Monday, 11 June 2012

How the iPad Change the Pedagogy of a Design & Technology Project

Part 1: How can the iPad change the Pedagogy of a Design & Technology Project?

Having taught the Year 6 Design & Technology unit 6D (Controllable Vehicles) in the same way for the past 6 years with a few improvements here and there, I was looking for complete transformation on how this project is taught using the iPad and how it can bridge the gap between the school curriculum and technology.

The controllable vehicle project, previously involve an introduction session then a demonstration at the beginning of each session. Because of the nature of this task each session had to be sequenced like this; session 1 - Make the Chassis, session 2 - The Axels etc  This method had its flaws. Whilst many children followed the instructions at the beginning of the lesson, this method left others frustrated and required a lot of repetition of instructions. Another flaw was that the more able in the class would usually finish the objective of the session and I'd ask them to support others in the class. Furthermore, everyone in the class had to finished the previous session before they were ready for the next, so there was never any flow. Children just couldn't work at their own pace - it was far too teacher led and offered the children few opportunities to tackle a problem for themselves.

So the question was, how could we (Mr Andrews & Mr Williams) shift this project from teaching centred learning to children centred learning and use the iPad to enhance learning?

Myself and Mr Williams began tackling this issues, by jotting down some initial ideas. It quickly emerged that the only way to shift the pedagogy from teacher led learning to child centred learning was to create a sequence of short videos, which could be accessed at the children's own pace through the iPad. Once we had realised that the solution to our problem was addressed by the iPad, not only could the children have access to the videos, but the creative potential of a range of apps could enrich other areas of the curriculum. Initial ideas including using iMovie to creative a advert which would including a theme tune composed in Garage Band, a poster to promote our end of project motor show, Numbers to create a spreadsheet for cost of parts and hire of equipment with the only boundaries been our creativity and the children's - the potential appeared limitless.

The filming of the video was straight forward, Mr Williams filmed using the video camera on the iPad, whilst I demonstrated the steps to make a controllable vehicle. The videos were edited using iMovies. The only snag being that on the first day of filming we ran out of time, so the following week, for continuity reasons I had to make sure I was wearing the same shirt!

How were we going to get the videos onto numerous iPads? Our first thoughts were to download the videos to Vimeo, as it was one of the download options in iMovies. YouTube's blocked in our school! One major flaw with this option is that our Wireless is notoriously unpredictable and even if it was working to its full capacity I wouldn't be confident that it would stream 15 videos onto the iPads. Next we considered syncing the video using iTunes onto the iPads and putting them into the camera roll, but it didn't feel right, it wasn't slick enough. Then we discovered the perfect solution. We would create an ebook, using Creative Book Builder than could be viewed in iBooks.

Creative Book Builder was perfect for what we wanted. The children could access the videos on each page of the book, we could add chapters for each step, add instructions, equipment and tools that the children could access at their own speed as and when they needed to.

What we did with Creative Book Builder (CBB)

I can't emphasise enough how easy this was. Once you've started a new book, you just simply add the number of chapters you want and edit them. Click Chapter and add an element (see image below). In this case a Title, Paragraph and a Video.

Screenshot of Creative Book Builder

To insert the video into your eBook you just simply select it from your camera roll and it appears in the content the page. By tapping edit you can move, copy, delete or change ordering of any element you've added. Next you click publish and your given the option to Generate Book.

This is where we hit a problem. Whilst processing our eBook it would get stuck at 85% time after time. Creative Book Builder had already created an eBook, using just one video and some text and opened up in iBooks, so we knew that it worked. It was decided to split the eBook into two separate book - that didn't work either! But three books did.

We opened the eBooks in iBooks. The image below show how they appeared on the book shelf (see top left).

Instructional eBooks on the iBooks shelf

We used Strip Designer to create the covers for the eBooks and saved them to the camera roll. Three different coloured covers were chosen, so that the children could easily differentiate between eBooks 1, 2 & 3. In CBB if you haven't already added a cover to your eBook, when you click publish it will ask if you want to add a cover image now?

iBook Cover created in Strip Designer
Below you can see an example page from one of the eBooks:

Step 1: Video, equipment and written instructions

It was decided because we have 60 children in Year 6 that we would need at least 15 iPads  - 1 iPad to every 4 children. The school doesn't have a set of iPads yet that can be accessed by each class, so we organised to collect all teachers iPads (not an easy task) and then download the eBook on to teachers iPads. This was a fairly straight forward process, although things will be made much easier once we've invested in a iPad syncing unit. The iPad on which the eBooks were created was connected to the MacBook and then transferred to Books in iTunes. Each iPad was connected to the MacBook, the eBooks highlighted then synced to each iPad. The iPads were now ready for some real action!

