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Another lesson

My iPad Journey

The journey started really when I got my new job.  I was asked by the Head of Chiswick School, Mr Ryan if I could create multimedia lesson examples for the iPad which I could use to demonstrate to staff the possibilities of the device in terms of using it for teaching.  The other part was that in terms of my own teaching I would have to learn to use the devices in whole new areas that I was not familiar. Chiswick school had taken the decision to purchase iPad for all the year 7 students who would be attending next school term.  Besides that all the staff had the devices and would have been using them for a period of time.

Well it was a task that I thought long and hard about because it was a totally new way of delivering curriculum materials to me and even more to the point I realized that I would have to give up some of my control of the classroom and give it to the students.

I'm quite sure most of the staff felt the same way. OK I thought how in the heck would that work.  I had been developing materials for the web and a few phones but now this was a big opportunity to make a huge impact and really help both teachers and students become independent learners. Also for the school to be leaders in this type of lesson delivery.


 The one thing I knew was important if I was going into a new school was that I could not show resources I created for another school to the new staff.  I needed to create materials for a Department at the new school.  So not knowing anyone or thinking that their response would be “who is this guy coming in asking me to give up my time 5 weeks before the summer holidays” I contacted Mr Ryan.

I asked Mr Ryan, the Head Teacher if he could think of one Department, which would like to take on the task of allowing me to come in to school, to record audio and video of them, and use their resources over the summer to create learning multimedia materials.  Well I just thought, OK, if we don’t get anyone then what the heck would I do at the first meeting after the summer vacation in front of 120 staff with me trying to explain to them why I was at the school and even more importantly what was possible.

But as the computer gods would have it, (and Mr Ryan telling them how great it would be) the Geography Department enthusiastically volunteered to take on the project.

Geography Department

 I was extremely happy to have a Department welcoming me into the school.   So my next task was to visit the Department.  I was very pleasantly surprise by the welcome I got from the Department.  Mr Hudson was the Head of Department , Mr Witts one of the teachers along with Ms Blount, who not only taught in the Department but also was a member of senior management team.  That I was very happy about because if you have senior management shouting about how we want to teach, you then have a great chance of making things happen. 

Mr Hudson was supportive and allowed me to record various lessons with him based around their curriculum.  What really helped was that they were very organized and had all the lessons planned so it was a matter of deciding what materials we would use. 

The day went so well that we decided that I would need another day to finish off the recording. The crazy part was that we found it very hard to find a nice and quiet room to record in but managed between the music room and a closet to get the job done.  Ms Blount was extremely busy but did manage to give me a half hour of her time, which was great. Mr Witts was wonderful also and I found it very interesting that he ran his own charity in Uganda.  We got on well and begun to talk about how we could use the materials to help support his charity in Uganda. 
We had very interesting conversations based around Uganda and what kind of project we could work together on which would take on its own a life of its own later.

So with all the recordings done, I needed to get ready to head to the States for the summer.  I had no idea what I was going to do or the formats to use other than it needed to work on the iPad. So the summer goals:

      Cut and clean up the audio, come up with a concept based around the materials, find the necessary images to for the lessons if not provided, find sound effects, get groups consent for cartoon images I wished to use, decide what application to use to create the materials, create a sketch of each of the pages and then produce and test the final project. Whew!! I thought this was supposed to be a summer vacation. Oh well!!

Developing the Concept

So the summer came and I headed to the States with all the audio files and lessons based in PowerPoint on my Mac.  I thought wow what the hell am I going to do now.  I have always been a believer in creativity and I have learnt not to push the envelope when it comes to me developing materials.  I have been very lucky that when I least think about what I have to create, ideas just flood my brain with possibilities. 

And where can I go to find the inspiration and let the ideas flow – well no other place than the Adobe Education Leaders camp.  Here I have over the years created some of the best materials for teachers.  The camp is help in San José, California and the beauty of the place just helps bring out the creative side of me.  That along with around 90 other Adobe Educational Leaders who are some of the smartest and most creative people I have ever met.  The work these guys create is awesome and I know just being there and around those minds the creative juices would flow.

Well within the first 3 days I had developed all my ideas, usually around 12:00-1:00 in the morning (this is when I am at my most creative). I then set off to create the final materials.  The ideas such as the look and feel just came to me, the navigation system just appear and within one night I had created the basis of what would be the materials I would take back to the UK. I especially wanted to finish the digital books because I wanted feedback from some of the Educational Leader who were at the camp.

It is amazing because I have learned more in a single week at the Adobe Camps than any course during the year that I have ever went on.  The people there just fuel my creativity.  Thanks guys!!!

