Journal posts Journal posts

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...

Student feedback and whole school change using techology is far more than mouse mischief and games.

Varpelis translates as “bell” and here was the first school visit in Kaunas Varpelis Primary School, Lithuania.   It is the shape of a capital H with two floors, but the...

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...

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,...

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...

Involving your students and making the most of learning beyond the lesson time.

Eça de Queirós has been identified as the Advanced Secondary School in Portugal for the LSL Project. Set in an area surrounded by high rise apartments and largely lower socio-economic status; this...

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...

One Magical Genie, a webquest, seven workstations and an innovation team

My morning begins with a tour of this primary school in Geroskipou . The school day starts at 7.30am and ends at 1:05pm. (The time is two hours ahead of UK, and with a one hour journey to...

Be Original with Technology. Small groups, big tasks.

Palouriotissa Gymnasium School is in Nicosia , Cyprus. Set in an area with predominantly lower socio-economic status, the school is an eclectic mix of buildings that are not all...

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...

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...

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....

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...

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...

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
One Magical Genie, a webquest, seven workstations and an innovation team

My morning begins with a tour of this primary school in Geroskipou. The school day starts at 7.30am and ends at 1:05pm. (The time is two hours ahead of UK, and with a one hour journey to school, it’s an early start!) The school is a relatively brand new building from 2006 and with 327 students; it is a large school in Cyprus. The headteacher is in her second year at the school. One of the most interesting parts of the Cyprus education system that I heard about is that staff in school are not usually allowed to stay in a school more than 6 years. This has many implications for whole school change. One of the Advanced Practitioners in a different school within the LSL project in Cyprus has had 19 new teachers in his school in September, 42% of the staff have changed. Undoubtedly, this will impact upon many aspects of school life.

  • What happens when someone new joins your school?
  • What types of training and professional development are available to them?
  • What induction does a new member of staff get to the technology in school? And who delivers this?
  •  Are there particular activities that you can recommend to teachers joining a new school? #lsl_eu
Equally, in other countries some schools have staff that have been in the school for a very long time, and this can present a different challenge to ensure that they remain aware of the developments beyond the school. (Not just in technology!)
Although this is a new school, there is a noticeable difference between the amount of resources in this school and the other countries I have visited. Not all classrooms have a fixed projector, but there are some portable ones available in school. Several schools in Cyprus have also faced the on-going problem of equipment being stolen and this had led to the decision to buy portable equipment.
  •  What is the best way to secure equipment in school?
  • Can you recommend any advice about securing resources?
Some classrooms have an interactive whiteboard, and in the first grade, the students are doing some simple mathematics counting the pictures of fruit. Several students are selected to go to the front to choose the answers to each question, whilst the other students have to find the right answer on a number line on their desk using a finger puppet.    The children ‘like being able to see the information on the big board’.
In the last 6 months, the school has allowed the children to bring their own devices into school, and this means that once or twice a week, some students bring their own laptop in from home. This means that the children can share resources.
