Fiona Hawes on Blended Learning @ Tauranga Primary School
2009 stocktake of school staff investigating:
Ways ICT is been integrated into teaching and learning
What gear is being utilised and how often?
What professional learning is needed?
From the 2009 stocktake priorities were set too:
Create a TPS eLearning strategic direction for 2009-2011
Investigate how eLearning can enhance our ‘powerful learning’ philosophy and secure support from the BOT to lead our strategic direction
Update server 2010
Integrate 24/7 online learning with a LMS -- 2010
Re-constitute a computer suite - 2010 - supported with 50% funding from TECT
Mimio interactive whiteboards in all classes - 2010 - supported with 50% funding from TECT.
Update fibre backbone - 2011 SNUP - connect to UFB - pending
Update our school website - 2011, www.tauranga.school.nz
Our elearning vision is:
For elearning to enhance powerful learning opportunities by providing engaging, accessible and authentic learning experiences for the 21st century learner.
We believe that “blended learning” , a combination of traditional and elearning practices, will best meet the needs of our TPS learners. To that end we would like to refurbish all of our classrooms so that ICT is accessible for all children to utilise when needed, within their classroom.
As of Term 3 2011, we have been trialling iPads in a Year 2 class (10) and a combination of iMacs (5) and iPads (4) in a Year 5 classroom. TPS staff are keen, enthusiastic and capable users of ICT to enhance their teaching and learning practice, largely due to the tremendous professional learning opportunities we have had access too via the ICTPD contract.
Our greatest hurdle now is to access funds for a whole school roll out of this initiative, not only the purchase costs but ongoing costs i.e. depreciation, increased internet usage, and maintenance.
Most successful Initiative so far:
Rolling out the interactive whiteboard across the whole school. Everyone learning together was brilliant, the expertise was shared and there was always someone on hand to help and share new learning. It removed the ‘pressure’ from the lead teacher to “know all and fix all”. Regular staff meetings to share ways in which the interactive whiteboard was being integrated into programmes built upon the collaborative learning culture of our school.
Sarah Taylor (Lead Teacher and Syndicate Leader of the Junior Syndicate) will tell you one of the most difficult aspects of implementing Blended Learning was not having many people to bounce ideas off. iPads in classrooms is very new so both her and Jo Howard (Lead Teacher and Year 5 teacher) found very early on they were actually leading the way. For that reason Sarah decided to keep a record of the process in the hope it would help other teachers. So what did Sarah do to upskill herself?
1. The iPad group on the VLN was invaluable. Many teachers/facilitators are sharing Apps and best practice on here.
2. EducampBOP - Sarah attended this and shared her story so far.
3. Ulearn - Sarah presented a breakout entitled Using ICT in a Junior classroom which was very well received. The Slideshare she created can be viewed below.
Integrating ICT in a Junior Classrrom
Year 5 Boys on Blended Learning
Freddie, Corban, Kiarn and Joel have been reflecting on the benefits of Blended Learning.
1. What do you think are the benefits of Blended Learning?
- There used to be lots of arguments in our class because we had to fight over the one computer but now there are not as many arguments because we have more technology. We have boys and girls days.
- I am really confident using the iPads now and this made me more confident.
- We like the Apps better than paper because we are distracted by paper. With a paper test we spend time folding the corners and making planes but we can't do that with the iPad.
- We are more motivated to work harder so we can get on the iPads during Golden minutes.
These boys didn't like writing before they got the iPads. Their teacher has been investigating 'Improving Writing outcomes for Boys using Blogging' for her Teacher Action Inquiry and here is the blog they created. Since the introduction of the iPads she has noticed a huge improvement in both their motivation to write as well as their achievement in both quantity and quality of their written work. They had just completed a writing sample the day before I talked to them. I asked whether they thought their writing sample would have been better if they had done it in the iPad. Without hesitation, they all said, "YES."
2. Why do you enjoy writing more with the iPads?
We don't like writing because we can't write fast enough for our ideas. We don't think we can type faster than we can write but it is better because we would rather use the keyboard than write with a pen or pencil.
Blended Learning PMI by students
What is Blended Learning?
Blended Learning Poster
The poster above was created by two students from Rm6. They used original photos and ideas generated by the whole class. This poster was used to promote the Blended Learning classrooms and to encourage parents to sponsor the continued roll out of Blended Learning. It was given out at the Blended Learning 'Open Afternoon'.
How is ICT being integrated into teaching and learning?
I am finding that ICT is integrated into most areas of the curriculum rather than as a stand alone subject. I include what ICT’s I will be using in my planning so I can visually see where I am using the tools the most. I previously would try anything new that came along but have become much more selective in their use. If using ICT is not ‘the best’ approach I no longer feel that I have to force it. I think this has led to my students having more meaningful and authentic learning experiences. I am more comfortable allowing the children to lead the direction that their learning takes, and having access to more ICT tools, means that can be many different directions. It allows the students to have more ownership over their learning which hopefully will help them develop into inquisitive, lifelong learners.
Is there anything you'd like to do with technology in your classroom that you aren't already doing? If so, what's stopping you?
As I am currently trialling a Blended Learning Classroom I feel very lucky with the amount of technology I have at my disposal. I would like to use Skype on the iPads to be able to get in touch with classes in similar situations. I have not done this so far as we have had a few issues with the iPad’s connections dropping off frequently. I have also become very conscious of using ICT to meet a purpose, rather than just use an application for the sake of it. When I have an authentic purpose I intend to attempt using Skype.
What would be your advice to teachers wanting to make better use of ICT in their classroom?
Make a list of what goals you want your students to achieve in each curriculum area. Search out tools or applications that can help the students to meet these goals. Maybe choose one or two new incentives per term and use them well. I have found that explicit teaching of how to use an application is beneficial, however sometimes experimentation and independent learning may allow the students to achieve different goals with a key competency focus.
Reflection and Next Steps
After going to Ulearn Sarah realised that in most schools where iPads are being used effectively, 5 iPads was the magic number. Also, they realised that 10 was an unrealistic number given the cost of trying to get 10 iPads into every classroom yet 5 was more realistic. Five of Sarah's iPads have now been given to the Year 2 class next door as of Term 4 2011.
Funding this initiative is the main barrier to rolling out Blended Learning to the rest of the school. The sponsorship programme implemented so far has raised a few thousand dollars, significant funding will be required to fund the entire initiative. Future plans will be reviewed at a BOT level to continue this ‘roll out’ where every year at least two classes can be updated.