When I returned from maternity leave almost a year ago, I found, lurking in the Computing Suite (although it was an ICT suite in those days!) a mysterious looking trolley. It didn’t look anything like the laptop trolleys that were dotted around the school, no, it was far more interesting than that! My curiosity was piqued – I’m a sucker for anything techy. It turned out that, hidden away in this locked trolley, was a whole class set of Learnpads. Of course, having been on maternity leave, I had missed all of the training on how to use them. Well, I liked the look of them, so I hounded our ICT Coordinator (that was his title back then!) until he gave me some training. Within minutes, I was sold. To be honest, having not had any tablets available in school prior to the Learnpads, they could have done anything and I would have been impressed. So the fact that they were easy to use and had so many resources available was an enormous bonus.
I set to work straight away planning some easy lessons where I could use the Learnpads – one of the first was to set up categories for each of Henry VIII’s wives with information and SimpleMind+ so the children could create mind maps of their information. When the time came for the lesson, I was a little apprehensive to say the least: to say I was anywhere near competent with using the Learnpads would be a huge stretch of the imagination, but I was desperate to have a go. I warned the children beforehand that anything could (and probably would!) happen, and that things could go wrong. But, miraculously, they all managed to do their research, the school wireless held up long enough for them to watch some Horrible Histories video clips (they’re available on BBC Class Clips and they’re brilliant!) and they all managed to electronically hand in their mind maps for me to print. A huge success all round! The children were sold too and were desperate to do more.
Since that lesson, the Learnpads have been a regular feature in my lessons, particularly in maths. I have lots of interactive games set up on them for different topics, and lessons set up ready for each of the Maths Passports they are working on. The children have QR codes printed out in their maths trays for the passport lessons: if they are working on them for part of our mental maths practise, they just scan the codes and away they go. We have used Comic Strip It! in science to create evaporation stories and in literacy to create story boards for narrative writing. If I’m honest, I couldn’t do without them now.
The only way to get used to using the Learnpads is to dive in and have a go. If you were to look at the school diary, you would only really see my year group booking them out. This isn’t because the others don’t want to use them: they do, but they didn’t dive straight in and use them. Completely understandable: we all have a hundred and one things to deal with every day, and learning to use a completely new resource takes up valuable time. And the longer you leave using them, the scarier the prospect comes as that training becomes a dim and distant memory. But all it takes is a colleague to show the way: I’m sure my teaching partner wouldn’t mind me saying that she was wary of using them, to say the least. But after only a few sessions with the Learnpads, and lots of questions, she is now happy to use them and is able to troubleshoot some problems herself. Every year group now has a teacher’s Learnpad which is invaluable: now I can plan my lessons online at home and try them out myself, just to spot any glitches in websites or activities. I’m well and truly hooked on them.
So my advice would be this: if you have a wonderful resource like the Learnpads in school, dive in and use them. Ask around to find out what others have done. Share ideas and resources. You will soon get to love them, and the children will love you for it. Unless they are in my class of course: they are very possessive over “their” Learnpads and will be devastated when everyone else has a go and they are no longer permanently parked outside of our classroom door! Whether it’s a Learnpad, an iPad or any-other-Pad that’s out there, they are the way forward. Give them a go and don’t get left behind!