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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...

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 ...

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....

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...

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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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 Majorana is an upper secondary ‘technical’ school for 1198 students from 15-19 years.   The school is five storeys high and occupies the corner of a residential area of high-rise accommodation. 
The school has earned a reputation for producing digital books and is currently working with over 200 education institutions internationally to provide content in both digital and paper based format that has been produced by teachers and students. Book in Progress has been running for a number of years, and is continuously adapting to embrace learning technologies. It is a growing library of digital textbooks and activities that have been created by teachers and educators (and some students) for teaching and learning across a wide range of subjects. 
In 2009, the school produced the first digital copy of a ‘home-made’ textbook. In 2010, the school created digital PDFs with netbooks. In 2011 the school invested in iPads. The school has now produced approximately 40 textbooks using iBook author and these are available to those who collaborate within the Book in Progress project. Only the materials that have been produced solely by the school are made available on iTunesU. All other materials are only made available to collaborative partners in the project.
The school also uses the widgets in Bookry to enable interactive activities in the digital content. The school is continuing to grow the number of partners. Currently the school has iPads for all the students in their first year at the school, as with the previous school in Italy, the parents purchase these. The digital content has been made available for 45 Euros compared to the usual price of 500-600 euros per annum. The school has also negotiated a better price for iPads.
  • What kinds of content has your school produced?
  • What are the challenges of producing digital content for teaching?
  •  Do you work with another school to produce content?
  • What is the difference between the cost of paper based content and digital content for secondary school students?
  •  How can schools reduce the cost of content?
  • How can publishers improve the quality of digital content?
  • How can schools provide quality assurance for materials that are produced?

All students register in school using an electronic register; students and teachers have a digital card that registers their attendance. Teachers can also make their lesson materials available and communicate with parents through SMS. Students can log into their diary and personalise their own pages.

Following the first Advanced Schools workshop in the Future Classroom in Brussels ; the school created its own Future Classroom. At present there is just one Future Classroom, but the school intends to create another four or five in the next academic year. There are at least fifteen teachers across the school who have been engaged with the regular research about how to develop learning and teaching. Whilst staff currently have to book this room, the headteacher intends to make a further four or five classrooms available for use in the next academic year. The room has different zones for collaboration, interaction, investigation, presentation and sharing. Students and teachers can work in various layouts and movement between the ‘zones’ is encouraged.
 As part of their involvement in the LSL project, ITIS Majorana have been investigating five different types of lesson. 
  • Spaced learning– see articles by Douglas Fields (2005)
  • Retrieval lesson – Group work activities, followed by a test and feedback
  • In depth lesson – Students are differentiated according to their competencies- complete research and make presentations.
  • Flipped lesson – key information distributed for looking at in advance of the lesson
  • Thematic Lesson – Students can work on a cross-cultural theme in groups, some students can work in different locations both within school and externally
Some teachers have been trialling the five different types of lesson within the Future Classroom in school, whilst others have applied the same methods in the traditional setting.
  • Have you created a Future Classroom or learning space in your school?
  • What are the particular features that need to be explored in developing learning spaces?
  • How can Future Classrooms be mainstreamed across the school?
  • Have you visited a Future Classroom? (Share #lsl_eu)
  • What are the different types of learning that you are investigating with the use of technology?
  • What is the one change that you would like to see in your classroom/your school?
Whilst I am in favour of establishing new physical spaces, I think it can be very difficult to embed new types of learning when there is only one dedicated space. It will certainly be useful to adapt some other spaces in school too.  ‘Future’ is also a misleading word, because the reality is that all of these techniques are being used ‘now’. However, regardless of whether you are an LSL Advanced School or Advanced Practitioner, it is imperative that you consider how learning and teaching needs to change. (rather than Future Classroom, maybe it should be the Learning and Teaching Laboratory?)
Rossella Palmizio has been teaching for ten years and her main subject is chemistry. The teacher will deliver the lesson in the Future Classroom using spaced learning. The lesson is 60 minutes long. In the first ten minutes, the teacher explains some key content for the lesson. The students sit at one edge of the classroom facing an interactive whiteboard.  
The teacher is using her ipad and the app Educreations to demonstrate the properties of certain chemicals and how they react when they are heated.  The students listen to the teacher and then immediately after this activity they go to their individual workspace and listen to personal music or participate in their own online activity. (The idea is that they are digesting the content that has been delivered at the same time.) In the second part of the lesson, the teacher shows the students a video and they watch the content being delivered in a different format. This is followed by a second period of ‘personal time’ for the students to listen to music or watch a video. In the next part of the lesson, the students complete an online test using eclicker. This also marks the students work and generates a set of results for the teacher. It shows the total score for each student, it also identifies which questions were answered correctly or incorrectly by each student.   The most critical part is that the teacher shares the data with the students so all of them can see each other's results and begin to determine which areas need to be revisited with the support of the teacher.  The teacher also identifies a student who scored 100% and says that she can also take the role of "tutor" in the next lesson.
ITIS Majorana have also surveyed parents, staff and students to find out about the types of learning taking place in the lesson. This feedback has provided useful evidence about the types of lessons that the students and teachers prefer. The evidence initially showed that too much lesson time was devoted to explanation and not enough time to learning activities.
  • How much of your lesson time is devoted to explanation?
  •  What types of activities do the students do in lessons?
  • How often do the students copy from a board/listen to music/watch a video/write notes/ talk to someone else?
  •  Have you surveyed your parents and students about preferred types of lessons?