In the playground at playtime, the activities are organised for the children, scrabble, draughts, basketball and other sports equipment is all set out into separate areas.
This morning, I will work with Skevi Demetriou one of the lead teacher’s in this school. 
In the classroom, there are seven work stations and seventeen students. The students work in pairs or groups of 3. The areas within the webquest are:
1)      Introduce Yourselves
2)      Sightseeing in London
3)      Geography in London
4)      Food of London
5)      Football in London
6)      British Museum
7)      Multicultural London
 The next step for this class is to look at how the ICT activities can be further connected to real life. It would be great if they could share their work with a school in London and show what they have been learning about. 
The webquest includes seven different activities and each member of the class is given a role.
When the students have completed a task, they have to take a ‘lollipop stick’ with a number on it and insert it into polystyrene on their desks. This gives a very visual display to the teacher and the rest of the students about how far each group has progressed through the tasks. In each task, the students have to swap roles; they also need to swap who takes the lead with the laptop because there is only one laptop for each group. Within the webquest, the students have to complete several different types of activities, including a jigsaw of the British Isles, highlighting the location of London, a data task to find out the populations for several European countries including Britain, a menu for a restaurant demonstrating the British cuisine, a brochure for one of the places of interest. The students work cooperatively throughout the tasks. The teacher is able to move around the groups, during the morning, she also stops the students with a tambourine. She selects the work of the students using the Google drive to see how far they have progressed through the task. The students use Voki, Blabberise, Wordle, Glogster, Create a Graph and
This webquest has been created in weebly by a group of teachers  within the school for the work of the LSL project. It has taken a lot of input, but the result is successful.  It begins with a talking magical genie introducing the tasks. One of the key outputs for the teachers is the ‘template’. The concept of the webquest could be explored for other topics, e.g. another country, a specific aspect of the science or history curriculum, the local community. I discuss with the teachers the importance of gaining student feedback and evaluations of the materials. Within these materials, the students are largely the consumers of the teacher information, and one of the development points will be to encourage the students to take a leading role in producing new ideas. At the end of this webquest experience, even these young students would be able to create materials for a new topic. It would also be helpful to try different ways of working, e.g. if these students had access to more laptops, what differences would this make to the kinds of activities they are able to do? 
In the final part of the morning, I have the opportunity to meet with the Student Council for this school, the group of eight students have been working on a series of topics that are whole school issues and collating evidence from all the students across the school. I discuss with the students how they can also promote the work they are doing with technology beyond the school. I am sure some of the students will take up the challenge to create a video broadcast to highlight some of their achievements in the student council.
  • Do you have a student council?
  • What opportunities do you give the student council to explore ICT in school?
  • Have the student council observed the teachers and given feedback?
  • How do the students share the work of the council with the school community?
I think what resonates most with me from my visits to the schools in Cyprus is how much the teachers have been able to achieve whilst having access to less resources. The teachers have worked as a team and are clearly committed to enabling students to learn using technology across all areas of the curriculum. The next stage will be to consider how the model of the webquests could be adapted for students of different age groups and to capture individual student progress using technology.