Geography App

So materials already created (digital magazines, IBooks, multimedia presentations for students who were taking their exams, Google pages created for the Geography Department and iphone) it was almost time to head back to the UK.  Tweeted Mr Ryan, the Head to arrange a date so I could show him the materials I created so there would be no surprise on the first day back.  After our meeting I had about 5 days before school started and it just so happened Dr Pooja Jaisingh, an Adobe eLearning Evangelist asked me to do a seminar on eLearning. Wow, what perfect timing.

This was perfect because it would give me the opportunity to present to a worldwide audience and also test how people felt about the materials.  Because these people didn’t know me and would be totally honest it was a great opportunity to test the waters.  You can listen to the seminar here.

Happy to say that the seminar went very well. Got the feedback I required and very happy to now present the digital publications to the teachers at Chiswick school. Got a little time? Then listen to the presentation above.

The next presentation was with the staff at Chiswick School. I showed them a list of digital materials we could create and explained how they could be used in the classroom. One thing I have always said is that you never know what is possible unless you see it or imagine it. Wasn't sure how the presentation went until the next day. The comments were really positive and I knew I hit the right cord with my audience, the teachers. But the real test would come one months later when we used the material with the students.

The next step was to spend time with Mr Witts, the teacher who I would be supporting in the lesson to plan the goals and objectives of the lesson. One of our main objectives was that we wanted to get out of the students way and allow them to learn and teach each other . Well lesson planned and objectives ready it was almost time.

Testing the Materials

Well the time had come to test the materials. However, before that I need to load the app onto all the iPads. We have 60 iPads that we lend out to staff during lessons and this was the at the time the only way to get the app on the machine.

Ok machines all loaded, lets get the lesson started!

The equipment for the lesson was important because we wanted the students to be independent learners. We wanted the lesson to be driven by the students for the students.

iPad Lesson

iPads with geography App loaded
Post it Notes
Resource’s sheets
Interactive White board with world Map



Lesson structure

The students entered the classroom where books were given to students where they could write down the lesson objectives and date. (common practice for all Geography lessons) An explanation of the lesson structure was given to students and they were told that they were going to do investigative research and the primary focus was on them to carryout the work with only themselves and their classmates to depend on.


They were told that the lesson would be given on the iPad (home built app) and that a specificy app had been built just for them to use. (they felt special just knowing something was created for them). We had a resource table where all the worksheets were located for them to use. (Within the app I created videos which explained what they needed to do for each of the tasks. The tasks were explain by Mr Witts as a cartooon character). Instructional sheets were given to all students ( students worked with individuals at their table) with extremely limited information from the teachers.  The idea was for all students to discover/research and use their power of observation throughout the lesson. We explained to each student that they were the resource and knowledge bank and any work had to be carried out and thought of by them.  Videos would give them instructions to carry out each of the tasks.  They could always refer back to the how to guide if they required help to use the app.


Mr Witts as a cartooon character



Mr Witts as a cartooon character

Resource Desk

In order to help the student become independent learners, Mr Watts and I thought it work be a great idea to have a resources desk. The resources desk would provide students with all the worksheets and any other resources they would need to complete the lesson.  Items on the resource table included Posit notes, provided so students could write questions they might have had and then get answers to those questions. If students needed to ask a question, then they asked their partners, if they didn’t get an answer then they were allowed to ask the class or teacher. 


When they had the answer it was then written on the Posit note and placed on the resource table for anyone who may have needed to know the answer to that particular question. When the other students had questions they had to check the resources table to see if their question had been answered.  Amazingly within the lesson, it became not a question of what resources I would need for  the task – it became a matter of just getting up and finding the resource and completing the worksheet. We were very pleased to see that students got the idea of the idea of the resources desk straight away, especially after the first video.  Because all the videos had instructions, it was fantastic to see all the students take off their headphones, walk to the resources table and pick up and complete the correct worksheets. We both had goose bumps.


Quality of work? Well the quality of work was just as good or better. If we had led the lesson ourselves we don't think students would have completed as many tasks or ever to the standard to which they completed on their own. Two reasons we think this are because they were able to carry on and complete the next task and not wait for us to give them instructions or wait for another students to complete their work so the class could continue. Self sufficient, self directed and self assured. The major benefit I think came from the lesson other than learning that the students could be self sufficient was that we could work with students who really needed our help. The ones that didn't need help had extension task to help them move on. Helping to create independent learners which we hope will help make more productive people in our society.

