When I came on board, obviously I did an audit and looked at what the teachers were doing and we found that while it’s great to use apps in education, it’s not necessarily the most effective way of using the technology within teaching and learning, so I started looking more into the pedagogical practices and went back a whole step and sat down with the teachers and said so what exactly are we doing in the classrooms? Let’s look at your pedagogy. Are we here to deliver content? We’re looking at feedback, marking assessment and we’re considering new models of teaching and offering resources so that the students can have information at anytime, any place, anywhere.
So really, we went back down to the basic essence of pedagogy and why we’re doing what we’re doing and then how can we integrate technology in that to make an effect? So when we then came to the decision that we were looking at the pedagogy side of things, wherever we think it’s going to create the biggest impact, then started studying the ecosystem of tools that we have in our school first. So we looked at our infrastructure, we established by then that there would be an Office365 environment, we obviously had iPads running in our schools.
So then let’s look at the type of tools that would really fit into these three different categories of feedback, marking, assessment, content delivery and flipped learning. As you know, we have tons and tons of applications out there in the market, in the iOS iTunes Store, in the Windows Apps store etc. We found the ones that would work really well within our environment and then I created a generic toolkit that would work across both sides with all teachers and students. After that, if there were any other tools that the teachers wanted to use or they were subject dependent or it was just a fancy tool such as green screening, then you can add it to that toolkit.
We had a basic set of tools that we used and that was what made the difference across the board. When I first started Firefly was completely alien to me and getting started with it was a challenge even just getting sort of my PowerPoint resources up there, but the more I persevered with it the more benefits I got of it and now all my resources are on there, all my homeworks are set on there, and it’s actually become easier. I think it would be very difficult to go back to not having those tools. I think you can do it without but I think it definitely improves the teaching and learning environment.
I think when children receive written feedback, as much as I love the fact that they would read it and take it all in like give them time to reflect upon it, I feel if it is audio feedback, they’re much more inclined to take notice of it. Initially it’s because of the novelty effect but then they know that I’m giving them that feedback, it’s very personal and I can refer quite easily back without writing lots and lots of stuff, I can always have a conversation with them and then they can respond to that using the voice notes in Showbie as well.
In the senior year before we actually rolled out the iPads to all the students, we did a pilot trial with just year seven. Then for about six months, I’d say two terms, we looked at all the issues that would crop up and we went through teething issues as well, try to fix everything beforehand, before we actually handed out the rest of the iPads to the the rest of the school year. We have a digital steering committee for just teachers at the senior site. You would think that most of the problems would be iPad and probably technical related but that was actually quite easy to fix, it was more the behaviour management in the classroom.
Again what will the teachers be teaching? What and how they would use the tools. After we got through that and then rolled out all the iPads, we then built a digital steering committee for the students and we only have three guys on hand from the IT team; we needed support. Who better than the students? So we got them to run their own Genius Bar. We had it twice a week for at least a year. After that, everybody came on board and now we don’t have it as much. Neelam runs workshops at lunchtimes off and on periodically in which you can just go and she shows you how to do something on the different apps that we have in the school.
We tend to adopt things a little bit at a time so if let’s say we have weekly sessions on, I don’t know 10 different apps, if I go to all 10 sessions I will not learn how to use the 10 apps, because I won’t be able to use them, so if I go to 2 or 3 and then I use those 2 or 3 and then next year maybe I learn another 2 and so forth then that’s very useful. I think in particular the use I make of it for promoting independent learning has been really very successful.
Every lesson has its own little label and little page and section and then revision for exams, it’s been absolutely central to quite a big success rate - increasing our success rate over the last couple of years, access to what we’ve done before. When the exam season is in, they’re not in class. How can we get support to them? It’s been immense in that aspect. I think being able to offer your resources, your lessons, materials and tasks in the Cloud where students can access it at any time, however they want, has been the biggest game-changer.
Like many of the teachers say, it’s offered a route for students to become independent learners themselves so they were happy to take their own learning into their hands and then explore it and work with their friends and their peers and I think that has been the biggest change. Learning’s never had to stop. It didn’t stop in the classroom or within the school environment, it’s now accessible anywhere.