Tag Archives: Informal learning

Technology, where are we now? One school’s story

Technology is moving us forward at an increasing rate of knots.   No sooner is one piece of new kit embedded in school before another one comes along that is slicker, faster, more fitting for your needs.   It is nigh on impossible to keep up with such a fast pace and a clear remit for the use of technology is needed if we are to avoid jumping in with every new innovation that comes along.   At Hawes Side we use technology in numerous ways but  it’s core purpose is to stimulate, enhance and support learning.   It is not as a bolt on but permeates the very fabric of school, part of its DNA. We have recently taken stock of where we are now with technology, what is embedded and working well, what requires attention, and what is no longer applicable.  Some of the approaches covered here I have blogged about before but hopefully this provides a station stop on the technology train!

Children at  Hawes Side use a range of technologies and approaches in school, mirroring their informal learning out of school.  Technology is part of each learners’ toolkit and as the children would reach for a pen, pencil or ruler, they will also confidently reach for a laptop, an iPod or iPad. Technology helps us blur the distinction between home and school, between formal and informal learning.   It provides parents with a window on their child’s education and a gateway to shared learning experiences that can have a profound impact on children’s attitudes towards education.  It means the world to most children, to have their parents and families not only show an interest in their learning, but to actively be a part of it.

All the technology we use supports basic skills in some way or another.   Parents are able to participate in their children’s learning journey every step of the way, and at every stage of their development.  Reading, writing, speaking and listening are all developed through the innovate use of filming and green screen technology.  From scripting, drafting, planning, writing and reading auto cues to presenting, reviewing and modifying performance, the technology supports and enhances the children’s learning.   It isn’t seen as a gimmick but as a powerful tool to engage learners in these vital areas. One of the many benefits of using technology in this way is that the results of such experiences can be shared across the school community via a number of large screens around the school and beyond the physical building through the school blogs.
Hawes Side school blogs are extensively used by all class and pupil groups as a powerful vehicle for learning in its many forms, and for sharing learning.  The virtual environment forms a flexible e-portfolio providing children, and the wider school community with an online record of learning- easily accessed and shared. QR codes enable us to link online learning with traditional, non digital approaches.   Using a QR reader to open web links not only excites and enthuses the children, it also allows them to quickly find the learning and links to learning that they require.
Staff are well versed in the use of new technologies to support learning and further their own professional development.   They continue to develop new, exciting and innovative approaches to their classroom practice that stimulate and motivate the children.   We run staff surgeries each term to share ideas, approaches, web tools and apps that are working well in classes.   We also use the surgeries to support each other with concerns and problems- to provide a coaching and collegiate environment that helps us move forward together as a community of learners. Piloting new ideas and approaches serves us well and gives us a chance to really assess the value of new initiatives before they become whole school.   It is easier to monitor the success or failure of a new initiative in one or two classes than it is across twenty one at one time!  Staff can visit each others’ classes to observe how a particular pilot is being played out. The use of the iPad as a teaching tool, with the whiteboard being used to mirror out via an apple tv is currently generating lots of interest across school, with those classes that don’t have this yet clambering to be part of phase two.
Technology allows us to link immediately and meaningfully with our partner schools around the world.  The children can collaborate with their peers in classrooms from Birmingham to Beijing, from Bolton to Berlin! Staff also fully embrace such partnership working, keeping in touch with colleagues in Australia and our European partner schools.   Blogging is a fantastic way for our school community to support our worldwide connections, bringing real global learning into our classrooms.
The use of technology has also seen a rise parental involvement and engagement.  Families have the opportunity to become fully versed in new learning approaches with the school providing workshops and special events to support this. Recent experiments  in live blogging have shown a healthy appetite for furthering IT skills that serve a real purpose. Parents and relatives have appreciated being able to stay in touch with the children whilst they are away on residential visits, learning along with them and sharing insights into what happens on such trips.    Innovative approaches to homework involve parents and families like never before, links via the website and blogs keep the whole community informed and recent micro tutorials using the ‘show me’ app on the ipad enable to the children to record their learning to share with their peers and the world.   Learning is discussed and shared- it is high profile in the home as well as the school giving children a powerful positive message that says learning doesn’t stop at 3.30pm, nor is it confined to a school building- learning is everywhere, learning is collaborative and learning is fun!
Learning for the community of Hawes Side extends beyond the school gates.   It is not restricted by time or place.   Learning for the children of Hawes Side is not an insular experience, it has a real, worldwide audience who are easily reached,  encouraging and supportive and hugely interested in sharing and participating in collaborative approaches to learning.  Technology is changing the way we think, teach and learn.   It is providing the children with opportunities like never before. It is up to us to engage with, manage and ultimately embrace these opportunities.