I’m really pleased that the school is using the LSL project to consider the different types of learning that can be used with technologies. However, beyond the experimentation phase, the school will need to personalise some of the teaching and learning within these types of lessons. For example, spaced learning may require the students to watch the teacher demonstrate at the beginning of the lesson, but what knowledge does the teacher have of the current level of understanding?
In the second part of the lesson, the students may be required to watch a video, but would the students benefit from being able to take notes?
What are the learning outcomes of the lesson? Ultimately, this type of scientific lesson is difficult to ‘set in stone’ and is perhaps better used as a guide for teachers who want to consider some of the theory. In practice, I am thinking about what materials the students will go back to for revising the content of this lesson prior to their exam later in the year? (The teacher’s notes using Educreations alone are not likely to be helpful to the student who never understood the concept, and it will be too late to revisit the all of the textbook material again.)
  • How do you capture what your students already know?
  • What are the key learning points within your lesson?
  • How often do you have ‘checkpoints’ in your lesson when you address the individual learning needs of your students?
  • What kinds of learner response system do you use in school?
  • How can you use technologies for student response in lessons?
  • Have you analysed the types of questions that you ask in lesson?
  • Do you ever give your students the opportunity to generate the questions?
  • What types of notes do the students take in the lesson?
  • How do you capture the teacher’s notes in the lesson?
  • What kinds of technologies are good for improving note-taking skills?
  • What are the best note taking apps?
This school reiterates one of the key factors to enable some of the changes to take place in school; it is essential to involve all staff, students and parents. It is not about imposing the vision, but providing opportunities for discussion, meetings and experimentation. Teachers have to feel confident to share what is working.
Finally, I have to mention the group of students who present their iBook in this school about the visit to London. This is exemplary, and yet something that lots of schools could replicate regardless of particular resources. They have worked together on developing the materials over a three month period. (though not for every language lesson). The students are able to share how they created the materials and they are very proud of their achievements. Being able to publish their own resources has given the students a real understanding of the amount of hard work it takes to produce a finished piece of work. 
  • What opportunities do you give your students to write digital content?
  • What are the most successful tools to create content? 
  •  How have you worked with another school to create content?
  •  Have you encouraged students to write digital content collaboratively?
  •  If you are looking for a partner school to share some writing with, you can always ask on #lsl_eu
I am now half way through the link observation visits and for me Living Schools Lab is beginning to demonstrate evidence of the reasons why students want to go to school, rather than why they have to.    I’m not sure how many miles I’ve travelled (this would make a good mathematical challenge), I’m still looking forward to Cyprus, Belgium, Portugal, Ireland, Austria and Lithuania. (I’ve also developed expertise in packing a very small suitcase and putting a few essentials into extra deep pockets.)