After a long drive north, we found ourselves 40 minutes outside Glasgow in a town called Greenock. Once the sixth largest town in Scotland, the steep decline of heavy industries since the 1970s has left Greenock with high levels of unemployment. Spend a bit of time there and you'll get the distinct feeling that this is a town searching for a new purpose.
In the midst of this, we found the reason for our drive all the way to Scotland: Cedars School of Excellence. That name is no exaggeration: among numerous other achievements, Cedars is the site of the world's first 1-to-1 iPad deployment.
Fraser Speirs, Head of IT (and professional podcaster), led the charge in 2010 to put an iPad on every desk, and has been helping to define the state of the art ever since.
I'd followed Fraser's blog (and tweets) for years before meeting him in 2013 when he came to South Africa on a speaking tour. It was such a privilege to experience Cedar's first-hand and to spend time with a Twitter-turned-IRL friend.
The foyer, and a wall of art created by students... on the iPad.
Fraser teaches a lesson about creating a presentation. But his lesson isn't just a PowerPoint/Keynote tutorial, it's much more than that. Instead of simply teaching the tool, Fraser guides his class through concepts of story-telling, how to get the audiences' attention, and the effective use of fonts and visual design. This is central to how Cedars operates – it's not about substituting books and pens for the iPad, it's about transforming and redefining the very way lessons and tasks are taught.
The team at Cedars were such gracious hosts – allowing us to spend two full days in the school. We felt so welcome and absolutely at home in a school that's definitely all about relationships. We're looking for any excuse to go back!
By the way, if you – dear reader – are ever in Greenock, stay at the Tontine. It's comfortable, affordable, and the staff are friendly.
Sadly, after two fascinating days, we had to begin our return journey to London... but not before a few more stops.