Mobile technology in Futurelab Hub schools

Learning on the Go

Over the last six months the quality of ICT teaching in our schools has come under fire from a number of fronts. Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Google, speaking in Edinburgh, commented that “education in Britain is holding back the country’s chances of success”. In particular he said “the UK needed to reignite children's passion for science, engineering and maths”.  The Hope and Livingston Skills Review for the UK games industry identified the “misalignment between the education system and what the UK video games and visual effects industries need” as contributing to “a real dissatisfaction with the talent pool available in the UK”. It emphasized the importance of helping children to understand and program computers, rather than just how to use them. In reaction to this, Michael Gove announced changes to the ICT curriculum, with a renewed focus on how computers work and how to program them, that he hoped would create young people "able to work at the forefront of technological change".

We can argue over the detail but one thing is clear, we need to create a generation of school leavers better equipped to create and innovate and technology is a powerful tool we can use to develop these skills.

Through our innovation hub and enquiring schools programme, Futurelab at NFER provides a structure for disciplined innovation in pedagogy and the use of technology, for example, using mobile technology to help young people learn where and when they want but also as a tool to empower them and unleash their creativity by designing their own applications.

We are at the early stages of two exciting projects with Copland Community School and Wilmington Grammar School for Boys in the use of iPod touches to support enquiry based, independent learning. In partnership with the e-learning company, Epic, we are using a multi-platform mobile learning authoring tool to assist young people in designing their own mobile applications in the school.

At Copland where there are 54 different languages  spoken and over 75% of students studying English as a foreign language, there is a  focus on developing apps to support these students as well as extending the teaching of Science and Maths beyond the school. In a presentation at the recent Naace12 conference, Graeme Plunkett of Copland highlight the benefits of mobile learning which included the increase in effectiveness when students have control over when and where learning takes place, in addition to being a powerful tool to developing personal learning and thinking skills. One Copland teacher commented, I have used the iPods with five Year 7 classes. They have used the Art periods app to research Pop Art, the camera function to take photographs and the art camera app to create a pop art style picture. So far it has gone well: the pupil engagement is excellent.” 

The Copland students are equally enthusiastic:

  • “I like my iPod as it makes learning more fun and it has helped me to improve especially in Maths and Science” (Omar).
  • “You can use the iPod wherever you go, there are special apps for different things like the Shakespeare app. It has helped my learning and it helps me to understand things more” (Hamza).

Wilmington have set up a group of student Digital Leaders, (Years 7 to 13). The aim of this group is to develop the use of technology in lessons across the school, using the students as mentors for the staff. Each department has been assigned a pair of ‘Digital Leaders’ to help them consider how they might use technology to enhance the teaching and learning in their department. They have helped departments to: refresh their departmental web page, test subject specific apps, set up blogs and design web- based apps. 

Although these projects are still at an early stage they are showing a great deal of potential in supporting the effective teaching and learning of key parts of the curriculum and unleashing the creativity and imaginations of the students. We will continue to report on the progress of these projects.

To find out more about these projects and the Futurelab Enquiring Schools, please contact

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