It may not have been developed as a tool for educators – but Dr Joanna Rhodes’ new watch is definitely having an impact in the classroom…
I think it was probably inevitable that I would buy an Apple Watch. From the moment they were announced I kept up to date with the news and read the previews. I pre-ordered at one minute past eight on pre-order day on the Apple Store App on my phone; and consequently I was one of the lucky first recipients (amongst the general public anyway) of a shiny Apple Watch Sport, delivered promptly by UPS on launch day.
By Monday morning The Watch was making its first trip to school. I hadn’t even made it into the building before the kids had noticed; by break I was in the middle of a posse (including teachers as well as students) trying to find out what it did and whether it was living up to the hype.
And it must be said, it was at work where The Watch really came into its own. I have my timetable in my calendar on my iPhone and so a quick glance at the modular display on my wrist reminded me of the next class due to arrive. I don’t like to get my phone out during lessons for fear of seeming unprofessional in front of the students. Glancing at my watch didn’t feel the same, and the subtle silent taps on my wrist rather than dings or rings ensured the watch could not distract others.
By half way into the week I was beginning to wonder how I had managed without The Watch. Adding to the joys of the instant timetable were reminders 15 minutes before the end of a lesson to set homework; another to prompt me to collect it in (and what I had actually set them to do); and another to ensure an important message from the staff briefing was delivered to the students. A tap… send student A to the year office; a tap… speak to student B’s parent about the presentation in her book. Over the smell of coffee during my free… a tap to remind me to use the time wisely by working on the faculty development plan update.
The timer function has been simple but effective in lessons. A tap on the modular display and I can use the digital crown to set the time for the activity – this is a strategy I often use to keep students on task but having the timer on my wrist has been very useful and students have enjoyed looking at the time as I walk round to help them.
Apps straight to your wrist are both fun and useful. In the last few weeks I have used my watch to look at social media – including Twitter, which I use regularly in lessons to get students talking about exciting scientific developments, and Instagram, as well as BBC news, line updates for the London Underground, and my boarding pass on British Airways; that turned a few heads at the airport! The night sky app tells me if the conditions are good for star gazing and the weather app suggests I should pick up my umbrella as I leave the house. The map app tells me where I am and how to get to places on foot, and works as well around the streets of Paris as it does while taking a stroll or geocaching in a local forest. The best paid third party app I have installed is a translation app into which you speak a word or phrase of your choice; in a few seconds the word or phrase is displayed on the screen of the watch in the language of your choice ready for action.
The Watch has also taught me some things about myself that I never realised. During lessons my heart rate rises from a resting 62 to about 100 – even in lessons where I think I’m relaxed; I can top 120 when working hard to keep a bottom set on track. As a teacher I walk an average of 10,792 steps per day, stand up for the equivalent of six hours solid and at for at least one minute in each of 14-16 hours, and burn an average of 600 calories – no wonder I’m exhausted at the weekend!
Is it a novelty? Well, I bought The Watch even though I thought it might prove to be so, but many weeks in and I am using it to the same extent as, if not more than, the day it arrived, in both my personal and professional lives… and when you consider that’s not something I can necessarily say about all the dedicated educational technology I’ve tried, it really does start to look like a genuinely smart investment!
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