Part 2: How the iPad was used to improve the pedagogy of a Design & Technology Project

Part 2 is going to examine how the iPad was used to improve the pedagogy of a Design & Technology project and allow child initiated learning by motivating the children to discover new skills and knowledge through project based learning.

The hall was set up with tables and chairs for 60 children, materials and equipment the children would need to make their controllable vehicle and teachers iPads were collected and made available - we were ready for action! The children were allowed to choose their partner and sat themselves at a table of four with one iPad on each table. Because there was only 1 iPad between 4 children they would have to work collaboratively, both in their pairs and with others at their table. After a brief introduction concerning safety, protecting the iPad from saws, glue etc, how to access the iBook 'Controllable Vehicles' and having been shown an example of a finished product the children were raring to go.

The Children using the iBook to assist their learning

On the iPads the children had access to an eBook, which included instructions and a sequence of short videos. They could pause, rewind and watch the video as many times as they needed to, as they progressed through the controllable vehicle project. This allowed the children to work in a much more independent way and more importantly at their own pace. When the children were ready to move onto the next section there was a list of equipment they would need, which was available at the front of the hall.
The use of the iPad ebooks (with video) made children secure and confident to try and retry things and by having constant access to the eBook it opened the door to more advanced thinking and problem solving. For example, some children wanted an on/off switch on the side and other investigated the use of extra batteries. The outcomes were excellent. However, there was a minority of children who lacked independence, problem solving skills and basic initiative. These children, to start with anyway, weren't prepared to try and learn from any mistakes - they wanted it doing for them. They were sent back to their table. It didn't matter if they made mistakes, they could learn from them and improve next time. Eventually these children came round the idea that myself or Mr Williams were not going to do their work for them. Had our prescriptive teaching/curriculum mean that children had been moved out their comfort zone because they had never had to take control of their work before and accept responsibility for their role in the learning process? Having said that the majority of children were 'in the zone', and thoroughly enjoying this challenging project.

The focus of the children was exceptional, they were all on task, motivated and fully engaged in what they had to do. It was incredible to see. The head teacher came in and hadn't even realised there were two classes in the hall. He said "there was an incredible working atmosphere!" The children were working autonomously through the project and it also allowed them to work in ways that complemented the various learning styles. Myself and Mr Williams both had to overcome our instinct to step in, the children were clearly enjoying tackling and solving the problems this project presented. It became apparent to us that we had become the 'guides on the sides' and only needed to assist the children if they asked - but this was usually just to remind them to watch a particular part of the video or to read an instruction which was on the eBook. Another notable success was that there was full collaboration from every single child - even from those who had struggled to develop positive relationships all year. On the second day I had to deal with 'ICT issues', but Mr Williams was more than happy to be left on his own - it wasn't a problem. 60 children were getting on with challenging Design & Technology.

There was relatively little whole class teaching, apart from on a few occasions a direct instruction was required. For example, whilst constructing the chassis of the vehicle some children's were clearly too big which could potentially have made things extremely difficult for them later down the line in terms of making a net for the vehicle or having enough power from a small battery to be able to control such a larger vehicle.

The use of the iPad to assist the children's learning was a huge success. It was an outstanding learning experience for the children with such a challenging topic. A huge majority were producing work of a superior quality compared to previous attempt in other years.

Part 3: Using iPads as a creative and innovative approach to learning

The third and final part to the controllable vehicle project puts the children in Year 6 centre stage. After the children had completed their controllable vehicles myself and Mr Williams wanted to continue the project using the iPads and apps creatively and in an innovative way, making maximum use of the built in AV (Audio Visual) tools. Furthermore, we wanted to incorporate as many different subject as we could, whilst still keeping the learning meaningful to the project 'controllable vehicles'.
Below is a list of how the iPads were used over 2 very intensive weeks of work:

  • Designed and made a controllable vehicle (following an iPad video instruction manual made by the teachers)
The children's finished controllable vehicles

  • Used a spreadsheet created in the Numbers app to consider costings for their project, including costs and number of parts and hire of equipment per hour.
A spreadsheet used to work out the costs of parts and hire of equipment
  • Planned a car advert using a storyboard.
The children planned their car adverts using a storyboard
  • Filmed and used the iPad's camera to take videos and still shots of the car, Which would be later edited in iMovies to create an advert for their car. Incorporating self-composed jingles created in Garageband, songs and backing music.
The children's Car Adverts ready for the Car Show
  • The winning advert by Keeley and Hollie:

