Eight months into their learning platform adventure, teachers and pupils of Manor Primary School in Devon are all using itslearning on a weekly – if not daily – basis.
For teachers, the learning platform has become an essential working tool; for students, a fun place to work, play, share and learn.
While the five year olds in Year 1 are introduced to the learning platform in the school’s computer room, pupils from age six and up also go online after school to do homework and catch up on topics they have been working on in class.
For his pupils in Years 3 and 4, teacher Will Davies has taken a fancy to the discussion tool: “It’s a brilliant way to allow children to take ownership of their learning in a virtual environment,” he explains. He feels the pupils use discussions freely and sensibly. “And the fact that the system makes it so straight forward to express ideas for the children is very important. A child may have a light bulb moment at 8pm; go online and feedback there and then! This is totally different to what would have happened before,” Will says.
Children at Manor Primary love the freedom the learning platform gives them to pick from a range of activities and go online anytime. They may need to rehearse specific skills – do times tables practice for instance – and they have access to an area with other things, such as games, where they can go and work whenever they like. “They are ‘playing’ in their own time, but learning as well! It ticks so many boxes,” Will exclaims.
Early learners take ownership
itslearning has been a huge success with Manor Primary early learners. Teacher Sue Parker uses the learning platform extensively with her Key Stage 1 pupils. “The children really enjoy the opportunity to express themselves on their homepage and take ownership. It’s theirs!” she explains. Interest in the school topics also increases when they work in a medium different to school books and the Smartboard they use in class. “Of course, this is partly due to novelty,” Sue adds. “But if the teachers keep offering opportunity – exciting and stimulating tasks – this will continue. Fun games and links to other sites encourage a competitive nature within a safe and secure environment.”
The learning platform enables the pupils to take an active role in their own learning. This is an opportunity even the youngest children are happy to seize. “itslearning gives the early learners the freedom to explore and decide the information that they find interesting, and then tell me,” Sue explains. “This is a role reversal of how ‘teaching’ takes place.”
But Sue says the role exchange goes further. itslearning’s user-friendliness enables the children to teach each other. “The Year 2s recently became the mentors and taught the Year 1 children how to access their own virtual learning platform – it is that easy to use.”
For Will and his colleagues working with older children, the discussion tool has been a means to engage pupils in their own learning: “Recently, when planning the curriculum for the following term, we asked the children to use the discussion tool to give us feedback about their preferences for learning,” he says. "We wanted to know what they would be interested to learn about in order to deliver a purposeful and creative curriculum. The children have provided us with a massive variety of ideas from vintage cars to the planet Mars! This may not have worked were it not made so easy for the children to express their views and ideas."
According to Sue, the pupils also enjoy the sense of community itslearning provides. “Children love to see who is online, chat and send messages – not only to their peers, but also the staff.”
This sense of community involves parents and carers as well as students. Many children use the learning platform outside school hours, including adults. “The most use seems to be at weekends when the children participate in the different tasks with an adult,” Sue says. “One of the games I put on for them recently has really inspired, so much so that their parents are also playing the game and telling me their scores as well! It is becoming a bit of a family activity, which is great.”
Adopted by all teachers
For the teachers at Manor Primary, itslearning has become the place to collaborate and plan activities. “We use itslearning all the time,” Will says. “We have an area for sharing, planning, assessment, annual orders... the list goes on. Anything that is used in school between teachers – virtually everything! – is on there.”
Will has also initiated cross-school collaboration in itslearning. So far the learning platform has been used for a video conference for 15 schools in the locality, and for sharing resources from a Leading ICT Teacher course hosted at the school.