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Whole School Change using Technology is Perhaps Scientific

My final Link Observation Visit planned at this stage of the project was to Simono Dacho School in Klaipeda. This is a “Basic School” providing education for approx. 1000 students...

Decision, Precision and Transparency across the School for Systemic Change Using ICT

Tourismusschulen, Bad Hofgastein , Salzburg has approximately 320 students aged 14-19 years. Whilst this school is different to many “mainstream” schools, it is a private school,...

Creating digital content; interactive textbooks; analysing spaced learning and flipped classrooms.

  My second visit is over an hour by aeroplane from Bologna to the ‘heel’ of Italy in Brindisi. (the climate is completely different and the sun is shining!)   ITIS...

Addressing the innovation culture and learning with tablets.

  Leaving the small village of Ingrandes, we head almost 3 hours across France by car to the second destination, just outside Poitiers . Surrounded by a technical landscape of modern...

Letting technology replace tradition?

My first visit in France is to a small, village school Eppu Ingrandes sur Loire with only 200 students. The leading teacher for this Advanced School is also the exceedingly busy headteacher....

How Are You Interconnecting Learning Spaces and Technology? A School with a Zoo and Three Kangaroos

A tour of Gymnazium Teplice in the Czech Republic leaves me slightly stunned; there seems to be something different around every corner. I am greeted by two students who are keen to show me...

"Buchty" or Learning Snacks?

  Dr E Beneᚧe School is my first visit in the Czech Republic. Set in the suburbs of Prague in an area called Zscakovice, the school has 751 pupils from 6-15 years and is classified as a...

Inspiring design ideas in different learning spaces

  At Broadclyst Academy , one of the other dominant features was the different types of classroom space available and it soon became apparent that over the years, the head teacher and the team...

Lesson Observation Number One - Collaborative Learning with the Mr Men

In the afternoon at Shireland Collegiate Academy , I joined the leading teacher for the Living Schools Lab Project, Mr Moore and his year nine students for the Literacy for Life lesson. As...

First Stop - Shireland Collegiate Academy, Sandwell, UK

Although I’ve been to Shireland several times before, I think the immediate observation for most visitors must be the celebration of cultures and faiths that exist as one. Shireland...

Observation visits Observation visits

Link observation visits schedule 2013

  • UK: 12 June and 27 June
  • Czech Republic: 16 September
  • Finland: 23 September
  • France: 30 September
  • Norway: 14 October
  • Italy: 21 October
  • Cyprus: 11 November
  • Belgium: 18 November
  • Portugal: 13 January 2014
  • Ireland: 20 January 2014
  • Austria: 27 January 2014
  • Lithuania: 10 February 2014
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Addressing the innovation culture and learning with tablets.


