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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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Liberating Learners - do you know how your students learn with tablets?

 Escola Secundária Quinta do Marquês

This morning I am in Oeiras, Portugal which is a municipality to the west of Lisbon.  Escola Secundária Quinta do Marquês has 1046 students from 12-18 years and 98 teachers.   There are 39 classes with an average of 28 students per class. The school is a relatively new building with open spaces for students to play and move around.  There are covered bridges which connect the main areas of the school together. 

A Samsung SMARTschool has been implemented with one class of 27 students for the duration of the Creative Classrooms Lab project.  This is in a specific classroom equipped with: a 65’ touch monitor, a printer, a WIFI access-point and a dedicated server.  Every student in this class has a SAMSUNG 10.1 device.  These students have been using the equipment for approximately 18 months.  The students have been assigned a device and can take them home.  Elsewhere in the school, there are computer labs, and a few e-readers, but students do not largely have access to individual devices.

Today, I am with half of the students who are following the Biology track for their studies.  (The others are doing Physics at the same time.)  The focus of the CCL scenario for the second cycle in Portugal is Liberating Learners.  The CCL teacher Antonio Gonçalves has identified just three aspects of the curriculum to underpin with the CCL scenario development and the implementation of tablets.  This is because the students will have final exams and it is important to keep some familiar structures.  The focus is cell mutation and the students are at the “explore” phase of the scenario.  Over the course of the next four weeks, the students have to create a presentation to demonstrate to 9th grade students the key aspects of cell mutation. 

  • Which units of your curriculum can be enhanced with the use of technology?
  • Have you tried using a questionnaire to help your students understand how they learn?
  • Which project management tools do you use to help your students organise their work?
  • How do you support the students to reflect not just about what they learn, but how?

One particularly important aspect of this scenario is that the teachers in Portugal have used the VAARK questionnaire to ascertain the students’ learning styles.  All of the teachers believe this has been incredibly important and provided essential advice to both teachers and students about the ways in which the students learn.  The teachers have been able to adapt the content and the activities to personalise the learning for the individual needs.  In this class, the teacher has used the information to help to organise the groups for the collaborative work.  The teacher feels that by giving the students this kind of information, they are able to reflect on the way they learn.    During today’s lesson, the students have divided up their tasks, but the teacher has also displayed a project management board using Padlet.  This helps the students by capturing key resources, key tasks and key achievements each lesson; it helps the students become responsible for their learning.  The teacher facilitates the students’ progress by suggesting how they can move forward and also encouraging them to listen to each other on particular aspects of their findings.    (One of the groups has already decided that they would like to interview an expert at the hospital for an interview.)   The teacher gives the students a starting point with three websites, but the students also have to evidence other resources that they find along the way to support their work.

On Wednesday afternoon, we also had a very good National Focus Group in Portugal hosted by Escola Quinta do Marques.  This gave all of the CCL teachers the opportunity to share their progress during the project and an extremely valuable chance to reflect how the whole school needs to support the implementation of tablets.  Even if there is only 30 tablets in school, there are still big decisions to be made about the curriculum, the timetable, connectivity and technical support to name but a few of the issues we discussed. 

On Thursday morning, I visited the Colégio da Beloura.  This is a CCL associate school and they have been working on the scenario development during the second cycle.  The school is a private school and has 65 students from 6 – 11 years.  Each student in the school has their own ipad paid for which have been self-funded by the parents.  Each of the teachers has an ipad which was funded by the school.  It is good to see that the school has provided the teachers with their own device, this is not always the case – but it certainly should be.    During the morning, I have the opportunity to visit several classrooms and observe the lessons.  In one class, the students are presenting their work on the locality of Sintra to their parents.  Whilst they are presenting their work, the other students have to make notes and be ready to ask the presenters questions.  After the first presentation, the students use Popplet to create a mindmap of their understanding and begin to understand how they can improve their own presentation.

In the Maths lesson, students are learning about pentominoes.  The students use Geogebra to practice moving the blogs into different formations and then measuring the area and perimeter.  The teacher models the activity on the interactive whiteboard and the tablet allows the student to investigate this further independently before drawing their findings on paper.

In the final part of the morning, two teachers work together to undertake a project.  Students are working in threes to undertake some research.  The teachers have mixed the students so that the different year groups are working together.  Students have one planning template for the project and each student knows the task for the lesson. 

The next stage for this school is to look at how to collate and make best use of the digital evidence from the individual students.

  • Do you have an e-portfolio or a particular way to collate digital evidence?
  • How often do you capture evidence of the students’ learning, rather than just the end product?
  • How do the students edit their digital work?
  • What opportunities do you give the students to present their work to parents?
  • How do students evaluate each other’s work?

My final observation visit in Portugal was to Colégio Monte Flor.  This is a primary school and it has 220 students from 1-10 years.  The school has a vision to promote 21st century skills and to prepare students for life in the world. The CCL lead teacher for Portugal is Rui Lima and this afternoon he has a class of 20 students aged 6-7 years.  Rui has aimed to fully implement the scenario development on liberating learners in his classroom.  The topic is animals and today the students are at the ‘create’ phase of the scenario.    Today’s lesson takes place in a new area of the school called the Learning Lab, located on the lower ground floor; this is a large vibrant space with round tables which can be moved.  There is also plenty of space for the students to work on the floor. At one side of the room is a PC area with four tables each with 2 PCs.    In the left corner of the room, there is a large screen connected to an X-box and in the right hand corner is a Promethean interactive whiteboard.

The wall at the end of the room is blank and this means that the teacher/students have a clear space to project their work.  Each student has their own Magalhães device, but as the students are working collaboratively only five of them are in use.  (These are hybrid, windows devices with a detachable tablet screen.) Students are working in small groups in various applications, PowerPoint, Popplet, Mindmaps in M8, Stop-Animation, and Kodu.  On the interactive whiteboard is a world map showing where some of the animals originate.  In one corner of the room is a Promethean Activtable and Rui has created an activity to categorise the different animal classifications.  (Birds, Reptiles, Insects, Fish, Mammals etc.)  On the Xbox, Rui identifies four students to play “Zoo Tycoon” – the children have to create a zoo and decide the animals to go in the zoo.

The teacher moves around all of the groups supporting the students with their presentation, but also asking them to spend time on the Xbox or Activtable to ascertain their individual understanding.   

There is a lot going on in this classroom at the same time, but this teacher is an expert with the technology and confidently uses the space and time to allow the students to work independently. However, he is also very aware of how the students are progressing. The students are free to move around and some students take time to do another task whilst others concentrate on the presentation.  With twenty minutes to go, the teacher stops the students and says that the students must be ready to share what they have presented when the time is up.  This focus on time gives the students a reminder of targets and expectations.

  • How often do you use timing to support the students with their learning?
  • How many different kinds of technology do you have access to in your lessons?
  • How could you change your learning spaces to allow students to work in different ways with technology?
  • Do your students always work with their own device?  What happens when they share one device in a group?

At the end of today’s lesson, each group has produced the start of a presentation, but they all look very different reflecting not just what they have learnt, but how they have been learning too.  It’s great to see the individual outcomes and outputs.


 Next Stop: Czech Republic