At the beginning of the Summer term, all Year 9 boys were given school-issued iPads with Apple Pencils to complement similar devices that all teachers had been given at the start of 2019. The reason I chose this topic was because there has been an increase in how much technology is used in the classroom and for this to be successful it needs to be done in a way which ensures that all boys are ‘buying into’ this new policy. The school should be commended for taking such a forward-looking step and implementing a unified technological approach for teaching and learning across the school. From a boy’s perspective there needs to be a streamlined approach to how technology is utilised at the school and steps taken to ensure that boys learn how to use technology in a way that is beneficial to them.

During this early phase, the whole year was surveyed to see how they were using their devices during lesson time. Out of the year of 259 boys, there were 156 responses, a rate of 60%. The first part of the survey was quantitative, with boys asked to rate how often they were using technology in the classroom from a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 was ‘Never’ and 10 was ‘Always’. Boys said that their main use of technology in the classroom was to access Microsoft apps such as Word and Excel, with 69% of boys saying they did this often (that is, rating it as an 8, 9 or 10). This was followed closely by taking notes, with 67% of boys saying they did this often. This close result is unsurprising as the iPads’ app stores are locked, and so the only note taking apps available are the native Notes app and OneNote, which is what teachers typically use. Over 50% of boys also used their devices often for accessing material online or through the school’s internal system, Firefly, and 47% said that they often used their iPads to capture lesson information, such as taking photos of the board. Only 10% reported that they often used their iPads to give feedback to each other, which suggests that the fundamental set up of lessons has not changed much; rather, the medium through which boys are now studying seems to have been altered by the introduction of technology.

From a boy’s perspective, there needs to be a streamlined approach to how technology is utilised at the school and steps taken to ensure that boys learn how to use technology in a way that is beneficial to them.

In the second qualitative portion, boys were asked to provide positive and negative examples of their experience with iPads. There was a variety of examples provided, but the most-cited positive one was that iPads made organising notes much easier. Some boys also liked that they needed to carry fewer books to lessons as all the resources were available through devices, increasing efficiency both for the teachers and pupils. Boys also said it was easier to share information with peers and teachers, making it easier to collaborate on projects and hand in homework.

Boys had more varied responses when asked for negative examples, the most popular one being that it causes distractions, especially in lessons. This is somewhat mitigated by the fact that teachers can see what boys are doing on their iPads when they are in close proximity (i.e. in a lesson together) but enforcing this does waste valuable time. Many also noted that there were often problems with technology, including a potential lack of proficiency, which the school is working hard to change with a daily one-on-one IT Helpdesk available for boys and teachers, as well as specific slots set aside for teacher training with iPads. Some boys also said that it made other boys less sociable, or that it was harder to revise from digital notes compared to paper, even if they were more clearly organised.

Overall, boys seem enthusiastic about the adoption of iPads, with the note-taking capacities being repeatedly highlighted. There is definitely more that can be done with such powerful devices, especially when combined with an Apple Pencil, and boys seem willing to use their tablets in new and innovative ways during their time in the classroom.