During lockdown new ways of teaching emerged to support remote learning. But this way of working has also become absorbed and has permanently transformed the way that children and young people are taught in the classroom. We talk to some of our local schools about how they use technology within their curriculum.
Schools are now using a variety of technology in the classroom, from interactive whiteboards to game-based software as well as pre-created content. A recent report called Capabilities for Success: What’s Working in EdTech Today established that the UK education system is a world leader in the adoption and use of technology in the classroom, with almost three-quarters of schools embedding tech in everyday teaching and learning practices. The report explains that many schools are reporting better outcomes as a result of their use of technology.
In the report Jim Knight, Director of Suklaa and former schools minister, says: “While the pandemic changed the day-to-day execution of teaching and learning across the world, it also accelerated the evolution of technology adoption, curriculum, and other key elements of learning. The data here suggests that technology like collaborative software and game-based activity supports increased levels of student engagement and leads to improved outcomes holistically.”
As digital natives young people respond well to tech initiatives, but is technology always the way? How can schools achieve the right balance between technology and more traditional ways of interacting and communicating? Some of our local schools give us some insights.
Kingswood School John Davies, Senior Deputy Head and Vice Principal
At Kingswood, we take an evidence-based approach to teaching and learning in the classroom, including how we seek to use technology. We try not to pursue initiatives just because they seem like a good idea; we need to know that our use of time and resources will make a meaningful difference.
We feel great affinity with the guidance published by the Educational Endowment Foundation on technology use, particularly the idea that ‘to improve learning, technology must be used in a way that is informed by effective pedagogy’; in short, educators must use technology wisely and for a specific purpose, not just because it is there. There is no robust evidence that suggests that the more we use technology, the better the learning; indeed, the opposite can also be true, where too much technology can lead to inhibited learning.
That said, we are very keen that our teachers and pupils leverage wisely the best and most effective technological tools to enhance learning, such as AI-informed quizzing programmes or online collaboration software. These tools are useful and can certainly enhance the learning process. Of course, we, like many schools, made a very effective switch to online learning during the nationwide lockdowns. Whilst we were able to harness the power of Teams, OneNote and the whole suite of Microsoft apps, and continue to do so, this period of online learning demonstrated the power of the teacher-pupil personal relationship.
Most importantly, we believe that our young people need to learn to think about technology philosophically. Technology will play a significant role in shaping our children’s futures – it remains our priority therefore to help young people develop the human qualities that technology will never be able to fully replicate or replace: creativity, compassion and critical thought.
Design students at Monkton Combe School are increasingly using 3D Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software to complete their projects. The software allows our students to create complex 3D designs and models for a wide range of products and structures for projects ranging from architecture, engineering, product design, fashion and manufacturing. These can be manipulated and tested in real-time, with no need for expensive physical prototypes, allowing the students to test ideas, edit, and manipulate objects in a virtual environment. This has helped to bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application and has also helped to reduce material costs and improved the speed and accuracy of the design process.
The software has also had a significant impact on how we deliver Design education through improved collaboration between our students and teachers as it provides a common platform for sharing designs and providing feedback.
The visualisation of ideas and creating models of complex 3D objects through CAD opens up creative opportunities for our students to reach innovative outcomes of excellence and prepares them for university and careers in industries where 3D CAD is widely used. Universities are recognising the skills that our students are achieving in this field, with them gaining confidence in software such as Fusion 360.
Wells Cathedral School Mark White, Head of Music Technology
Year 5 pupils at Wells Cathedral Prep School produce an ‘Around the World’ immersive educational project, which incorporates a range of technological approaches and skills. Pupils firstly write their own informative script by researching online information about a range of countries’ or continent’s world music. As well as discussions about seeking reliable information online, there is a cross-curricular (English) element, with pupils considering how to summarise information effectively. Then, using the online music production software ‘Soundtrap’, pupils develop their technical skills by collating audio examples of music, editing them, and recording their own scripts to accompany the musical extracts.
