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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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In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the students collaborate to learn...


My fourth observation visit was to two of the five schools in Austria who are involved in the Creative Classrooms Lab project.  The teachers have been working on a learning scenario that looks to enable collaboration. The first school is in Jennersdorf and the second is in Stockerau, near Vienna.

4½ years ago, this school was the first “iPad school” in Austria. In the first instance, one class of 10 and 11 year olds were given iPads financed by the Ministry. Jennersdorf is recognised as one of Apple’s Lighthouse schools. When I visited the school in May, the school had 130 – 140 iPads for students and 25 for teachers. However, the headteacher admits, it is incredibly important to ensure that all staff the opportunity for professional development to encourage regular use of the technologies. This year, there are three iPad classes and one without. These have been financed by parents individually.
In the first lesson, the teacher is using Skooly with the students and they can each receive the questions answer them at their own pace. They are also able to see what they have scored. Skooly is the learning management system for the school. However, some of the teachers also use Showbie; there is no standard platform for the school. 
The school makes effective use of an app called  Paper Plane (papierflieger) that allows students and teachers to share notes easily in lessons.
After break, I am with the school’s iPad orchestra and I can only describe what I observe as inspirational!   An iPad orchestra; a real orchestra. This is definitely a first for me! There are 12 students altogether, but I find out afterwards only four of them can play an instrument individually. The quality of the sound was perfect and after “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” the students played “Go West.” I wonder how many other schools have their own digital orchestra. I can almost visualise a future project of a European orchestra! (Now there’s an idea!)
  • Do you have a digital orchestra in your school?
  • What opportunities are there for students to collaborate to produce digital outputs in your school?
  • Do your students create resources with other students?
  • How do you capture evidence of student collaboration?
In Mathematics, the students are using Edupuzzles 2.0; the teacher writes the instructions to create a trapezium on the blackboard and the students have to construct it on their iPad using Geogebra.  The student connects to the projector using Apple TV and shows his response to the question. There is a sharp contrast between all the different tools, and one of the next steps will be to see how the school makes the tasks available digitally too.
I also visit other classrooms and see learningapps.org being used and in science the teacher uses Thinglink to label his work on insects.
Newtons or Kilograms…Tablets or Paper…A Viennese blend of everything works best.
In the first lesson, the students are shown a video about Vienna with tourists commenting on the different buildings. This classroom is a Samsung Smartschool classroom, all the students have their own Samsung device and there is a Samsung screen at the front of the class. The students are in groups of 4 or 5. The students are given an individual worksheet and asked to find answers to 8-10 questions in 15 minutes, from a particular website. Each group is researching something different. The idea is that in the second part of the lesson, the students will be mixed to hear what the others have been finding out about. Whilst the students are allowed to talk together, to find the answers, they actually choose to work individually. They record their answers on the paper. The Samsung School was implemented between September 2013 and March 2014. 
The teacher then plays the Viennese Waltz and plays this whilst the students organise themselves into their second set of groups. The teacher then asks the students to create a programme for a visitor who is in Vienna for the day – visiting the sights. (I’ll have to come back on holiday!)
The teacher plays the music again and the final task is for the students to tell one interesting fact about the buildings.
The second lesson of the morning is Physics. This is led by the CCL project teacher Peter Stöckelmaier, but importantly, there is a class tutor, team teaching within the lesson too. He uses the Samsung School and asks the students to log in and establish a connection with the main board. The students log on and write a note or draw on their tablet to show that they can communicate with the board. One student has forgotten his password, so the teacher gives him a generic password for this lesson. 
  •  What methods work best to ensure that your students remember their passwords?
  • Do you have generic passwords for other students?
  • What are the advantages of team teaching?
  • Do you make use of science resources and technology together in the same lesson?
  • How do you share what is on the interactive whiteboard with the students’ devices?
  • How do the students share their work on their devices with each other?
The objective of this lesson is for the students to learn about the “lever rule”. The students have to begin by answering questions and sending in their responses. There are six questions and the students can work at their own pace. The teacher examines the responses with the students. The students are also able to see their own individual results. 
The students get given the correct answer and a pie chart so that they can also see the percentages of the other students who got the same questions correct.
In the next part of the lesson, the teacher draws a diagram of a see saw and one person on each side. One person weighs 13kg whilst the other weighs 78kg. The teacher talks about the difference between the weights of the two people and asks what will happen. The teacher then shows the students how to calculate this in newtons. He also explains the experiment using real equipment.
The teacher then sends the students a chart with information missing. The students receive this via their tablets. The class tutor explains how the students should work for the tasks. Some students experiment with the practical equipment whilst others do the same investigation on the Samsung tablet. Both sets of students have to record their findings on the electronic worksheet that has been sent to their tablet via the Samsung School. There is no printer from Samsung, so the teacher cannot print the students work, but the students can put their work in Dropbox and print it at home. The students experiment with different amounts in grams. In the plenary, the teacher and the class tutor recap the results and the teacher ends by showing how to write the conversion from newtons to kilograms as an equation to show the leverage. In the plenary, the teacher gives the students a hypothesis, and asks them “What would happen if…?” The students are able to use the calculator to work it out. This has been an important lesson to observe because it emphasises the importance of giving students opportunities to work with real science resources as well as technologies. The CCL project has encouraged the teacher to plan more collaborative activities and yet still maintain time to develop students’ individual knowledge.
Next Stop: Lithuania