Sunday, 25 May 2014

What would you do if you were not afraid? #iPadLearningZA

Abdul Chohan
(Photo: Core Group)
That's the question that Abdul Chohan, International Keynote Speaker in the use of Technology in Education, left the audience with on Friday afternoon.

He was instrumental in creating a more dynamic learning environment in their school, the ESSA Academy in the UK, and he shared some of their experiences in leading this transformation.

ESSA Academy was a school that was failing. 80% of their students come from the most deprived of the community.

Technology allowed them to do so many things!

"One person with belief, is better than a force of 99 who have only interest"
They looked for opportunities to change belief in the school. 
It was dependent on two things: Simplicity and Reliability!

ESSA Academy is a state school and government funded. They made a key shift: to only use technology that you can buy from a shopping mall.

In 2009, instead of buying more laptops, they bought 1000 iPod Touch-es. It is simple and easy to use. There are a multitude of free apps from the App Store. It can be personalised. They can connect to the Internet and search for information. They had immediate connection and conversation between teachers and students.

They have moved on to iPads now, but it was an eye-opener to me on how much can be accomplished with using iPods. 

Without the busyness, they got ahead with business!
They did not have to get stuck on unreliable technology that was difficult to use, but could immediately focus on changing the business of getting a proper education.

How did they do it? I love the fact that they did not place their focus on the technology, but they placed the focus on the community.

Leading change

1. The focus is on building the community

How do you improve relationships? By good food! They employed a chef which helped in building social capital. The children was informed of the changing menu via their devices. The children who come from a variety of backgrounds, cultures and languages, started to ask questions about the type of food that was being prepared.

The technology is not about finding answers, but learning skills. The ability to ask the right question!

2. Secure accountability 

They launched it as family programme by inviting the parents. They required punctuality, because they wanted the people to get the full message. The iPods/iPads must be brought in every day and must be charged. It is the responsibility of the parents to get the culture rooted. 
They make learning transparent, by giving access to the parents as well. 

If there is no plumbing, a tap on its own won't work. This metaphor was used to describe why they have decided on using iPads. 

The "plumbing" is a robust device which gives access to iTunes U, the global platform that they are using, as well as all the other apps and online access that is available. The teachers upload the coursework on iTunes, and the students are given free reign to add and complement their learning from there. 

They are giving the students a legacy of learning, and continued access; even when they have left the school.

iTunes U is a global platform for learning. It is free, with no ads. 
They do not plug in in their classrooms, but uses Airplay via Apple TV boxes. There is no logging in, no user names and no passwords. 

3. Develop the people

Multiple teachers create the content on iTunes U which is transparent. They get higher quality planning from the teachers as well!
They make some of the courses private, but some courses are made public because it is on a global platform. The students are competing with the whole world, and the get a global education.
The technology gives students the ability to speed up or slow down their learning. They are able to download at school, and carry on working at home. 
The most recent updates are done regularly by each learner, and it is immediately available to all. (The plumbing!)

The focus is on developing people, not working with technology.

4. Managing processes

They had to buy iPads in sessions, not in one go. But they don't buy textbooks anymore, which translated into more bandwidth. They are seeing year on year savings going into Internet connection.

5. Secure vision

They are pointing the learners in direction of CEO skills, not secretarial skills!

A Focus on Access
"Education good at doing wrong things really well"
The change has not been in a translation of learning, but to redefine learning! Not doing the same things on a device, but doing it completely different!
B Personalisation
iTunes U is a map for new learning.
Mind the Gap!  - between teaching and learning! 
C Creativity
The students are able to be creative in their own learning: The following words are used to describe the changing learning environment: Fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration

The changes are allowing them to do new things (learning) in a new format!

The results are the final proof that this method has succeeded!
In 2008 only 44% of the learners passed, while in 2013 they had a score of 98%!

They are beginning to see a change in belief. The teachers are taking snapshots and emailing it to the students. They are not using the photocopying department as much as they used to. It has allowed them to start thinking about real learning!

"What would you do if you weren't afraid?"


Abdul Chohan has been a Chemistry teacher for 13 years, with a passion for using technology in the
learning environment. Currently a Director at Essa Academy, Abdul specialises in, and shares his
insights on the impact that a 1:1 handheld device programme has on learning! Abdul has spent a good deal of time working with schools and Ministries across the world, looking at best practices and building relationships to enable him to bring a truly global perspective to his approach in learning!
In addition to his role with Essa Academy, Abdul is supporting a variety of local projects to re-design
curriculums and integrate pedagogy, including the creation of a Free School. Essa Academy was the first school in the UK to give out iPod touches to all students and staff before the iPad was available. Currently, all students use iPads and iTunes U as their core platform for learning. The Academy believes in allowing students to access information and deepen learning beyond the classroom.The creativity that has been inspired by the use of this technology has been amazing. Staff and students are able to have seamless communication that allows learning conversations to develop and feedback to be of a higher quality as well as the delivery of a personalised curriculum.The technology has been an enabler of transformation and has also contributed to our vision of the new build that has recently commenced!

For more information on the story of Essa Academy, please visit:

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