North-West Regional College, Derry
Coordinator of Nat Dip Health & Social Care, North West Regional College, Derry, N Ireland
The institution is a Further Education college and the teacher is Caroline Mc Keever,. The class is a mixed ability group who have come from a variety of school backgrounds, grammar schools that use formal selection tests and secondary schools that do not use any form of selection.
The class culture/atmosphere is one where all the students are either fairly focussed or very focussed on doing well and progressing on to university or a higher level course at the same college.
There is no grouping strategy as such but there is a range of abilities in the class grouping. Entry to the course is based on a minimum educational achievement, at least 5 GCSEs or a pass at the level 2 version of the course.
There is Wi-Fi throughout the College. Every teaching space has an interactive whiteboard. Desks for most lessons are laid out in a traditional format of rows. However, there is one room used by the teacher, C403, where there is a deliberate effort to have an active learning environment that focuses on the use of iPads. Furniture in that room is less traditional, brighter, modular and moveable. This is to facilitate configurations that enable groups of various sizes to be formed and furniture easily moved to suit various sizes of groups.
The room concerned has an iPad caddy located there permanently. The teacher uses this frequently, to give the students developmental work to do. That is, where they develop some electronic content that forms part of an assessment. Content varies, but includes: mind maps, image, audio and video material.
In every lesson, irrespective of which room she is using, Caroline gets the students to do some work with their smartphones. Very often, this is simply providing feedback or doing quizzes. Tools used include Mentimeter and Kahoot. Caroline also encourages the students to take brief notes using their smartphones and for producing content for assessment. This content may be in various formats, text, images and audio being most common.
The pedagogical vision of the course is simply to assist every student achieve their best, not simply teach to Pass grades in assignments, but to let all students get as high a grade as they can.
The course awarding body requires assignments to be designed to allow clearly specified levels of work developed for achievement of Pass, Merit and Distinction. Students are typically advised by their teachers of what they ought to be seeking to achieve and supported in working for that grade.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PRACTICE
The tablets are used in multiple ways in class for learning:
- Access to learning content from the Moodle learning platform. The content consists of basic material for everybody, along with additional content for those who are capable of going further. Additional content is labelled by the grade it aims to address, i.e. Merit or Distinction. The additional content can be in the format of:
- Lecturer developed material
- Links to ready-made online content that is bought in
- Links to websites
- Used by students for working on assignments, such as
- Researching a topic for the assessment
- Writing up or developing presentations
- Developing podcasts or videos.
The class group is kept together at all times, except where there is group work.
There are a number of different sources of learning materials used. Teachers typically create the basic materials, using Microsoft Office tools. Caroline often uses a set of iPads with her students and they may develop content using iOS app such as Keynote or Explain Everything.
As referenced in question five above differentiation is through assessment, with students given the choice to address assessment criteria for pass, plus optional additional criteria for Merit and Distinction. These criteria appear of the course specification. Supplementary learning content is typically provided and identified as such. The additional criteria and content is not simply additional content but more challenging tasks that will provide the opportunity to exhibit a deeper understanding of the subject.
Teaching methods used are Direct Instruction plus facilitator of deeper, independent learning through presenting more challenging assessment criteria. Caroline uses a significant degree of flipped class to get her students to cover learning content. This allows her to address topics in a more significant way in class. Students need to have access to some technology outside class. This can be achieved in most cases by the student’s personal or family devices. In extreme cases, it may require the student to use publically available equipment, for example in the College’s Learning Resource Centre.
The tablet/mobile device is involved by:
- Providing access to the material, by tablet in class
- Providing access to the teacher for guidance on developmental work, using tablet in class or smartphone away from class.
Guidance takes many forms, including:
- Course Facebook account, for peer support and direct support form Caroline
- Discussion forums on the course Moodle
- FAQs in limited cases.
Feedback comes in a number of formats, mixed by design, for reasons of variety and suitability for students. It may be:
- Individual feedback on returned assignments
- Audio feedback
- Screencast feedback
- Face-to-face oral.
Audio and screencasts are created on tablet or smartphone and generally accessed by students on personal smartphones.
Various tools, quizzes, online discussions, mind maps. Smartphones and iPads used for quizzes.
All get the same, although Caroline is very flexible in some cases as to what format students provide the evidence, e.g. if someone wishes to provide evidence in an electronic format that they choose then that is fine, so long as the learning is evidenced.
Absolutely, for those who have the ability and drive to achieve as high as they can. The mobile devices are key here as they provide the ease of access to technology and to a range of formats for evidencing learning.
Sometimes there is a link between formative and summative. This is often used to break down bigger chunks of work into more manageable pieces.
There is typically additional content that is made available for students to access.
It addresses students who have high motivation and self-created targets. The tablets give them easy access to learn more, outside class, and to evidence learning.
The Head of Department is a key driver in the advances made by Caroline, by setting a direction for the Department that places a significance in effective use of technology. The College has an overall aim to have technology used effectively. Inspectors, who visit the College every year, ask to see examples of effective use of technology, causing an impetus for innovation, coming from the Principal down through all levels of management.