Category Archives: iPad

A Fresh Approach to PD

Professional-Development-Picture-e1351198680108Professional development and staff training in a school is always a sore point. Teachers, as we all know, are very busy people. When they are not busy in the classroom they are often coaching on the sports fields, involved in parent meetings or sitting in other school-related meetings, amongst other things. Their time is often not their own and to make time for any training or Professional Development is extremely difficult. There are only so many hours in a day, and to expect teachers to come in to school in the evenings when it is their family time, is a big ask.

I am very fortunate to work in a forward-thinking environment, where the importance of ongoing Professional Development and training is recognised. It is currently a point of discussion in our school and I sit on a small committee which will look at the various forms of Professional Development and how they can be implemented effectively at our school. It is also recognised that some people do not enjoy working in a large group where they feel intimidated and get left behind. Everyone works and learns at a different pace, some are early adopters and forge ahead while others need to be shown more than once to gain confidence. In my role as head of Digital Learning, I am faced with working with a wide spectrum of abilities and varying degrees of tech knowledge.

We work follow a 1:1 iPad programme in the classroom, but our IT Centre is a Windows lab running Office 2013. Our children are exposed to a multifaceted approach to ICT which is what they will experience in the real world. To prepare them for this they also have integrated IT lessons in the IT Centre for an hour a week, over and above their use of iPads in the classroom. Our teachers run their own IT lessons and they use Windows computers in their classrooms, so their Microsoft Skills need to be kept up to speed too. That is my job – to ensure that they receive the necessary training for effective teaching with the iPads and in the IT Centre. Training is perhaps not the correct word – ‘exposure’ to new and existing tools covers it more effectively.

A new addition to our PD programme is weekly Face Time sessions which run from 7:30am to 9:00am on Friday mornings. I meet with the teachers in one grade (and a one or two of the teachers involved in other learning areas such as Design Technology, Art, Drama etc.) and we look at different aspects of technology which they use in their teaching. Although Face Time was only implemented late last year, and I have only had one session this year, it is has turned out to be the best 90 minutes I have ever spent with these teachers!

I try to break the session into the following sections:

  • iPad-related apps/tools/ideas
  • IT Centre-related tools/ideas (including Microsoft tools)
  • Other – this can include discussions around the use of tech, questions from the teachers, sharing experiences etc.

On Friday I worked with our Grade 6 teachers and the Design Technology teacher and our principal, Arthur Preston also joined us for the session (Aside: I am so grateful for his support in this area. Upper management support is really vital for the successful implementation of technology in a school environment). I did not stick exactly to my proposed agenda above, but we covered the following (It looks like a lot, but working with a small group allows me to be more hands-on and the pace is faster than it would be in a bigger group setting):

  • Kahoot ( – A super game-based learning tool which can be used so effectively in different ways in the classroom – and it works on the iPads!
  • Padlet ( – A super-easy online collaboration tool which has multiple uses in a classroom setting – and it also works on the iPads!
  • QR Codes ( – We looked at how to create QR Codes, how to scan them (Qrafter app or Quick Scan) and different ways to use them in the classroom.
  • Microsoft Office Sway – ( – An exciting new Microsoft presentation tool which is internet based. There is an iPhone app which works on the iPad too.
  • Blogging in 2015 (Our students all blog using Kidblog and the teachers run Grade blogs) – We firmly believe that blogging with a purpose and for a wider audience is key to improving our children’s writing skills, and blogging also fits well into our Digital Citizenship programme.

The teachers loved all the tools mentioned above and they were particularly impressed with Sway. They are very keen to try it out. They particularly liked that it:

A very bad photo I took while the teachers were learning about Sway. I was so engrossed in the session that this is the only photo I took!

A very bad photo I took while the teachers were learning about Sway. I was so engrossed in the session that this is the only photo I took!

  •  Is FREE! (Teachers love anything that is free to use in the classroom).
  • It is online and can therefore be accessed anywhere.
  • It is simple, with not too many fancy features (‘keep it simple’ is my mantra).
  • It has enough features to make it interesting and different.
  • It is user-friendly and quick to learn.
  • It is a lovely alternative to PowerPoint.
  • It is easy to share Sways and the viewers don’t need to sign into any accounts.
  • It works on the iPad, even though there is only an iPhone app– an important feature in our school.
  • It is another tool to add to their Teacher Toolboxes!

I was so keen to share how Sway works, that I introduced it to my daughter who is in Grade 11. She immediately used it for a Design project that was due the next day. When she told her teacher that she had used a new and different presentation tool, the teacher was concerned that she did not have the software on her computer or that it would not be compatible with her computer. I believe she was pleasantly surprised with what she saw.

Take a look for yourself:


Here is the Sway I created while I was teaching myself how to use it:


Next Friday I will be working with our Grade 5 teachers and the following Friday it will be the turn of our Grade 4 teachers. I will share Sway with each of these groups and I feel confident that they will also be as keen to use it as the Grade 6 teachers were. In a three week rotation I get to spend quality time with all the teachers on our staff. They will also be given the chance to share some of their successes with the rest of us at each of these sessions. These small group PD sessions constitute only a fraction of what we hope to develop into a varied and dynamic PD programme over the next year. Professional development is key to staying abreast with all aspects of education – not only technology.