The nature of technical skills then become more creative, as they employ Podcast-style production techniques such as ‘ducking’ (attenuating music so that dialogue can be heard), along with enhancing the global journey with aeroplane sound effects that pan from left to right – one country to the next!
Again using Soundtrap, Year 6 pupils complete a ‘Found Sound’ project, in which they record everyday sounds around the school and, following traditional rhythmic conventions, produce unique tracks with these sounds. Facilitated by technology, children really appreciate the notion of ‘with fewer resources we have to be more resourceful’. This project is another example of how Music Technology is an excellent subject that enables children to develop an array of IT-based technical skills, from process-based to creative.
King Edward’s School David Middlebrough, Deputy Head (Curriculum and Digital Strategy)
At King Edward’s School we recognise the importance of equipping our pupils with the digital skills that they will require throughout their education and later careers. The appropriate use of ICT is at the heart of our curriculum and co-curricular activities and developing our pupils’ confidence and adaptability is key to them being able to flourish in a world full of rapidly advancing technology.
The recent opening of a new Creative Media Suite in the Senior School is one such example of our digital intent. Through our partnership with Lenovo and Microsoft, and with it the installation of 26 Lenovo Legion T5 desktop systems, we’ve been able to fully embrace the opportunities for creative digital media work across a range of activities and subjects. The new facility is widely used across the curriculum, as well as within our co-curricular activities which includes a flourishing esports programme. Pupils can now easily bring more digital media work into their studies, and there are obvious benefits to being able to work with better quality photo and video editing facilities in subjects such as ICT, Drama, Art and Photography. We have also been able to support pupils who want to use these skills in all subjects – whether it is filming a video for a History assignment, putting together an e-news report in English or using Minecraft for Education to explore the world of materials science in Chemistry.
ICT is embedded across the curriculum in our Junior and Pre-Prep Schools. Pupils use apps to enhance their learning, with computer animation becoming an increasingly valuable tool to present complex ideas. Tablet devices are part of the standard toolkit for pupils as they film and construct animations in a range of subject areas, such as illustrating fairy tales in English or explaining volcanic processes in Geography. Our younger pupils are also proficient coders, winning the latest Raspberry Pi competition with their design of a recycle bin that rewarded pupils with house points each time it was used and gave an alert when it needed emptying.
Prior Park College Nat Corden, Assistant Head Teaching and Learning
At Prior Park College digital technology is used to quietly support its students. Each student is provided with a Personal Learning Device, not to replace pen and paper, but in support of outstanding teaching and learning. Our Personal Learning Devices, or PLDs as they are better known, facilitate a close working relationship between students and their teachers as they explore their academic curiosities. Full access to the Microsoft 365 package enables students to seek support and feedback from their teachers outside of lessons using Teams.
In class, gone are the days of endlessly copying notes from the board – Microsoft OneNote provides a platform for teachers to capture rich discussion, share editable notes with the students, provide live feedback, and embed screen recordings of worked examples. This digital technology support makes learning, and indeed revising for exams, a smoother, organised process, and one that all our students greatly benefit from.
At The Paragon School technology is used in everyday teaching and learning. We teach a bespoke computing curriculum which commences in the pupils’ earliest years when they are in Squirrels Pre-School. Our ethos is that teaching children to think computationally is essential and should begin as soon as a child embarks on their educational journey with us.
Formal computing lessons commence in Year 1. Pupils are taught to use the key Microsoft packages, as well as coding and programming. Other creative skills such as Podcast production and creating a stop-frame animation using tablets are taught from Years 3–6. Throughout the school each classroom has its own Interactive White Board. Pupils from Year 5 are provided with their own Personal Learning Devices to maximise and enhance their learning opportunities, such as researching and word processing, not only throughout their school day but also at home.
Implementing the use of technology in daily life at school supports our long-term approach to ensure that our pupils are knowledgeable and excited about the fast-evolving technological world around them. Our ambition is to foster independent learners, who will leave us in Year 6 as confident digital citizens.