The MariaSchool in Reutum adopted a highly innovative learning concept a number of years ago that looks to optimise the school’s use of ICT applications. As part of this, every student in the 7th and 8th grade works daily on his or her own MacBook – and all teaching materials are offered in digital form in itslearning.
Principal Gerard aan de Stegge is enthusiastic about the idea behind ‘Learning by Design’ – a pilot project being run at the school. The basic principle behind Learning by Design is that individualised learning has a permanent place in the school – and this requires a large degree of flexibility from the teachers, the school and the education it offers. This includes the use of ICT, and the school is intent on teaching students the skills they need to interact effectively with modern media.
How does it work in practice?
Much thought has been put into how Learning by Design is implemented in practice. An example of a topic is Japan. Every student establishes what he or she already knows about Japan and what he or she would like to know. All the students' questions are collected in itslearning, and a mind map is generated.
The students then use the mind map as the basis of their own research, and the information they collect is used to make a PowerPoint presentation, video or other 'product'. Instead of tests, these products are used as the basis for grading.
Comprehensive implementation process
To ensure the success of both the project and the use of itslearning, the school has decided to carry out the implementation process in several phases.
“During the preparatory phase, we looked into what kinds of materials would be needed in order to make individualised learning work and how we could develop the infrastructure,” says Gerard. “We also took part in a special schooling programme in which half of our teachers were trained in Learning by Design and the learning platform. A number of additional teachers will also undergo training next year. By training people, you safeguard the future, and ensure that everyone is using the same approach.”
“The Learning by Design project was launched in order to offer all of our teaching materials in digital form in itslearning,” Gerard explains. “The only problem was that the publishers were still working on developing digital teaching materials, so we added the missing materials ourselves.”
Currently, the school offers a number of subjects through itslearning, including maths, language, vocabulary, English and topography.
Motivated students and teachers
“The use of itslearning has resulted in highly motivated students,” Gerard explains. “Thanks to the way in which assignments are offered and the use of multimedia, we hope to give them a productive role in society in the future. The parents are also extremely enthusiastic about this project.”
But Gerard is keen to point out that the students and the parents are not the only ones who are highly motivated by the approach. “Our teachers have embraced the challenge of how now to deal with and educate students. Every teacher has his or her own iPad to work on, which we also use for paperless meetings.”
The school won the Overijssel National Education Award for the 2010/11 academic year, partly due to its use of ICT.”
Convenient characteristics of itslearning
Gerard considers the following characteristics of the itslearning platform to be its greatest advantages:
- The material is available everywhere, anytime
- You can also work outside of school hours if desired
- It enables a flexibility in how individual students handle the subject matter
- Teachers can easily manage all documents collectively