Sunday, 22 July 2012

iPads/iPods as an observation tool in the EYFS by Miss Leigh

The implementation of the new EYFS framework in September 2012 has lead many settings to evaluate their current observation and assessment methods. This is something I am currently undertaking as the nursery teacher at Spring Cottage Primary School. I will provide you with a bit of background information about my setting. We are a 78 place nursery in Foundation Stage Unit at a Primary School in Hull. Although we work closely with Foundation Stage 2, we run as a separate class with different times, routines etc. Staffing includes myself (the class teacher) and two teaching assistants. As a large setting we incur many of the common issues described by early years practitioners in relation to observation. How can we collect, organise and make effective use of evidence for 78 children? We know that there is no easy answer or a one size fits all approach to this. Every setting is different and the most important thing is to find something that works for your setting and staff.

As a school we have made a committed investment to iPads. All teachers in school received their own iPad to use with their class and we are keen to find ways to use them to improve our current practice. A colleague originally brought the ‘2Build a Profile EYFS’ app to my attention and after having a quick play I was amazed by its potential as an efficient method of observation collection and management. Many people may already be familiar with ‘2Simple’ educational software but their new creation the ‘2Build a Profile EYFS’ app  is described on their website as; ‘a simple and powerful way to log children’s achievements against the EYFS profile in 4 simple steps’. It is intended for use on a smaller device such as an iPod or android equivalent but can also be used on iPads, which is how we are currently using it during our trial period.

EYFS app

How does it work?

Getting started is easy! You add the ‘learners’ (the children you are going to observe) by taking a photo of them and inputting their name, you are then ready to observe. Take a photograph of the experience you want to record by clicking on the camera and then simply point and shoot. Add the learner or learners to the experience (more than one child can be tagged in observations). You can then insert a description of the activity and record anything the child/children have said by clicking on the yellow post-it and typing in the information. Now here comes the best bit! Under our current observation procedures long observations are ‘written up’ after school. This involves reading through the development matters statements for the relevant age bands and painstakingly picking out where the observation fits in and writing these onto an observation cover sheet before filing the observation away in the correct folder. This app allows you to quickly choose the age band and area of learning and then you can simply click on the statements that relates to what you have seen. These are then added instantly to the child’s experience and can also be adjusted at a later date if needed. This may be useful with new staff members/students as they will be able to complete and analyse observations independently and then have these easily checked and altered by a supervisor if needed. The observations are then automatically stored under the child’s name for future reference.

So the observation is completed and analysed, what now?

The observations are stored on the device and can be viewed easily by clicking on the learner and then selecting the dates between which you want to see observations (this can be pinpointed by day, month and year). Alternatively they can be emailed to any email address in the form of a report and stored on the computer (possibly in a folder for each child) or printed to hardcopy. This also makes sharing observations with senior management or parents very simple. In an app report the observations are organised chronologically and the development matters statements are clearly visible alongside photographs.

Another benefit that I foresee is when it comes to tracking children’s progress. Having many of the children’s observations in just one easy to access and portable location would be a huge benefit for me personally. Currently having to trawl through 78 folders to find evidence for a child’s development across the areas of learning is a dreaded and long drawn out task.

As we are only beginning to unlock the full potential of this app and adapt our observational procedures, we are still raising our own issues and looking for how best to suit the needs of our setting. Here are some issues we have raised and possible ways around them.

• What if the iPad is broken or there is a technology failure or theft? All observations and evidence could be lost!

As we only had the 30 day trail free trial version we didn't have access to the web management suite, so we had to get into a routine of emailing reports ourselves and saving them to a child’s file on the school computer system. However, the full version of the EYFS app does give access to an online data management suite, which allows syncing and back up of photos and observations and it is also geared up for use with multiple devices. Having spoken to colleagues in other schools using the full updated version who have found the online management suite very effective in backing up data and accessing reports from different computers.

