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Small Schools can do IT with Open Learning and Personalisation

VS Gutenberg an der Raabklamm has just 66 students, but with two floors and a bright and spacious building, it doesn’t feel small. With just 14-18 students per class, and only 5 teachers...

Transforming Curriculum Change with Collaborative Live Links in Mathematics and Italian.

Coláiste Bríde Presentation Secondary school is an all-girls school just 20 minutes by car from Dublin City Centre in Clondalkin.    On entering the school what immediately...

Active Learning in Ieper Across the Curriculum is Building Opportunities for Whole School Innovation and Change.

MS Ieper school is ten minutes walk from the main town square of Ieper where the Menin Gate is situated. This is a middle school with approximately 189 students aged 12-14...

Mathematical Movies, Stop-motion and a Countdown to the Finale in Space.

My journey begins with a train from Brussels Central Station to Leuven.  De Klare Bron and De Grasmus is a federation of two schools led by one headteacher, Begga Willems. I begin the...

Libraries, learning spaces and a mobile curriculum.

Istituto Comprensivo di Cadeo is a federation of two schools that are within two towns near Piacenza with a 10-15 minute drive between. In each of the two towns of Pontenure and ...

Collaborating through E-Twinning; Animated Fairy-Tales and the Lego Challenge.

My second visit in Norway is to Skjelnan School , a primary school for approximately 250 students aged 6-13 years. The school day is 8.30am – 12:30pm for the students in lower...

Increasing Creativity Across All Subjects using Technology

I realised that for this observation visit I am probably about as close to the North Pole that I will ever get. The first school that I visit in Norway, is Tromstun , a...

Innovation - Where will you invest next?

Puropelto School has undergone significant transformation over the last five years to improve the learning environment for staff and students. The change in the environment is not visible from...

Take One Finland - Lights, Camera, Action

My first visit in Finland was to Wäinö Aaltonen School on the island of Hirvensalo, near Turku. This is a primary school and provides education for approximately 450 students from 7-13...

Getting Mobile and Making Cartoons for Language Learning.

As we walk up the stairs to the classroom, the first observation is Petra climbing the stairs to her lesson carrying what looks like a large blue reusable supermarket shopping bag. (And it probably...

"Buchty" or Learning Snacks?

  Dr E Beneṧe 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...

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
Journal: Observation visits Journal: Observation visits
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Collaborating through E-Twinning; Animated Fairy-Tales and the Lego Challenge.

My second visit in Norway is to Skjelnan School, a primary school for approximately 250 students aged 6-13 years. The school day is 8.30am – 12:30pm for the students in lower years and then until 2pm for the students in Upper years. Beyond this, the students stay for after school activities. (Including playing outside in the snow!)

