We’re delighted to congratulate Campbell College for winning the #HeroesOfHomeLearning Award for Rethinking Teaching and Learning Online.
They were our Twitter favourites from a shortlist of 3 entries picked by our judge Simon Luxford-Moore, e-learning coordinator at ESMS. He liked the breadth of technology being used to cater to all learning styles of audio, visual and kinaesthetic.
We interviewed Darren Walker, Head of Digital Learning at Campbell College to uncover a bit more about how they have been using innovative digital tools during the recent lockdown.
What challenges did you face with teaching and learning at the beginning of the lockdown period?
We had just over a fortnight to transform ourselves from a physical to virtual school. While the timeline was challenging, the fact that Firefly was so well established in the College meant that we had a platform to deliver teaching and learning that pupils, teachers and parents were already familiar with.
Confident that the basic structure was in place, members of the Digital Learning committee were able to focus staff training on a number of key areas we believed were necessary to make the online school successful and sustainable. We focused on Firefly’s assessment features such as the Markbook and Annotation tool as we understood feedback would be vital for maintaining student motivation and communication with parents.
There was also a danger that we would try to run before we could walk so we identified a small set of reliable core tools such as Zoom, Kahoot, Google Docs and Slides, and iMovie, making sure that the initial experience of online learning was as consistent and successful as possible for teachers and students, and that they were not overwhelmed by too much new technology.
Finally, we knew that the biggest loss in the coming months would be the sense of community that is so important to the College so we put a team in place to explore how we could encourage community online.
What are the top 3 ways you have been rethinking teaching and learning?
Without question the biggest change to our normal pedagogy was teaching through Video Conferencing. But at the end of the day, good teaching and learning is the same whether it is delivered online or in the classroom, and it was amazing to watch how Zoom lessons evolved over the course of the term as teachers found ways to allow students to become more active participants in the lesson rather than passive listeners.
Our languages department made good use of live quiz tools such as Kahoot and Quizlet which added a competitive edge to the activity, in fact, the Year 13 German class recently topped the global leadership board of Thisislanguages.com and our new Head Prefect, George, came first out of 200,000 students from all over the world. The RE Department used Nearpod to structure their Zoom lessons by allowing pupils to synchronously view a Powerpoint and collaborate with their peers, while the Politics department used Microsoft Teams to debate virtually at the UK Supreme Court. In each case the students were actively engaged in their learning.
Campbell College Politics students being put through their paces at the UK Supreme Court virtual debate
The second way is perhaps the most obvious, but there has been rapid growth in the Digital skill set of the entire Campbell community. Buoyed on by their initial success in online learning, teachers and pupils started to experiment with a wider range of digital tools. For example, the Art Department used Google’s AR feature to allow students to create photos with animals strategically placed around their homes, the English Department practised grammar skills with their students through NoRedInk and the Music Department ran a challenge for Key Stage 3 students to create their own music using Incredibox.
A virtual Penguin inspecting the Fridge
As difficult as the Lockdown has been, it has also been an exciting time for Digital Leaders as we have finally seen the potential of digital learning being fully realised and witnessed an explosion of creativity as our colleagues explore new and innovative ways to use technology for learning. For example:
- In a History Show and Tell task, a year 8 student made a video about a milking stool his great grandfather had carved, while one of our boarders talked about a monastery built by his family in North Macedonia.
- Our year 8 students used a Google Doc embedded into their Firefly Personal Pages to collect digital badges that had been awarded for completing a range of learning challenges.
- Our Home Economics department delivered their University Survival Cooking programme for 6th Formers through Zoom.
As a digital leader in the school I have been extremely proud of the professionalism and dedication shown by my colleagues.
The final area is the potential afforded by technology to help our students learn from and with others. Traditionally, pupils have largely collaborated and communicated within the confines of their own class or classroom, but with the classrooms closed we were forced to think differently. With no examinations on the horizon, our GCSE students were able to take introductory courses on potential A Level courses using Moocs provided by Universities from around the world. Our Languages students were able to practise their language skills in virtual meetings with native speakers throughout Europe, and when the Coronavirus caused the cancellation of their school trip, the Physics department arranged for our students to attend a live video conference with CERN scientists. The world really did become their classroom and the possibilities for future learning experiences are very exciting.
What impact has it had and how will you want to apply this model of learning in the future?
The immediate impact is perhaps easier to judge. We have been able to use data from Firefly’s new insight tool to measure student, staff and parental engagement in an objective manner and the statistics have corresponded with our own experiences and feedback we have received from parents and pupils.
Just as I was writing this article I received the following email from a parent that perhaps sums up the impact of Firefly and our online school in the last few months, “The support and tasks that have come from the teachers and tutors has been fantastic, they have truly helped my son to continue to be engaged with his schoolwork during this time. Whilst it’s not the same as being in the classroom, we do commend the staff for the time they have taken in setting tasks and providing feedback to our son. It has been great to see our son stay focused and even in some cases explore his subjects in more detail, ie technology and maths. He definitely (and us) feels like he has earned his summer holidays!
The longer term impact is perhaps more difficult to say. There is still a great deal of uncertainty about what schools will look like when we return and it will be difficult to invest the same amount of time in developing Firefly assignments and testing new digital tools when we are in a blended environment. However, I think the gains of the last few months have been undeniable:
- Teachers have learnt new digital skills
- Parents have received more immediate feedback
- Students have become more independent in their learning using a wide variety of digital tools that best suit their individual learning styles, and a world of learning has been opened up to them
The positive impact of digital technology on teaching and learning is no longer the preserve of a few Digital evangelists, it has become evident to a much wider audience, and that is why I think there is potential for real transformation.
Campbell College also won the award for Engaging Parents in the Learning Conversation with their dedicated Parent help section. Discover how they built it and what components they included.