Alternative apps that I have come across (including ‘Orbit Early Years’ and ‘Look@Me’) may offer an alternative to the EYFS app. The data produced using them is automatically transferred and held remotely in cloud storage and can be accessed securely from anywhere via a web browser. I am hoping to explore these apps in further detail.
Orbit Early Years

• What are the child protection/safeguarding considerations regarding the completion and storage of observations in this way?

Our iPads along with the app itself are password protected so nobody can access the device or the app without inputting the password which can also be reset if needed. The emails sent from the app can also be password protected which would prevent the reports being opened and viewed in the instance that they are emailed to the wrong email address. It has been received brilliantly by the teaching assistants I work with who were very apprehensive at first. They were concerned both with their ability to use such technology (having no previous experience using an iPad or similar device before) and also how it would fit into our daily routines of observation. However with some encouragement, time to explore the device and reassurance that they could not press anything that would break it, their opinions quickly changed. Surely anything that can make our jobs easier whilst also improving procedures must be positive. We currently have a 30 day free trail of a full unlocked version of the ‘2Simple’ app on 1 iPad and we’re looking to possibly buy the site licence in time for September after exploring alternative apps. The app already has the new framework pre loaded and ready to use and if we decide to buy the license I would explore the ‘Web Management Suite’ which is an “optional online service that supports the ‘2Build a Profile’ mobile app” by allowing you to:

  • “Create class lists and distribute them to multiple devices
  • Build individual portfolios by collecting all of the evidence from your devices
  • Create PDF reports that collate all of the data captured by all of the devices in your establishment.”
More information about this app and a detailed description of how exactly to use the ‘2Simple Build a Profile EYFS’ app can be found on the 2Simple website:

The app costs as stated on the website are:
One Device
Two Devices
Site Licence (3 devices or more)
*Prices exclude VAT

This is only a starting point for us and I believe we are only beginning to unlock the full potential of our iPads, which we foresee as being a must have resource for Early Years practitioners in the future. After thoroughly exploring the 2Simple app I feel compelled to find out what else is out there before we commit to anything. I will continue to explore the other software options available including the ‘Look@Me’ and ‘Orbit’ apps previously mentioned.

I would be very interested to hear your experiences both good and bad of using this or similar technology to develop your observation and assessment.

 *The opinions represented in the post are all my own and I am not affiliated with any product or company.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Working with iPads to Create a School Leavers’ Assembly

Having worked closely all year with David Andrews in Year 6, particularly on the introduction of iPads to promote creative and effective teaching, we agreed several months ago that we wanted to apply some of the changes and developments to the traditional end of summer term Year 6 Leavers’ Assembly. This blog post describes the approach we took and explores the outcomes.


The controllable vehicle project ( showed us that the impact of the iPads could be wide ranging and that standards in many areas could be raised in an accelerated way. In addition, we established that the power of an audience was an additional trigger for effort, motivation and ultimately high quality outcomes.

We decided to allow the children complete free choice in what they wanted to present in the end of year assembly. They were told that the theme of the assembly was “A moment to shine” and that they would be expected to prepare a contribution based on their own talents, skills and interests. The idea was that iPads would be made available to everyone if required and that the assembly would be a combination of iMovies, iPad presentations, Garage band songs, iPad art/photography work along with traditional “live” presentations and performances.

An iMovie edit by one of the Rugby League Groups
Introduction to pupils:

This idea was explained to the pupils 4 weeks before the assembly. They were told they had complete freedom with their role in this and that they could form groups or contribute as individuals. Various questions were asked mainly I think to test the water and make sure we meant it “But I want to make a film about horse riding!”, and the response from the teachers was always that if the children wanted to do it, we had the technology, staff, “can do” attitude and energy to succeed.

Pupil Ownership/Mentors:

The children were given a weekend to make plans and discuss ideas and told their initial thoughts must be submitted on paper for the allocation of mentors. Complete pupil ownership was always a top priority, with minimal adult interference. However, individuals/groups were allocated adult mentors ( based on the ideas used on TV in the Voice and the X-Factor). The mentor’s role was to be a facilitator, critic and deadline pusher. Luckily this year in year 6, we have had three teachers and three teaching assistants alongside 2 dedicated volunteers although the role of the mentor was minimal throughout. Groups were allocated to the most suitable mentors and work began. Mentors had weekly feedback deadlines to allow me to make sure things were running according to plan.


