Using mobile technology to ‘redefine’ learning

boy-with-ipad-smilingFor the ninth year, SSAT has celebrated and shared outstanding practice from schools across the country in the Achievement Show – this year, back at the site of the original show, the Emirates Stadium, North London.

Leaders and teachers from over 50 schools gave presentations of no longer than 45 minutes, highlighting their challenges and successes. Most importantly, the speakers gave the detail, and advice on what worked and what didn’t, and why.

The presentations covered a wide range of subjects and approaches: there was something there for everyone. Over the next week, we are publishing on our blog reports from a small selection, covering mobile technology in and outside the classroom, motivating disparate categories of students, retaining learning, school radio stations, special needs education, and oracy in young people from severely deprived backgrounds.

We began with Greg Hughes’ session on the impact of learning technologies at de Ferrers Academy. This second report unpacks Nick Murray’s session on the four main reasons to invest in mobile technology…

Nick Murray, head of e-learning and e-safety at Wood Green Academy, started his presentation to the Achievement Show by posing the question: why invest in mobile technology? He thought there were four main reasons, each of which provoked further questions:

  • increasing engagement
  • creating flexible and responsive learning experiences
  • supporting teachers and students in and beyond the classroom
  • streamlining and maintaining ICT provision for all the students for whom it is relevant.

In each case, a key question is: how? Considering the higher levels of Puentedura’s SAMR model – modification and redefinition – Nick Murray explained that to qualify as modification, technology must be used to significantly modify the original task, for example by introducing student collaboration. This may involve creating storyboards, adding music or visual material, working together and communicating the result to the community (in school and/or beyond).

The top level, redefinition, requires creation of a new task, which is uniquely made possible by the new technology. “This is our challenge. We can do this with, say, instant peer evaluation: information technology can accelerate the process or extend the task in new directions. For example, the teacher can take a photo of a learner’s work and annotate and display it live within the lesson.

“This is an ongoing conversation I’m having with heads or department and practitioners.”

“Drop the e from e-learning. It’s just another learning tool.”

Readily conceding that his school’s implementation of e-learning is well behind that of some other schools such as The Cooper’s School, Bicester and The de Ferrers Academy, Burton on Trent, he described how they started in Spring 2015 with iPads for 20 teachers, progressing to the latest stage, where all 240 sixth formers have the devices on loan.

Structures and processes

E-learning is now a priority in the school calendar, with clear structures and staff responsibilities, bespoke CPD support for subject leaders and an innovation unit which provides demo lessons for staff. Also:

  • A ‘market place’ shows successes, barriers and their solutions.
  • A steering group ensures continuing dialogue and discussion, with surveys to identify issues.
  • Flexible support includes drop-in sessions and twilight CPD.
  • And sixth formers are supported with a range of activities to encourage experimentation and skills development.


One of the sixth formers’ uses of the technology is in a self-evaluation cycle. They can record their presentations, play them back to themselves, then re-record to improve them. “The security of that loop builds confidence and makes them more independent learners. They’re now producing very professional content, they are proud of their work and happy to share it with their peers. So these apps are creative, but also very useful.”

The apps used include Adobe Voice (for student-generated video presentations), Evernote, Explain Everything, iStudent, Quizlet, Aurasma, Plickers, Padlet, Socrative, iBooks, Kerboodle online books, and iMovie for practical demonstrations in art and technology (links to all apps at the foot of this article).

Assessment for learning

So mobile technology can be used to enhance assessment for learning in a number of ways:

  • Real-time feedback
  • Facilitating hinge questions to differentiate challenge
  • Increasing learner engagement
  • Facilitating flexibility through instantly identifying and responding to learners’ needs.

It also helps greatly with flipped learning, as mobile devices are highly suited to the basic study tasks that students are then expected to do at home, reserving more complex discussions for class.

In an experiment, one Wood Green biology teacher divided classes into equal groups studying via flipped learning and conventionally. In every case, the test results were better with flipped learning.

Teacher-student collaboration is also easier, quicker and more effective. “Information-sharing applications have really created a virtual classroom. Students can send work to me at any time. Marking is not the typical tick and flick: I can send them an audio clip in which I talk about the work, so it’s much more personal to the student. And you can put a lot more words in a 30-second comment than if you wrote it down.”

Engagement and motivation

Nick Murray concluded by emphasising the positive effects of using these technologies in ambitious ways: “the students come out of their lessons absolutely fired up.” And he is still impressed by the resulting “positivity for the students, and more importantly the staff working with it. For me, it’s all about engaging the staff in the right way.”

The next steps for Wood Green include more class sets of tablets. They are reconsidering iPads because of the cost, though any replacement must be portable. Nick Murray has ambitions to share learning not just between classes but with other schools.

Check out photos from the SSAT Achievement Show 2016 on our Facebook page.

Follow SSAT on Twitter.

Find out more about Adobe Voice.

Find out more about Evernote.

Find out more about Explain Everything.

Find out more about iStudent.

Find out more about Quizlet.

Find out more about Aurasma.

Find out more about Plickers.

Find out more about Padlet.

Find out more about Socrative.

Find out more about iBooks.

Find out more about Kerboodle.

Find out more about iMovie.

Check out photos from the SSAT Achievement Show 2016 on our Facebook page.

Follow SSAT on Twitter.

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