Jay is the director and co-founder of acclaimed educational consultancy Learn Maker, based in Manchester, England. Jay started his career teaching music then worked for Apple Corporate for a number of years before transitioning into education sales.
Working at two of the largest Apple Education resellers in the UK, Jay was involved in some of the largest mobile device deployments in the UK.
What led to the formation of Learn Maker?
At the time I'd worked in the Apple reseller channel for over 2 years, selling Apple hardware to schools. I worked across the North of England, and I'd be meeting a new school every day at least typically. I'd meet schools and teachers from across the UK education system, from leafy primary schools to leading independents, and the thing that struck me was the lack of support available to schools once they had bought their iPads. I've always been an educator at heart, and I felt I was becoming part of the problem rather than part of the solution. In sales companies targets only ever go up, and I didn't want to be selling iPads to schools who weren't ready. I decided to quit and focus on the how I could support schools.
What sorts of work do you do with schools?
Our main goal with LearnMaker is "raising attainment with technology." Much of the training and support out there for schools using iPad is focused on the apps. We focus on the pedagogy. A lot of what we do is to work towards the school's goals. It sounds like common sense but from what I know we're the first to take this project based approach to training for schools.
Are there any particular success stories that you're especially proud of?
We're half way through a particular exciting project with Broadgreen International School where we're turning around their maths department through the use of iPad. Over 13 weeks we're training their maths teachers to the highest standards possible. We have 8 core goals for the project, which at the top sits raising attainment. We've worked heavily on developing their existing curriculum and schemes of work further with the iPad. Using apps like Showbie we've already seen their marking reduce from an hour per class to just 15 minutes, and the next stage of the project is to begin exploring flipped learning resources using YouTube. We're confident that by the end we'll hit all 8 goals.
What do see as the single biggest benefit of the use of mobile technology in the classroom?
It's about differentiating between students, and creating a personalised learning experience for each. A teacher's biggest challenge is time, but mobile technology as the ability to expand time. Learning no longer finishes when the final bell rings. Wit mobile technology students can access lessons at home, research topics ahead of their time and can have an open dialogue with teachers on feedback through audio/video/message feedback. It creates a 24/7 learning environment and that gives student's the best chance of realising their potential.
What is the most common mistake that you see schools make when they deploy ipads for the first time?
Vision and planning. Technology is only a tool for teachers to use, but if schools haven't planned how they will use them the impact from iPads will be minimal. Unfortunately the majority of the schools I've worked with in the last 2 years have fallen into this trap. My advice is always the same, where do you want your school to be in 3 years time and how will technology help you achieve that? Set the goal, then work backwards figuring out step by step what actions you need to take.
You've dealt with schools employing BYOD. How valid an option do you feel this can be?
I've worked on a few BYOD schemes. They're very popular at FE/HE but I don't see it as a valid option for schools at this stage. The problem is they present more challenges than benefits. It's a grey area whether schools are allowed to manage student owned devices, and add to that the wealth of platforms and devices that students own it makes any technical based control near impossible to implement. The bigger difficulty is in terms of pedagogy, as there's no one program where you can create content for all platforms. This renders the devices little more than research/typing tools within lessons which students can access their music, movies and games on.
Are there certain core apps that you always recommend to schools?
In secondary schools I only recommend 3. iTunes U, Showbie and Explain Everything. Through those 3 apps you can deliver flipped learning, transform your marking and feedback process and give students access to 'screencasts' from lessons to support uptake of key concepts from class. Those 3 will transform your school if deployed correctly.
Do you find that schools are starting to realise that apps for creating content rather than subject specific apps for absorbing content have more potential across the curriculum?
I think they are, but I believe the rate is still too slow. I recently attended an iPad TeachMeet in Greater Manchester and was disappointed to see all the teachers demoing apps. Not one mention of pedagogy all evening. There's a long way to go in the UK and I don't think things will improve whole scale unless schools support and a framework from above.
How about a 'desert island app' - is there one single app that you couldn't live without?
Explain Everything by a long distance. The ability to let teachers record screencasts is so powerful. It's fully cross curricular and by uploading those recordings to either the VLE or YouTube gives students access to them at any time.
You started your career as a music teacher, aside from GarageBand are there any other apps for music education that you recommend?
It depends on how open the school is. For me music is all about expression, and I think the current curriculum is a little basic in terms of the technology aspects of music making.
GarageBand is still the king for iPad music making, but Korg's iKaossilator app is so much fun, and as a guitarist AmpliTube (with the iRig plugin attachment) is a must.
What's next for LearnMaker?
To continue working on exciting iPad projects and do our part to help make a difference to education. We've got lots of great training events for teachers to attend over the summer and I'm sure lots of exciting things will happen on the way.
How can people get in touch with you and keep up to date with what you're doing?
You can email us directly at email@example.com. We regularly blog on atblog.learnmaker.co.uk and shortly we'll have a weekly newsletter going out so everyone can keep up to date with our latest thoughts, tutorials and insights straight in their inbox.