As the global businesses involved in this year’s GEC start trading their products, we’ve been finding out a bit more from their teachers about how they’re getting on. Here is a report by Kepa G. de Latorre from Elche, Spain.
Taking business decisions by themselves
“They have been extremely excited to discover that they can interact in so many ways; they love speaking and sharing their ideas with children from any other part of the world. And it becomes a completely different subject then, because they feel they are part of something bigger.”
At La Devesa, the students work with convertible laptops rather than textbooks from the fifth year of primary school right up to the Selectividad, the Spanish university access exam. They are therefore used to communicating through their devices, and they do communicate a lot. The school uses SharePoint, Yammer, Outlook and Skype for Business because they provide a huge number of different channels for different needs.
Collaborative learning is one of the bases of La Devesa’s educational strategy, together with a ‘multiple intelligence’ approach. Teachers encourage creativity, collaboration and autonomous thinking among the students, and Kepa particularly likes to work with the acceptance of mistakes as part of the learning process: “Spanish culture stigmatises mistakes a lot. To start with, children are afraid of saying the wrong answer aloud and they tend to be very embarrassed. I try to make them understand that a good mistake is better than a ‘bad’ correct answer, because if you haven’t fully understood something the sooner you realise it, the better. But what I actually want to do is to create a climate where trying and being wrong are perfectly acceptable. When I succeed, beautiful things happen.
“The technology is what enables us to collaborate more effectively. It makes classes more diverse and more bidirectional (or even multidirectional); now we can use strategies that were impossible a few years ago. We are very focused on personalised learning right now. Without our advanced technology it would be far more difficult, or impossible, to have kids doing different tasks and being effective, demanding their best while not getting them frustrated. But in the end you can’t forget that technology is just a tool and what is more important, I think, is what you make of it.”
There are, of course, challenges for the children, and learning can be hard sometimes, not just fun. Some are challenged just by being in school for such long hours. Kepa is very aware that many children have longer ‘shifts’ than the average adult, when you consider classes, extracurricular activities, homework, sports, music etc. He feels that for some this is the greatest challenge of all: “Unfortunately some simply don’t have enough spare time to be actual children and play freely.”
His biggest hope for his students is that they become critical-thinking young adults who are able to develop their own personal ethic, with values such as respect for others, self-confidence, solidarity with other people and the planet, the intrinsic value of hard work and responsibility, with which they can guide their lives. “I feel lucky because La Devesa is a ‘school with values’. We are proud that this is something in our DNA and all the staff and all our families understand this and encourage it happening.”
La Devesa and the Global Enterprise Challenge (GEC)
Entering the GEC has made the children of La Devesa feel that they can create something that has value for people they don’t know, and that they can do it while having fun. They have been excited to work with students from other countries, and taking business decisions by themselves has made them more engaged in the process, allowing them to ‘own’ their learning.
Kepa explains how using the digital tools in the GEC has enhanced the students’ creativity and enthusiasm: “They have been extremely excited to discover that they can interact in so many ways; they love speaking and sharing their ideas with children from any other part of the world. And it becomes a completely different subject then, because they feel they are part of something bigger. They’ve been voting in surveys uploaded by team-mates from other countries, posting their drawings, their prototypes, asking other children what they thought about a better price to make a profit, and also just chatting to get to know each other, because they are very curious.”
Kepa himself confesses to being a OneNote fan. He loves its versatility and the way that it allows the children to centralise all the information, with a variety of file formats, and to work collaboratively within it: “One of the most profitable uses of OneNote has been with the product research: one child would go to the web, find a video of crafting and post it to the group’s collaborative space, while other members of the group were looking for pictures of possible designs and pasting them to the same section, and it was all happening at the same time.”
Learning through the Challenge
One of the key learning points for the children of Da Devesa is making those ‘good’ mistakes that Kepa encourages. Sometimes they find it difficult to select a product that is suitable for their needs and that they can actually make. It can look easy in the YouTube DIY video, but may prove harder in reality: “I let them try, because I believe it to be an important learning. Then, if they can’t do it, they have to start again and search for something more realistic.”
In the first year of the school’s participation in the GEC, Kepa was surprised at how involved the children became, and they can still surprise him now: “They would stop me in the corridors, excited because they had a solution to a problem or another idea. This year one girl showed me the business cards they had created - when I hadn’t said anything about business cards! As it happens, it has been a smart contribution, because that particular group works on demand. They paint phone cases, and a specific transparent base needs to be bought for the phone model, and there are so many models that they can’t make them in advance: they first sell the product and then make it. So, they’ve found business cards to be a good idea.”
The children’s enthusiasm and commitment to the Challenge have been obvious. They participated in a Winter Festival for the whole school on the last day of 2015, where they sold their products. They produced posters and banners, were very busy creating stock to sell and were all asking their families for permission to be there right up to the end.
“It always surprises me when they start selling their crafts and suddenly everything turns upside-down,” says Kepa. “The day starts with shy children who are full of fears and you can see how some of them would prefer to be anywhere else! But by the end of the day they don’t want to close their sales tables and I have to get serious. That’s funny!”