Dragons Today - Summer 2013 - page 4

IT Dragons
Last year, the number of connected mobile devices surpassed the number of people in the
world. Yet despite the ubiquity of tablets, pads and smart phones, mobile technologies are
often prohibited or ignored in formal education. Paul Dunleavy, the Dragon’s Director of IT,
is planning for a revolution in digital learning at the school – and it’s all about mobility.
Digital Learning:
The Future is Mobile
The learning potential of digital devices is
already well-established, for example in the
consumption of newspapers and books.
In schools however mobile technologies
are not yet commonplace. Are they just a
passing fad? “We are accelerating into
an age in which the impact of ‘digital’ will
be profound,” says Paul. “These devices
offer teachers and pupils ever increasing
opportunities for collaboration and
enhanced learning. We need to embrace
all this - but from a position of strength and
choosing our own direction.”
The Dragon has used ICT resources in
a relatively traditional way up to now, and
Paul acknowledges that the school will
continue to need a blend of mobile and
fixed computing provision. The Dragon
has over 600 PCs and laptops and a wired
network connecting to on-site servers.
However, he has already introduced
wireless working and has been laying
the foundations for a more integrated,
mobile world. So what does this mean in
practical terms?
The Cloud
You may not know it, but if you have ever
used services such as Gmail, Netflix or
iPlayer you have used the Cloud. The
Cloud allows users to access programmes
from the internet, rather than relying on
what’s installed on their own computers.
The Dragon is trialling Cloud services now
for applications such as email and web
filtering and benefits are already being
seen in greater access, lower costs and
increased resilience. The huge advantage
for pupils will be that connecting the
Dragon community via Cloud services and
mobile devices will provide flexible access
to resources and information that will make
learning of all kinds more available.
A Wireless World
Internet-based resources require good
access to internal networks and ultimately,
the internet. The Dragon is implementing
a wireless network across all teaching
areas and in time the whole site will be
covered. This will mean the class is no
longer restricted to fixed locations as
pupils will be able to access resources,
connect with teachers, and create content
wherever they are on the school site.
Going Mobile
Mobile learning involves the use of mobile
technology, either alone or in combination
with other ICT, to enable learning anytime
and anywhere. Most mobile technology
is more affordable and less fragile than
traditional computers and can realistically
be positioned at the centre of learning.
“Mobile learning is not e-learning gone
mobile,” says Paul. “It is something entirely
new which is redefining the potential of
ICT in education.”
Some of this is already in practice
at the Dragon. In the past year, Paul has
provided senior managers and some staff
with iPads and launched teaching trials in
the Science and PE Departments.
The new technologies will make us rethink
how ICT enhances children’s learning.
To use mobile devices effectively in the
classroom, teachers will also need to think
and act differently: in practical terms, how
will pupils print from these devices? Or
save content? How will teachers receive
work and mark it?
Testing the use of iPads as research
tools in class has gone well - and there
is no doubt the
children respond positively to mobile
learning. The new academic year will see
further trials: with individual Year 4 staff
teaching multiple subjects to the same
pupils in the same building; in Learning
Support for one-to-one lessons with
different pupils in the same room; and
Reception will test group-based learning.
The Dragon will continue to discover
which devices work best, and how to
balance book-based and digital resources.
The ultimate goal is to understand how
the new technology can alter teaching and
learning with the opportunity to present
teaching materials to pupils in ways
which suit individual learning styles. The
school also acknowledges that proximity
to information has changed forever.
People in the developed world can have
almost immediate access to information
and as a result what we remember, and
how we remember, is changing. How
many of us remember our friends’ mobile
numbers now? However, faster access
to information is not the same as having
knowledge. The Dragon’s aim will be to
help children gain access to a wealth of
information, give them a toolkit for how to
deal with it and show them how to identify
what it is important to remember.
So far, then, the evidence supports
the introduction of tablet devices and
mobile learning as potentially beneficial to
both teachers and pupils. The Dragon will
continue to adopt the best examples and
embed mobile digital learning within its
well-established culture of learning how
to learn.
Mobile learning is
something entirely
new which is
redefining the potential
of ICT in education
D R A G O N S T O D A Y . S U M M E R 2 0 1 3
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