A Visitor From Afar

On Friday last week, we had a visitor come and visit our school all the way from Australia. But before I explain who it was, I have to tell you the story behind the visit!

Last year I struck up a conversation on Twitter with a young man, Michael Graffin (@mgraffin). He co-founded the Global Classroom Project (mentioned in an earlier post) and I was very interested in getting involved. Over the next few months we communicated quite regularly and I got to help with his project by setting up the Facebook group and helping with the Global Classroom Project blog.

Michael is a relief teacher in Perth, Australia and he has recently started working as a research assistant for Dr Jenny Lane at the Edith Cowan University. He has followed our school’s iPad journey with interest and I was pleased to see that he was involved with iPads at the university.

Well, obviously Michael mentioned our pilot project to his boss, because two weeks ago, out of the blue, I got a message on Twitter:


In a jiffy we set up a meeting for 24 Feb – we weren’t missing out on this opportunity!

Dr Jenny Lane is a senior lecturer at the Edith Cowan University. She has a particular interest in applications of technology in learning and the teaching of E-Learning.  She was also awarded a research fellowship for 2012 and is researching the changes in classrooms when teachers are confident users of iPads.  See her blog:

Our meeting, attended by myself, our Head of IT (@maryna_n) and our Senior Primary principal (@artpreston), was a very fruitful one. It seems that teachers all over the world are experiencing very similar issues and apprehensions when it comes to the integration of ICT into the curriculum. It is, however, being driven by the Australian Government and is being included in the new National Teacher Standards for Australia, which are currently being rolled out.

As for iPads, Dr Lane is very excited about their implementation in the classroom, hence the topic for her research this year. What came out of our discussions was the following:

  • Affirmation that our cautious approach (25 school-owned devices for a pilot project) is a wise one – she has implemented a similar approach at the university.
  • Baby steps – try something small, one lesson and let it grow from there.
  • Prior planning is vital.
  • Consultation with the teachers and parents is important.
  • On-going support is essential – not by an ICT boffin, but by a teacher who has intimate knowledge of classroom management.
  • You do not need Wi-Fi to make the device work!

We will stay in contact with Dr Lane and Michael (of course!) so that we can learn from her research and perhaps implement some of the ideas and tips that stem from her blog and possibly contribute to the research from South Africa.

Thanks Michael, for the recommendation! Thanks to Twitter for the amazing contacts!

The day finally arrived!

Yesterday history was made at our school! We placed 25 iPads into the hands of our very eager Grade 6s, and boy, did they surprise us! Most of them had never touched an iPad before, but within minutes they were looking for ways to be creative – they were typing, drawing, taking pictures, using Photo Booth and more! We gave them free rein, time to explore and have fun – and that’s just what they did!

A Sneak Preview!

We are working hard on rolling out our iPads, but I couldn’t resist giving you all a sneak preview!

The lock screen image was designed by Tanya in our Marketing department. Doesn’t it look stunning?

Cross-posted at: –  see you there!

A New Era Has Dawned

We are SO excited! The 25 iPads for our Grade 6s have finally arrived and we will be spending the next week or so getting them prepared for roll out in the classes. This is truly a new era for our school and we are ready to tackle the challenge head-on. I will document our progress here.

Firstly, setting these iPads up is quite a task:

  •        Switch on, sync to a computer and register each device
  •        Name each device (Generic name to match the email address)
  •        Set up a generic email account on each device (for submission of work)
  •        Sync with iTunes and install required apps
  •        Design a funky school-branded home screen and set up on each device
  •        Put screen protectors on the devices


  •        Draw up an Acceptable Use Policy for the teachers and pupils.
  •        Create a wiki for uploading of work, videos etc. for pupils to access.

That’s just to start off! I’m sure I haven’t thought of everything, but I’ll update the list as I go along.

Cross-posted at

iPADMeet @ Elkanah – Join the conversation!

Great news! A spin-off from the first ever TeachMeet at our school, will be our first iPADMeet which will be held on 26 November. At the TeachMeet it became evident that there are a number of teachers and schools looking at or already using iPads. There were many questions around how they were being implemented, ownership, buying of apps, iTunes etc. There and then we realised there was need for a similar TeachMeet forum for the iPad, so here we go…

Our iPADMeet will follow directly after our second TeachMeet. For more details go here.

Please join us and let’s get the conversation started!

Projects, iPads, Presentations and possibly Prezi…

So I’m up to my ears in projects at the moment – three to be exact!

Firstly, small but still a project, I have managed to get our campus onto Twitter!  I am hoping that by using social media as a communication tool, we will enhance our current methods of parent communication so that they become even more effective than they are at present.  We go live on Thursday!

Secondly, we are well into putting together the first ever EdTechConf eXtended @ Elkanah conference. We are coming along nicely and registration will open shortly.  I will post more details about that closer to the time. However, conference planning and co-ordinating is time consuming and since we want to make it a conference to remember, we’re putting quite a bit of energy into it!  I’m loving it and so enjoying working with @artpreston and @timkeller.  These guys have a winning recipe that I believe is going to grow into something they didn’t, in their wildest dreams, imagine they could ever create. And the fact that we are working with them to grow this dream is amazing, to say the least!

