Rana Sabbidine Osta
Principal of Makassed Khalil Shehab Primary School
Independent learners with positive motivation
“Skype makes learning and exchanging ideas very real for the children. We share lessons with other schools, and we share with the parents too. It connects people together, and makes distances non-existent.”
The Makassed Khalil Shehab Primary School (KSPS) works with children aged from 3 to 12, and is one of the better schools in Lebanon. With interactive boards in every class and a well-equipped computer lab, the teachers focus not only on ICT, but also on instructional technologies, as Rana explains:
“There has been a fast change in the field of educational technology, which transcends teaching informatics to integrating technology in all aspects of the school. These include teachers’ and students’ evaluation and assessment, the library, scheduling, stock control, registration as well as the classroom itself. Technology is part of our vision and mission. It plays a major role in the educational reform targets in school and helps in raising the teaching and learning standards to enhance students’ achievements and results.
“Our students learn coding and programming in their ICT classes, but they are also engaged in ICT in all other subjects. They engage in online formative assessments and quizzes regularly, they utilise a voting system, they use Yammer in order to exchange ideas safely through social networking, they send and receive emails and they connect with other countries and partner schools through Skype. We involve our parents in the technology too, by sending them emails, and connecting with them through Facebook and our blog.”
The intensive Lebanese curriculum involves a lot of knowledge-based content, so the children sometimes face problems using what they’ve learned in a different context. Because of this limitation, the school is working to enhance problem-solving skills and critical thinking to deepen their learning. The teachers are engaging the students in many real-life activities and projects. Collaboration is key, and the school is involved in a number of global projects including the British Council’s Connecting Classrooms Programme, the International Education and Resource Network (iEARN), the Global Teenager Project and, of course, the Global Enterprise Challenge run by Broadclyst School in the UK.
Rana’s biggest hope for her students is that they will be 21st century leaders and global citizens: “I hope that they maintain Makassed values and beliefs instilled in them while growing and promote them to others; I’d like them to be global citizens who would live and work in a global environment and to have a greater perspective in order to make change in their society.
“I foresee them as contributors to their community and country, critical thinkers, problem solvers, decision makers and future planners.”
KSPS and the Global Enterprise Challenge (GEC)
The GEC was developed by Broadclyst School in the UK to help children all over the world to engage in technology as a tool for learning. At KSPS, Yammer, SharePoint (Team Site), OneNote and Skype have proved highly motivational, and changed the way they work.
Rana offers some inspiring examples: “Yammer motivated the students as soon as they were able to interact and see the achievements of others. Seeing the prototypes being made by children in other countries really enhanced their enthusiasm and creativity - they were inspired and had more ideas that increased their interest and their work.
“With SharePoint, they can share their biographies and tasks with their peers. This rich platform helps students understand the business development and management concept by enabling them organize, manage, and access their work. It facilitates team communication while creating a professional-looking website for their company.
“OneNote helps them organise their ideas, and has become a very important tool for documentation, planning, presentation, and evaluation because they can see everything in one place. We assign different tasks for every child, so their access to the entire structure of the work with OneNote is crucial.
“Skype makes learning and exchanging ideas very real for the children. We share lessons with other schools, and we share with the parents too. It connects people together, and makes distances non-existent. This real-life experience teaches the children language, communication and social skills as well as critical thinking and creativity. They learn to interact with others, to express themselves, to present and share their work. It is a motivating tool that gives them more enthusiasm for work and inspires them to share.”
Learning through the Challenge
The students at KSPS are collaborating in four companies during the GEC, making cookies, recyclable products, keyrings and bookmarks. Time and money have been their greatest challenges; they have had to prepare the stages of the GEC at the same time as preparing for their exams, which has been very tough for the whole school - teachers, children and administrators. And they have had to work hard with fundraising activities at school, with which the parents were also involved, to bring in the money to fund their participation in the project.
To mitigate their tight time constraints, students are working during their recess, during the art sessions, and sometimes even after school, and at home, to finish everything in their free hours. In addition, where topics are related, they are undertaking GEC tasks during their classes – biographies and reports are written in English lessons, making prototypes and manufacturing happen in art classes, budgeting goes on in maths lessons, so that as much as possible is integrated into their learning.
Despite the challenges, Rana has been impressed and proud of the students’ achievements so far: “Their abilities and talents have evolved throughout the stages. It has been a privilege to witness their contributions and their progress – in using the research tools, in connecting with other children, in problem-solving, analysis, production and much more. Our young entrepreneurs have developed distinctive features of leadership, communication and collaboration. With every stage our students shone with their independent critical thinking and proved to be competent problem-solvers. It goes without saying that our Grade Six students are in for a ride of innovation and empowerment. Investing in talented young people can help them evolve into future leaders. The high level of intrinsic motivation and enthusiasm that our pupils are showing has garnered much inspiration. The journey that the students have embarked on has definitely left an astounding impact on the evolution of their personality and given them a global perspective of business development.”
Each student in the KSPS teams has been assigned a distinct role; one student will work on Yammer, another sends emails, a third undertakes research, a fourth makes products, a fifth writes reports, and each group has a team leader. This has proved very important for both team building and collaboration. They enjoy it a lot, and despite their assigned roles, they help each other. Others want to help too – the children in other classes are eager to participate and can’t wait to be involved in next year’s GEC!
Rana is now looking forward to the children’s big trading event in mid-February: “Our students are preparing to sell the products of all four companies. The event will involve other schools, the community, the parents and stakeholders, so between 300 and 350 people will be there. Our slogan for the event is Heart and Hands and the profits from this day of selling will be sent as a donation to our Makassed Hospital Cancer Fund Unit as part of our community services. It is all very exciting!”