Monday 14 January 2013

Establishing Independent Learners using iPods Across the Curriculum


Since I began teaching over seven ago I have always taught the Topic of World War 2. It's a subject I thoroughly enjoy teaching and always an area that the pupils show a real interest. The topic has developed from a stand alone 'History' topic loosely based on a scheme of work, to a topic which encompasses all areas of the curriculum - a creative curriculum.

With the introduction of 1:1 iPods in year 6 in September myself and my colleague Mr Williams began to plan a scheme of work for the World War 2 topic, looking in particular at how using technology could enhance an already engaging topic. Initially the aim was to build up the pupils ICT skills and confidence using the iPods and in particular the creative apps such as iMovie, Sonic Pics, Pages, Strip Designer, Creative Book Builder, Keynote etc (examples of pupils work using these apps can be found below). If we felt that using the iPods would enhance the learning process then we planned to use them. Ultimately, we wanted to develop the pupils skills on a variety of apps, so as the topic progressed the pupils would become as independent as possible and could then make informed decisions on which apps to use to aid and demonstrate their learning for a particular area of study.


To encourage the pupils to become independent learners in class we adopted an approach which is discussed in the excellent Lazy Teacher's Handbook by Jim Smith. ( The 3B4ME method encourages the pupils to find a solution independently, to any problems they encounter when they become stuck, without being spoon-fed the answer by the teacher. For example, after a short teacher demonstrated on iMovie, a child becomes stuck and doesn't know how to add a voice recording to one of their clips. Before they ask the teachers help they first had to spend some time trying to solve the problem themselves - the Brain. Next, they could tap the '?' in iMovie and see if the answer was there - the Book. If they were still unsure they could ask their partner or another child in the room - the Buddy. Often in the lessons 'experts' would be identified and the pupils could seek advice from them, if of course they'd gone through the previous steps. The first few weeks of using this method with the children was challenging because the pupils, if they became stuck always wanted the Boss (the teacher). Jim Smith's advice was to persevere, and persevere we did. By constantly reminding the pupils of 3B4ME rule (see poster below) and by asking them for evidence of the Brain, Book and Buddy phases before the Boss, the pupils began to realise that it was more effort on their part to ask the teacher for help! If there were occasions when there were no 'experts' in the room this just became a teaching point for the whole class.

Poster created using Phoster app

Using this approach, in the course of a few weeks we began to notice a shift in the dynamics of the classroom and the speed at which the pupils were learning. This accelerated learning had a huge impact across the curriculum, especially science, examples of which will be shared in a future blog post. As the pupils skills developed using the iPods and apps, and as they became more responsible for their own learning, we were no longer needed to spend as much time at the front of the class telling them about 'why food was rationed?' or 'why gas masks were issued, but never needed?' they had the independence and the skills on the iPods to find out the answers to these questions themselves and to demonstrate their learning by producing creative content with a range of apps.

The pupils work could then be posted to their own space on a blog ( using an app called Posterous. The pupils really wanted to impress their audience, therefore standards of work were high. The pupils audience included fellow pupils in their class, blogging schools (USA, Australia and Guernsey), teachers, parents and grandparents, all of whom have left comments on their work.

Part 2 will showcase some example of the pupils work that they’ve created on the iPods to demonstrate their learning in the topic of World War 2.


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  2. Very interesting topic! The iPod thus opens up new opportunities for creativity and independent learning.

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  3. Do you mean iPad when you say iPod? I have never found any research indicating that achievement scores increase with the use of this technology. Do you have any references?

    Cate Pane