One of the most innovative teachers that we've had the pleasure to meet in the last year is Simon Pile from the UK. Simon is an Apple Distinguished Educator, a film-making enthusiast and has spearheaded dozens of amazing projects using the iPad. We spoke with Simon about his background, his favourite apps and more.
Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I am Assistant Headteacher at Anson Primary School in the London Borough of Brent. As well as being an Apple Distinguished Educator, I am also an Ambassador for Into Film and sit on the Educational Advisory Board for the London Grid for Learning. As Director of iCreate Learning, I use my skill set to create resources for education using Apple technology.
However, my background isn't in technology. In 2002, David Blaine came to London and sat in a Perspex box for 44 days with no food! I saw an opportunity to replicate the activity with the class bear and teach children how to email. The children sent messages encouraging the bear to occupy himself during his 44 days. Each day we would set up a scenario in the box, take a picture and post it on a web page. My journey into the opportunities technology provides began. The TES published the adventures of Barnaby Blaine and the BBC later made an episode of the Barnaby Bear show around my projects. Since then, I've looked for innovative ways to deliver the National Curriculum using technology.
What is your current role and what does it entail?
As Assistant Headteacher and the leader for effective learning at Anson Primary School I have a responsibility to develop teaching and learning at the school. I run training for teachers at the school and across the UK, using inspiring ideas to bring the curriculum to life. I teach on a daily basis to support the teachers across the school and I work on projects that motivate children to learn and to achieve and this is predominantly done with my trusty little iPad.
When did you first use the iPad in the classroom?
Back in early 2010 it became clear that we were about to have a turnover of staff that was unprecedented at the school. I saw an opportunity and flooded my team with the new members of staff in the September. They were four dynamic teachers who were creative and came with no preconceived ideas about the school or the way we taught. I challenged them to use the technology to go paperless and to teach as much as possible with the iPads. We worked hard to find solutions for our planning, content delivery and assessment and set the vision of rolling out the iPad programme to class teachers the following September. The team were so dynamic that all teachers got their own iPad in the January, 9 months ahead of schedule.
What do you consider to be the biggest benefits to using the iPad in education?
For me the biggest benefits of the iPad are the simple ones. It gives students the chance to be creative with so many choices at their fingertips for completing work and sharing it. It gives pupils a chance to collaborate without the boundaries of the classroom wall or the restrictions of the school day. I've seen work shot on film that is instinctive and immediate, capturing moments in a session and sharing them within seconds using Apple TV, that would have taken a few sessions using our old kit. I've seen children engage with tough concepts long after they get home because they can store work in the cloud using apps like Showbie and access the content at home later on.
It's extending the school day and allowing children to retain knowledge far more regularly. All this means I can support the children in lesson time, but also when they need it most. Around exam times, this support is often critical to one or two individuals and helps them stay calm and achieve their very best. Without the mobility of the iPad, this kind of support just wouldn't be possible.
What are the common pitfalls that you see teachers falling into when they begin to use the iPad in the classroom?
For a lot of teachers they think the iPad is the answer and they do what they've always done. I've seen some teachers use the iPad to take pictures of flash cards and then sit in front of the class flicking through the gallery in the same way they've always flicked through the cards. In that instance they couldn't even see the screen because of the reflection of light. Teachers think they are breaking new ground just by having the iPad. It's not what you've got, it's what you do with it.
Is there one project that you have developed with the iPad that stands out?
We've utilised Siri to explore geography, maths and history. However, it's often the simplest projects that have the biggest impact. Recently we've taught drawing 2D shape, making 3D shape and rotation of shape using Keynote and Explain Everything resulting in the children using the iPad to make their own holograms. They'll never forget how to rotate shape having seen their face as a hologram.
What would be your 'desert island app' - the one app you can't live without?
