Teaching without being at ‘the board’.

One of my new year resolutions for 2017 is to blog more regularly, mainly to have a record of what I’ve done for performance management (I have the worst memory in the world, just ask @mrs_tullock).  For one reason or another, I’ve not found the time since September as it’s been the most hectic term I’ve ever had.  But after a conversation on Twitter with the fantastic @mini_lebowski, I decided that I should do it sooner rather than later.  Twitter is my favourite tool for CPD. I’ve made so many great links and friends, received so much support and help, and generally been inspired to improve and tweak my practice. So when a question arose that I felt I could help with, I decided to dust down the saddle and get back on the horse.. Here goes (gulp).


This post has been on my mind for a long time as lots of people are frightened by new or different technology, moving away from their ‘safezone’ (I’m not saying you btw @mini_lebowski!). I know the staff in my school all panicked when, in the last week of the school year, I told them we were replacing the old, weathered Promothean boards with brand spanking new Prowise screens. It wasn’t just the sitting in the dark struggling to see the knackered projector bulbs (blinds closed, lights off). I was so fed up of using an interactive whiteboard that I actually gave up using mine around January 2016. This all came about from being at conferences and watching everyone present from iPads or without actually touching or looking at a screen. My first thought was “if they’re doing that then why do I need to be at a board or computer?”  I watched more and more over the months. I was sick of clunky software that worked when it felt like, recalibrating my pen and IWB, and most importantly, standing at the front of the class by the board/computer to teach. I didn’t like the wasted time asking children to model by coming to the front, or the giggles when the pen was out of sync. Enough was enough, I ditched the computer for my Apple TV and iPad. And the impact was incredible. “What’s the difference? Surely it’s limited?” I hear you ask. Well let me explain.  One of the main reasons I didn’t like the IWB was that I had to stand at the front, and even then spent most of my time with my back to the children. That changed instantly. So here are the benefits I found:

  1. I can teach from anywhere in the class. In January 2016, when I first went without my computer, I taught from a range of different places. I sat with children on the carpet (I was Year 3 then). I stood at the back of the class. I sat with different groups and difficult/distracted children. What I immediately found was that I had more control over my class, more understanding, and my presence was much greater. Depending on the lesson, I could pinpoint where most support and direction was needed and make sure I was there.
  2. I can see my children. Always. I never have to turn my back. Whenever I need to type, write or edit, I always position myself where a glance can cover the entire class.
  3. I can ask children to model without making them come to the front. This is great for time saving, as I’m right there with the iPad for them, not waiting ages for someone to stumble from the back of the room to the IWB. In my current year 5 class I also have 8 or 9 with low confidence, and this has improved their confidence as they aren’t the focal point in the room, the screen is.
  4. My children watch me using the iPad and pick up little tips and hints from how I use it. This has made them so much better than I could ever be (and at the age of 9&10 that makes my heart sink, but the future looks incredible). They are incorporating little things I do into their work in ways which I’d never even thought of.
  5. I can compare two things side by side on the Apple TV using my iPad and the split screen function. Whether it be two different webpages, or using 2 apps at once. My class are adept at drafting their writing in Google Docs whilst also having the Dictionary app open on the page, correcting spellings and looking for synonyms. I know this is possible using a computer but it’s much easier on the iPad. 
  6. I can use the camera to show them what I’m talking about during practical activities. This can be me pointing at things such as cuisenaire, children uploading photos and videos to @explainevrything on my iPad for me to annotate, or children filming me during science and art so it’s visible on the screen. The whole class can see without having to crowd round or struggle to get near.
  7. The behaviour has improved. This could be a combination of things. I’m never in the same place, I can be over next to disruption in seconds, and my house points on @Classdojo are a double tap away (I was always useless at remembering to give stickers and update the chart).
  8. My own knowledge and skills using the iPad have improved drastically. Because I’m using it constantly I’m noticing little things that I’m playing with and then utilising in class (e.g Keynote Live, which I’ll explain more below)
  9. I am using my iPad more and more when on courses and conferences. Because I use it in so many ways in class, I transfer those to when I’m out of the class. I used to make notes on pen and paper and then never look at them again (if I could find them. Did I mention my memory was shocking?) I then started to just tweet my thoughts and notes as I could scroll back through them which was much better. But now I use a range of apps to take in what I’m listening to. This can be standard typing, photos and videos on Google Docs, to sketchnoting (thanks @musicmind) on apps such as Paper53 and Tayasui Sketch Pro. Much more useful for visual learners like myself.

