Year 6 Teacher at Broadclyst Community Primary School (BCPS)
“The ability to post a picture of a product or idea and have feedback from learners around the world is very powerful.”
Technology is so deeply embedded at Broadclyst that it is difficult to separate it from classroom pedagogy. The cloud-based tools, such as OneNote, allow children to take responsibility for their learning, continuing it at home and developing greater independence. Voting systems like Yammer and Pulse seamlessly engage children with topics. The idea of creating digital content is commonplace in many forms, from videos, to blogs and presentations.
This is why Matthew feels passionate about technology and intervention in the classroom: “It’s all about engagement. I have worked with a number of children who have arrived at Broadclyst, disengaged with the concept of school. Through the use of digital tools, we have enabled them to create meaningful content - news programmes, Sway presentations, etc., - with real-world value.”
Yammer and Skype for Business have provided opportunities for children at the school to question each other, and learning about lives in different parts of the globe has substantially developed their cultural understanding.
Nevertheless, there are challenges within the curriculum, as Matthew explains: “The children can sometimes struggle to maintain pace in their learning; there are often so many things going on at the school, due to the broad and balanced curriculum. However, tools such as Office365 allow them to maximise their productivity in the same way that it would for a business client.”
Matthew is in no doubt that preparation for life in the 21st century must focus on digital literacy: “If learners cannot collaborate in a meaningful and rigorous way, using shared documents and cloud-based software, then they are likely to struggle in the future world of work.
“My biggest hope for my students is that they will leave school with the courage, confidence and determination to tackle any obstacle that they may encounter, adapting to the ever-changing landscape of modern society.”
BCPS runs a number of projects under the umbrella of the Global Communities Project, which includes documentaries, photo sharing, agricultural studies and art projects. It also has link schools in India, Ethiopia and the Netherlands. The children often write to pen pals in other schools, as well as Skyping them and engaging in cultural exchange.
During the Challenge, BCPS students have used OneNote team notebooks to structure meetings, organise accounts and to collate advertising materials.
Skype, too, has proved very important for both progress and the development of ideas: “During our Skype calls with Lebanon, it was great to see children comparing build processes, recipes and designs. Our children came back with great ideas for new tools to buy for production.”
Matthew has discovered that, as well as dealing with their obvious time constraints when working on the Challenge, the children often need to be taught to collaborate – for many people (even adults) this does not come naturally: “We aim for children to learn to compromise, to separate ideas from people and to be resilient enough to have a ‘professional’ disagreement.”
Yammer and SharePoint have offered the children real-time collaboration and also provide excellent scaffolds for multimedia collaboration. The ability to post a picture of a product or idea and have feedback from learners around the world is very powerful.
As a result, the children have become young entrepreneurs: “The students have really grasped the finer points of running a business, such as advertising, quality control and accounting. These require a great deal of curriculum knowledge, which we have been able to teach in a real-world context.”
Groups at Broadclyst have been selling both in small-scale, individual sales and also large trade fairs. They have worked hard in every spare moment to create products, stay on top of accounts and to write reports.
Perhaps best of all, Matthew has noticed that they have become remarkably altruistic: “Towards the end of the project, students have also been thinking of what to do with their profits. I have been stunned by the number who want to make charitable donations. I’m quite proud!”