Be Original with Technology. Small groups, big tasks.
Palouriotissa Gymnasium School is in Nicosia, Cyprus. Set in an area with predominantly lower socio-economic status, the school is an eclectic mix of buildings that are not all interconnected. Built in the late 1950’s, there is a main building with administration and a number of classrooms including a computer lab, but there is also a number of smaller single storey buildings housing two or three classrooms.  During the week, the school operates a timetable of ‘labs’ where the students are divided into smaller groups. This is for subjects such as Home Economics, Design and Technology, Computer Science, Physics, Chemistry and Biology.
Josephine Pavlou is the lead teacher for LSL and a Home Economics teacher. In this morning’s lesson, there are just twelve students and the purpose of the lesson is to look at how the media portrays body image. The students have a whole class discussion that is led by the teacher. In the second part of the lesson, the class is divided into three groups, one will create a short video clip using movie maker, one will create a magazine cover using a publishing programme, and one will create a radio clip using audacity.
The students must create an advert called ‘Be Original’, to encourage young people to be satisfied with their body image and to accept that everybody is different. The students only have a short amount of time to complete the task (just 20 minutes), but they collaborate well and work productively.
The students who are creating the video clip go outside and begin taking photos of each other posing with different body shapes. One boy does a handstand against the wall to demonstrate how we can all look different and we all have different body shapes. (I just hope I am not going to be asked to copy this one!)  The students making the radio clip work in Greek and English and capture a variety of opinions and each member of the group contributes.
The final results are very good and the students have the opportunity to observe each other’s work. The interesting part of these tasks is that all of them could have been separate lessons, and all of them could have been a longer project, however, the teacher has high expectations of what the students can achieve using technology independently and this means that she can focus on the curriculum content. 
In the second part of the morning, I observe another lead teacher, Vasso Violari who is teaching the students to create charts. At the beginning of the lesson, she runs a short quiz to find out what the students know already. She has set up a MS PowerPoint in the style of ‘Who wants to be a millionaire?’ and the students must answer a series of questions to gain euros. Each student has to record their score on a paper and hand it in. The teacher uses the papers to talk to the students about how we collate data. The teacher has stored the file for the students in Edmodo and this is where they can access their work and comment with the teacher. (The teacher and the students both love Edmodo because it allows the continued communication beyond the lesson, the student can simply post a question or make a comment and the teacher can publicly respond. This feedback is much more immediate and saves the student having to wait until next week’s lesson.)
In the main activity for the lesson, the teacher takes the data from the paper and reads it out to the students for them to insert into an excel spreadsheet. The students then have to create a column graph with the data. As this is the first lesson to learn about creating charts, the students follow the teacher’s instructions, but each student is working on their own computer. Each student has to create the same chart. Most of the students are able to do this step by step with the teacher’s support. I discuss with the teacher about how why the students all have the same task today. In the next lesson, the students will be asked to create some more graphs based on data from their teacher and then asked to present their results in different formats. This initial lesson has given the teacher some indication of what the students already know from the quiz. However, we also discuss that some of the students may welcome the opportunity to be more ‘experimental’ with the software.
The next STEPs for this school are to engage with parents more closely and to encourage them to be involved with the learning that takes place in school.
  • How do you engage parents in your school using technology? #lsl_eu
  • What technologies can we introduce to parents to support their children?
  • How can we encourage communication between home and school using technology?
  • When do parents come into school?
  • How often do parents see their children learning?
  • What finished work do parents see? And when?
Towards the end of the day, I interview the students with the deputy headteacher Pepy Michaelides. We talk about the use of technology in school; perhaps what is surprising is just how much the students have observed the teachers using technology in school. (Take note, the students are watching just how skilled you are!) The students openly discuss how much technology is used by all teachers and even when there is no technology in the room, the teachers find ways to make technology available using portable projectors or laptops.
  • How often do you ask your students about the use of technology in school?
  • What resources would your students buy next?
  • What changes would the students like to see? 
This was a very useful discussion because the students soon realised that access to more laptops would probably be the best option because it would mean that they could be used by more students and moved between classrooms. 
So, I leave Nicosia in the beautiful sunshine with an outside temperature of 32°c. (It is a cool November day for the teachers, but having left the UK at 5°c, the rising heat has really got me thinking about how teachers must take the opportunity to gather feedback from the students because it is incredible just how perceptive they are and it can certainly help you to move forward with whole school development!)
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.)
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.
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.


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 lower secondary school of 420 students. It is a brand new building that opened only two years ago in November. Outside, the snow is falling and the temperature is just below zero. My morning begins with putting on the blue shoe covers, whilst most of the students have their indoor clothes in the entrance lockers. 

The school is triangular shaped with three sides leading off a large sports hall at the top emphasising the school’s focus on the sports curriculum. The classrooms are all accessed via an electronic key fob. There are also areas dedicated to different subjects including music which has several soundproof practise areas and students working on their latest compositions for guitar and drums. In the centre of the school is a large open plan hall; this is a social learning space, but also converts into the performance area or space to bring all the students. It is the full height of the school and from the balcony upstairs at various times of the day are different groups of students working, socialising and taking their lunch break.
The first lesson observation is with RLE (Religious Education, Life and Ethics) with the 9th Grade students. The learning environment is split into three areas. There are two open classrooms that lead onto sofa areas and in the middle there is a classroom with a closed door. The first lesson is on the right-hand side and in the open space is a trolley stacked with laptops charging. (On the front door of the trolley, the list of names of the students indicates the order they should be stacked.) In this school, every student has access to their own laptop during the daytime at school. It is their device, but it stays in school. Since September 2013, every 8th grade student in TromsØ is given a laptop and this is paid for by regional funding in the municipality. When the students leave school, it will become their own property.
Anniken the teacher stands at the front with her laptop on a lectern next to the SMARTboard. She begins by recapping the story of Buddhism by reading from a textbook. The students listen and respond to her questions. When instructed, the students go and get their laptops from the trolley. They are charged and ready to work. (both laptops and students).
Today, the students will use Creaza to retell the story of Buddhism in the form of a comic. The teacher gives a short introduction to remind the students of some of the features of the software. One student volunteers to use the IWB and creates a background, dragging in characters and adding the spoken words. The students work for about 35 minutes. As they work, some are connected to their own smartphones listening to personal music on their headphones. Two students move themselves to the sofa area because the laptops need charging and continue to work on their story. The teacher is able to move around and support.
  • Do you allow the students to use their own devices in lessons?
  • Can the students listen to their own music in lessons?
During the day, I observe two more lessons. In English, the students are preparing a presentation which they will deliver to the class. The students can decide which software to use. Kay Larssen, a LSL lead teacher begins the lesson by presenting the criteria that will be used to assess the students’ presentation. It is a detailed document outlining the content, and the grammatical requirements. However, each of the students is allowed to approach the task in their own way. 
One student has already written her script and will now write the slides, a second student is doing the script and the slides together, whilst a third is writing the slides and will do the script after. The challenge for the teacher is the range of abilities, but as the students are working independently, the teacher is able to monitor their individual progress.
  • When the students are working on ICT projects, how do you help them to organise their lesson time?
My third lesson observation is Norwegian. This is a big class of 28 students and they automatically spread out into the open space beyond where the walls of the classroom might have been. In today’s lesson, each student works on this or her own laptop, but they are collaborating to produce a debate on their chosen topic. The students are free to search the internet and find information. (Speed limits on mopeds, professional boxing and abortion demonstrate the range of just a few of the topics being debated in pairs.)
The teacher moves around the class and engages in the discussions, however today he is also concerned to see how the students are progressing with their work. Using Microsoft Office 365 to check on the students’ progress from a distance, this allows him to comment immediately, display examples to students, and generally track progress. The students have been working for about eight minutes and the teacher can identify the current challenges and help to maintain their focus.
As a new school, the technology is readily available; the students have strong routines for access and freedom to make some of their own decisions about how they learn.
  • Do you give students the criteria for marking project based learning?
  •  How often do you change the layout of the classroom for using technology?
In this school, the focus for the ICT co-ordinator to link the ICT regional plan to the individual subjects. Anniken also spends time team teaching with other colleagues to ensure that they feel confident to use the software with the students. She is released from the timetable for a few hours each week to be able to do this.
So, as I leave the first school in TromsØ, I am keen to know:
  • How closely is your ICT development plan linked to the school development plan?
  • If you are looking to develop practice across the school, when do you demonstrate to others what you are doing in your classroom?
  • Have you tried team teaching with a colleague to improve teacher knowledge of hardware or software?
  • How can we improve technical support in school to ensure that the ICT co-ordinator spends time dealing with the pedagogy and not resolving the technology?
  • If you are an Advanced School, have you got video examples of lessons to demonstrate your practice linked to your whole school planning? 
In the LSL project we already have some videos of the LSL Advanced Schools, you can see the showcase of the work that they are doing. However, in this second year, we are trying to collate examples of practice which demonstrate what all the teachers in the project are working on to develop the use of ICT across the whole school. These will be made available as part of the Community of Practice. 

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?
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.  Anne-Sophie Picard has her own class of 9-11 year olds and she teaches full time 3 days a week. (Primary School is currently only 4 days a week, there is no school on Wednesdays, but soon this will change to 4.5 days.) In the main school, there are 5 spacious classrooms, a library and a dedicated computer lab. In a separate building there is the nursery school. At present, only the junior school is WIFI enabled throughout. 

