There is a running theme on this blog – ‘it’s not about the device’. I expected this view to be challenged by a visit to ESSA Academy in Bolton where they refer to an ‘ecosystem’ using Apple technology. I was prepared for technological practice that would be difficult to comprehend and a new building with an infrastructure we couldn’t hope to replicate. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Sure the devices are everywhere you look. Every student has an iPodtouch, every teacher has an iPad and MacbookAir which makes it easy to transfer work from student to staff and from home to school. However, ESSA staff don’t talk about the device in isolation. They talk about learning, pedagogy and making a difference to students lives. The device just makes that difference ‘more achievable’.
Showk Badat (Principal of ESSA academy) refers to a ‘productive pedagogy’ where collaboration is essential to learning. There is an emphasis on faith and learning that is supported by asking the question ‘why are we teaching?’ It is clear that Showk’s vision is that learning is paramount and technology used to be a barrier. Apple products now enhance learning with instant-on and tools for collaboration. Apple has been chosen because it is the market leader for what they are trying to achieve at ESSA, high quality learning.
On an ancillary level the academy appears to be finding ways to adapt much easier with the technology. Their philosophy of ‘if it doesn’t work, change it’ is hastened by the ability of students and teachers to modify their working practice. True, the working environment allows for ‘pods of learning’ and 21st Century classrooms that lend themselves to creation and discovery. However, the learning would not be enhanced without the vision of the Principal and teachers in the Academy. You only have to speak to the students to realise that there is now a learning culture at the school that didn’t exist before.
The device has been part of the transition and promotes pedagogical discussion as it is a tangible resource. It won’t work as a learning tool on it’s own and requires an infrastructure led by a Principal who believes learning and students are the drivers of decision making.