I had the opportunity to present a showcase at ADE Academy in London last week. It was a scary, exhilarating, encouraging and wonderful privilege; certainly one of the highlights of Academy for me.
A good bit of arm-twisting went on to encourage me to apply to present. Some Alumni who had seen my application video encouraged me that I had a story to tell and that I needed to apply. My initial reluctance to do it wasn’t because I felt that the story wasn’t important – I am tremendously proud of the pupils and the staff I work with. My reluctance was more along the vein of ‘sure everyone does the same kind of work!’ I know from watching, talking to and working with the rest of the ADE Class of 2017 that everyone is passionate and hardworking, what I do in my setting isn’t particularly different to what happens elsewhere.
I heard that I’d been selected to present at the end of May, only four weeks before the end of term. It was a mad dash to get photo and video permissions in place and gather all the resources. One thing I knew wouldn’t be hard to sort out was the story – I’ve been living it for the past four years.
The school I work in is set in the most educational deprived area of Northern Ireland.
82% pupils qualify for free school meals.
40% pupils are on the Special Educational Needs Register.
Four years ago we introduced iPads into every class. Despite the improvements we have seen in motivation levels, engagement, Literacy and Numeracy, for me, the important story is the change in pupil aspirations. Before iPads my 5-6 year old pupils struggled to think of what they might be when they grew up. The idea they would have a job was strange to most of them. Now with iPad those children are authors, illustrators, coders, game developers, collaborators, artists and architects.
I was asked at Academy what prompts I gave the children before I recorded them saying what they wanted to be when they grew up. The answer is none. I just told them that I wanted to record them saying what they wanted to be. I got a wide range of answers: baker, florist, make-up artist, hairdresser, chef, footballer, youtube, Apple Teacher (!), designer, game developer, army IT support worker, navy engineer, inventor, architect, archaeologist and astrophysicist. I couldn’t include them all so I picked the ones I knew were dreams that came from the influence of the iPad experiences.
The little girl who wants to be an astrophysicist is 10. She taught herself to code with Python at home and since its release her favourite app has been Swift Playgrounds. She is a Digital Leader in the school and is always willing to help out her peers, younger pupils and teachers. She relishes a challenge. Recently she was unable to play outdoors at break and lunch – out of all the options available to her she choose to sit inside and read her book. Brian Cox’s Forces of Nature. A signed copy that she got at Belfast’s SSE Arena when she convinced her parents to buy her tickets and take her to see him. Now, for her, astrophysics is a total valid and achievable career path and honestly I will be surprised if she doesn’t achieve it. Its either that or President of the World – I can see both happening.
I titled my showcase “Creating Dreamers” because thats what happened, an outcome I never would have predicted, but certainly a story I will tell and retell again and again.