Currently in school each of our teachers has an iPad. Classes can use any of the teacher iPads as required so the mentors arranged access for iPads for the groups that required them. Most of the contributions to the assembly required an iPad in one way or another. There were several iMovie projects, some photo slideshows and some keynote presentations. The use and availability of the iPad was a big motivator in terms of focusing the children as they worked towards their outcomes. Many children prepared work outside school on their own iPads, iPods, PCs, laptops, phones and cameras.

Children had created storyboards which acted as a plan for their project and transferred many of the skills developed in the controllable vehicle project.

Mr Andrews planned to create a Keynote presentation in which, all the iMovies, photos, pictures and other slides were all incorporated into one Keynote presentation and displayed on the big screen via a VGA cable. To do this each device was synced to iPhoto on the Macbook, then the required videos were imported and then synced from iTunes onto Mr Andrews' iPad. Once in the Camera Roll it could be then be compressed into a Keynote slide. The presentation was controlled using Keynote Remote app on his iPhone.

Screenshot of the Leavers' Assembly Keynote Presentation

Keynote Remote, iMovie, iPhoto, GarageBand, Pic Collage & Comic Strip apps
were all incorporated into the final Keynote presentation.


The challenges the children perceived were quickly overcome either by parents stepping in to supervise out of school activities, such as the filming of the ice skating presentation. The group who wanted to create a skate park scooter edit ( were supervised by me one Saturday morning and all parents attended to provide support.

As all movies and presentations were made by children using iPads there was some difficulty converting video footage that had been filmed in different formats. I am sure there are other ways but we found it easy to upload windows media files from a PC to Vimeo and then download them to the iPad.


The concept of rehearsing a large scale production of 60 children had now changed and groups rehearsed any spoken/performing elements of their work separately with their mentors ( often at lunchtimes/breaktimes as all of the adult mentors had full teaching timetables with little flexibility. It was only at the very end of the preparation period, less than a week before the final assembly, that everything came together. At that point videos and photographs along with any keynote presentations were transferred to Mr Andrews’ iPad.

Running order and Performance:

To give an idea of the content of the assembly there were pupil filmed and edited iMovies on the themes of: Football, Horse Riding, Scooter Stunts, Writing books, Rugby, Magic, Ice Skating, Netball and eSafety. Keynote presentations were made on: Celebrity Gossip, Dancing, Singing and Musical performance. There was a live band who used Garage Band in rehearsing and arranging their song but chose not to use it in the assembly. As teachers we were very pleased with the high standard of every element of the assembly. 

Below is an example of a video edited in iMovie by Abbie.

Other examples of videos by the children can be found here:

The penultimate song at the Year 6 Leavers' Assembly

Technology using the iPad on the screen combined with live performances
When all of the work was combined the assembly lasted close to 90 minutes. It was presented in full twice. Once to the parents/carers and once to the rest of the school pupils.  Technically everything went very well. During the first show an amplifier failed which led to a relocation of audience/performers and technology but even this went surprisingly smoothly.

All of the children spoke confidently and with pride when introducing their element of the assembly. It was clear the complete sense of ownership along with the high presentation standards achieved with the iPads had enhanced this experience for them. It does seem the quality and standard of creative output is greatly enhanced impact by genuine pupil ownership/independence and high quality technology, coupled with a real and valued audience.

Feedback and Conclusions:

Reaction from everyone to the assembly has been very positive. Parents remarked upon the large scale involvement of all children. Also the amount of focused time and preparation on the project at home surprised some parents. Teachers commented on talents they didn’t realise children had and on the effective use of the technology.