The school is a horseshoe of three linked buildings, but on the inside there are a myriad of little junctions off the main corridor leading to classrooms. There is one computer lab. In each main classroom there is a SMART interactive whiteboard and four new PCs. The flat screens are attached to the side wall and there is enough space for two students to work at each PC. The keyboards slot into a holder on the wall to leave the workspace free for other tasks too. In the lower grades, there is tiered seating near to the interactive whiteboard so that the students can see and interact more easily.
In the first classroom, the 4th grade students (8-9 years) are working in rotation (4 x 12 minutes), a short introduction and a visual display on the SMART interactive whiteboard tells the students where they need to be and the resources that they will be using. At the end of each 12 minutes, the teacher brings the students back together and they line up in small groups before moving to the next activity. Some children work on the PCs, some work on iPads on a literacy activity, some on mathematics whilst others are working in an exercise book. The students with iPads all work with headphones. The teacher can focus her time at the PCs with the students who are working on a piece of creative writing. This rotation just takes place one hour a week, or more often if the teacher decides it suits the learning outcomes. The students are focussed on task and it gives the teacher the opportunity to focus on smaller groups of students at any one time.
  • How do you manage a class full of students with different technologies?
  • What opportunities do you give your students to rotate through timed learning activities?
  • What are the best apps for student to work on for a short time independently?
Half way through, I go next door to the second classroom of students from the same age group. The students are gathered around their teacher on the floor in a circle. Working with an ipad, she is recording the students for an etwinning project. The students have been making animated fairy-tales on the ipad using an app called Puppet Pals. The teacher is asking the students to share what they have enjoyed the most. These short recordings will be linked to the student work to share with the other schools in Finland and Sweden. Then it is time for the premiere viewing of the fairy tales and I am invited to watch. The children are really excited to see each other’s work for the first time on big screen. (The fairy tales are impressive and it demonstrates how the teacher has enabled the students to use the technology to improve their literacy. The students love it when they see and hear the digital pages come to life.)
Just a few of my favourite lines include…The Princess that No One Could Silence…
…Unfortunately little Tom Thumb drowned in his porridge…
Snipp Snapp Snute (Then this adventure is finished…And they all lived happily ever after!)
The lesson ends with a big round of applause for the students. Meanwhile, the teacher signals the change of activity by playing some music on the PC and engaging all the students in physical activity (RØris). 
  • When you have been working with technology, how do your students know it is the end of the lesson?
  • What are the benefits of a plenary activity?
  • If you are trying to develop practice across the school, have you tried to develop common starters and plenary activities before using technology?
During the day, I also have the opportunity to see how the school is working with students who have Special Educational Needs; one student has a small device which measures his concentration span in short 5 minute bursts. In this 35 minute session, if the student can do the 3 apps selected by the teacher, he then has the opportunity to choose the final app he wants to work with for himself. 
  • What technologies do you have available to support students who have individual learning needs?
  •  How do you record the activities that the student has been doing?
My final lesson observation takes me to an area of the school that is being developed into a Science teaching area or perhaps even a Creativity Zone?
Here, there is a charged energy as the students are working in teams in the Robolego to prepare for the First Lego League competition on November 9th. With just 3 weeks to go, the students are responding to a design brief “Nature’s Fury”. Working with Lego Mindstorms they can program the robots with extreme precision and they demonstrate this confidently. The students have to calculate how to get the robot to move across the area and measure the degrees in the turn. It requires knowledge, skill and patience. The students will have a total of 8 weeks to prepare for the competition working with their teacher who has evident expertise and experience to enable them to meet their aim of winning. Whilst the students prepare the programming on the class PC, they can test out their movements using the iPad with the robot.
  • How do you use computer programming in your school?
  • What opportunities have you provided for students to do projects to a design brief using technology?
  • Have you got an area in school or even in each classroom that is devoted to creativity and innovation? (Can you share some photos on Twitter #lsl_eu)

The students have had to apply to take part in the competition demonstrating their particular skills and commitment. The use of technology has encouraged the development of other skills; building trust, making decisions, accuracy.

  • To what extent does using Lego enable the development of those transferable skills? 
  • What types of evidence do you collate to show individual student progress when they are working on project based learning? How do you do this?
  • What are the most effective ways to give students feedback when they are working on technology projects?
Across this LSL Advanced School, the focus is on developing the use of the iPads. The headteacher has noticed that one of the key decisions that enabled teachers to develop their classroom practice was to ensure that they all had individual access to the equipment for their personal and professional use. This meant that the teachers could learn in their own time and consider how to integrate the use of the technology into the curriculum.    At present the school has access to one class set of iPads and this means that the teacher has to book the devices and plan for use.
This school is now demonstrating how the use of these technologies can be mainstreamed to the Advanced Practitioner Schools with a Regional Hub ‘network learning day’ planned for January. 
As I leave TromsØ and make my way towards the schools in Italy, it is important to highlight that at both a national and regional level there is an intention to ensure that the schools are integrating the use of ICT across all the subjects in the curriculum and for these Advanced schools, this seems to be working.