At Eastfield Academy in the UK, the children sing along to rap songs about fractions, record video news stories for their journalism course and show their parents videos of their achievements when they get home. These are just some of the new initiatives introduced by the school since it got itslearning one month ago.
Mr. Duey’s educational rap videos on YouTube may be painful viewing for many teachers, but it’s hard to argue with the enthusiasm they inspire in learners. Since teachers at Eastfield Academy started showing the videos in class and including them alongside homework assignments, the children have been heard singing the lyrics – that describe basic maths tasks, like deriving percentages from fractions – as they go about their days.
“The students love Mr. Duey,” says Deputy Head John Murdin. “It’s tremendous that itslearning enables us to embed the video directly into the course page or assignment. This way the video looks exciting, there’s no waiting, and the children don’t go to YouTube to watch it – they stay within the learning platform. That’s one of the great things about itslearning. Children can use digital tools they’re used to, like YouTube, messaging and discussion forums, in a safe environment.”
Children use the learning platform to make headline news at home
itslearning gives the teachers and students the ability to record videos as well as watch them, and this easy-to-use function has caught the imagination of both teachers and students. One example is the journalism course that John teaches to the oldest students (aged 11) at the school. All students have to write a news story for a school newspaper; but itslearning’s video function gave one students a bright idea. Instead of writing his news story, he recorded it on his webcam.
The video was an excellent example of a TV news story. But did it meet the requirements of a written assignment? John decided to ask the class. He created a survey in itslearning that enabled the students to assess how well the video had met the assignment’s original learning objectives. The conclusion was simple: the video met the learning objectives because it was written down before it was recorded.
“The idea really caught the children’s imaginations,” says John. “And the next thing I knew, every student had recorded their assignments as TV news, and the one or two who didn’t have a webcam at home made radio news stories. Next time, I’m going to teach the unit as a TV journalism course right from the start.”
(Almost) anything is possible with itslearning
Eastfield Academy is part of a school cluster that includes more than 20 schools. The cluster’s previous learning platform had been extremely unpopular (John describes it as “unbelievably cumbersome and rarely used”), and so the cluster invited four learning platform providers to show and sell session in the summer of 2010. According to John, itslearning was the clear winner. “itslearning won by a distance because it’s so easy to use. You can do most things in just a few clicks.”
But it wasn’t until John attended the itslearning training sessions that he began to really see the possibilities offered by itslearning. “I sat there as the trainer flicked through the tools, and ideas were just jumping around in my head – I looked around and could see my colleague was having the same experience.”
Four days later, all students in the classes taught by John and his colleague, Stuart, were imported into itslearning. The Year 3 & 6 students completed their first homework assignments on the platform that same night – and in many ways, the school has never looked back.