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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.

School Observation Blog School Observation Blog
Cheating with tablets is a great way to collaborate and communicate.

My morning begins with a very early train ride from Prague to Ostrava almost on the border of Poland.  This morning I am at Gymnazium Hladnov a Jazyková škola with CCL project teacher Iva Skybova and her 33 students aged 17-18 years for Mathematics.

The lesson takes place in a new science lecture area laid out in fixed rows.  The students sit in rows of three or four.  At the moment, there are only 13 devices in school, so the students share one device per row. 

  • What are the challenges when students have to share devices?
  • How can you organise the students to allow everyone access to the technology?
  • Are their particular apps that work well when students have to share devices?

The lesson begins with the teacher using three questions in Socrative to revise some key points from the previous lesson.  Today’s topic is vectors.  The teacher then demonstrates the answers in Geogebra.  The teacher invites one student to the dry wipe board to show how they had worked out an answer.  The teacher gives the students several more questions and they are encouraged to work out answers on paper and discuss them in their groups. 

After the students have tried to work out a solution, the teacher connects one group to Apple TV to share their work with the rest of the class.

In the next part of the lesson, the teacher introduces the students to an app which is a simple vector calculator.  The students are able to put in the coordinates and it will plot them automatically.  The students then have to work out some examples.  The teacher asks questions and identifies particular students to respond.  The teacher ends the lesson by showing the student a flash animation that she has placed on Moodle to support the students with their learning.

In the second period of the morning, some of the students share what they have been doing in their CCL scenario on collaboration.  The students explained that they were given three weeks to create a ‘cheat sheet’ on mathematical solid shapes.  The idea was that the ‘cheat sheet’ would be one single A4 page that could be used by other students during a test.  The rule was that the students were not allowed to take images or information from the internet; they had to write the information and take any photos themselves.  Students used Skitch to work with the diagrams and annotate photos. (This is a great idea that could be replicated across lots of other subjects – not just mathematics.)

Students had to work within groups organised by the teacher and because the students were also in another class, this meant they had to complete the task outside lesson time too.  The students agreed to store all their work on Microsoft ‘One-Drive’.  At home, the students made a group on Facebook messenger and divided up the tasks.  They have to decide:

Who is going to make the shapes? Who is going to create some pictures for the photos? Who is going to write the text?

One student reflected that “It was quite difficult because suddenly we had to work with people who we didn’t know very well.  I don’t normally do as much after class, but for this, I had to do my task to make sure I had something for my group.”  The task itself ensured that the students had to communicate and collaborate.  The process of student reflection is part of the CCL scenario development planning and it has really helped the students to think about their responsibilities for their learning.

  • What opportunities to you give your students to reflect on their progress?
  • How do you capture evidence of the student reflections?
  • How do you organise your students so that they can work across different groups?

The second school visit is to Primary and Lower Secondary School Hanspaulka.   This school has approximately 600 students from 6-15 years. Today I am with CCL project teacher and ICT teacher Daniel Tochacek. This school has implemented a number of devices over the last two years; there are now 31 Android tablets in school, 15 Windows 8 tablets and 26 netbooks.  In addition, there are 30 tablets for teachers. One of the big decisions that this school made was to prioritise the access to the tablets to teachers first.  The school has benefitted from additional tablets through a national call in Prague.  (Call 51). 

This morning, I am with 10 and 11 year old students for their introductory lesson to tablets.  The teacher gives the students a whistle stop tour around some of the main features of the tablet.  Some students have devices at home and they are extremely confident with using the different tools.    The teacher covers a lot of different features during the lesson, the pace is fast, but it gives students a quick overview so that they can have an awareness when they start using the tablets in other lessons.

  • How do different teachers in your school introduce the students to using tablets?
  • What is the best way to introduce the tablet in class?

In the second lesson of the morning, I work with a history teacher.  The teacher begins the lesson by hanging up a large world map on the wall.  The students have a paper version of the map and they can also access this on their tablet.  The idea is that the students can consider what happened when Germany attacked France and Scandinavia in the Second World War.  The teacher sends the students a series of weblinks via email.  The first is to a map on Padlet.  The world map has labels but these are not in the correct place.  The students have to match the labels and move them.  Each group has a different map, so each pair of students has a different problem to solve. 

