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iPad Teaching

Why Sparkjar is important for one-to-one iPad schools

How to keep learning at the centre of your iPad deployment.

Sparkjar user interface
David Kirtlan

David Kirtlan

David is an Apple Professional Learning Specialist and former school leader. He now works as a consultant supporting schools in defining and implementing an effective EdTech strategy.

Throughout this series of blogs we’ve considered a lot of topics around deploying iPads successfully in your school. I’ve focused entirely on the learning and assessment areas, there is of course the significant topic of the hardware and network aspects to consider, but that’s for another day.

There is still a lot to think about in terms of supporting learning, these blogs are conversation starters, ideas to be developed and customised so that they match your vision for learning in your school. If you want to continue the conversation, please do get in touch.

The common strand in all these discussions is ‘learning’. After all, that’s why we work in schools, we want to give children the best opportunities to learn and develop their knowledge, along with the wider skills including communication and a host of other transferable skills. To keep learning at the centre of the iPad deployment, it brings back the topic of systems and workflow, both across the school and in the classroom. And the key to this is consistency, ensuring all staff use the systems and they are embedded in the daily school life for all the children.

Solid systems like Apple School Manager, and an appropriate Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution make the deployment of iPads in schools easier, and are fundamental pieces of the jigsaw, along with Apple Classroom for management of the devices within the lesson. Sparkjar is the glue that holds the learning together.

On the surface, Sparkjar, like many other systems, allows for the sharing of files between the teacher and the children. It’s an easy way to distribute learning resources, and collect back in the completed work, but it’s simple, quick and easy. So much so, that this becomes a transparent process that even the youngest children in schools can do independently. It becomes second nature to submit work and receive teacher feedback and support, and collect that evidence in a single place. It happens multiple times in a lesson, outside of lessons, for homework, for formative or summative assessments, it becomes a natural part of teaching. When the whole school does this, it is the school culture, and that’s when we start to see results.

Add into the mix the ease at which Sparkjar allows for the annotation of documents, and the use of embedded audio feedback, then we really start to see the impact of this infrastructure working. The systems support how we teach, and more importantly, how children learn. We can personalise the learning, and feedback, in a way that we haven’t been able to previously. And that has impact. Impact on teachers and impact on children. This is the culture shift that can really deliver results.David-Kirtlan-ecard-graphic

Another key aspect to consider in such systems is the ease of the content management. Teachers are dealing with at least one class of children, often several, across different cohorts, so an easy way to manage the sharing of resources and submitted work across all these children is paramount. This takes away a lot of stress, and keeping things digital not only allows for things like verbal feedback, but also takes away a lot of the physical paperwork, making it easier to find things, easier to access, and of course, easier to carry around - remember carrying boxes of books, and teachers with wheeled cases of marking?

Now we have a structured content management system, complete with feedback, assessment, submission details for individual children etc etc. Feeding from this, teachers, subject leaders and SLT also have an insight into some of the data that this produces. We can track individual children, look at whole cohorts for performance data and progress, spot trends and areas of concern early. All of this is readily available in Sparkjar, which also helps when it comes to report writing time.

Sparkjar also has a parents and carers portal allowing us to share progress with the wider community as appropriate. I have even talked to one school leadership team about the possibility of using video and verbal content for parents and carers instead of spending vast amounts of time producing written reports. We can even include the children in this process quickly and easily to help them reflect and consider their own learning, which is potentially a significant step in the process to improving outcomes.

Of course, moving things into the digital world has a lot of positives, but there are other things we need to consider. I’m often asked where all this information is stored, and particularly in the world of GDPR amongst other things, we need to dig into these topics. Many big tech firms have data storage facilities all over the globe, and in the current world of cables and wifi everywhere, that generally doesn’t cause too many problems. However, geography and locations do matter when you take into account the local laws that apply, impacting on data protection, copyright and sharing of personal information etc. Thankfully, Sparkjar is a UK-based system, designed for UK schools, so everything is stored locally on servers housed in London and is fully UK GDPR compliant.

So, we can see how planning the infrastructure for learning is a big task to get the platform and systems right, and it’s much more than just sharing digital pieces of work. It becomes the life of the school, it’s part of the culture, it’s part of how we teach and children learn. Sparkjar is the glue for learning, making iPads work seamlessly and effortlessly in the classroom.

If you’ve missed my earlier blogs you can read the full series here

  1.  It's about the teacher not the app
  2. Getting all staff engaged with iPad teaching
  3. Thinking about assessment
  4. Sustaining use and developing skills
  5. Live video lessons: an on-going role in education
  6. Why Sparkjar is important for schools

It’s been a pleasure sharing these thoughts and strategies with you. I hope you’ve found them useful and if you do want to continue the conversation you can drop me a message via LinkedIn or reach out through Sparkjar.

If you would like us to put you in contact with David, or have a chat with us about Sparkjar and how it can support your teaching and learning, please get in touch.

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