Lastly, our iPad project is going full steam ahead, and it is this project that is keeping me the busiest – in fact it consumes my life at present – not that I am complaining!  The more I work with this wonderful device, the more convinced I become that this is a powerful tool for education and that it can change the way teaching and learning takes place.  Yes, there are many little obstacles, but those are mostly in our minds.  We have to change our way of thinking, shift our viewpoints and enable the children to take more responsibility for their learning.  At the SchoolNet ICT in the Classroom conference that I attended recently, I heard the speaker, John Davitt, refer to “struggleware”, in terms of giving children difficult tasks or projects to do and telling them to get on with it.  A little struggling never did anyone any harm and it encourages out-of-the-box thinking and innovation.  Well, I think of the iPads as “struggleware” for teachers!  These devices are pushing our boundaries and encouraging us to step out of our comfort zones, and I believe this is a good thing.  However, having said this, I don’t think the iPad is a difficult device to use and will by no means be “struggleware” for the children. It is an intuitive device and simple to use but since we (at our school) work in an exclusively Windows environment, there are a few issues we need to get our heads around – and getting the teachers to grips with the idea of cloud computing… well, that’s a different story altogether!  My challenge is to get the curriculum mapping underway and we have our first workshop with the Grade 6 teachers on Friday. I look forward to that.

In the lab all is well. Coincidentally all three grades are busy with Natural Science presentations using PowerPoint.  The Grade 4s are looking at different forms of Energy, the Grade 5s are preparing oral presentations on Useful Plants and the Grade 6s are showing their understanding of the workings of the Digestive System – three similar, yet very different tasks with different expectations and outcomes.   Think I should give Prezi a try with the Grade 6s next time… PowerPoint seems so “old fashioned”.  Mmm… food for thought!

Exciting times!

At the end of a school term when things are usually winding down and slowing up, I find myself busier than ever, in the throes of two wonderful projects!

Firstly – the awesome, amazing and all-consuming iPad! This week our Grade 6 teachers took delivery of their iPads and this marked the beginning of our official iPad Project.  We are now faced with the intricate and interesting task of mapping our curriculum to the amazing array of applications (apps) available from the Apple App Store.  We have a huge task ahead of us, but having already done a little of the leg work myself, I have found that it is fun and most definitely addictive!  Once you start, it’s very difficult to stop.  There is so much available, one could work on it for days on end.  However, since we are a team of 7 who will be working on this, each looking at a different learning area, it will be a lot easier and as the saying goes: “Many hands make light work!”  Our first planning session is scheduled for next week.

Secondly, after a great meeting with Arthur Preston (co-creator of the EdTechConf mentioned in an earlier post) yesterday afternoon, it can now be confirmed that our school will be hosting a conference of our own, under the EdTechConf umbrella!  We are so excited about this new partnership and the fact that we will be hosting our own conference.  We have bought totally into the grass-roots concept of the EdTechConf, conceived by Arthur Preston and Tim Keller, and hope to add our own unique spin.  The dates will be announced shortly, once a few minor matters are confirmed.

So, added to the fact that I will also be attending the ICT in the Classroom Conference in Johannesburg in the first week of the holidays, as well as an Apple workshop in the second week of the holidays, my plate is pretty full at the moment.   Am I complaining?  Not a chance!

Update – the long awaited iPad has arrived!

Not long after my previous post, I got a call from my boss.  “Come to my office – I have something for you.”  I just knew it was my iPad, so I bustled over to her office (this involved a 2 minute drive by car, as we are on different campuses), and took delivery of my beautiful “baby”!

Only thing is, you can’t do anything with an iPad before setting up an iTunes account and downloading some apps, so guess what I’ll be doing this afternoon? BIG GRIN!! 😀

iPad-mania strikes!

I am patiently (okay, maybe not so patiently) waiting for my iPad 2 to arrive!  It is on order because apparently the 3G/wi-fi version is as scarce as chicken’s teeth in South Africa, and as luck would have it, that’s the one I want.  So, I just have to hurry up and wait for it to arrive… ho-hum… twiddling my thumbs!!

In the mean time, I am trying to read as much as possible about these beautiful devices.  I am totally new to Apple products, have never used a Mac and so I am totally clueless in this department.  This, however, does not mean that I am not excited about the imminent arrival of my device and what it holds in store for me – and the children at my school.  We are hoping to run an iPad trial in the very near future.  There are many hurdles and obstacles in our way, the main one being the financial implications of such a venture, but I am adamant that when we do, my lack of Apple/Mac product knowledge will no longer be an impediment!  So, in order to learn, I am following blogs and reading up on all things iPad and as I go along, I am creating a list of useful links to share with anyone who reads my blog. (I’ve also convinced my husband to let me use his cell phone upgrade and now I’m investigating the iPhone 4!)

See my growing list of iPad links here.

Here is a close-up of the beauty that is  iPad 2: