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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...

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...

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 ...

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...

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...

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 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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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 Roveleto there is a pre-primary, primary and lower secondary school. The primary school children go to school from 8.30am- 4.30pm, but many of the children go home for lunch and go back in the afternoon. The school day is 8am-1pm Monday to Saturday for the Lower Secondary Students, but on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 2pm and 4pm the school operates “learning labs” to provide additional learning activities.  

My morning begins with a tour of the school and in Pontenure there is one main building, but at the back, this is being extended, with several new classrooms being developed. The new classroom areas are all currently open with no doors, no furniture and no students, this area is not due to open for a number of weeks, but there are still some key decisions to be made about what learning should look like. There is evidently several key staff working across both schools, who have built their knowledge over many years to consider how the physical learning space is critical to the learning and teaching.
  •  If you had the opportunity to design a new classroom what would it look like?
  • What technologies would you include in a new school? What would you omit?
  • Are there particular types of furniture that you would include in a new classroom?
  •  How can you involve the students in changing the design of learning spaces?
  • What is the role of the teacher in a newly designed space?
This morning, I am invited to observe Mathematics with Daniela Porro, a leading teacher in the Creative Classrooms Lab project. Daniela has divided the class into groups of four with each of the students taking a different role in the group.
1.       Photographer
2.       Secretary
3.       Controller – Checking the time and making sure everyone is on task
4.       ‘Relatore’ who will “Retell” the activity to everyone else
Two additional students have also documented the work of all the groups.  Each group has a ‘toolkit’ of resources for the lesson and a worksheet. The students have to create quadrilaterals using paper and paper fasteners. The students then have to work out the properties and features of the quadrilaterals. Each student has access to his or her own tablet. The teacher suggests several apps that the students might use to work during the lesson including Pic collage, Educreations, Haiku Deck and PDF master. The lesson is 60 minutes, and the students will have approximately 35 minutes to complete the cooperative task. In the plenary activity, each group will present their work. Whilst the teacher has given the students some advice about the apps to choose, the content of the lesson remains focussed on the Mathematics. The students support one another with the apps. One student records the student clipping together the paper using the paper fasteners and giving a commentary on the mathematics. It is important that the students have the concrete materials to handle. Another student recreates the shapes using Educreations whilst the final student takes photographs and records the key points using Pic collage. The teacher is able to go around each group and ask questions to further the mathematical knowledge. The students remain active and engaged throughout the lesson with each group producing very different styles of presentation. The teacher can also ask the two additional students who are responsible for capturing the whole lesson to include certain points of the lesson. The teacher has divided the students into mixed ability groups and today she has selected particular students to complete the role of Secretary and Reteller as she will assess their progress. The final job for each group is to capture a photograph of the whole group to show who has worked on the task.
  • What opportunities do you provide for your students to have an individual role in the group task?
  • How can you use particular technologies and applications to support group work?
  • How do you assess the individual progress of students using group tasks?
  • What are the benefits of cooperative learning?
In September 2013, the school initiated the ‘Libr@ project’ across the federation of schools; this has equipped every 11-12 year old with their own iPad to take home. Parents are paying for the iPad, with different options available at different prices to equip the students with their “Learning Rucksack”. Each family also pays 10 euros per year and some of that money is used towards ebooks. The parents are supportive because there is a substantial difference between the previous price of students having only textbooks and the students now having access to the technology too. The school is Wi-Fi enabled throughout and the school diary is online for all the staff and students. Every class has a virtual classroom on the register where the teacher can add the work for today.
  •  How can digital books move forward learning and teaching?
  • What additional funding can schools use to support the purchase of technologies?
  • How can current funding be used to support the development of learning spaces?
  • What places have you visited that have inspired the development of the classrooms or learning spaces in your school? #lsl_eu
  • Can the students in your school access the lesson materials on line?
At the heart of both schools is the library equipped with an extensive range of books and DVDs. In Roveleto, the library is open to the school community for 40 hours per week with a dedicated member of staff. The library is open after school hours and also on Saturday mornings. The school has looked at the 10 rights of the reader by Daniel Pennac to inform their thinking about the library. Each group of students goes to the library for at least one hour per week. Authors have been in to meet with the students. 13,000 people can borrow up to 4 books each. Parents can use the computers and printer in the library. The library is also a centre of distribution for assistive technologies for disabled people in the community, with 2000 objects available for borrowing, including both hardware and software. 
  • How important is the library in your school?
  •  To what extent is the library used for different parts of the curriculum?
  • What resources do you have available in school that could be shared with your local community?
  • Is there additional funding available for you to support community activity during and beyond the school day?
Later in the morning, we travel to Roveleto. In this school, the library has been adapted to include a social learning space on two levels. Downstairs students can sit at a table, but upstairs there are large cushions (iPuffs)  for the students to work more informally. There is a large digital screen which the students and teachers can connect to.  Teachers have to book this space for lessons. This space demonstrates that mobile technologies allow the students to work differently; they are free to move and work how they want to.   It becomes even more important for the teacher to consider the learning outcomes and the differentiation; the teacher can give the students more freedom to make decisions about what they learn. (There is no paper, pens or notebooks) In today’s lesson, the students are researching the significance of 4th November in Italy, (Armed Forces Day in Italy), but also comparing this to different nationalities. This is one of a series of “labs” which the student can opt to attend during the afternoon. This particular lab is focussed on History and Technology, however during the afternoon I visit labs for gardening (repairing and painting the outdoor furniture), Music (learning Do-Re-Mi from The Sound of Music), Guitar, Theatre, Cookery, (making pumpkin cake – very seasonal, and it tastes delicious!) & Science and Technology (exploring how to demonstrate the amount of air in a bottle using an egg). Each ‘learning zone’ has small groups of approximately 15-20 students. In each classroom there is a noticeable air of involvement, because the students have chosen to participate in these sessions.
  • Do you have learning activities in school that the students can choose as an option?
  •  How can you use technology to make links between subjects?
  •   What are the benefits of allowing students to ‘record’ sections of the lesson using either video or photographs?
  • How has your timetable been organised to encourage innovation and creativity?
The most recent classroom to open in Roveleto is the ‘Mondrian Sulle Pere’; here the new furniture is mobile and brightly coloured. The tables are various shapes and can be moved and interconnected to make different groups. Nothing is static and everything can be easily adapted by the teachers and the students for the learning activities. This shows that as the school is continually trying to progress the learning of the students, the use of technology has been interwoven into these spaces, rather than ‘bolted on’.
In this school the developments have been continuous over a number of years. There is a direct connection between the changes to the learning spaces and the integration of technology. There are also key staff who work together to ensure cohesion and to encourage others to recognise that students can now learn differently. 
So, as I board the flight from Bologna to Brindisi; (on the heel of Italy) I know that mainstreaming the use of technology in teaching is not as easy as buying soft cushions, new furniture and mobile devices, it is incredibly complex and requires constant reflection by a team of innovators in school.   However opening up the dialogue and conversation across the school about effective use of learning spaces should be seen as fundamental to the role of any successful school leader. (Libraries, learning spaces and laboratories are high on the agenda, along with the mobile technologies!)
In the LSL project, we are trying to encourage the teachers to capture videos that highlight the use of technology in school, and to demonstrate the progress. You can find out more about this school here.