Leaving the small village of Ingrandes, we head almost 3 hours across France by car to the second destination, just outside Poitiers. Surrounded by a technical landscape of modern architecture, the school sits just outside the Futuroscope Park. The school is situated detached from the local community, but nevertheless remains integral to regional development.
In the words of one fifteen year old student: “Lycee Pilote Innovante International is just a little bit different.”   As we arrive, even the modern building makes me feel like I am stepping forward in time. (Though it is 25 years old!)  This large single building houses the whole supper secondary school of approximately 500 students. There is also a boarding school for a small number of the students, whilst others travel in from the surrounding towns. There is also an intake of students from China. 
There is no shortage of technology; the school has been established by the regional authorities as a centre of innovation. It receives extra funding to undertake experimentation and as the name reflects, the school is often the first to pilot innovation, before bigger implementations at a regional level. It would seem that there is a direct alignment between funding and innovation strategy, but with that comes the expectation of being able to evidence practice. Each student has been equipped with an Acer Tablet with 24/7 access within the last year. Throughout the school, there is a full range of technologies, projectors, display screens, interactive whiteboards and laptops.
In today’s multi-disciplinary lesson, alongside Xavier Garnier the Advanced School lead teacher, there is a second teacher who will support language development, whilst Xavier will deliver the mathematical content. The 17 year old students are working in teams of four to write a presentation which demonstrates the mathematics associated with certain types of gambling. i.e. card games or horse racing. What is the probability that someone will win? The students have several weeks to prepare their presentation and they are currently on the second lesson in this series. The lesson begins with the teacher recapping the objectives and asking the students to assess their own learning using Socrative. The teacher has prepared several questions to enable the students to reflect on their learning so far and to set themselves targets for today’s lesson.  Each group of students approaches the task differently, and it would seem this is dependent on the individuals in the group. One of the groups distributes the tasks and agrees the amount of time to work. A second group approaches the task collectively and has more on-going dialogue about their research and understanding. The teachers visit each of the groups and provide mathematical input on probability and language input. After fifty minutes, the teacher draws the lesson to a close by asking them to visit a second set of questions on Socrative. This will enable them to review their progress within the lesson time and the teacher will then analyse this briefly with the students at the end of the lesson and in more detail to prepare for the next lesson.
This use of technology to inform student learning is critical to the success of Xavier’s teaching. He is able to respond to this input and determine his next steps whilst keeping a record of the student’s reflective progress. However, at this stage of the term, the students have not fully recognised the benefits that these reflections will bring, but as this process is constantly revisited, it will increase their experience and it will also allow the teacher to refine his questions to continually move the learning forward.
  •  How do you use technology to encourage student reflection?
  •  What kinds of feedback do the students give you during and after the lesson?
  • What tools do you use to enable collaborative learning?
  • Have you analysed the types of learning process that the students adopt during your lessons? 
  • How do you organise the students for learning?
  • When can students decide how they learn?
  • To what extent can you change the ways the student learns within your lessons?
The second lesson I observe is Geography led by Christophe Hilairet. In this lesson, the teacher’s tool is the interactive whiteboard, whilst each student has his or her own device. Whilst he explains the key factors affecting the changing population and demographics of a city; technology allows the students to take a closer look at the statistics and analyse the information in more depth. The lesson has a continuous pace, and whilst it is clearly controlled by the teacher, there are ample opportunities for individual research, collaborative discussion and student challenge.  This is demonstrated when one student questions the teacher’s information by finding additional information to support his argument. However, the teacher is able to address this by encouraging the student to look at alternative sources. These students are in their first term at this school, and Christophe has addressed the balance of giving the students freedom with the technology, but with guidance and expectation for their learning.
Joel Coutable has been at the school since its inception, but spending an hour here leads me to admire how technology has enabled this teacher to remain at the forefront of his profession. It is like watching a fine artist at work. Today’s Science lesson is about the human brain. Joel has developed a series of interactive resources by working with an expert at the local hospital. Attached to each set of materials is the key information that the students must learn. As the students interact with today’s content, there are digital exercises and vocabulary to highlight. A video plays to demonstrate how the brain functionality is determined by how the different sections communicate with the body. The students are keen to know more.   Each student can access the materials on a group laptop, whilst continuing to work on his or her own tablet.
Students are invited to ask further questions and each student makes their own decisions about how to make notes. Some students make notes on their exercise books, but most take digital notes. The next resource is a slide showing different parts of the learning. Joel has not made this available to the students yet, but several photograph the materials using their tablets and add them to Dropbox.  There is an open agreement to select the best later. 
  •  What decisions does the student make in your lessons?
  • Have you worked with a subject expert to create lesson materials?
  • How can you use technology to enable the students to be more active learners?
  • To what extent do you work with other colleagues to plan your teaching?
In this school, technology is integral to the school development plan. However, there is also an understanding that teachers can maintain their professional individuality and integrate the use of technology in accordance with their own teaching. This school showcases how technology has been subsumed into everyday learning and teaching. Staff have embraced that change is continual and each teacher takes responsibility for their role in the development of the innovation. At a departmental level, staff regularly plan together to ensure that they review content and adapt materials to the needs of the students. There is also a collective agreed understanding that the students of the school are continually working towards being independent learners.    The school offers additional support classes where students can design their own programme for learning. Mentor staff work with students to assess their needs. Each student has a webfolio that identifies an area for each subject and, against the student profile there are comments and targets. This is accessible by all of the staff who work with the student. Technology enables a shared communication and demonstrates how to support personalised learning.
·         How does your school enable other staff to know about a student’s progress in your lessons?
·         What are the benefits of each student having a digital portfolio?
The most noticeable aspect of this school is that whilst it openly works as a “pilot” school for innovation, the staff demonstrate exemplary practice that could be replicated in other learning environments. Whilst funding has dictated the speed and scale, the vision for innovation is open and accessible to all. It has timescales and STEPS for implementation. There is a progressive learning culture that stems from the leadership and permeates throughout the school ecosystem.  Teachers and students know their responsibilities.  The plan is always to mainstream from the ideas being developed; there is a willingness to collaborate for the benefit of the school community.
So, my next destination is Tromso, Norway. The temperature is several degrees colder, the snow maybe falling, but perhaps the challenges remain the same:
·         What is the next innovation in your school?
·         How will you mainstream the change?
·         As an individual teacher, where does your work feature in the school ecosystem?
·         Can technology help the whole school to demonstrate individual student progress?