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How iLearning Saved My Practice

Discussion in 'Secondary' started by brendansheppard, Mar 31, 2019.

  1. brendansheppard

    brendansheppard New commenter

    I'm a lead practitioner at my school. I start with that because when I say this to my colleagues they generally raise their eyes to the sky and say things like "Oh yeah, so that makes you the messiah of teaching does it?" the answer to which, of course, is no.

    But, my door is always open for those who want a wee rant from time to time (and by that I mean most lunchtimes) but, what they can never understand is how my results are so good, how discipline in my classroom can be student lead and how I always look, rather, de-stressed.

    When I say the words "iLearning saved me" I can see those eyes rolling to the heavens again and I can hear "oh that's because you've got a room full of Macs - we don't all have that you know" and again, I sympathise, but, I can't help feeling that no one has ever actually asked me what iLearning is and HOW it saved me.

    Flash back to 2015 - I'm getting good results, but marking is taking up a lot of my life, meaningless and ENDLESS paperwork needs to be filled out, constant learning walks, observations, accountability, pressures from upstairs and some unsupportive people who've been teaching "that way for 30 years" with an "if it ain't broke don't tell me how to fix it" approach (which I guess is fine) but for me, the pressures of the job were starting to mount.

    By 2016, I was ready to jack it all in because no one seemed to notice a teacher who, on the outside was fine, but on the inside was ready to explode, throw in the towel and go back to the so called glamorous TV life style he once had.

    But, after years of looking at my iPad, I wondered if the answer to my personal issues with the profession lay right in front of me?
    So, I got off my backside and spent 2016 learning how to learn all over again. I taught myself Apple iBooks Author, I did endless tests and classroom research in my lessons, I shot countless videos against green screen, created countless quizzes/resources, read every book and article on interleaving and spacing and classroom practice from of the most amazing and inspiring teachers so that I could re-learn the tricks of the trade.

    I then created my first ever interactive iBook - it took me 4 weeks to create the book. It had 71 different tasks ranging from "copy this and adapt the key points" to videos from others as well as myself, it had fun tasks like creating mood boards and mind maps to more serious analysis.
    It had buttons to press, games to play and videos to finish, things to film and edit and so much use of the Internet it was almost silly. I also created a neat little booklet to go with it. Students would store all their work in this booklet which was also to hold my online feedback complete with student response.

    I set myself some rules -
    1) I was not going to create 1 lesson for Year 11 for 1 whole year
    2) I was going to spend my time assessing students at the start of the lesson not the end
    3) I would give the students my trust and get the parents on board via a specially created video of my intentions
    4) I was not going to signpost my research to management.
    5) I would help the students but not guide them.
    6) I would spend 50% of the lesson just purely giving feedback verbally and written.
    7) At the end of each lesson I would record my findings based things like: How long students took to settle, behaviour issues, quality of work etc....

    Now, these were not the best of students (in terms of behaviour I mean - no really much worse than that) so it took them a little time to settle. But after just 2 weeks they settled into this new way of learning.

    Literally, in two weeks ilearning (as I had named it) had revolutionised ME. Not the teaching. ME. I was calmer, I was more relaxed and the number of times I called for senior support that year? NONE.

    Now it's not a miracle.... No hang on... IT WAS A MIRACLE. I'm not going to soft soap it. It was a miracle, no longer was I the "enemy". I went from "I hate this subject" to "Nah it's alright as long as we get on with it he's happy" and after 3 months I gave them some slack and I let them quietly listen to music in the lessons which they really appreciated. By the way, on this - listening to music - the quality of the work went up by 13%.

    So, after a stress free year with Year 11 here's how the results went - we went from 100% A*-C at GCSE to.. well.. 100% A*-C (cohort size: 62 students) it made absolutely no difference to the results whatsoever. I was hoping for - I dunno, even a dip, but the results went nowhere.

    However, one thing about the iLearning I noted was the huge amount of side effects - the students could take it home on their iPhones and one girl (yes only 1) came in with 15 tasks done because she had some time at the weekend (which means she was grounded and forced to do work and so she chose to do mine)

    Some students fell behind, on one occasion badly, there were a group of around 6 boys (only boys no girls) who were around 10 tasks behind and I teamed them up with some of their peers and low and behold within 3 lessons they'd copied the others work and were back on track (I struggled with the ethics of this a little)

    Another side effect was the people in pupil support. They came to me and asked what I could give X, X and X to do to get them another GCSE, I gave them this and 2 out of the 3 (not included in my results) passed the course with a C grade.

    So called "deep learning" massively improved. The numbers of A*-A increased a little (from 12% to 19% and A*-B increased a fair amount from 15% - 34%) but I put this down to slightly better students. There were more side effects but suffice to say all were positive.

    Any negatives? I don't regret it but it was risky in my case it's paid off an continues to pay off even now in 2019. But watching my highly disruptive class go from difficult to calm was just.. wonderful, I'm not afraid to admit that whilst driving home one night and thinking about it I did feel tears. But that's enough of that.

    And management? No one really battered an eyelid, the results were good so therefore we were left alone. But one thing had changed, yep you guessed it - me. Those Year 11 lessons were the happiest all year - I physically changed I KNOW I did. It was 4 weeks of very hard work and 1 year of routine and no homeworks to mark.

    Yes funding was an issue but one thing I will give to management is that the iPad funding which is a fantastic scheme, worked for this secondary state school - but only in my class and I was saddened that no one else wanted to learn using this technology.

    But my message is this - feeling stressed? try iLearning, I've got an Eduqas GCSE and OCR A Level iBook right here on TES but honestly this isn't a plug - well - ok it's a plug but not for a product - for a different teaching experience and LP or no LP you can try new things even if it isn't broken.
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2019
    safjakojf and mrsbrightside like this.
  2. mrsbrightside

    mrsbrightside New commenter

    I’ve never heard of ilearning, I’ll have to have a google.

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