Stripping back the issues and using a 'tech stack' approach to solving them, James Carroll runs through how schools can adapt and put in place the foundations for a powerful, user-friendly 1:1 iPad set-up for teaching and learning.
We look at the challenges and hidden weaknesses faced by teachers and schools using adapted for business technology for classroom, remote and blended teaching and learning.
Focusing on teacher workflows, Catherine Jessey, a practicing teacher and Apple Distinguished Educator, demonstrates how Sparkjar's app has used the 'tech stack approach' to transform teaching provision and usher in the new generation of edtech.
As background, James sets the context and looks ahead at the powerful role that iPad technology will play over the next 12 months, and what makes Sparkjar a uniquely powerful choice for school leaders:
The Sparkjar journey began 3 years ago. Having previously pioneered app technology for secure environments including Barclays Bank and the BBC, we looked to schools and it seemed that the natural next step for them was 1:1 devices. We approached the build with:-
- a primary focus on supporting the breadth of teacher workflows
- delivering a simple but powerful user interface
- addressing the weaknesses of old generation edtech
Everything about Sparkjar is powerful, robust and very easy to use. From the outset we have consulted with teachers and school leaders, starting with the big vision but looking at details from scratch, drawing on the latest advances in technology from other sectors.
- we chose to use Lightwave technology from the Gaming industry to create a super-fast and reliable base that will work on limited, poor or no WiFi
- acutely aware of the safeguarding and GDPR priorities, we've drawn on developments from the Defence sector to underpin Sparkjar's SchoolSafe™ video
- we've adapted features from 'grown-up' conferencing and project management software approaches to meet the unique but very important needs of schools
Before Covid-19 hit, Sparkjar was working really well in schools, but what has been very exciting is seeing how quickly those schools were able to switch to remote lessons and run a full timetable almost instantly. Both teachers and students were used to using 1:1 iPads in lessons and beyond.
Now that schools are back, Sparkjar is proving to be a safe and solid solution for schools where classes are split between onsite, self-isolating and shielding students. In short, it's way ahead of any other edtech, or corporate software, for blended learning provision and that's likely to become increasingly important over the next few months, as school focus on managing the widening attainment gap.
What we're seeing now is a rapid move towards 1:1 iPad rollouts in schools. Some of the leading MATs, like Oasis Community Learning and its Oasis Horizons project (30,000 iPad roll out to all 52 schools), are taking bold steps. We expect to see more schools move in this direction imminently.
In terms of where we see the short term trends in schools, with hardware in place and access to a wealth of online content and resources, the next step is putting in place a whole-school framework for managing and delivering teaching and learning. Without that, school leaders and department heads will find it hard to retain oversight of what's happening in classes and to unify departments across schools. Where a school MIS manages the 'behind the scenes' workings of a school, Sparkjar's app essentially delivers a whole-school system for the teaching and learning side of activities - I suppose in other industries they'd call it 'front of house'.
So instead of having to host and integrate an array of different apps, software and hardware for teaching activities (homework setting, resource filing, printing, providing lessons for students that have missed classes, remote learning set-ups, learning walks, collaboration), schools and teachers can have everything in one place.
We're looking forward to the next few months and to rolling Sparkjar out to new schools. It feels very much like we're in the right place at the right time – and that's a good place to be.