Nov 17

iTunes U – GCSE Maths

Context and justification.

This year I’ve had the exciting and challenging opportunity to teach 2 parallel year 10 groups – 10S and 10T3. On face value they are our “target C” groups – all but one pupil has an FFTD of the all-important grade C. In practice, however, there is a wide range of abilities within the groups and a complete variety of confidences towards maths. From September, I have been clear to pupils that they will have the option of taking the higher tier paper when they take the exam, if they can demonstrate learning and commitment to working at that level.

With this in mind, I have been following our school’s higher Scheme of Learning, based loosely around the Edexcel 1MA0 Higher outcomes. However, it quickly became apparent that while some thrived on the high challenge from the offset, others needed time to focus on some of the basics from the foundation course that had not yet been mastered from KS3.

Until half term I had been frantically differentiating my planning; catering for both aforementioned groups and those in between, but this made lessons quite chaotic for me and with more dead time for pupils than I would like. They were not sure of their own abilities and so often picked the wrong learning, or indeed waited for me to signpost them. I also felt that this planning was eating into my marking time and I was not happy with the quality (or indeed frequency) of my feedback.

Pupil feedback at the end of term lamented the false choice of activities, that I pushed them (encouraged, surely?!) to complete tasks that they weren’t ready for, and some felt rushed. There was also a consensus that they would like to use their iPads more in lessons.

I read over the summer about Tom Riley’s plans to use iTunes U to deliver GCSE maths to his groups, and tentatively explored this idea, but initially rejected it due to issues for those without iPads; (we have a bookable set, but with restricted user accounts so wouldn’t allow subscription to the course.

However, the platform did scream out to offer some solutions to the problems outlined above – indeed, Tom Riley had a very similar list of problems in his blogpost, so over half term, I decided to bite the bullet, prepare the first topic of outcomes of term 2 on iTunes U and told the pupils to download the app over the holidays.


Setting Up and Aims

Gavin Smart, an ADE at Clevedon School pointed me in the direction of Tom Riley’s iTunes U course about creating iTunes U courses and I learned the basics of creating posts, assignments and uploading materials to the course. I decided to set the course as self paced rather than in session, primarily because assignments and deadlines would be different for the two groups, but also I wanted students to genuinely approach the course at their own pace.

In setting up the course I had the following aims/success criteria for the course.

  • Students to be allowed and enabled to work at their own pace (both within a lesson and also over a number of lessons and genuine choice over extending understanding/time for consolidating basics without losing track of course outcomes.
  • I have more time in lessons to give individual help to pupils and informally assess progress.
  • Less time planning enables me to give feedback frequently and effectively. I was particularly inspired by Joe Kirby’s ambitious plans to mark every book every lesson and his use of symbols to make written feedback effective with minimal effort.
  • Pupils use as tool when absent to catch up with work.



A typical lesson structure within my iTunes U course takes the following structure:

TIM: Pupils respond to my feedback using symbols to write down top tips based on misconceptions in last lesson’s assess activity, and then re-do incorrectly answered questions

Learn: due to screencasting difficulties, I have relied heavily on existing instructional videos, and have also provided teacher inputs “live”.

Apply: ‘Practice perfect’ questions that allow pupils to practice skills learned without contextual or problem-solving demands

Extend: a more exploratory or problem-solving task, applying the skills learned to tougher questions – confident pupils could tackle this from the outset.

Exam Questions: Does exactly what it says on the tin

Assess: a short quiz done via Socrative, with diagnostic multiple choice questions (I use the excellent www.diagnosticquestions.com   from Craig Barton for most of them). Each wrong answer directly points me to a misconception in pupils learning and will inform me of a symbol to write in their book when I “TIM mark”, which leads back to the first part of the structure…