When Scotland went into lockdown and schools moved online, teachers across the country were faced with the prospect teaching remotely for the first time.

Scott Anderson, a history teacher at Castlemilk High School, turned to his iPad in a bid to keep his lessons interesting.

Located in one of Glasgow’s most economically disadvantaged areas, the secondary school was part of the city’s push in 2019 to get a free iPad into the hands of nearly 50,000 youngsters. The £300 million project saw every pupil from P6 to S6 given their own device to keep.

After learning how to use video editing software iMovie and music creation ‘studio’ GarageBand, Anderson created self-narrated virtual lessons featuring archival photos, sound effects and video clips that his students could access digitally anytime. 

“During the lockdown period, the remote teaching became slightly repetitive so I think it’s good to vary the teaching style,” says Anderson. “iPad and its built-in creativity apps made it so easy for me to do that quickly and virtually. And to be honest, I would certainly say the pupils are outshining me in the technology department now.”

Inspired by the success of his virtual lessons, the teacher set his students the task of creating their own podcasts in which they discussed various history topics.

In his podcast about women fighting for the right to vote, 17-year-old student Ben Mawson recorded himself walking around at home wearing hard-soled shoes to evoke the idea of women marching. When talking about the tactics they sometimes employed, he added the sound of glass breaking.

Scott Anderson. Supplied/Apple

“Over the lockdown period, watching these videos and making these recordings was much better and much more exciting than just going over our notes,” says final year student Carris Kenna, 17. “And because everyone had their own iPad, you were always connected to your teachers. You could contact them anytime if you needed help, and it made me feel like we were all a big family.”

Five years ago, 20 per cent of Castlemilk leavers went on to higher education. This year, in the midst of the pandemic, it has risen to 50 per cent.

“The students each having an iPad isn’t the only reason that’s happened, but without iPads, none of it could have happened,” says Castlemilk’s head teacher Lynn Gibson. “During the lockdowns, I was worried  — how do we keep them safe and make sure they’re okay. An iPad was the tool that enabled us to keep that contact going and support them as they planned for the future.” 

Both Kenna and Mawson are now planning to study history at university in September.

“My goal is to become a history teacher,” says Mawson. “And after seeing what Mr. Anderson has done, it’s definitely a system I would use in my own classes when I get to that point. It really helped me and it gave me some ideas about how I could help future generations.”