Our move to ‘the cloud’ (G Suite for Education) for teaching and learning at Leeds CIty College has been a successful one and has transformed what learning looks and feels like for our students.
One thing which I do always say though is that it wasn’t just about the technology choice; it was a holistic approach and a willingness to be bold around transforming teaching and learning as a whole. I say it a lot (and I think in every blog so far) but you have to empower your staff to be able to do it though and, at times, get them to imagine the unimaginable. An approach where things are done ‘at them’ rather than ‘with them’ is not the right approach in my opinion but that being said, whilst you always give people a choice, some will struggle to see what is possible and how to do it, and could lead to them picking the path of least resistance, which in turn could mean that the student experience and learning suffers!
One thing which has been a very positive step forward has been our approach to learning spaces and making them as flexible as possible. This approach started when I came to post in TEL (Technology Enhanced Learning) in September 2016.
This started the ILZ (Independent Learning Zone) project which was developed to give students a space to learn away from the traditional classrooms, where they could get some support and be helped to make better progress in Maths and English, as well as their other studies. The project started with 9 spaces of varying size and capacity which were paid for out of the TEL/TLA budget which were then staffed with an English and Maths study coach, and an Apprentice teaching assistant. We also put in different furniture in the form of some different coloured sofas and with enough Chromebooks for the capacity of the room. We also created some amazing shared resources created using all the Google tools and EquatIO for staff to use and push to students (which were then hosted in our purpose in-house-built Maths and English app). We also started to use a platform called HegartyMaths where learners were directed towards differentiated activities which they could complete independently within the spaces.
Anyway, the ILZs have gone from strength to strength and curriculum teams have continued to push the model and drive it forward funded by their own budgets, and these are prominent in our new buildings and teaching and learning spaces across all campuses. Ofsted have been in and you can see what they thought via or report from 2018 (link here), but most importantly our students love them and the results we are seeing in outcomes shows that they really help progress.
We are also looking at new tools and technology to go into these spaces and one such device and tool is the Google Jamboard (if you want to know more about this check out our Vault podcast on the website and also check out me chatting about it in this episode of #Suitetalk link here).
I think the message from my blog this week is about not just seeing digital or technology as a separate thing which needs its own strategy; see it more as something which needs to be considered throughout and used as the enabler to a new way of thinking and to engaging learners when traditional methods may not be. WIthout a vision around what you want learning to be like, what you want it to look like in terms of the spaces, and what tools (pedagogy and technology) you will use I think it will not be as successful.
If you truly want to move things forward you need to think differently, do things differently and use technology to support it and enhance it.
If anyone wishes to come and see these spaces or have a chat about our approach then as always please feel free to get in touch.