“Children can do extraordinary things if you give them the chance. Every year we do the GEC it’s inspiring to see what they can do.”
Daltonschools (www.daltoninternational.org) were originated by Maria Parkhurst, a teacher in Dalton USA who was teaching children aged 6 to 12 in the same classroom. She developed a programme that allowed her to give every child the education that he or she needed. The basics of her programme were collaboration, responsibility and independence and every Daltonschool nowadays works with those principles.
The children at Daltonschool Elserike School (DES) are taught not only the basic skills like maths and the Dutch language, but also how to plan their work, collaborate effectively, set goals for themselves and identify their skills, as well as those they need to develop. They work together with twelve other schools in the region to develop 21st century skills that include IT and technology, together with the social skills society requires.
DES has been at the forefront of technology for 15 years, says its headteacher, Bertjan ten Donkelaar. “The first interactive whiteboard in this region was placed at our school. We were also the first school in the Netherlands trying out an electronic learning platform from Microsoft called ClassServer. Although we’d stopped using this learning platform by 2009, we learned a lot from the experience we had with it. As a team/teachers you take a chance by looking at teaching from another viewpoint. You are experimenting with new technology, thinking outside the box.”
When Bertjan became headteacher at DES in 2005, the teachers acknowledged that they needed to change not only the way they taught, but also what they taught, in order to ensure the children learned the skills needed by the adults of the future: “Of course maths, reading and writing are still important basic skills, but we needed to rethink our curriculum and maybe even also our didactics. In 2007 we organised a special evening for all the parents where we boldly told them that we, at that point, also didn’t know where the fast technological developments would lead us. That night we had a memorable and constructive discussion between teachers and parents on the future of our education. From that moment on we felt encouraged to look for new ways and new technologies. That meant that we had to take ‘controlled risks’ in testing out new ideas. We as teachers, as a school, could take control and create and test ideas and develop our own vision."
“In January 2013 we moved towards adaptive and personalised learning using tablets and specially-developed apps. We let the children do their maths, spelling and Dutch exercises on them, with the software registering all the data. Each child then can do the exercises that he or she needs to get to ‘the next level’. It’s a very interesting and promising technology and the next step in our search for new horizons.”
The motto of all the Daltonschools in the Netherlands is What the world needs are people without fear. Bertjan explains that this means that they teach children not to be scared of any challenge they will face now or in the future: “We hope to raise children who are confident about what they can do and eager to learn things they can’t do. To accomplish that, Parkhurst says, you also need teachers without fear. We constantly need them to develop and look for ways to do things better and try new things as an answer for the challenges you face at school. Technology plays an important, but not a major role in this. Technology can be an answer to some of the problems/challenges in our education nowadays, but not the only one.”
DES has participated in Broadclyst School’s (BCPS) Enterprise Project, now the GEC, since 2007. At the beginning, the exchange of ideas between children took place via Lync, e-mail and their own SharePoint site. “We are in the fortunate position that we can physically meet up with the teachers and children of BCPS,” says Bertjan. “Every year we organise a student exchange where we visit each other’s country. Every other year children from BCPS travel to the Netherlands to meet up with their teammates from Holland and the next year we travel to Heatree in Devon. That’s a very special event that has a lot of value!”
The platform both schools use today has much more possibilities - Office365 leads students, as well as their teachers, to their own working environment and to a great number of applications. This range of possibilities is superb, although, according to Bertjan, it does lead to logistical issues as well as sometimes being a little daunting for the children: “The sheer scale of the project, with so many countries and even more children, makes it in a way more difficult to get the children in one-to-one contact. All the different time zones can cause issues - not everyone is online all the time. It’s up to the teacher to look at all participating countries and investigate the different cultures."
“For the children, getting in contact with children from all over the world is exciting and a bit frightening as well. Direct contact via Skype is the scariest part for some of them. With a message board like Yammer, when they are not sure about a word or sentence they can always ask their teammates or teachers before sending it. Yammer is easy to use for exchanging ideas and gives a nice overview of the work from all the different teams. But seeing and speaking to each other in real-time is more difficult.”