One of the key aims of the Living Schools Lab project is to identify practice that can be mainstreamed across the school. As the head teacher in the school, Anne-Sophie has the challenge of demonstrating practice in her own classroom, but also supporting other staff across the school. She has recognised the benefit of working with local ICT advisers in the classroom; this helps to provide evidence of how the school is using the technology, but it also begins to highlight how changing pedagogy is much harder than just providing access to new equipment.
“This is a very typical Monday morning.” says Anne-Sophie. It is a world where technology has met with tradition.   This is probably something that resonates with many teachers who are developing their practice across the school, and it can be critical to focus the use of technology in particular subjects, rather than trying to do too much at once.  In this school, Anne-Sophie is working on the use of ICT in mathematics and it is significant that the dynamics of the lesson are completely different.
The morning begins with Mathematics, in today’s lesson; the students have to research information using WIKIMINI to locate the distance of the planets from the sun. The students have one netbook between two. Some students work in the computer lab next door and the teacher is able to move between the two rooms. The students must insert their data into an excel spreadsheet. Anne-Sophie has created a template for the students. This works well because the students can concentrate on finding the data. The students work together for about 30 minutes to find the data they need. They work on the task in collaboration and with enthusiasm. They discuss the material, make their own notes and work at their own pace. In the plenary of the lesson, the teacher turns on the interactive whiteboard and demonstrates to the students how to organise the data in order. The students then copy the teacher and do the same. One of the important parts of this lesson is the use of templates. Anne-Sophie has identified that the younger students do not need to spend time creating a template; this can be provided by the teacher. 
  • What templates or frameworks do you use when you are teaching?
  • Do you have templates that can be shared across your school or with other schools?
  • Have you got any good examples to share in the Community of Practice?
In the first lesson, the teacher was able to provide support to the students and to guide their learning.   The template gave the content a structure and the teacher introduced some new knowledge.  The lesson also gave the students opportunity to undertake their own research, gather information and organise data; these are lifelong skills. The discussion between the students during the lesson was focussed upon the learning. 
The second lesson is Poetry. Every two weeks the students have a new poem to learn which they must be able to recite from memory. The teacher has handwritten the poem on the dry wipe board and the students must copy it down. (Every single student writes all the verses beautifully!) The students work almost in silence and the teacher is able to supervise their work. Those who finish can draw a picture. 
Whilst this lead teacher is determined to maintain her high standards; she is integrating the use of technology to only some of her lessons. The teacher is now challenging herself in the project to continue to change the practice in school, by starting in her own classroom first.  School development using ICT is ongoing.
As part of the Living Schools Lab project, Anne-Sophie has benefitted from reflecting on her practice and has begun to review her progress. There are sharp contrasts and blurred edges where Anne-Sophie is working to move the use of ICT forward across the school.    However, the next STEPS will require some brave decisions to take the same approach, but in other subjects too.
  • What other methods could the students use to learn their poem?
  • How would this impact on standards?
  • What is the most innovative way for students to learn a poem in two weeks? How can technology enable this? (I wonder if some of our Advanced Practitioners can take up this challenge and share your thoughts in a Learning Snack on the Community of Practice, or on Twitter #lsl_eu.)
This school in France has also reinforced those two precious words: “teacher time”. A primary school student spends most of their day with one teacher and this use of time needs to be maximised to its full potential. Anne-Sophie has shown in Mathematics that thinking about the role of the teacher and the tasks of the students in the lesson can make a real difference to the quality of learning and teaching.
Before you read about the second school I went to in France, consider how the students use technology in your classroom. 
  • What opportunities do the students have to decide their own learning pathway within the lesson?
  • How do you use the student dialogue in lessons to increase the learning opportunities? (Silence is not golden!)
  •  How can you develop the role of the teacher to enable the students to make the best use of your time? (Technology will feature somewhere!)
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 the external view, but beyond the façade the alterations are dramatic. The investment in the school buildings mirrors the focus of attention on developing learning and teaching in the school. 

