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Emerging Technologies Blog > Posts > Pictures at an Exhibition - Mike Daley
July 05
Pictures at an Exhibition - Mike Daley

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At the beginning of May I recall receiving a phone call from our iPad supplier informing me that we were unlikely to get our iPads 3's for another six to eight weeks. Not until July at the earliest. They were simply selling quicker than they could stock them.  My heart sank.

Myself and Rhys Harris from the Gnoll had drawn up a battle plan for the term that made Operation Overlord look modest. We had sat around his kitchen table pushing little flags around with a fixed date of July 5th for a triumphant march on some as yet unspecified venue to celebrate activities not yet begun. They were just ideas.

We had set the early skirmishes into motion and arranged via Twitter an interview using iPads with Leighton Andrews. We had tentatively begun to arrange interviews with sports people and pencilled in senior management team meetings and whole staff meetings between the two schools. In fact it was a useful lever to be able to say, "....but we are going to interview the minister for education next week." Suddenly the iPads arrived and we were off and running.

This week saw the culmination of six weeks effort and incredible experiences. I have heard the word 'journey' used countless times recently but that sounds rather prosaic. This week just brings to an end phase one. A phase where the iPads have been introduced, all members of staff are using them on a daily basis and they are already an irreplaceable tool to consider when planning for the week's teaching and learning. A phase where we have had a fantastic time working with Mr. Harris and the teachers and children of Gnoll primary in Neath.

Wednesday arrived and myself and my outstanding deputy Caroline May joined Rhys and his dynamic duo, Deputy Head Sam Sharp and e-learning co-ordinator Faye Evans for the final push. We arrived with over 60 iPads between us and enough leads, cables, DVDs and display boards to open our own store.

The Gwyn Hall is such a fantastic venue and as we met Alun, a dad from The Gnoll who had discovered an ingenious way of hanging and displaying the iPads safely and securely, the excitement levels were raised a notch. Both schools had their small troop of Digital Leaders (Year five pupils who had applied for the position and were resplendent in their specially designed t-shirts) with them and we set about preparing for the public to arrive at one o'clock.

Both Rhys and I were overwhelmed by the support we got over these two days. Firstly Chris Owen the Head of schools IT was there rolling his sleeves up and mucking in, sorting out sound levels, wireless access and all manor of technical issues. Alun was carefully mounting the iPads and Andrew Rosser from AT computers was installing Apple TV and ensuring that the whole experience was as slick and professional as possible. The staff at the Gwyn Hall were giving us a quick lesson in how to project a film in the 70 seater pod. 

Before we knew it, the lights were dimmed, the iPads were fired up and the David Hockney inspired artwork was looping on each device. Meanwhile the DVDs of the children's documentaries on Neath, Port Talbot and a football match played between the two schools looped in the cinema pod. All was working well (in fact over both days we did not experience one single technical hitch, a remarkable fact considering the numerous problems teachers have encountered over the years, and don't forget this was 'on location') it was just a matter of waiting for the public to show up. Turn up they did. In their droves.

By 4 o'clock the Heads, deputies and teachers from schools in Neath Port Talbot and a good number from Swansea were marvelling at the children's work and the way it had been presented in the Gwyn Hall. I was relieved that technically everything was working. It was a great security blanket to have so many technical experts around. The first day ended and we allowed ourselves a relaxed smile but knew that Thursday was the big day.

Thursday afternoon was again open to the public and the children from both schools. It was great to see them sitting down in the cinema, mouths wide open in wonder as they appeared on a big cinema screen. Thursday evening was an invitation only event. We had been told that certain people were going to come but you can never be sure until they are actually there.

So at a quarter to six, a final de-brief for our digital leaders, check the sound levels and the battery charge on the iPads and off we go. The Gwyn Hall staff carried drinks on trays for guests as they arrived and we were absolutely thrilled at the number of people who came out to support us and share with us. Bishop Tom Burns came and humbly took a place at the back, talking to children and chatting with parents and teachers. Leighton Andrews, the Minister arrived and was whisked around by his old friends Hollie and Mollie who left him in no doubt as to what had been achieved. Ali Thomas, the leader of the council; also the mayor and deputy mayor. Plus Karl Napieralla the director of education, his assistant Andrew Thomas (who has been hugely supportive and enthusiastic). We counted over 40 Headteachers from different authorities both primary and secondary, many members of EDIS, school Governors, parents, friends and of course the indefatigable Clive Biscoe from the ELRS who has probably worked closer with Rhys and I than anyone else.

With such an audience there was a fair bit of pressure and just before we began it really hit me........"Oh Wow! We've only been doing this six weeks and now we're going to show it off to this crowd! We must be mad!" The opening News sequence blasted across the exhibition room, stopping everyone in their tracks. The films shot by the children, scripted and read out by the children and edited with the children by the talented Ben Dobson and Luc Daley.

Attention had been grabbed. The audience watched the Emerging Technology news broadcast which scorched through some of the highlights of the past six weeks. The interviews with John Hartson, Simon Richardson, Eamonn Holmes, Sarah Storey, Kristian O'Leary, Louise Elliott, Claire Summers and Michael Sheen. This was followed by Connor Moriarty from Gnoll Primary interviewing Clive Biscoe on how this technology is going to be developed across the whole authority and finally myself and Rhys spoke about the whole joint project and thanked all those who needed to be thanked.

Once we had finished speaking everyone soaked up the experience. Either strolling around enjoying the artwork or sitting in the pod watching the films. We ended our presentation by saying, "What's next?". We have already had people emailing suggestions, taking us to one side and saying, "What about......?"

We have been inundated with texts, emails and tweets congratulating the schools and offering to work with us. This is exactly what we want. We have a goal to share the best ideas from people in lots of different schools. There are so many talented people who are all willing to share their time and talents with us to make the children's school life memorable.

We now have the summer holidays to draw breath and dream up the next idea. This will be tough to top but the beauty of this technology is that it keeps improving and throwing up new possibilities and when you work with colleagues as sparky and hard working as those in St. Joseph's Juniors and Gnoll Primary whatever it is will be for the benefit of the children's learning and also it'll be great fun.

Diolch

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