The move into our new building has given staff and students at the College the opportunity to really develop the way in which we teach and learn here and at home. This is most evident by the sheer number and the ease in which we can access computers, which are located across the College in open study areas, our library and most notably in Babbage which has over 100. It is perhaps less evident but perhaps more significant that we also have access to digital cameras, mp3 recorders, visualisers, lap tops and iPads; these are not hidden away, we actively encourage staff and students to use them throughout the day and at home in order to enhance and improve the learning experience. If students wish to use a piece of technology, they simply do so, there are no locked doors here at the College and we wish to see all of our equipment used to its full extent. If they wish to borrow an item then they simply use their id card to book it out of the library, returning it at the end of the day or later by agreement.
We have continued to develop our ‘virtual’ learning environment over the course of this year, all homework is now set using the VLE, with many teachers also sharing resources with students via it including video clips, specifications, lesson plans and other resources. This allows students to access the full range of learning resources whenever and wherever they wish to. It is intended during the course of the year to give parent access to the ‘VLE’ which will also allow access to check HW set and support their child in making better progress.
My own personal favourite website at the moment for teaching is youtube which gives access to millions of short video clips which really help explain what are at times difficult topics. The ease at which you can create a play list of appropriate video for a particular topic is quite astonishing: my forces playlist can be viewed here. This is such a powerful way in which to share videos with students as it allows them to view when they need to for example as part of their revision or if they have found a particular topic difficult.
The most significant change for the College however in respect of using new technology, has been the way in which students have adopted it as a way in which to complete assignments, particularly through the use of our radiowaves site. This site is in effect the College’s own youtube page which allows students to safely upload videos, mp3 files and blogs regarding anything they are particularly interested in; we currently have over 1000 stories written by 200 students on a diverse range of topics from asking Mr Gove, the education secretary a question, to why slavery was abolished and whether it is a blessing or a curse to have ‘ginger’ hair! The success of our work in this are has been recognised nationally and our students are regularly invited to national conferences to speak and report; only this week we were invited to submit a video to be considered for showing at the olympic games in London next summer. I was fortunate to be forwarded by Mrs Green, a homework assignment that Georgia Farr, one of our students had completed using radiowaves; it is well worth five minutes of your time and can be accessed here.
We take a similar approach in the way in which we manage internet access for students at the College; we give students as open access to the internet and the range of sites such as facebook and twitter as we reasonably can. Our internet is filtered but only to ensure that inappropriate or illegal content cannot be accessed. In this way we ensure that our students are fully prepared and are able to exploit the latest development in new technologies including the use of social networking sites such as facebook and twitter. The College has its own facebook page, which has proven a highly effective way in whcih to communicate with our students, parents and our wider community who find it a convenient way in which to keep up-to-date with the College. You will find on it a range of photographs, video clips, events and news items which are all designed to keep people informed. It does not replace our college website but provides another way in which we communicate college news. We currently have over 1600 active users of this page and if you would like to know more please ‘like’ us by clicking here.
We were also pleased to be selected to be a case study for radiowaves and the way we are exploiting this technology; it is only a short article but better explains how the site can transform teaching and learning, it can be accessed here. We are still developing our use of these technologies, looking at trying new ideas and are always welcome to ideas from others that will help us improve even more. We recently decided to pilot the use of the Amazon Kindle which we believe may be a way in which all students could have a personal device to use at College, we will keep you posted on this development at a later date. An interesting article challenging the teaching profession to make best use of these resources can be found here.