For me it's Keynote. I made 210 videos, one for each statement in the mathematics curriculum, to help parents at home understand how we teach maths for the whole primary age range. The Maths at Home resource on the London Grid for Learning is available to 97% of London schools and was made using green screen animations in Keynote that were then imported into Final Cut Pro. I use Keynote to animate, to present, to create stories, to rotate shapes and so many more applications. The magic move feature allows incredible sequencing.
You're a big supporter of emerging technology like VR and AR. Do you see these as the next big thing in education technology?
Augmented Reality is incredible and becoming much easier to use and create content. Virtual Reality is becoming a passion of mine. I have a vision to bring London to life for a global audience. Imagine being able to experience St. Paul's Catherdral or Westminster Abbey by wearing a pair of goggles and having a 360 degree view of the building, from the inside. Pair that with a narrative and hotspots in the building and I think it's a resource that could change the way we access buildings around the world. It's more than a gimmick. It has real potential as we've seen from recent examples on Sky News, the BBC and the New York Times.
You recently developed some content with Blippar, can you tell us a little about this project?
Blippar has huge potential for the development of AR in the education sector. While their primary aim is to become the number one visual search engine globally, for me the ability to create AR sequences and multiple hotspots within an experience is exciting. Imagine teaching the human body and being able to literally swipe away layers of the body to see the respiratory, circulatory or muscular systems.
I've created that content using the Blippar platform. It opens up opportunities to collate information together in one AR experience. Imagine being able to hear from all of Henry VIIIs wives and explore his music, hobbies and interests all from hovering over an image of his face. I've written a book, Interactive Institutions, which outlines some of this content and is available in the Apple Store.
However, it isn't just schools. I recently presented to the Association of Journalists in Education about how the Blippar platform could bring news events to life. For example, imagine there is a protest in a city. After the event you could obtain a photograph of the image. When you hover your iPad over it the image comes to life with hotspots on members of the crowd. You would have the opportunity to listen to the people in the crowd sharing their thoughts, interact with the banners, hear from the Police or visit websites of the unions involved. It's potentially an exciting way to present a news story, or the source information required to put the news story together yourself.
You have also developed some interesting projects involving film production. What led you to these?
I've always loved film. Ever since I was young I've absorbed myself in watching films and learning more about how they are made and the people behind them. Back in 2009 I set up a film club in my school which took place in a classroom and had just 16 members. 7 years on and we have over 100 members (50% of all eligible children) and the screenings take place in the school hall. I invest a lot of time ensuring children are not passively absorbing the experience and this has led to the club being named Film Club of the Year at the 2015 Into Film Awards.
Film is powerful. It's providing our children with real world experiences. It's giving them aspiration to become spacemen, lawyers, doctors, artists and dancers. It's helping them deal with emotional issues and become empathetic. Plus, their writing is improving as they draw upon these experiences to structure their own characters, their own stories and their own settings.
We now have a spin off Filmmaking Club and run a weekly magazine show to celebrate film in the school. I've even got our teachers as directors being interviewed on stage, so it's having a big impact. What started it off? The idea that if I was sitting at home being really moved by a film and thinking about what I could do in my life, imagine the educational impact it could have on children in my school.
What's next for you Simon?
Who knows? If you'd have asked me in 2002 whether putting a bear in a box would have led here, I'd never have predicted it. I'm about to launch a range of e-safety books called, 'Is That Your' aimed at helping children to choose the right passwords, understand digital footprints and stay safe on social networks. I'm also currently using my iPad to create videos for every term in the appendix of the National Curriculum for grammar.
Plus, I'm collaborating with fellow ADE, Sarah Jones, to try and use VR technology to demonstrate how accessible London is for people with a disability. The idea is that you would experience the city from a wheelchair. We hope it has an impact in ensuring access to the city is dramatically improved. Oh, and there's the day job. I'm committed to helping drive Anson Primary School to become one of the best schools in the country. We're well on the way in lots of areas, but the job isn't quite done.
Simon it has been an absolute pleasure hearing from you and we look forwards to seeing more amazing projects from you in the coming months. Thanks for speaking with us.