Resources table

Resources table

Student's using the resources table

Student's using the resources table

Using the Application

Students were told that all instructions were provided on the videos in the app. (the idea is that students become self sufficient and find details for themselves)


T4 - this is the task and number order they need to finish their work in.


Students used the app with no problems.  We had two questions about the app.  Then cries of “Oh, I got it” and “OK now I get it” rang around the room.
I personalLy wanted to give the students more instructions on how to use the app but Mr. Witts said, “Let's just see how they get on”. Best thing I could have done was to be quiet.  Student’s used the app and the instructional sheet with no help from either of us.

We started to notice something else that was simply amazing.  The conversation, which was being held, was educational with questions such as “Do you know where Samsung is located in the world?”; answer from another student “No”.  Then they proceeded to launch Safari and do the research to find out.  The great thing after that was they started to share the information among other class members. True collaborative learning. Atlases were also located in the room and without any prompting from us students naturally gravitated towards them to help solve their problems.  Mr. Watts and I just looked at each other and asked why have we wasted so much time explaining everything.

Using the Geography App Using the Geography App

Students using the Geography App

We could work with students who required our help and the students who did not WE were not holding them back.   The time it took for us to give instructions during a non-iPad lesson took away a lot of the work time from the students.

Students worked at their own pace.  During feedback, many of the students pointed out that it was fantastic (their words) that they could go back and listen to the videos again to get a better understanding of what was required.  We also noticed how they were helping each other out; much more than we could ever could as a single teacher.  Real quality learning.  Just amazing we kept saying to each other. Just amazing!

Students collaborating together Students collaborating together

Students collaborating together

Students loved the animations. One student commented “ it was nice not to have to listen to the real teacher all the time”. My comment “Gee thanks a lot “ (-:

Students were stopped twice just to check their understanding and then one last time to walk thought the plenary. (However this was also provided on the video if we chose to let them carryout the task alone)

Things that just gave us goose bumps was how the students just got on with the tasks, collaborated with each other and used all the resources which were available.  The sort of conclusion activity that was wonderful for us to see (and done independently) was when the students had to find information about where their friends and relatives lived outside of the UK.  A large map of the world was placed on the interactive whiteboard so students could place the Posit notes showing where their friends and relatives lived. We wanted to show them that even though we are different we are all the same, we live in the same type of places, speak a language, feel good some days and bad on the others and all of us need to drink and eat.   In other words showing all the connections.  Well wow!! On the Postit notes students not only wrote where their relative lived and who they were, and the conversation surrounding the Posit notes were great. Learning, constructive conversations about the topic area were taking place all around the classroom. They placed the Postit notes on the interactive whiteboard and talked about their families and what the places were like where their families lived.

Mr. Watts and I had the real pleasure knowing that the lesson went well but for me the best comment came from Mr. Watts said “I can really teach now and not worry about missing any of the students learning". 

Map Activity Map Activity

Map Activity

One of the main things we wanted students to understand was that they had a multi-dimensional device/not a single purpose device. One in which they could use to search, listen, record, take notes and review lesson content. Student grasp quickly that it was their responsibility to find was what was required to complete the task and for them to learn.



At the end of the lesson, we asked students to give feedback and their opinions on the lesson compared to a “normal” lesson.  We asked them to write their opinion in the back of their books. Later on in the year, we will revisit their opinions and see if they have changed.

Student’s comments:

“ I found it easier and quicker because no one had any opportunity to be silly and interrupt the lesson”.

“The lesson was easier because I could go on Safari and research things.”

"I thought the lesson was great because if I forget something I could go back and listen to the videos again".


  • Because some students shot ahead of other and complete the task quickly, I need to add in more extension task, which will stretch the more advanced student.

  • Need to have a section in the app, which allows for whole class interaction.  This can be students demonstrating a task or students showing the work they have completed. Although there was plenty of constructive conversation, we felt that maybe we could even help and promote more opportunities for students to interact.

  • Produce an example of excellence – show the students an example of the type of work they should be striving to create without destroying their creative sprit.

  • Important note - the iPad is just a tool and not a baby sitter. Students need to continually show progress both in their work and the quality of class discussion, otherwise what is the purpose of just having an electronic device?


Final Thoughts

We were really encouraged by the use of iPads in the classroom. The most important part for me is that if the lessons are planned with different learning paths students can become very successful. And that success is important because a lot of life, most of life is how you feel about yourself. The look of the students who struggled in some aspects when I was delivering the lesson without the iPad showed more promise with the devices and I think this is because they could go back and revisit the materials in their own time. So my conclusion is that it is a wonderful device with great potential for learning, GREAT potential.