The school has 523 students and on each floor there is a ‘cage’ of netbooks for shared use. (100 altogether) The school has a computer lab and 10 classrooms have access to SMART interactive whiteboards. There is a small group of staff who are working together to share good practice about learning and teaching. The Living Schools Lab project has provided the opportunity to look at practice across the whole school. 
The school day begins with an assembly, but in this school the students don’t gather in a large hall; instead the ‘message for the day’ is played in a radio broadcast across all the classrooms. Today’s music: “It’s a beautiful day” gives our tour added vitality. (What a great idea!)
During the visit, I observe a mathematics lesson. The teacher uses the school computer lab and each of the students works on their own PC. Teija and I observe the lesson together; this is the same group that she teaches for languages. Having opportunity to watch the lesson gives Teija the time to focus on how the students learn. 
The students use two websites to visit live information about the stock exchange in Finland. They have each identified 5-7 companies to follow. The teacher explains that they will do this over the next three years whilst at the same time building their knowledge of MS Excel software. The students work at their own pace through the same information. The teacher challenges the students during the lesson with his questions. He explores the notion of profit and loss. (Fortunately, the student I have been working alongside has made good investments, with considerable demonstration of profit.) 
As part of the next STEPS on the plan, Teija will focus on working with the same group of students to increase the level of interaction in the languages classroom. Working with another colleague allows Teija to reflect on her practice. Over the next few months she wants to demonstrate how she can develop her own interactive teaching and continue to share this with her colleagues. This school demonstrates the importance of continued focus on learning and teaching.
In this school, building staff confidence to use technology has been critical to the on-going development. Two staff have provided training for others, and the next step will be to link this to providing regular pedagogical support for one another. Changing classroom practice takes time and it is difficult to do this in isolation. The purpose of the Living Schools Lab project is to encourage teachers to collaborate in their own school, between schools and across the network. Regular classroom observation demonstrates how teachers can develop their practice by exploring innovative teaching and learning. The use of technology allows the teacher to involve the student in the lesson and shifts the emphasis from simply learning knowledge to being able to capture the growing understanding that can be transferred between subjects.
  • Have you observed one of your colleagues teach?
  • How often do you get feedback on your teaching from another colleague?
  • What do you think are the benefits of team teaching?
  • Do you plan  your lessons on your own or with a colleague?
  • Do you know what your next professional development will be?
  • What is the next innovation to be introduced in your school
  • How will you share your innovative work across the school? Can you share ideas with at least one other teacher and plan together?
So, as my journey continues to the schools in France, these two schools in Finland can build the work across the regional hub. The schools have identified the importance of capturing the process of professional development and revisiting this often. The teachers are also in the fortunate position of being able to access free training at the TOP centre.  It is not about selecting the next or latest technology, but making a purposeful use of what is already in school or accessible to you.
PS: For those of you who ever travel from Turku in Finland back to the UK – be prepared for the very short connection between flights and the 17 minute dash across the airport!
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 years. Surrounded by beautiful woodland, the modern main school buildings only date back to the 1990’s. There are some “mobile” buildings and just on its own towards the wood is a detached building of the original school and it is over 100 years old.

One of the first points I notice about this school is the vibrant buzz of activity.   In the entrance is a media area that has a large TV screen and a group of students are gathered around. Some students are interviewing others. An enthusiastic audience gathers to observe.
As we walk around the school, we visit classrooms where older students are working with younger students. The school has established “media pairs” so that students can support younger learners with their use of the technology. The 5th grade students are working with the younger children to create animations using i-pads. The teacher is able to work with each group and can concentrate on the content, rather than the technical support.
Allowing students to support each other is extremely important in today’s classroom. It is very difficult to be an expert in every single piece of software or application. Students aspire to the role of “digital leader” and these skills are transferable in everyday life. This school is driving the plan forward to enable students to access a mobile tablet device one between two; the focus is not on more technology but making creative and active use of what is available.
When you are mainstreaming ICT practice across the school, it is essential that you share the vision for implementation with the students. You can encourage them to take responsibility for disseminating practice and enable them to share the school community.
  • How do you enable students in your class to support the use and application of technology?
  • What examples can you share of older students working with younger students, or even vice versa?
  • What equipment do you have in school to digitally record students learning?
  • How are your students involved with implementing the school vision?
  • What would the Future Classroom be like for the students you teach?
  • How often do your students share your school with the wider world?
In the afternoon, I am introduced to the school media team. This group of eleven students is from 6th grade classes and they work with the support of a teacher in school to create content for the Wäiski-TV. These students are a real independent asset to the school, with one designated camera person and one student responsible for sound; the others soon assign each other responsibilities for today’s tasks.
The introduction takes a little more than one attempt, and the students work unaided to achieve perfection. (Take 3: they need no teacher instructions, just a quick rehearsal of the agreed lines, and promise not to giggle.) In the hot seat today, it’s me. (No famous pop star available, they are awaiting a response!) The students have prepared several questions taking their role very seriously. See the Wäiski-TV news with Diana below! 
Not every school has broadcasting equipment, but this school demonstrates the benefits of identifying students to enhance whole school development using technology. The media team works with individual classes and films learning activities to capture students and their achievements. This can then be broadcast and made available on Youtube or Tuubi. It is a great showcase for the school!  

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