard itself, but the expertise of staff and the resources that have already been created. Put simply: if you buy new whiteboards purely for their functionality with no strategic overview, you will incur further training costs (even if training is free, there is still staff time involved). And having resources which can be used only on some of the whiteboards in the school, but not all, will be confusing and frustrating.

2 kids at a 2Touch IWB in Melbourne 1

Photo by Pablo Garcia, http://www.flickr.com/photos/pablog61/

“Ah, but”, you say, “this brand new whiteboard from company X will allow me to do this that and the other, and make the tea as soon as the bell for break sounds!”. Maybe so, but you can bet money on it that before too long your present brand will follow suit.

It’s not unknown for schools to have a “mixed economy” of whiteboards: the school may be completely upgrading everything, providing an opportunity to wipe the slate clean, or there may be particular areas where a particular type of board may be more suitable. But if you’re going to mix and match, at least make sure there’s an overall plan guiding you.

Is there a vibrant community of users?

I happen to think this is quite important. Is there a fairly large repository of resources that other users of the whiteboard you’re considering have produced, and made available free of charge? Is there an active user forum you can go to for help?

What functionality do you need, and what is offered?

You have to be a very clear when it comes to reading the specifications of whiteboards. For example, does the description “Multi-user” mean two users, or more? Does the term “multiple touch” (or similar) mean, say, four pupils are able to use it at the same time, or that there can be four hands using it at the same time? And how many pupils will you want to use it at the same time anyway?

Another consideration is: can the board be easily moved up or down according to the height of the pupils using it?

Does the board mainly use pens, or touch? The distinction is not as clear cut these days, as the pen-based boards allow some touch, and the touch-based boards can be used with a pen. However, the pen-based boards will require an investment in spare pens and somewhere to store them, because if a pen goes missing the usefulness of the board is very much reduced.

Another factor to consider is: does it come with, or can it be used with, other technology such as student response systems and visualisers?


Consider the warranty being offered. It may come with a three year return to base warranty, but that could mean that the school will have to take charge of packaging and shipping, and then reinstalling it upon its return. You’d probably be better off paying a bit extra and changing it to an on-site warranty.


Look for the hidden extras like training. If you have two whiteboards in the same price range offering similar functionality, but one has an extensive and free training package thrown in, that might be the better option.

The software

Quite often, the distinguishing factor between boards these days is the software. Can the resources created be exported to or imported from another format, for use or editing in other applications? Can you use other software with the board, ie third party software, licence permitting?


I think planning is the key to successful investment in technology, in terms of being clear what you’re looking for, and what your possible future needs may be, and remembering to look into the “hidden” aspects of whiteboards such as training, warranties and the other factors considered here.

So what to,do next, easy call Jon Paul of Cablers ltd, a very friendly and professional organisation in Maldon Essex, www.cablers.co.uk, they will satisfy all of you're needs.

What happens when you give an iPad or Tablet to pupils

What happens when you give a tablet (or similar) device to a pupil who is economically disadvantaged? If the experience of Victoria Park Academy in Birmingham is anything to go by, one happy outcome is increased parental engagement.

Steve Beswick, Director of Education, Microsoft, commented that:

“The school continues to show its commitment to narrowing the attainment gap through the creative use of one-to-one devices to raise aspirations not just for the pupils but also engaging the wider family group. It has been astonishing to see the difference the devices have made to the school’s relationship with their students and their families.”

But you don’t have to take Steve’s word for it. The children themselves say the same thing, in their own way. I spoke to a group of Year 6 pupils (10-11 year-olds), and they made comments like:

“My parents love it, because it makes me want to learn!” and

“My parents and brothers and sisters like me taking the device home because it means they can help me with my work.”

Parental engagement is high on many schools’ agenda, but is notoriously difficult to achieve. It takes a lot of effort by the school, and there are no short-cuts. There is a big difference between informing parents and engaging them, of course. The reason the one-to-one programme at Victoria Park has gone down so well with parents is probably that the device makes it possible for parents and siblings to become actively involved with the child’s education.

The programme has had benefits in terms of pupil progress. This has been measured not just in general, anecdotal terms – one girl told me that she had jumped from a level 4a in maths to a 5b over two terms – but statistically according to Ofsted criteria. For example, the school’s 2013 tracking shows that a group of disadvantaged pupils in Year 6 are just 0.16 Average Points Score (APS) behind national expectations (25.5) in English and Maths, compared with 0.8 for the rest of cohort.

Unpicking the causes of the impressive improvements is not entirely easy, because the school has undertaken several courses of action at more or less the same time. For example, it has:

  • Given tablets to 120 disadvantaged pupils in Years 5 and 6. The pupils use these for doing research, and organising their notes in OneNote, and being creative with SongSmith and PhotoSynth;
  • Placed a very strong emphasis on pupil self-reliance and peer collaboration;
  • Introduced a new curriculum which is both flexible and creative;
  • Introduced highly structured learning activities using a TASC (Thinking Actively in a Social Context) approach;
  • Partnered with other organisations, such as the Real Ideas Organisation (RIO), in order to get the children learning in a real-world context;
  • Early identification and intervention for children likely to start falling behind.

This is almost certainly one of those cases where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Any one of those approaches would have had a positive effect, but when they are all working together the results are quite astounding. As objective proof of this, note that the school went from Special Measures to Outstanding in just three years. Pretty good going, especially when you consider that nearly 70% of pupils do not speak English as their first language.

I found the children themselves to be as articulate as they are enthusiastic about the activities they enjoy at school, such when the whole school chartered a steam train on the Severn Valley Railway, or when they pretended to be Victorians and learnt how to make soap like our forebears did.

Victoria Park is a school in which economic hardship and other difficulties are challenges to be tackled rather than insuperable obstacles.

If you are interested in adopting 1:1 devices in your school, we have partnered with Microsoft to offer a range of fantastic devices at reduced cost with this goal specifically in mind. Take a look at our Shape The Future Project page to find out more.

Monday, 24 June 2013

iPads in the classroom


iPads for EYFS

Capturing Early Years Observations on the Move With 2Simple
Save hours of record keeping time with 2Build a Profile. This award-winning app provides a simple and powerful way to log children's achievements against the Early Years profile in a few simple steps; making it ideal for busy practitioners.
  • Open the app and take a photo with the device's camera.
  • Write your virtual post it note.
  • Select the children who are being observed.
  • Tag the observation with the Early Learning goals.
Your observations will be automatically sent via wifi to a secure website (Web Management Suite) for your school or setting where you can collate, view, save and print your observations at any time.


iPads on Primary Schools


iPad Apps in education


iPads in Education


Interim Education Board What Does It Mean


All things related to school governors


5 essential Tips for iPads in the classroom


Saturday, 8 June 2013

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Wednesday, 5 June 2013

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