We spoke with Adam Foster, developer of the Teacher Guide to iPad app and UK-based iPAd trainer at iLearn2.co.uk. Adam talks about the development of his app, the types of ideas that it contains as well as his views on concepts like BYOD.
Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I have been teaching in Preparatory School in the UK for the past 9 years as a Form Teacher and ICT Co-ordinator. We started using iPads 4 years ago and since then I have reduced my teaching down to part-time so I can support other schools with training, as well as work on the app.
Have you always been a tech-minded educator?
Not particularly. I don't consider myself a geek at all. My philosophy with technology both at home and school is that I only use it when it enhances activities. I don't buy into the gimmicky aspect of technology really.
In your opinion, what is it that the iPad offers that is most valuable to modern educators?
Many people say that the iPad is a wonderful learning tool. Yes, you can learn from it by reading books, interacting with objects, Internet, watching videos etc. However, from using iPads in my lessons for a number of years now I feel that the most valuable aspect is the freedom and confidence it provides for pupils to share their learning and knowledge back with the teacher in different ways, be it audio, video, drawing, images, text or a combination. Pupils mature into better learners and communicators because they have more possibilities of connecting with the topics they are studying.
What sorts of training do you deliver on iPad use?
Mainly to Primary Schools where I deliver INSET sessions to connect the iPad's features and apps with the Curriculum in aspects such as animation, movie creation, eBook and assessment. I also spend a lot of time working with teachers and pupils in lessons so we can put those curriculum links and tools into use. I'm also an Apple Education Trainer so I deliver courses from the Apple Professional Development catalogue.
What are your views on BYOD and its relevance to modern schools?
Most of the schools I support are Primary schools where BYOD is not really an option. From a teaching perspective with BYOD then it can be a challenge because of the array of devices pupils could have both at home and in school. However, open ended tasks that are not app or device specific can give freedom of expression to pupils. Another issue I have come across in schools is peer pressure which devices pupils have. I think there are many factors: technical, social and educationally that have to be discussed before BYOD works.
Are there certain apps that you always recommend to educators?
Book Creator, I Can Animate, Explain Everything, iMovie, Do Ink Green Screen, Hopscotch and Showbie. You can do some much with just a few core apps.
What about your 'Desert Island App' - is there one app above all others that you couldn't live without in the classroom?
Easy. Book Creator. The app we have used most across all subject areas and age groups. A 'blank canvas app' that pupils can use to share learning, teachers can make resources with and
it is also is a nice presentation tool to share school work with parents in newsletters etc.
What would be your first piece of advice to an educator who is just starting to harness mobile technology in the class?
Less is more. Start with a few apps and build ideas and uses around those. Schools can go crazy when they first buy iPads and litter them with with hundreds of apps. This only reduces teacher confidence. I have seen it happen on dozens of occasions.
What lead you to develop your Teacher Guide to iPad app?
I wrote it as an eBook in 2012 and updated it a few times over the next few years. However, sharing ideas with teachers quickly in updates is difficult in a book format because you cannot navigate the reader to a new idea without a messy contents page. Also, the book included video tutorials that were stored on the iPad itself, taking up valuable storage space. Therefore I designed an app version that opened up new possibilities, including teachers being able to favourite ideas, a section for the latest ideas and tutorials and the video being streamed instead of local to the app.
The app version gives me full control of how it looks and works so I created something that I would find useful as a teacher myself. A friend of mine who programs apps joined my company and the whole thing was created in 4 months. The key with it was not present a long list of apps like many websites and blogs do, rather lesson activity ideas and tutorials for apps that schools will probably already own.
What sorts of subject areas are covered?
Virtually all subject areas of covered. You can find ideas by subject or app plus there is a search tool to breakdown the ideas into keywords or topics.
Out of all the ideas in the app, is there one which you are most proud of?
That's a difficult if not impossible question. There are lots of Book Creator ideas I am proud of and iMovie too. If I had to choose one it would be using I Can Animate app to use the iPad's camera to capture a seed growing or shadow moving across the playground.
My answer may be different tomorrow though.
How often do you add new content to the app?
Every 4-6 weeks. The new ideas and tutorials appear in the dedicated 'New' section so teachers can find all the new stuff ideas quickly.
What's next for you Adam?
Carry on teaching and pushing the app forward as there are lots of possibilities for it. We are also working on another app at the moment but I can't say too much about that just yet.
How can people keep up to date with everything you're up to?