It really seems that the children did all the work on this and reached a much higher standard than if they had been simply given a script or a tightly focused prompt. As teachers, we moved away from the stage and kept our role low key and supportive. The iPads and their capacity to create presentations of the highest quality were central to everything, and of course the pupils are getting so much better at using them with frequent opportunities for use in lessons since we did the Controllable Vehicle Project.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Using the Power of Mobile Technology, Twitter and Blogging to Keep Parents Informed on a Residential

Whilst this blog post isn't about the iPad specifically, although the iPad was used, it is about the power of technology and how myself and Mr Williams used technology to keep parents up to date on their child's residential trip to Kingswood, Dearne Valley Outdoor activity centre.

For our school class blog, in year 6 we've been using Posterous.

Myself and Mr Williams came across Posterous by chance, after trying both Blogger and Wordpress, which wouldn't function properly in school because of the operating system used in our school, Windows XP, would not put Internet Explorer 9 hardware acceleration features in the current version of its browser, which both blog clients needed to operate without display issues.

Once we'd become familiar with Posterous and how to create spaces, we came across a useful feature, which allowed you to Autopost to Twitter. Once the Posterous app was downloaded onto the iPads and our Phones (it's only an iPhone app though not an iPad app) it meant that myself or Mr Williams, who has the Posterous app on his Android phone, could post a photo instantly onto the blog and it would create an automatic tweet once it had been posted.

Before the Year 6 trip to Dearne Valley we sent out a letter and a text message to parents informing them of our intention to blog pictures and short video clips of their children whilst on the residential. They were also informed that they could  follow our activities on the Year 6 twitter account @springcottagey6.

We created a space and set up the autopost option to our school twitter account on our Year 6 posterous blog. This was where we planned to upload photographs, videos and information about the trip. I did a quick test and everything was ready to go. The evening before we left we tweeted the intinary and activities to generate interest to the blog with our followers. Initially the number of parent followers was disappointing. Prior to leaving school to Dearne Valley we only had 4 parent followers.

With iPads, iPhones and Androids, loaded with the posterous app myself, Mr Williams, Mr Luscombe and Mrs Sellers began blogging almost immediately as we arrived at the activity centre on the Monday afternoon. The 49 children on the visit were split into 5 different groups and locations throughout the day, each with a teacher. Despite this each teacher was able to post to the blog simultaneously their groups experiences. Those teachers using iPads to capture photos and videos were able to use the school's Dongle whilst other were able to upload using 3G on their iPhones and Androids. If any photos or videos couldn't be uploaded in the field then the site had a wireless capacity both in the reception area and in the dormitory.

I can't emphasise enough how easy the whole process was. You simple selected the photos or video you wanted to post added a title and comment and hit send.

Spaces on the Year 6 blog
Posting onto the Year 6 blog using Posterous

Crate Stacking on the Year 6 Residential

For many of our children it was the first they had been on an overnight stay away from their parents. We hoped by regularly keeping parents up to date, via photos and videos and a bedtime journal that parents would be both reassured and pleased to see their child having such a great time.

Regular update to our blog via Twitter

Teachers back at school, who were following the blog daily, were sharing our progress with the children in their class. Word soon spread through siblings and parents informing others parents about our twitter updates and the content being posted to the blog. By the end of the trip we had 27 parent followers on Twitter, which was over half of the number of children on the trip. Many of these parents were also new to Twitter. In addition, the Dearne Valley blog received 47 comments and 30 Facebook Likes. Example comments from parents, include:

  • M Kemp said "Looks like you're all having a great time already! Big thanks to the staff for the blog photos, I'm sure they have put many parents at ease.
  • Nicola Kay said "Glad you have all arrived safely, we're eagerly watching your progress and fun."
The parents support was a great help, especially when we gave the children feedback. Examples include:

  • Alison Howard said "So proud of Morgan for doing the abseiling, thanks for posting it x."
  • Lisa Grundy said "Well done Harry. You rock dude!'
Twitter comments from parents

A message left by a parent

You can find more information about our blog on the Year 6 residential to Dearne Valley Outdoor Activity blog using the link below: