Time spent behind a computer screen was once seen as the enemy of learning but now, schools are using tablets to greatly enhance the classroom experience ...

LUNCHTIME on a wet and windy Monday at Holyrood Secondary, and inside the busy school, the Digital Ambassadors are already hard at work.

Their small HQ, a classroom tucked away in the Glasgow school’s admin corridor, is busy with staff and pupils keen to take advantage of the team’s expert knowledge and friendly advice,

“We help anyone who has questions about how to use the apps, or the iPad in general,” explains fifth year Simon Korzeniowski, 16.

“I have always been interested in technology so when I heard we were all getting tablets and would be using them at school and at home, I was keen to get involved.”
Holyrood Secondary is one of the pilot schools kicking off the biggest digital education project in Europe. 

More than 50,000 iPads will be distributed to children and young people from primary six to sixth year in nurseries and schools across the city, as part a deal between Glasgow City Council and global technology firm CGI. 

Pupils from St Thomas Aquinas Secondary in Knightswood were the first in the city to receive the devices, and by 2021, every Glasgow primary and secondary teacher and their pupils will have access to them. 
Holyrood Secondary pupils have had the tablets since August.

HeraldScotland:

SCREEN TIME: Holyrood Academy’s digital ambassadors Konrad Sztark (S1), Reza Tahmid (S5), Szymon Koreriowski (S5), Katie Kocinska (S2) and Cameron Tod (S3).

Headteacher Sharon Watson explains: “The tablets are tools to enhance the excellent learning and teaching already taking place here. We want to use them to increase the pace of learning, and ultimately, to reduce the attainment gap.”

Teachers have been enthusiastic about the new technology, says Mrs Watson. Our staff are always coming up with new ways to use it in the classroom,” she adds. 

“We also held information evenings for parents, who, understandably, had many questions – does this mean no more jotters and books? 

“Is digital technology suddenly more important than numeracy and literacy? 

“It’s important to reassure parents that no, of course it does not mean the end of ‘traditional learning’ – it is an addition, rather than a replacement. 

“Many children do not have access to this kind of technology at home, so this is a way to open doors for all.”

HeraldScotland:

CLASS ACT: Headteacher Sharon Watson believes "tablets are tools to enhance the excellent learning and teaching already taking place here"

The iPads have access to a range of useful apps, with a focus on cyber safety, and allow teachers to set homework electronically and give recorded feedback on work that pupils can listen to.

Mary Gunn, Principal Teacher of Digital Learning and Communication, has played a pivotal role in the implementation of the programme at Holyrood.

“This is a really exciting project, which will equip our young people with the skills they need for their jobs and lives in the future,” she says. “I am especially proud of our young Digital Ambassadors.”

For fifth year Digital Ambassador Reza Tahmid, 16, the benefits of the new iPads are many. “It encourages us to use less paper, and gives us much more immediate access to things like past papers when we are studying for our exams,” he says.

Katie Kozinska, 13, who is in second year, adds: “I became a Digital Ambassador because I wanted to help people. It’s teaching us a lot of skills, too, which will really benefit us.”

Third year pupil Cameron Tod, 14 says: “At first I thought there might be problems with it, because pupils would spend time on their iPads and be distracted but it has been really good.”

Konrad Stark, 12, who is in first year adds: “It’s exciting. I’m really proud to be part of this new era in education.”

Karen Cooper principal teacher of English as an Additional Language, believes the new technology will help with inclusion in a school where more than 70 languages are spoken.

“The beauty of this is that it can boost independent learning skills,” she says. “A variety of apps allow pupils to respond in ways that are not language-dependent. That makes a huge difference to a student who has previously had to, for example, bring out a bilingual dictionary, which can create stigma.”

Claire Harvey, quality improvement officer with responsibility for digital learning, said the project was about preparing children and young people for a digital future.

“The project is not just about technology, it focuses on learning and teaching and of course, the young people are at the heart of every aspect of it,” she explains.

“Around 90 per cent of jobs in Scotland involve digital work, so our pupils will be ready for the workplace. This is new for us and for CGI, but it has been a fantastic partnership. They have really listened to the teachers and the project has evolved as a result.”

Principal Teacher of Art and Design Laurie Gibb sums it up.

“For so long, we were behind in the technology our students were used to using at home,” she says. “Now we have caught up and gone past in one fell swoop – it feels like we have leapt 12 years in two minutes, in the best possible way.”

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‘Textbooks are no substitute for real life’

New rollout of tablet devices in Scottish classrooms has led to a ‘real-time’ revolution in language education for pupils and teachers

IN MRS MacInnes’s French class at Holyrood Secondary on Glasgow’s south side, city tourist spots both famous and less conventional are being discussed.

“On pourra visiter le parc Glasgow Green,” says one pupil, while another suggests ‘le stade de football’, ‘le centre sportif’ and the local chip shop – although the latter idea is not quite as popular with his classmates.

HeraldScotland:

L-R Principal Teacher (PT) of Modern Languages Louisa MacInnes, PT of Digital Learning Mary Gunn, Head Teacher Sharon Watson, QIO for digital Learning Claire Harvey and PT for Art & Design Laurie Gibb

The third year students are taking part in a Modern Languages e-twinning project which will culminate in young people from five overseas schools coming to Glasgow in the summer.

With the help of iPads, the class is researching places their visitors might like to experience during their stay. Later on, the pupils will be sharing what they have discovered with their French-speaking counterparts via a live digital link.

This is a French project for the 21st century, and class teacher Louisa MacInnes is impressed.

“One of the biggest challenges in modern languages is how to make the learning relevant and real,” she says.

“This way, our partner schools in the Czech Republic, Canary Islands, Poland, Slovenia and France, can see straightaway what our pupils have discovered – it saves time, and is much more fun for the young people involved.”

Mrs MacInnes, who is Principal Teacher of Modern Languages at the school, adds: “It has also been very interesting for our students to learn more about what is in their own town, and to get that across to their visitors. It has really enhanced the learning we have been doing around this topic.”

HeraldScotland:

THE MAGIC TOUCH : Principal Teacher of Modern Languages Louisa MacInnes believes the tablets give her a great advantage by allowing her pupils to speak to youngsters in other countries instantaneously.

Next door, newly qualified teacher Gemma Graham is equally enthusiastic. Her students, also third years, are researching Spanish foodstuffs to prepare a short video presentation.

“The apps make learning more visible,” she agrees. “Textbooks are very useful, but they are no substitute for real life.”

A small group of pupils researching tapas recipes admit to having some reservations about the introduction of tablets to the classroom.

“I think it’s good, but it can be quite annoying if you run out charge or forget to bring it,” points out one.

“I don’t mind having digital technology in the classroom but we should have jotters and books as well,” says her friend. “There has to be a mix because we can’t use the tablets all the time, it’s not practical.”

A third points out: “It does mean we don’t have to wait ages to get into the ICT suite, though, which is great.”