St. Canice’s Primary School
The school is a small, (120 pupils) primary school. The class is a mixed ability group of 30 pupils, aged 9 to 11 years, compromising years 6 and 7. The class culture/atmosphere is one where all the pupils are focussed on fully participating in school and class activities and achieving to the best of their ability.
There is not what one would recognise as a grouping strategy. Children from years 6 and 7 are taught in the same room by Ms Diamond. The teacher allocates pupils seating positions by putting together pupils that she has identified as being comfortable working together. Often, but not always, this means that friends will with together.
The technical resources available across the school are:
- 25 low-cost 3-year old Asus tablets
- 18 iPads, 15 of which are stored centrally and used as a collection when required
- 2 laptops for pupils with learning difficulties.
The mobile devices are used to access electronic learning materials and tools that are web-based, that is what would traditionally be considered as apps for tablets are not used. All schools in Northern Ireland are connected to a regional network for primary and secondary level schools, called C2K. This is a managed service that provides networked access to a wide range of electronic resources and documentation across all Northern Ireland’s primary and secondary level schools.
Classroom furniture is laid out in a U shape, so that every pupil is facing the teacher and is able to see each classmate’s face.
The pedagogical vision of the school is that each child should be given every opportunity to learn to the best of their individual ability.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PRACTICE
The mobile devices are used for learning in an immersive way. That is, for every developmental activity undertaken throughout the school day, some mobile device is used for the children to undertake tasks that form part of the Northern Ireland curriculum at the appropriate level.
The teacher uses Google Classroom to release in a timely way each activity that the pupils are expected to complete. This involves some instructional material explaining the subject theory, then a task or set of tasks that allow the pupils to create something to put the theory into practice. Build into each task are opportunities to take the level of development somewhat beyond what is needed by the regional curriculum target for that level of pupil.
If a pupil completes the standard task well inside the given time then they are stretched by having the opportunity to undertake a further task. From Google Classroom they will be able to access some instructional material if necessary for the further task. In the cases of pupils who do not reach the expected standard then the teacher will provide additional instruction for them.
Availability of the mobile devices provides a significant level of access for pupils to:
- Instructions from the teacher, in text and audio;
- Additional task specifications, if required;
- Additional support materials, if required;
- Access to the World Wide Web to allow pupils to acquire information and digital assets (images, videos) to be used for task development;
- Software tools to build electronic materials for evidence, including tools for creating still images, audio and moving images;
- Tools for collaborating with classmates and pupils from twinned schools, including demonstrating content developed;
- Audio feedback from the teacher.
The teacher is able to do live checking form her device on how each individual is progressing, to some extent.
The learning materials are a mix of procured, bought or obtained from central public-funded support agencies, and developed by Ms Diamond. Two of the core tools are Accelerated Reading, bought-in for reading, and MyMaths, bought-in. The latter has a very wide range of mathematical content, with:
- instructional material, including interactive demonstrations;
- associated exercises;
- the ability to give “homework”, something that is used in class time to allow fast learning pupils to attempt mathematical examples beyond that expected from their cohort.
MyMaths-content covers a very wide spectrum of the mathematics curriculum, up to age 18.
The mobile devices are available for individual pupils to work though defined tasks at specific time slots in the class timetable.
Teaching is very much pupil-centred with a variety of methods employed. New topics are introduced using Direct Instruction and demonstration. Learning materials are made available to pupils through Google Classroom, with presentations and exemplars displayed on an interactive board but also shown on a mobile device shared between 2 pupils.
Depending on the topic that is being covered, inquiry-based learning plays a major role in a significant proportion of the curriculum. Inquiry and related task development is almost entirely based on use of the mobile devices available.
Differentiation is achieved in a number of different ways, depending on the subject matter. For much of the curriculum, which uses inquiry-based approaches, tasks can be extended in complexity, either by suggestion of the teacher or the pupil. For example, Adopt a Pet, a task that incorporates many elements of the curriculum, including maths, will have a large element of inquiry along with some direct instruction. The latter will contextualise the task and give some initial mathematical background.
The task itself will involve working out all the elements involved, including the costs of procuring and keeping the chosen pet. The pupil will develop a piece of work that will outline all the considerations for keeping the pet. For differentiation, if a pupil is a gifted child, the teacher may pick an exotic pet, such as a meerkat. This will require the pupil to consider a range of elements that are different to a more traditional pet, such as a dog or cat. For example, import costs, quarantine costs, specialist housing. The pupils will have to work out initially that all these extra factors are needed and calculate costs.
There are extensive support materials on the network for the pupil to access, some available from the regional curriculum support service, other created by Ms Diamond. In the case of some bought-in services, such as the web-based My Maths, there is a significant provision of ready-made instructional and practice materials.
Ms Diamond intervenes where individual pupils are experiencing difficulty with specific learning content and undertakes one-to-one or small group additional support. This may involve allocating further practice sessions that use the mobile devices.
Ms Diamond makes audio comments on pupils’ work. This commentary is attached to each piece of work and is available to each pupil through their individual account.
Individuals are encouraged to review each piece of work completed and submitted and consider What Went Well (WWW), to pick up on the positive aspects of the experience and work produced. They are also routinely required to consider Even Better If (EBI), to specifically address what they could have done in a task to improve on it. The individual WWWs and EBIs are shared with the rest of the class, so that all pupils can learn from their peers.
The key shareholders are; teachers, Principal, parents, classroom assistants, central educational support organisation (setting the UICT framework in conjunction with schools).