  • Researched and created a persuasive and informative brochure using marketing words for their vehicle and published this as an eBook using the Creative Book Builder app.
The children's eBook on the iBook's Shelf

An example of children's finished iBook
  • Wrote an ongoing blog about their work which was published to a wide audience and has received immediate global feedback. Visit the children's Year 6 blog for more information
  • Prepared for and delivering a showcase presentation to parents/carers and Key Stage 2 children. Presented and evaluated their controllable vehicle, showed their car advert and car brochure on the big screen.
'The presentations by the children were outstanding, I was amazed
how confidently they spoke!' Year 6 Parent.

Parents & carers, teachers and pupils enjoying the
presentations at the car show.

Outcomes of the Project

Pupil interest and effort was evidently higher than myself and Mr Williams had seen before. What made this remarkable was that this was post SATs and history had taught us that this period was notably a tricky one for Year 6 teachers as children's motivation takes a dip after the SATs are over. The children produced high quality car design, there was an increase in writing levels in blogs and brochures and outstanding video adverts.

The attendance from the parents was amazing! Bearing in mind that the children had only taken a letter home (that they had written themselves) only 2 days prior to the event. Pupils had made sure their parents attended the Car Show because they cared about and valued their work. There was more parental interest and attendance for any other project that we'd been involved in. 

Above all, when the children spoke they demonstrated an astounding depth of knowledge, understanding and confidence. The standards of their spoken presentations were unexpectedly high. Teachers were genuinely staggered.

© 2013 MrAndrewsOnline


  1. Hi David, thanks for this informative reflection. We're embarking on a 1-1 iPad pilot ourselves next August and am interested to read about the experiences that others have had. How would describe the effect that the iPads have had on assessment and differentiation for your class?

    1. Hi Dave Secomb, thanks for the comment. We're going to be rolling out iPads and iPods to the children in September, but only a set of 16 iPads per Key Stage initially and an iPod each for the children in Year 6. So I'll be in a better position to comment on the effects of the iPads on assessment, although apps such as Evernote and Socrative could be big game changers as ways of tracking progress and assessment. Differentiation on the iPad in the main, will be by outcome, especially when using the more creative apps, such as iMovie, GarageBand etc.

  2. Hi David: Thank you for sharing this resource. I teach students at the college level and would be interested to read your thoughts about applying this to adult or post-secondary learning. Dr. J

  3. Hi Dr J, thanks for the comment. I could be way off the mark here (I teach 10-11 years old), but what if your students/adults learners had to come up with their own idea/project and then showcase it to the rest of the class. They must produce a spreadsheet using to calculate costs, produce an advert and poster and brochure to market their product, with very little guidance on which apps to use, concluding with a presentation to their peers!?
    I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this, would this work?

  4. Hello David:

    That’s a very interesting idea.

    It could be utilized in a business course, specifically a marketing class where the app was designed as a means of expanding the social media reach of a business.

    In other words, don’t just create an app for the sake of having a learning activity, use it to solve or address a real world business issue or problem.

    Dr. J

    1. Really appreciate your response Dr J. Amazing to think that a discussion that started as a project aimed at 10 - 11 year old can quickly become a learning activity to address a real world business issue!

  5. Thank you for sharing this. This is a wonderful example of transformative teaching and can serve as a "mentor text" for teachers in my district figuring out how to use the iPads our students are getting.

    1. Thanks myamik. It's great that my blog will be used in such a useful way.

      I'm still coming to term with how global some of the ideas on here have become.

  6. Thanks for sharing this project. I particularly appreciate the integration of the many different types of applications. Your students should take pride in their work. I know that from their parents comments that they were invested in this project. Your idea provides a great inspiration to myself as I try to coach teachers into transforming learning opportunities in a 1:1 computer environment.

    1. Dr. Matthew Martz, I really appreciate your feedback. Just a few months ago this blog started as a resource for the staff at my school to make it easier to find useful apps in education and is now been used as a resources coach teachers. WOW!

  7. We were introduced to your post by Silvia Tolisano today in a professional development session in St. Joseph, Missouri. Our district is doing some piloting with iPads in upper elementary and middle school classrooms, so it is quite helpful with teachers great like you share their very thoughtful reflections so openly. I hope that we have several teachers who see this as a model to share their own thinking. --Jaime Dial

    1. Many thanks for the comment Jaime. It is amazing to hear that this blog is been used for professional development purposes as far away as the USA!

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