To set the scene for my thoughts, I first want to share with you that one of my pet peeves in the learning environment is the use of PowerPoint presentation software. Not that there is anything wrong with PowerPoint software – it can be an incredibly powerful tool when used in the right environment. But when used as a lecture tool in schools, attempting to provide students with information on a particular subject, it can become a cold, one-way communication tool.
Design Technology in schools has been going through a rough patch for many years now, as it tries to shake-off its image of a stuffy subject making bird-boxes and cushions for no real reason other than teaching out-dated, limited-use skills. In many areas of Asia there is also a lack of understanding of the subject, and it is often judged as a less academic and therefore less important subject. Despite swathes of students progressing to universities to study Engineering, Design Technology often doesn’t have large numbers of students opting for the subject and parents fail to appreciate the value of the curriculum.
It’s 10.30am and fifteen Year 2 boys are huddled inside an old army parachute dappled in green and brown light, the noises of gunfire rattling in the distance, while outside they are confronted with life-size images of young soldiers in battle. Each child whispers to their partner as they write down their experiences. Which of these children are unengaged? Looking at the wonder and anticipation in all of the children’s faces as they scribble words and drawings on their paper, it’s hard to tell. And while we know each child will have different levels of engagement across different learning approaches, it reminds us that everybody has the capacity to be engaged.
I have been meaning to write this article about my thoughts after watching the BBC programme Chinese School in the summer. The documentary is about having four Chinese teachers in Bohunt School (oversubscribed mixed comprehensive school rated as ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted) teach pupils the Chinese way. I feel that the Chinese teachers always had really high expectations of all the pupils they taught, and had sheer determination to see this through.
Let us get one thing straight - you are not alone. In the words of John Donne, “No man is an island”, and this statement quite rightly includes the busy role of a literacy coordinator. This may not always seem like the case. You may feel a little like Dick Van Dyke’s one man band from Mary Poppins, but remember: you are repeatedly highlighting and drawing people’s attention to an aspect of education that is not only essential to teaching and learning, but to the personal development of students that your colleagues have the opportunity to develop as individuals on a daily basis.
As part of my job I attend a lot of education shows and meet a lot of teachers and heads in the UK. When I talk to them about improving their parental engagement I get a variety of responses. Some (hopefully half-jokingly!) say “Do we have to?”, but most are really interested in how this can be done.
Game based learning (GBL) can be used in various ways, from assessment to guided practice. There are so many methods for implementing the use of GBL. Cards can be used and so can board games. Some teachers have even used video game systems, which are a great way to hook students into the lesson. Imagine students coming into the classroom to see an Xbox or a PlayStation ready.
Innovation is something we’re beginning to see much more of in the modern classroom. In fact, 84% of schools today report collaboration with other local establishments - a relatively new concept - while around 50% of schools have started to offer their pupils extended learning hours. For the first time, ‘the norm’ is changing, and schools are being encouraged to continue introducing more innovative activities, lesson plans, and teaching techniques into the classroom in an effort to shake things up a bit. It is hoped that innovation could be the key to improving overall performance.
In order to make the most of pupil voice and collaboration, TrilbyTV are working with schools to help them share video content created on any device, getting teachers sharing more and enhancing engagement with the school community. Following the successful launch last year, and with several schools utilising this innovative tool, owner-company Trilby had some tremendous feedback. The ease and intuitive nature of the product means there is no need for IT support to manage allowing students to take ownership, and teachers to keep in control.