During the 2014 start of year Teachers’ Only Days, Arnika Brown from Cyclone ran a session with teachers from the Preparatory School at St Andrew’s College, focusing on some of the features of 21st Century Learning. The purpose of this was building on the existing knowledge of Microsoft Office365 that they already possessed and to provide some new and interesting ways to integrate technology into their classrooms.
Part of this was showing the teachers how they could create a OneNote Notebook in Office365 and share this amongst themselves. This was intended as a quick-fire lesson in online collaboration, and being a very hands on session it was well received by the staff in attendance. The outcome from this day was a decision to bring Arnika back in 2014 and work with the teachers individually in their classrooms to help with the integration of Office365 with their students.
This started primarily with the Middle School Syndicate, helping the students navigate their way around their account and perform actions such as:
- Checking their email
- Creating and sharing documents with each other using the Office 365 Web Apps
- Updating their profile information and picture
It was pleasing to learn how these sessions extended to conversations around Digital Citizenship and ways that the students could be responsible and remain safe using these tools, particularly an email address. The students benefited from this instruction and guidance, but with a need for more dedicated time with the teachers a decision was made between Arnika and Mrs Vicki Pettit (Head of Education) to change the focus of future sessions.
This resulted in the following sessions occurring one-on-one with the teachers, as they were given release time for their classes as they up-skilled and planned strategically how to authentically integrate the technology into their pedagogy.
Most of these teachers set their goal for this time to explore the use of ePortfolios – a way for the students in the class to share their work and learning both with the teacher and their parents (for more on OneNote see earlier posts here and here). Ms Brown noted:
Because St Andrew’s uses SSO (Single Sign On) for all teachers and staff, it is easy for the students to use both the browser version of OneNote and the full client Application which is more feature-rich. This means the students can take advantage of the ease of inserting video and audio recordings of their work and it will automatically synchronise online so they, or their parents, can view it at home.
As other Syndicates heard about the work being done by the Middle School teachers, Arnika’s assistance was made available to them as well. A good example is the Junior Department where some of the more powerful features of Office365 were less relevant for the Yr1-3 students. Consequently, the goals set by these teachers was to explore how they could use OneNote to collaboratively plan their units of work and increase the ease of sharing this content.
Despite being the Director of ICT, I was particularly pleased to hear Arnika talking about some of the non-ICT focus of these sessions as well. I am a big believer in not simply using technology in the classroom for the sake of it, and it is important to not just “shoe-horn” the technology in where it may actually impede the learning. Consequently, when Arnika talked about how the focus on correct spelling and punctuation was stressed to students, it was very pleasing. Additionally, there remained an emphasis during these sessions on students producing “professional” quality work – the best they could do.
Another comment that caught my ear was around using appropriate manners when composing emails, particularly when students were sending them to teachers or parents. Just as students are expected to address staff with formal titles like Mr Bierworth or Mrs Pettit, the need to maintain manners in electronic communication is equally important. This was something that the secondary staff raised as a concern when I ran professional development sessions with them at the end of 2013 so it is great to have this message reinforced to students in the Preparatory School too.
Mrs Pettit, who co-ordinated these sessions reflected on the outcomes:
Having very recently come out of the classroom [Arnika] has not only the background curriculum knowledge but also an understanding of the demands and constraints of a modern learning environment. Teachers have found Arnika to be very approachable … [and appreciated her stating] the importance of staff not taking on too much but to work through and consolidate the learning in manageable steps.
As I finished off the conversation with Arnika, I asked her if she had any other general thoughts about working with the teachers at St Andrew’s College and she made the following observations:
- It’s very easy working with the teachers as the necessary equipment was always ready and available (by this she meant the laptops for students/staff, the booking system worked efficiently, and the laptops were always fully charged and ready to go)
- The student behaviour in the classrooms was exemplary!
- The teachers were eager and positive to learn about this technology and how they could integrate it effectively into their teaching and learning, yet they remained candid where they needed help e.g. “I’ll definitely need to write these steps down to remember how to do it all once you’ve left.”
- The ICT technical team were responsive to calls for help if needed in the classroom – appeared very quickly when called and generally resolved the issues in a timely fashion (Arnika noted the positive ways in which the teachers spoke of the ICT help in general).
Overall we have been delighted with the training and professional development that Arnika has been able to add to the teachers in the Preparatory School at St Andrew’s College and will explore other ways we can ensure all our staff are confident in using these tools in the classrooms.
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