A guest post by Carly Sconce, teacher @VicParkAcademy
As a member of staff of an academy that embraces change and pushes the boundaries of innovative learning I was privileged to be asked by my school to be involved in a new research based project run by the European School Net centered on using ICT in the classroom. Having just completed the huge learning curve that was my NQT year, I was eager to start experimenting within my teaching practice and take on new ways to challenge, enrich and motivate pupils’ learning. Victoria Park Primary Academy provided me with a great insight into how elearning can be implemented throughout the curriculum to raise standards, so when presented with the opportunity to be involved in this project I was both excited and intrigued to be part of a new shift in the way we teach.
Living School Labs is a two-year project being run across Europe by the European School Net with the aim of schools improving their pedagogy through sharing their use of innovative practice in ICT and embedding it into their teaching. There are a select few Advanced Schools (AS) across the UK, whose role is to embed technology into teaching and learning across the whole school. Each AS school has to form a regional cluster of Advanced Practitioner Schools (AP) where technology is embedded in areas of the school, which is where Victoria Park Academy fits in. As a school we already actively enhance children’s learning through the use of ICT, all of our children engage with elearning throughout the day. A great example of this is the 1:1 tablets we recently introduced to Years 4, 5 and 6 as part of the Shape the Future Project with Microsoft and RM. They have had a significant impact on raising standards with 93% of Year 6 children achieving a level 4 combined in last year’s SATS. Consequently this project has enabled us to take the use of technology to the next step within the school in the form of Flip learning.
Flip learning is an area our Advanced School has focused on. But before this project I had not heard of this new way of teaching but after researching it I could not understand why this was not the ‘norm’ ? In this day and age where technology dominates our culture, flip learning seems an ideal way of teaching that our children can relate to and access easily. To those of you that are novices to flip learning like I was, it is in essence flipping the way you structure your lesson by keeping the students’ learning at the center of teaching. A flipped class inverts the typical knowledge and application upfront that we are all so used to delivering and allows the children to gain the information before the lesson using technology. Therefore the teacher can facilitate the children’s clarification and application of the knowledge during class.
Many of our classes use the one to one device at home to access this work. Although not all classes have these devices yet, we are not allowing it to become a barrier for learning. Personally I am using flip learning by setting homework on our Open Hive site (whether this is a website, RM books or videos) to prepare the children for the learning that will take place in the classroom. Children can access this using their home devices. Children’s feedback of their understanding is a crucial part of flipping; practitioners create many ways for children to do this from discussion forums to audio recording. As a class without the means to always do this interactively I have adapted the process to suit my Year 3 class. For example, children write down their thoughts on our yellow and black thinking hats which are on the learning walls in class. This has been beneficial as it informs my planning. Whatever technological situation your school is in ‘where there is a will there is a way’.
Subsequently, the European School Net are involved in many projects to encourage the use of ICT in learning and to facilitate their vision of future classrooms. A course I recently attended was run by Microsoft in partnership with the European School Net. The focus of the course was Twenty First Century Learning. Microsoft are supporting schools in making fundamental changes to their pedagogy so that it is centered around the needs of the children. Twenty First Century learning is essentially equipping the children with the skills needed to interact in the ever-changing world around them using ICT as an enhancer. There are six main areas that children need to develop:
- Knowledge construction
- Real world problem solving and innovation
- ICT for learning
- Skilled communication
Findings suggest that children are doing all of the above although they are only being taught them at a basic level. However, using these skills at a higher level is proven to have a bigger impact on progress as they are learning them in-depth and are able to apply them. For high level usage teachers need to design learning opportunities for children to develop and demonstrate these skills. Each skill has a rubric showing how the depth of the skill is developed. It is important to note that these are not grades that the children should be assessed against but an overview for us as educators to assess the level of the skill we have been teaching our children at. Therefore as reflective practitioners we can adapt our teaching to ensure that the children get a balanced experience of the skill. Recently I have introduced the Collaboration Rubric in class and the children have independently used it by identifying the level they are working at as well as a tool for critiquing their own and others’ work.
Continued professional development and risk taking teachers are needed for future classrooms to facilitate learning, giving the children the tools needed to succeed in life, not dictating facts from a board. Teachers that do not recognize and embrace the need for change will be doing their children and themselves an injustice. Therefore I will end with something to think about: ‘If we teach the way we were taught yesterday then are we preparing our students for today or tomorrow?’