Chromebooks in classrooms and teachers with YouTube channels are par for the course at Whangarei Intermediate School.
Since joining our successful Digital Immersion Programme five years ago, computer-based instruction across all but three of the school’s 23 classrooms is now the norm.
Chromebooks also lead instruction in the school’s specialist Xplo-tech, art, coding and robotics classes. Even the library has an e-version where students can issue themselves e-books.
It’s very 21st-Century and somewhat scary for the unaccustomed. So what does e-learning in 2019 look like? Whangarei Intermediate School e-learning teachers Karen Hinge and Shannon Watson share some insights:
The biggest difference between an e-learning classroom and a traditional one is learning activities are always accessible regardless of where the child is.
“If they are away from school they can still access the learning. I get a thrill from having a student away and, while I’m in the classroom with the others, I can see their work popping in. They’re following along and completing their learning activities,” says Karen.
For Shannon, e-learning removes time and location as restraints to learning, which is particularly beneficial to dyslexic students who take their time to understand new concepts.
“And it works both ways. If I’m home, a reliever can follow my lesson plan.”
Open communication channels
The fear of raising their hands to speak is all too real for some children in traditional classrooms but digital classrooms remove this anxiety, says Shannon.
“Some kids aren’t going to put their hands up in a gazillion years so I will send those students an SMS to communicate with them,” says Shannon.
Even away from the classroom, e-learning teachers can see what the students are doing on-screen.
“I was in a meeting and opened Hapara. I could see a student on YouTube so I closed that tab down and sent them a message asking them to get off YouTube,” says Karen.
Producers of content, not consumers
While Chromebooks give students ready-access to a wealth of online learning resources, digital classrooms give students the opportunity to become content producers themselves.
Gone are the days of simply learning about countries, what their flag looks like and what they eat.
“Teachers don’t want to teach that and kids don’t want to learn it because they can Google it. They want to be doing something; real-world problem solving and creating,” says Shannon.
Personal blog pages are one tool that allows students to share a wide range of learning with the real world, where fellow students and whanau can follow and comment.
“We’re starting to push publishing this year. It’s a massive shift from just consuming and gives the students an intrinsic thrill as they get feedback from an authentic audience,” says Shannon.
Karen says blogs allow students to demonstrate so much more than their writing skills.
“It could be maths or science investigations that include graphs or charts, videos, screencasts of them reading their writing or, even better, a screencast of them reading somebody else’s writing and giving reflection.”
Karen says digital classrooms have evolved a lot over the past five years she’s been involved in digital learning.
This year, she’s begun learning coding for teaching and stop-motion animation.
“It is constantly growing and changing as new tools come on board. You can do anything, it really just depends what teachers want to pick up and run with.”
Taitokerau Education Trust’s research-based Digital Immersion Programme is proven to raise student achievement levels by making personal-use laptops more accessible to students from lower-income households. If you would like to help us give more students access to 24/7 learning, you can donate here.