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Observation Observation

School observations are an important part of the Creative Classrooms Lab project. On this page you will find information on the observation methodologies and gathered during visits undertaken by Diana Bannister, University of Wolverhampton to the 8 countries involved in the project.

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First Stop UK - How can the use of tablets change student outputs?

The Creative Classrooms project is looking at the use of tablets in eight countries. In March 2014 my journey began to undertake the observation and documentation of innovative practice. It is actually by chance that the observations started in the UK.  From the outset, I think it is fair to acknowledge that whilst the whole implementation process is at different stages across the different countries, there is much that individual teachers and schools are continuing to learn about the use of tablets in the classroom.

In the Summer term of 2013, the policy makers met to create four different learning scenarios around Personalisation, Collaboration, Content Creation and Flipped Learning.

There has also been a national workshop with the project teachers in each country to begin to look at how to develop the learning scenario into a learning story.  Following on from this, each teacher has then developed their own lesson plans. 

In the UK, the schools have been identified by the e-learning Foundation and they have been looking at Personalisation. You can find out more about process of developing the classroom scenarios.

Each country has identified 5 teachers to take part in the project and within each class; every student has access to a device. However, the types of devices are varied and the length of time the students have had access to the device is also different. It is also important to note that in some cases, the devices belong to the school and the student only uses the device during the lesson, whereas in some schools, the devices belong to the student. This is definitely one of the key points to consider because it affects how often the student can access the device. 

  • How many tablets do you have in school?
  • How do you timetable the use of the devices?
  • Do you allow the students to take their devices home?
  • What happens to students who do not have access to devices?
  •  Do your teachers have their own device?

Cramlington Learning Village

My first visit was to Cramlington Learning Village in Northumberland which caters for students from 11-18 years. In this school all students have their own device.  Each student is equipped with a Samsung Galaxy 3 Tab. (7”). 

Phil Spoors is the lead teacher for the CCL project in the UK and he has implemented the learning scenario on personalisation into his transdisciplinary units with the year 9 students. In the lesson, the students began by scanning a QR code which linked to a survey. The teacher collated the data centrally, but also the students were able to see what others were writing. The students have continued to use paper to draft out their project. 

This classroom has round tables around the outside of the classroom with access to two PCs, though these are not used during the lesson. In the centre of the room, the teacher has arranged three rows of chairs for the students to use when the students are brought together.

  • What are the procedures for the beginning and the end of your lesson?
  • Do we need to assume that the students are undertaking more projects and therefore will not necessarily complete 50 or 60 minute lessons as we know them?
  • Do students need longer to be creative in lessons?
  • What are the outputs in the lesson when tablets are used?

In the second part of the lesson, the teacher brought all the students back together in the middle of the room to talk about how to give appropriate feedback. He asked the students how they would give feedback and collates their responses in a Powerpoint. This will be placed on the class blog for later reading. The teacher shows the students a video of an amateur band playing “The Final Countdown”. (Not quite ‘Europe’) The students have to give feedback on the performance. The teacher then asks for a student who is willing to share his draft and models how to give appropriate feedback.  (“Perhaps the band should go home Sir?” is at the heart of the discussion!) 

In the final part of the lesson one student is responsible for sharing their paper draft, whilst another student gives feedback. The third student in the group has to video or record the interview in some way, the student is allowed to decide on the most appropriate tool. These students have worked through the scenario process stage by stage and the lead teacher has suggested the apps and tools that the students should use, but equally the students have developed an increasing independence to make their own decisions about when and how the technology is used.

Penwortham Priory Academy

At Penwortham Priory Academy, all students have been equipped with iPads. Lisa Cowell is assistant vice principal and the CCL project teacher. Her focus with this work is on the year 7 nurture group. These students have been identified because it will allow the school to address how to look at personalisation of individual learning needs. In this lesson, the teacher is focussing on developing the “ask” section of the scenario. 

The teacher introduces the students to different roles within the feudal system. Prior to the lesson, the teacher has spent considerable time preparing videos using Aurasma that bring each picture to life with a voice describing the main description of each role. Whilst this set of videos may have taken a little while to prepare, it is well worth the end result to see the students engaged in the activity. Some of the students may struggle with writing simple sentences and the teacher has used the technology to make the content of the lesson accessible and fun.

The teacher has also prepared a Keynote file for a student who has English as a second language. This will allow the student to visit each part of the classroom – listen to the Auras in the same way as the other students and then do a drag and drop exercise to label the different roles in the feudal system. This activity allows the individual student to be able to access the content at his level.