DES has a satellite internet connection that makes certain apps inaccessible, so the children have not yet been able to use OneNote. However, there are plans for a fast broadband connection by the time next year’s Challenge comes around.
The power of the Global Enterprise Challenge is demonstrated by the fact that the DEC is now working almost completely with projects like it, because of its tremendous learning power.
Bertjan describes the impact of this way of teaching: “From the first moment on, we saw that the children were capable of much more than we had previously thought, and the teachers need to take on a different role than before. You become more like a coach, a facilitator. You need to set boundaries within which they can freely move, think and act, and then guide them.
“The children, too, need to develop different skills than they would have used in the past. The key skills are freedom, collaboration, responsibility and creativity: working freely in a team within the boundaries set by their teacher, where they can accelerate in the things they are good at and learn intensively the skills they need to improve, respecting their teammates, and discovering what talents everyone has in order to allocate tasks effectively."
“Children can do extraordinary things if you give them the chance. Every year we do the challenge it’s inspiring to see what they can do, surprising to witness the developments in the roles that they are playing, and impressive how creative they are in trying to solve the challenges they need to face.”
“The children showed immense response to the collaborative elements of the challenge. They were very enthusiastic to learn the Office 365 tools and were among the first to share their ideas on Yammer and SharePoint. Even during their Christmas vacations they were seen interacting with their peers across the globe.”
At Gyan Mandir Public School (GMPS), technology helps to create a platform through which students can learn more and enhance their skills for the 21st century. Ranjeeta explains: “Using technology helps every student to learn more without any boredom creeping in. Both critical and creative thinking can be enhanced if the teaching is done with technology, and it creates a better relationship between a teacher and a student.”
Ranjeeta finds that the use of more interactive educational tools allows for a dynamic learning experience which is flexible and adaptable to differentiated learning. Students benefit not only from sharing their ideas but also from effective feedback: “Collaboration is the key word for the 21st century and technology provides opportunities for it, as well as for exploring the vast ocean of information that exists to be explored and utilised by the students.”
The children at GMPS share their ideas and interact with their peers in other countries and cities around the world through Yammer and SharePoint, developing their thinking and interaction skills, enhancing their ideas and creativity and boosting their enthusiasm as they learn more about each other.
Ranjeeta’s biggest hope for today’s students is that they have an untiring spirit of meeting challenges, with better thinking and creative skills, and better ideas so that they can develop, create and innovate: “They want to stand out as the best and make a difference to the world.”
The challenge has developed students’ entrepreneurship skills, and they have become more innovative as well as learning how to co-operate with others and maintain business skills. Ranjeeta reports that they have been spending hard days, showing great effort but often enjoying themselves: “They became excited after every stage of the challenge. They never lost their hope and strived for the excellence of their team. They learned how to maintain their sales, prevent loss, make profit, design products, customise products according to the wishes of the customer, give discount, develop the status of the company, advertise the products and impress our customers – as well as how to work on Office 365, Yammer, SharePoint and other workspaces.”
Through the GEC Skype events, the GMPS students were able to interact and share their ideas face-to-face with students in other countries, understanding the competition and leading to better ideas and better creativity.
Their greatest difficulties were in customising products according to the wishes of customers and also planning their sales. But the children marketed their products very well, keeping their pricing at the minimum to maximise their sales. Finding time for the work was also difficult, especially when they had exams and other curricular and ex-curricular activities, but they worked in teams before and after school and loved the challenge. Every Monday brought opportunities and challenges for the next stage.
The children showed an immense response to the collaborative elements of the challenge. They were very enthusiastic to learn the Office 365 tools and were among the first to share their ideas on Yammer and SharePoint. Even during their Christmas vacations they were seen interacting with their peers across the globe.
They planned their phases of sales and how to run them; different teams had different ideas, and the result was very successful: “A grand sale was put up at the school’s annual fete, where the chief guest was the president of the Confederation of Indian Industries. The students continued their sales, going from one classroom to another and also displaying their products where they would be seen by potential customers.”
You can visit the children’s company website at www.careforspare.wordpress.com
“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.”
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.”
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!”
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.
“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.”
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.”
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!”