Can Smartphones Improve Literary Skills?

Ysgol Glannau Gwaun, a primary school in Fishguard, West Wales, invested in 16 iPads and 20 iPods specifically to improve literacy skills among its 247 pupils — and teachers are convinced it is working, writes Steven Morris at the Guardian.

Irwyn Wilcox, the principal, said that they were looking to enhance the school’s technology and find ways of engaging the pupils in different ways. Pupils work on iPads in the classrooms and post their work to a secure virtual area run by Pembrokeshire, the local education authority. Teachers are then able to look at pupils’ work within that space.

The classes have an “app of the month” suggested by pupils, and an iClub in which year 6 pupils – 10 and 11-year-olds – teach younger children.

Camron, 10, said:

“I like teaching the younger kids. It’s fun to help them out and pass things on to them.”

Rachel Morgan, Glannau Gwaun’s ICT co-ordinator, said children were “learning without realising they were learning”.

“A lot of the boys especially don’t like writing,” she said. “They feel pressurized if they are asked to write down a story.” Instead, they use applications such as Storyrobe, which allows them to use still images and video to create a story. They can add their own voice to tell the story rather than writing it down. “They can quickly share it with their peers, and they like doing that,” said Morgan.

Interestingly, it has been noted that there have been no breakages or damage since the iPads arrived in February. The pupils seem to take great care of them, writes Morris.

Teacher Gareth Owen said he had noticed some of the “more challenging” boys, particularly, enjoying the technology.

“They feel this is something they know about, something they can do,” he said. “I’ve seen some of the tough guys teaching the younger children with real sensitivity. I hope we can get 20 or 30 more.”

Before that, however, the school will have to prove that the iPads are raising standards. Wilcox is convinced it will. Glannau Gwaun has moved into new buildings with all sorts of technology to make sure it is as environmentally friendly as possible, Irwyn said.

“What’s the point of having all sorts of clever things for the building and old technology for the kids?”