Although this school has been used iPads for some time, there is still the clear expectation that the students will do some written work in their books. In this lesson, all students are expected to write down the learning objectives and the teacher also asks them to do a short written activity. This means that the teacher the student has something to refer back to; it also means that the teacher is able to assess the written progress as well as the practical progress. The written work also quickly reveals the level that the student is working at. 

  • Do students need to write the learning objectives?
  • How often do you get students to write if they have access to an individual device?
  • How do you demonstrate the student progress within the lesson if the activity is digital?
  • Where do students store the work they have done using the tablet?

The teacher gives the students an envelope containing the different roles within the feudal system and the descriptions. The students have to go around the different Auras and listen to the description and then decide which one matches the individual. “Lord, Baron, Peasant etc.” 

The teacher allows the students to move around at their own pace and the students are keen to hear the voices behind each picture. This gives the teacher the opportunity to work with the students to establish how much they have understood and also to suggest how they can extract key information when listening to the video.

The teacher ends the lesson by revisiting the learning objectives and talking to the students about the key vocabulary within the lesson. It takes the students a significant amount of time during the lesson to listen to each video, but they do this independently. Aurasma appears to help the teacher bring the learning to life.  The teacher also takes a photo of the students work and this is stored in the students’ file on Showbie. This is now recognised as the evidence portfolio for digital work across the school.

The Skinners' Kent Academy

My final observation of the week was to The Skinners' Kent Academy in Tunbridge Wells. In this school, all the students have the opportunity to access ipads for use within the school and at home.

The year 8 students working with the CCL teacher Craig Bull have been using the poem “This is just to say” by William Carlos Williams as a stimulus for literacy lessons. The students have then had to work in groups to do a video interpretation of the poem. In this lesson, the school auditorium has become the venue for the first “OSKAs”, and all the year 8 students will have the opportunity to watch the videos and vote for the best.

(I am privileged to have been given a reserved seat – the quality and standard of the students’ final video work is incredible.) 

The students have worked on this project over a number of weeks, and whilst time has been given in the lesson for filming, some students have also undertaken much of the work in their own time too.

  • Is it now an expectation that the students will be completing activities in projects outside the “lesson time”?

During the process, the students have used a number of apps for mind mapping and also to storyboard their filming activities. The teacher has also given input to guide the students.  For example, the poem was actually written in the 1940’s and the teacher has supported the student to find out what life was like at that time.

The showcase of the videos that the student have produced testifies the amount of work that has led to the final output and reemphasises the need for the students to have produced other outputs along the way to support their learning. E.g. A mindmap, a story board.

The teacher gives the students two learning objectives for the lesson and all of the students are shown this using Nearpod. The teacher is also able to take control of their iPad throughout the lesson.  At the end of each presentation, the students have to vote by choosing one of the levels. The teacher also asks for some verbal feedback and the students are encouraged to ask questions. There are also some other teachers who observing the session, and some of these ask the students questions too.

Nearpod allows the teacher to control the pace of the lesson, but in this case the teacher asks the students to give feedback on their peers. The teacher has given the students a print out of the National Curriculum level descriptors 4, 5, and 6 for Literacy. After each presentation, the students have to vote and say what level that they would give their peers.

The lesson ends with the teacher revisiting the learning objectives and he uses Nearpod to show these on the students’ individual devices.

It is important to acknowledge that ultimately this project is about documenting the practice in CLASSROOMS – however, having now completed three observations, it becomes clear to see that the implementation of tablets will impact upon whole school change. 

The implementation of tablets in school is far from simple. Whilst it may start with sharing access to devices for a number of classrooms, it is about the consideration for how the teacher can understand the individual progress of the students.

  • How do you gather evidence of progress using the tablets?

So at the end of the UK visits, here are some of the key questions:

  • How long is the lesson and how much time is spent using the device within the lesson?
  • How does the teacher lead the student activities?
  • What written work needs to be completed during the lesson?
  • What kinds of activities are the students engaged in?
  • What aspects of learning do the students lead?
  • How is the evidence collated?
  • What is the student output?
  • What changes have been made to classroom practice?


Over the next few months, I am sure that we will be revisiting these questions within the project, and begin to determine some common practice. You can also read more about the progress of the individual teachers in their blogs in the teacher community section of the CCL website.



Next Stop: Slovenia