St. Michael’s has seen some fundamental changes in the use of technology to support teaching and learning in the last year. The enforced lockdown imposed in March was an opportunity for St. Michael’s to put its preparation to the test, as pupils engaged in remote learning for the first time. The preparation, digital literacy (both pupils and teachers) and the robust St. Michael’s network stood up the demands that we placed both on our own digital knowledge and the infrastructure. In no time at all, children were embracing the challenge of learning independently and collaboratively. Google Meets, Google Classroom, Loom videos and online demonstrations became the norm as the whole St. Michael’s community rose to the challenge of teaching and learning in a totally unfamiliar setting, whilst the infrastructure stood up to all that was thrown at it. The school’s investment of time and training in Google Suite for Education had truly paid off: the new ‘digital norm’ of teaching and learning had well and truly started!
Since returning to school in September, St. Michael’s school has learnt from the experiences of the lockdown and have been keen to build on them. Pupils are now expecting more digital experiences and content. The ‘digital natives’ have enjoyed the opportunity to learn new skills, face new challenges and learn at their own pace. This desire for expansion of knowledge and skills was a precursor to St. Michael’s buying into a new online digital learning package, Century. Century is a ‘tried and tested intelligent intervention tool that combines learning science, AI and neuroscience’. Children engage in online content which identifies gaps, addresses misconceptions and supports teacher interventions. Initial analysis and feedback shows children being taken by artificial intelligence down paths that they may not have trodden. The limitations of the curriculum are now transcended, as bespoke learning becomes more accessible.
Other developments have seen the increased usage of Atom learning, an online application that develops children’s Maths, English, Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning. The platform allows children to develop key skills that are regularly used and assessed within St. Michael’s, the ISEB Common Pre-test and other school entry examinations and assessments (both on and off island). As more and more testing and assessments move online, it is critical that we give our children the necessary exposure and skills that will be required, not just for school examinations, tests and assessments, but also for higher education and the workplace.
Meaningful opportunities for online learning is only possible with access to high quality hardware. The introduction of iPads at St. Michael’s seven years ago paved the way for 1:1 usage and planned teaching and learning. However, it was evident that whilst the iPads are excellent learning tools, they have limitations. The lack of a keyboard meant that children were not developing their typing skills. The Apple App Store was not producing the high quality educational applications that were both promised and expected. These facts, coupled with the schools increased usage of the Google Suite for Education products pointed towards the need for the introduction of Chromebooks. These devices come with the Google for Education Suite applications preloaded, resulting in a machine that is easier to manage by both the child and the school. A bank of machines has already been purchased for Years 3 and 4, whilst all children in Year 5 have been allocated their own machine in September. Moving forwards, all children joining Year 5 will be allocated their own Chromebook which will stay with them through their time at St. Michael’s and beyond.
Embracing technological change in teaching and learning is critical as we constantly move into new, unknown territory. So what does the future hold? No one knows, but in terms of technology, it is important that we try, at all times, to stay ahead of the curve.
‘If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow’.