This week it was back to school. The network upgrade had been carried out and the Surfaces delivered from IT. I had found that the OneNote 2016 desktop version had not been installed during the holidays but with support from the school technicians and our IT department we managed to install the application on all of the 60 devices. This was quite a long undertaking since it was not possible to download an install package so each Surface had to be done separately. The installation process did allow us to check the devices were able to connect to the network. The network connection has been done using the MAC address of the device and no logging in is required by the pupils.
The devices were also setup with an administrator account that the pupils can use. This is in addition to the default password protected administrator account that was put on the device. Whilst we know the pupils can delete the other account since they have admin accounts, this will give them the flexibility to install software that might be helpful to their learning. Several of the pupils are looking forward to using the Surface for music, art and technical drawing lessons. The admin account with the password will allow us to access the device if required for checking or if the pupil locks themselves out.
Parent information evening
On Thursday evening we had invited the parents and their children into the school for an information evening. I was delighted that Margo Williamson, Strategic Director Angus Council and Steve Roud our IT Service Manager were able to attend. Their support and leadership together with that of my head teacher Donald Currie who was present too and depute Archie McInally have been key in the progress made to date with the prototype. I was also pleased to have Andy Nagle, Senior Education Manager at Microsoft in attendance.
There were a number of questions from parents at the evening some of those asked included:
Q: Do you think that it will take the pupils time a long time to learn how to use the technology?
A: Most young people are very familiar with new technologies and whilst some might take longer than others, I believe they will pick up how to access the materials and use the technology in a short amount of time.
Do you think that the pupils are mature enough to learn in this way?
A: Other parents present answered that they felt their children were mature enough and should take responsibility for their learning.
Why were senior pupils chosen rather than pupils in S3 where it matters less?
A: Senior pupils were chosen because we felt the prototype would have the maximum positive impact on these pupils.
Why is this being done in Physics?
A: The digital prototype was open to all teachers in Angus to bid to be a part of it. Physics pupils are involved because I am a Physics teacher and I made a bit to carry out a digital prototype since I strongly believe that learning in school should reflect learning in the 21st century.
What is the evidence for this type of learning?
A: There are lots of schools using flipped learning approaches in their work. National publications such as described in the proposal. Locally we have experience in Webster’s High School of flipped learning in Higher Biology.
Can pupils get paper materials if they want?
Are you worried that the technology will distract from their learning?
A: The purpose of the digital prototype is to use technology to enhance the learning, if the technology is getting in the way of the learning then we will amend the prototype to ensure that this doesn’t happen to ensure the technology is used to benefit.
You talk about pupils having discussions with each other to help their understanding. Will this prevent my child from making progress with their learning?
A: I believe that discussion between peers and with the teacher is a key component in learning. These type of discussions are encouraged in my classroom since research has shown that pupils own understanding benefits from teaching and helping others. With flipped learning peer discussion continues to be important.
We asked parents to let us know if they had any concerns or questions and that their and pupil feedback would be really important. It was stressed that whilst this is an innovative project, we are not losing sight of the main objective which is to enhance the learning and teaching and ensure pupils attainment is as good as it can be.
Many of the parents were very positive about the prototype and shared how excited their child was about being involved. A number had only children at university where flipped learning and increasingly independent learning was required and felt that doing this in school could only be helpful in the future.
One parent sent a lovely email of support:
Dear Mr Currie,
I would like to express my appreciation to Mr Bailey for tonight’s presentation and to yourself for being a supporter of such a fantastic addition to my son’s learning.
From the moment he was told he was to receive the Microsoft surface pro 4 he has been eagerly anticipating its arrival. I feel this is a wonderful opportunity for the students to engage in Physics in a new and exciting way. Whilst not always understanding the technology myself, I recognise that it is the future for our children and am grateful that CHS and Angus Council Schools and Learning has supported this innovation.
Please thank Mr Bailey for his research , effort and enthusiasm in making this happen.
— Margo (@MargoWilliamson) October 20, 2016
After the evening I have decided next week to have some familiarisation and setup sessions with the pupils in form tutor time to minimise the disruption to their physics learning.
I would also like to explore more about what research is available regarding flipped learning in schools.
At the moment I have set up the Microsoft Classrooms and OneNote notebooks for each of the three classes. I have populated the Higher classes with a decent amount of material but need to add more for the N5 classes. The intention is to add these resources so that pupils can do the flipped learning at home this next week and then apply their learning in class the following week.
The next week will be one that involved lots of testing and learning whilst endeavouring to ensure as much progress as possible with the pupils learning.