Primary School and mobile apps: challenges and opportunities for teachers and developers in the UK market

Innovating education is no easy task. Education is – and it’s always been – one of the most complex issues to address throughout history. The dialogue between teachers and EdTech startups is often overlooked. Entrepreneurs think they know more about education than teachers do. Teachers think entrepreneurs just want to sell pre-defined solutions that could hardly work for their specific experience. Most conferences don’t really do much to integrate these two groups. Still, we’re both struggling to improve our countries’ education system.

With this post, we want to inaugurate a feature in this blog: we want to interview teachers, college professors, researchers, other entrepreneurs that spend their time trying to figure out what the future of education holds for us, and what should we do in order to use technology to actually improve education (be it at school, after school or at home).

Our first guest is Martin Bailey, founder of Animate2Educate. Martin had been a Primary School Teacher in the North-East of England for 15 years, before starting Animate2Educate. At the beginning, his focus was on pupil workshops linked to curriculum topics, using animation, green screen, photography etc. Lately, iPads and tablet technology have become a big focus  and he now specializes in the use of iPads within Primary education. He works with almost 500 teachers in the UK, so we asked him a few questions about EdTech and the challenges of using mobile technology in the classroom. He’s a fan of two Timbuktu apps: Sand Drawing and Timbuktu Pizza. Read the interview to learn how he uses them in his workshops!

In your experience, what are the toughest challenges teachers face when they are required to integrate technology in their classes?

Lack of confidence in using the technology and in particular what to do when things go wrong. More traditional methods always seem like a ‘safer bet’.

What would be the right first step for a school principal who wants to integrate technology in his school?

Need to plan thoroughly before buying the devices!!! Too many buy the iPads etc and then find that a year later that they are still sitting in boxes! Wi-Fi has to be the biggest consideration, get this sorted first! You also need to consider printing, saving, projection for demonstration purchases and the purchasing of apps. Apple don’t make it easy with the Volume Purchase Programme etc (lots of schools don’t have credit cards). Using a tablet in school is very different to using one at home. Get the infrastructure right before purchasing the equipment!!!

Where do you find inspiration for the work you do with teachers and children?

Twitter has been a revelation for me in recent years. Loads of fabulous ideas shared by inspirational teachers. I do still like that ‘wow’ moment of seeing people present and demonstrate live though, so like to attend large conferences throughout the year such as BETT, Education Show, Naace Conference etc.

Where’s the UK in the process of integrating digital education in the school system?

There was a new National Curriculum introduced into schools in September 2014. ICT changed to ‘Computing’ as a subject and a greater emphasis was put onto ‘Computer Programming’ and ‘eSafety’ alongside the more traditional dominated ‘Digital Literacy’ elements of the subject. This has also been coupled with a massive increase in numbers and use of tablet technology within Primary Schools.

Where do you see the future of school going? What do you think will be the biggest change we’re going to see? What are you excited about? What are you afraid of?

Think we need to move away from seeing the adult as a ‘Teacher’ to being a ‘Facilitator of Learning’. No longer does the adult do all the research and them disseminate this learning etc. The children now have the power to do lots of this themselves and to share links, images etc. As an adult we now go to conferences etc and adults will be ‘listening’ to speakers with their heads buried in digital devices. We don’t see this as being ‘rude’, but do still have a culture of wanting to see children in a classroom with arms folded looking at the teacher etc. I hope this will change and that lessons can be a truly collaborative experience with children sharing thoughts and info throughout. Generally teachers truly engage with only about 10-12 children out of a class of 30 (those who put their hands up etc). Going to need a big shift in mentality from teachers and may take some time, but hoping to see a shift in what a lesson looks like. Using technology to make a change in pedagogy!

Which Timbuktu apps do you use? What’s the value you found in them? 

Sand Drawing‘ has been the Timbuktu app that I have used the longest. Brilliant when combined with a stylus pen for teaching letter formation etc with EYFS children and for phonics etc with KS1 children. Also used for teaching cursive writing and as a replacement to a ‘dry-wipe board with KS2 pupils. Have also found Timbuktu Pizza and ‘Pasta‘ apps to be great for teaching algorithms linked to recipes, in line with the new computer programming focus of the 2014 curriculum.

What are you looking for? 

I would like to deliver presentations at conferences in the US at some point in the future. My new book ‘A Healthy APPetite’ will also be released soon and would be great to think that this became an invaluable resource in the US, as well as the UK.

 Thank you Martin!

Thanks, Timbuktu!


Thank you for the interview. People can follow Animate 2 Educate on Twitter @Animate2Educate Martin