“It is important to remember that educational software, is only one tool in the learning process. Neither can be a substitute for well-trained teachers, leadership, and parental involvement.” – Keith Krueger
I wonder to what extent we agree with this quote from Krueger? Most definitely for me, technology and ICT has a huge role in enhancing learning and teaching within our classrooms. In my opinion, it should be an integral part of lessons, meaningfully delivered by great teachers and not something added on, to tick a box. ICT can, most definitely, enhance lessons for pupils but can it also help teachers to work smarter?
When Santa was kind enough to treat me to an iPad for Christmas, I must admit, my main motivation for choosing this particular gift was the possibilities it might provide within my Art and Design classroom and not so that I could waste hours of my personal life to Candy Crush or Netflix. My primary interest was in the use of Idoceo as a tool for tracking and monitoring, having heard so much about it from fellow art educational ‘tweeters’ south of the border. I hoped that this app might finally be what I’d been looking for in terms of a way to visually record pupil progress within Art and Design. Let’s just say I got a lot more than I bargained for…
Initially it took a wee while to get the hang of Idoceo’s functionality and the wide range of ways in which it can be used. I started by inputting all my class data for each year group, using the really helpful website tutorials as guidance. Very quickly, I was up and running and visualizing the power which this app could have in transforming learning and teaching within my classroom. On Day 1, I was keen to show off my new toy to my Higher pupils and explain how I was now able to photograph their artwork, essentially tagging this under their name within the class register. Pupils were keen to have their work photographed and it instantly helped capture their progress at a given point. This was helpful for me to later look back on and instantly see pupil improvement visually but also to aid feedback discussions with pupils on how to improve work and identifying next steps. As I became more confident, I was able to quickly work around other classes photographing their paintings, graffiti ideas boards, and recording evidence of learning. The app has allowed me to record written comments about pupil progress or to record video or audio feedback to aid discussions with pupils. I have yet to encounter how powerful this will be during parent’s evenings, however I have already found it particularly useful during a one to one meeting with a concerned parent. At the touch of the screen, I was able to easily show the parent the progress of her child’s Expressive unit and the areas identified as next steps.
I have now found myself using the Idoceo app to record attendance, homework and test scores quickly and easily. Tonight I sat and did my planning for the week within the schedule for each class, and my paper planner has literally become defunct. At last week’s staff meeting I swapped my notepad and colourful gel pens for my iPad and challenged myself to use technology instead. This actually saved me time because I was able to quickly email my notes from the meeting to absent colleagues within the department instead of then spending another 10 minutes typing up an email. I now write my daily ‘to do’ list within the app and can set reminders for specific classes. Last week, I also purchased a lightening to VGA adapter and this has further opened up the possibilities as now I can use my interactive whiteboard to project my iPad for all pupils to see. This came in handy last Thursday when I had prepared a range of visual resources to inspire pupils and added them as a note to the class pinboard within the app. I was then easily able to share this with the whole class on the projector as opposed to finding the images on iPad and then emailing them to my school account to access. My own next steps are now to uncover the possibilities for capturing all of this data and producing an overall pupil report which can be printed, saved or emailed to parents or staff in order to allow others to view and understand progress. You could say I’m converted. So much potential to not only effectively record pupil evidence and progress of learning but more than that, to allow meaningful discussion with pupils, parents and other staff in order to improve.
I’ll be the first to admit that for me it was a challenge to give up my notepad and coloured gel pens of which I am so protective off. Initially, I found myself doubling my workload by planning in more than one place; on both my iPad as well as a paper copy almost like a comfort blanket. I found it difficult to let go of my previous need to have everything written down on paper, however it really is amazing how quickly I am adapting. And once I was completely comfortable with the app’s ability to back up data to Dropbox, Googledrive or iCloud, I felt a bit more reassured. Now I feel like I truly am working smarter.
However, I suppose I’m still very much at the start of my journey towards being paperless. Whilst I can see the huge potential of an app such as this due to its ease of use and instant ability to record, track and monitor pupil progress visually, in video or audio format, I do however feel challenged by the assortment of systems we have in place for doing this. In today’s world, I think it’s vital that we are working smarter not harder, and are using systems which are integral to learning and teaching. Currently, within my department we use Seemis as a whole school tracking system, however we also have a departmental approach to tracking and monitoring as we feel the Seemis system does not work effectively or provide enough information for us as a department. Now I have found the possibilities of Idoceo, I feel that by far this is app is the most useful and effective form of tracking and monitoring for the department. But surely it cannot be productive to have three different systems in place? In addition, the obvious cost implications of using Idoceo as a department tool would require the purchase of iPads, however I am determined not to let that daunt us.
We still have lots to discuss, lots to try out and lots to learn before I believe we as a department are in a position to decide on our most effective method of tracking and monitoring. However, I do believe that whilst iDoceo is most definitely not a substitute for effective teachers, strong leadership and parental involvement as Krueger suggests, it is indeed a very effective tool in capturing effective everyday interactions with pupils. And that, in my opinion, can only be a good thing.