My tips to make teaching with the iPad easy and efficient:

  1. Don’t over complicate things. Stick to a core range of apps. The ones I can’t do without are Keynote, Presenter 8, Book Creator, Explain Everything, Paper53 and Tayasui Sketches Pro for teaching; Class Dojo and Seesaw for management. By using them regularly for teaching, the children intuitively know how they work and use them effortlessly. 
  2. Keynote, Explain Everything and a Presenter 8 by Prowise are great for preparing lessons. They do everything that Activ Primary etc can do, and more. Include photos, videos and slides easily. They are simple to make and can be done easily and discretely whilst watching the telly or in tedious meetings!
  3. Keynote Live is amazing if your class have iPads available. Press ‘play on Keynote Live’ and when the children join the slides are beamed to their iPads. You control the flow of the lesson. Great for studying images in English or maths meetings, and discussing video footage. Plus if you’re sad like me, you can pretend you’re James Bond by controlling the slidesfrom your Apple Watch (I know, I know).
  4. Presenter 8 allows you to cast to the class much like Keynote, but children can edit slides individually and participate in votes and quizzes (which you can collect and save as evidence and assessment). I still prefer Keynote live, but maybe that’s because of port issues in our school wifi which freezes ProConnect (the app the children use to access the Presenter 8 slides).
  5. Invest in a decent stylus. Don’t get hung up on writing on the iPad. When I first changed over I spent £20 on the Adonit Jot stylus, which is cheap compared to others. The more I used it, the more natural it became. The fact that the tip has a clear disc so you can see the nib (like a regular pen or pencil) makes it very easy to write fluently.
  6. Use Paper53 or Tayasui Sketches Pro for writing. They too can be made in advance with images etc, but the brilliance lies with the ease of use. Backgrounds of lines and grids can be zoomed in using the trusty pinch technique, giving so much space to write perfectly.  Explain Everything is also great for this as you can shrink it down and position it in the correct place on the slide. Perfect for shared writing or maths. They can then be saved and uploaded to Seesaw or any other way you share resources with children.
  7. Find a way of holding the iPad which makes using it comfortable and effortless. I’ve recently acquired the @g_hold which is a suction handle for the rear. It’s been a revelation for me, making writing and modelling much easier.
  8. A good external battery/portable charger is a life saver. I’ve watched countless presenters plug in the iPads and slip the charger into their pockets or tuck them behind their iPads. I invested £17 in the RavPower portable charger, and its come in handy once or twice when I needed it. Especially during assembly!
  9. Use Siri, and use it well. My class are numbered 1-30 based on their place on the register. I’m forever asking Siri to “choose a number between 1-30”. Once the little magician has chosen the number, that child has to mirror to the Apple TV or answer the question/offer an explanation or opinion.
  10. If you don’t have an Apple TV then airplay is a great other option. I still plug my MacBook in just for this as it allows four iPads to be mirrored at once meaning you can compare different work at the same time.
  11. Use the class/school Twitter together on Apple TV to write tweets (not looking at the timeline as sometimes it can throw up inappropriate stuff, no matter who you follow!) An easy win to promote online safety and a positive digital footprint.
  12. An Apple wireless keyboard is also handy. It’s responsive and a full size keyboard. Which is handy for longer pieces of writing, or when out someone typing notes and planning.

I’ve never looked back. My advice to you? Give it a go. You might be pleasantly surprised. Or even wondered how you ever managed without. 

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