iPads for Learning

Special School Stories

Barwon Valley School

Principal Anne Hume discusses her school's iPad program.

"The iPad program at Barwon Valley School is aligned with our school values and vision of empowering our students to see themselves as learners and gives them an effective tool to both demonstrate and reflect on their learning."Anne Hume, Principal

What are you using the iPads for?

Barwon Valley School iPads

Our students are engaged in using their iPads for a wide range of learning experiences - creating stories, communicating, writing an "I am feeling" journal, learning self calming strategies, reading, writing, counting, drawing, reflecting on learning – talking, thinking, sharing, exploring; in the classroom, at recess times, waiting for mum, and traveling on the bus. Having access to iPads has opened up new learning opportunities for our students, supporting them to experience success and share this success with others!

A key way we are using iPads is to support student's to achieve their Individual Education Plan (IEP) goals. All of the students at our school have an IEP which sets out five key learning goals. We have been using specific apps on the iPads to assist individual students to achieve these learning outcomes and to reflect on their own learning. These goals include communication, social and emotional skills, and readiness for learning as well as English and Numeracy.

The benefits of using iPads for learning

For many of our students, ease of access via the touch screen, has been liberating. Students are engaged and highly motivated using iPads. Our students are now using the same devices as their peers. The one device works as effectively for young students as for those in our senior learning community, into adulthood. The iPads support 24 hour learning (although our school owned iPads are currently only used at school), and are a powerful communication tool between parents and teachers. "Having iPads has given students more independence in their learning; teachers a new tool to personalise the learning for each student; and parents the opportunity to share and support their child's learning journey." Anne Hume, Principal

Advice to schools on implementing an iPad Program

The focus has to be on the learning, not the technology! How are the students using them for new ways of learning?

Discuss "big picture" and sustainable models early, explore leasing as an option. A lot of our families are beginning to bring iPads from home, especially those students who are using them as communication devices.

It is important to undertake extensive planning around the operational aspects of the iPad program - who is going to be in charge of backups? Downloading apps? Charging batteries? These underlying processes impact on the effective use of the iPads as a learning tool. There are some very comprehensive tools on the DET website to assist schools.

Challenges include keeping track of apps, especially as we have some apps that are required on every iPad, for example Book Creator, but many that are specifically used by individual students. Having too many apps was also confusing for some students so we have steam-lined and personalised each iPad.

Find my iPad has been handy in tracking down misplaced iPads, and our iPad guy has provided a good screen replacement service - the challenge has been including screen replacements and appropriate covers in the budget. We have also looked at the requirements of each student regarding covers, and have a range in use across the school from tough "commando" ones, to generic soft covers.

There has been a significant increase in apps developed especially to support students with special learning needs, including those on the Autism Spectrum, and new ones are coming out all of the time - it is important to ensure that the apps downloaded are appropriate to the level of the learning of each student.

Student Case Study: Tyler improving his communication with Proloquo2Go

Tyler is a nonverbal student in our Junior Learning Community. He is using the communication app Proloquo2Go on his iPad. The following is from his end of year report from Jo, his speech pathologist:

"This app is used as a form of voice output communication and allows Tyler to touch a symbol/photo on the screen which then speaks the message. This app can be fully customised to suit Tyler's daily communication needs. Tyler has been using the Proloquo2Go in individual speech sessions as well as in the classroom with classroom staff.

Tyler has shown an increase in his want to communicate with multiple communication partners. When learning new pages on the app, Tyler requires an initial model to make a sentence or find a button within the app however Tyler has shown he can quickly learn how to find familiar buttons/pages. He has picked up navigation of the app quickly and independently explores pages on his own to find what he wants.

Tyler has shown motivation to use this system when requesting/commenting on motivating tasks. Tyler will independently make a request (e.g. "I want + tunnel") which requires him to navigate through multiple pages and use his message window to speak his request. Tyler has also been introduced to the "BREAK"; button which links to multiple pages with activities which provide opportunities to engage in sensory movement and proprioceptive activities that assist him to feel regulated.

Tyler is also increasing his social communication by saying "hi" and "bye"; to multiple people within school. In Term 4 Tyler is beginning to use Proloquo2Go to request to go places within the school e.g. to the multipurpose room, the library, the sensory room, office and playground. Well done Tyler!"

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