The Saint-Michel school group Reims, comprises a kindergarten, a primary school, a secondary junior, a secondary senior school and a technical college, and a vocational training centre.
At the beginning of the 2015 school year Vincent Giot, the “rather geeky” deputy head, introduced tablets in a number of classes. Now, thanks to Econocom’s expertise, of the 2,000 pupils at the school, 500 have iPads: years 7, 8, 9, 11, 12 and the technical college. We found out how it’s been going.
When Vincent Giot joined the Saint-Michel school group in 2006, it didn’t even have video-projectors. “When I started rolling them out, teachers didn’t think they’d be able to work with them because they were used to the old-fashioned overhead projectors,” he remembers. “Afterwards, they wanted them in every classroom!”
A few years later, the deputy head deployed smartboards at the school. Then, seeing most students come to school with their smartphones, he wondered about using them. However, “in practical terms, it was complicated,” explains Giot. “It depended too much on the type of handsets people had, and of course students’ financial resources.” That’s when the idea of tablets first came to him. And in 2015, he decided to take the plunge.
Thanks to a partnership with Econocom, the equipment was deployed. The group offered an equipment leasing solution. “And we did the same for the students,” says Giot. “They lease the tablet for three years, in year 11, 12, 13, 7, 8 and 9.”
Apple seemed the obvious choice: “We started with 10 Android tablets, which we bought for the PE teachers. But there was no fleet management in the package and Apple seemed to offer the most flexible solution to manage the devices, which is why we choose them.”
“This type of project can’t be done without a partner,” adds the deputy head. “All our contacts at Econocom – Sales, technical experts and Apple specialists – we really helpful. We’ve got great support.”
students “play an active role in their learning”
The first change Vincent Giot noticed after the tablet deployment was a change in the student-teacher relationship. “The lesson goes outside the classroom framework. Learning is no longer limited to a specific timeslot – say, 8 to 9 on a Tuesday morning, but can happen whenever the student wants.”
Also, the fact that it’s easier to create multimedia content means students are more engaged, as Sarah, a year-11 student who’s had an iPad since the beginning of the 2016 academic year, observes: “Instead of handing in papers, we can make video capsules. The tablet means you can be more interactive, so it’s more motivating.”
French teacher Nathalie Venant-Valery is equally enthusiastic: “I love books but I’ve been using an iPad for nearly a year and a half,’ she says. “The students are more active: with the tablet, they play a more active role in the learning experience. Using the various applications, we can work on every aspect of their memory, visual and auditory. Also, when we make video capsules, as they’re never happy with what they’ve recorded, they do it over and over again, they practise and practise, which means they learn!”
Venant-Valery has completely appropriated the tablet and comes up with some innovative ways of using it: “Rather than get the students to copy out definitions, I’ll make a crossword for them to do,” she explains. At the beginning of the year, she also got them to film each other in the form of a Proust Questionnaire-style interview.
Using videos has proved particularly useful for year-12 students, who are sitting their French baccalaureat at the end of the year: “To prepare for their oral exam, they film themselves in an exam situation then post the video online (with limited access) and then send me the link so I can view it.”
For the teacher and her colleagues, using this type of technology also makes their life easier: “We receive homework gradually, which is better than ending up with 35 papers to mark. It’s better.”
it seems “perfectly natural” to see the devices in the classroom”
And French isn’t the only subject that’s gone digital. “In science, it’s much easier to use, interpret and work on the results of an experiment when they’re in digital format than a curve drawn on a piece of paper,” explains Vincent Giot. “The students can also take photos or videos of their work.”
Maths teachers also use Explain Everything (a collaborative and interactive whiteboard) a lot to make videos or tutorials showing how to do an exercise or solve an equation, whilst using videos in PE classes enables teachers to watch and analyse students’ movements and work on them with them.
The advent of tablets has also had some more unexpected consequences. “Until May 2016, we didn’t have dedicated classrooms for each subject but for each class or group, so teachers had to move around for each lesson,” says Giot. “Using tablets and changing our teaching methods has led to the need for a room for each subject so we can change the physical organisation. It’s not digital teaching as such but one of the architectural consequences of it.”
So how do you reassure parents who are concerned about kids being distracted by the tablets? According to Giot and Venant-Valery, this isn’t an issue. “Before the iPads, students used their mobile phones in class,” the French teacher recalls. “And before mobile phones, it was toy cars in pencil cases,” adds the deputy head. “Whether it’s with a tablet, a compass or a ruler, kids will always play with something as soon as the teacher’s back is turned. That said, we haven’t really come across that problem because there’s an atmosphere of trust.”
Parents’ reservations are gradually disappearing: Vincent Giot says: “The younger parents think it’s perfectly natural to see the kids using these devices in the classroom.”
“the possibilities are endless, but you have to be open-minded”
As for the teaching staff, some remain slightly wary: using the technology does require a lot of preparation work. “You have to rethink the lessons and ask yourself questions,” says the deputy head. “It means changing the teacher’s position.”
Nathalie Venant-Valery agrees. Whilst the French teacher admits she “didn’t know what to do with the tablet” when she first got it, she now shares her experience with her colleagues.
“You have to spend a lot of time on it at the beginning,” she says. “But you soon see the advantages. During the first few days of training I got the hang of the technology. But it does require a lot of personal effort. You have to put into practice what you learn and start using it as soon as the training is over, otherwise you forget and give up.”
Nathalie Venant-Valery also says that using new technologies facilitates communication between teachers: “We work together more.”
“what we’re really interested in is teaching methods: the TABLET is just a tool”
The advice Giot would give to a school planning a similar deployment is to “take your time.”
“You have to do it step-by-step, with a series of trials. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It requires a constant technical and educational effort. It’s also important to listen to the students because they’re the ones who drive us,” explains the deputy head. “Whether we agree with the digital revolution or not, it’s happening tomorrow and we need to prepare our children for it.”
In other words, we need to bring digital into the classroom, NOW.
Read our other interviews with schools where Econocom has rolled out digital technology:
-> Didier Siran: with digital, students are happy to come to school. A secondary junior and senior school where 820 students and around fifty teachers have digital tools.
-> Yves le Saout: using tablets to develop new teaching approaches at secondary schools: a number of senior school classes are experimenting with iPads.