In the second part of the lesson, the teacher gives the students access to a map of Britain via Google Drive.  The students locate the map.  The teacher explains to the students that Hitler decided to use aircraft for the battle with Great Britain because Britain was strong and “air war” was likely to be more effective.  The students also have to find out who was the King of England at the time of the Second World War and what RAF stands for. (Royal Air Force.)

The teacher ends the lesson by sharing a comical video with the students looking at the challenges facing the pilots who could not speak English. 

  • What opportunities have your students had to work with students from another school or local University?

 This school has used the CCL scenario process on school to school collaboration to develop a link with the Department of ICT, Faculty of Education at Charles University.  The University students prepared materials to share with the students in school on how to build robots.  The younger students then had to do the building and programming of the robots.  This took place over almost 3 months.  Students liked being mobile with the tablets and communicating with each other.

These two schools show that teachers in the Czech Republic have made positive steps to introduce tablets into learning and teaching; it is good to know that the Creative Classrooms Lab project has been part of the developments. 

So, that’s it, my journey to 22 schools across 8 countries to observe and document the real use of tablets in schools is now complete.  I hope that you have found the blog helpful and you can see that everyone is at different stages in the implementation of tablets.  You can also see the blogs from the teachers in the project in the Community section of the website. Finally, the MOOC for the Creative Classrooms Lab project begins on 13th April 2015 and there is still time to register.  (You can do that here – and it is free!)  It will be a great opportunity to exchange practice on the use of tablets from all over the globe.

  • Have you registered for the MOOC?

Next Stop: Home! – University of Wolverhampton


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

Renewable energy created with tablets in classrooms


It’s early on Wednesday morning and today I am with CCL lead teacher for Italy Daniela Cuccurullo at IIT Giordani Striano in Naples.  The school is a technical institute with four different branches of studies: ICT, Chemistry, Mechanics and Electronics.  Students are aged 14-19. The building is a dominating c.1960’s structure made up of three concrete blocks with protruding angles, set in the suburbs above the hundreds of skyscrapers that dominate the landscape overlooking Mount Vesuvius.  Inside, there is a steep ramp that ascends alongside the classrooms at each level.  There are almost 1300 students in the school.  The school merged with another school two years ago. Today I am with the 5th grade students aged 17, who largely came from the previous school where they had already been involved in a national initiative called Classroom 2.0.  There are 14 males students in the class.

The school has adopted the CLIL methodology; this means that the English language teaching is integrated into the specialist subject.  Daniela is an English teacher, but today’s subject is physics and alternative forms of energy.  Within the CCL project, Daniela adopted the Flipped Classroom approach within the first scenario, and in the second scenario she has focussed on Collaboration and Assessment.  In this lesson, the students know that they are at the “Create” phase of the scenario.

Today’s lesson begins with the students sitting at desks laid out in a horseshoe shape around the interactive whiteboard and the teacher.  The students all have access to a SAMSUNG Galaxy tab 4

Prior to the lesson, the students have had to research alternative forms of energy and focus on one in particular.  The teacher begins the lesson with a video, the students watch the video and the teacher then asks the students to contribute to a LINOIT about the different kinds of energy sources.  The students readily give responses and the teacher begins to target some students with additional questions; for example, how does a solar panel work? What are the advantages and disadvantages of solar panels?  (It soon becomes clear that the students need to have done their research prior to the lesson.) The teacher moves on to a discussion about renewable and non-renewable energy sources and again the students share their understanding.    This section of the lesson is dependent on the students being able to draw upon their prior knowledge from lessons in the science labs as well as their own flipped learning at home.  This means that the teacher can use the time to focus on their English skills. The teacher’s role is critical here to ask questions, identify the progress of individual students and make formative assessments before moving to the next part of the lesson. During the next 15 minutes, the students then share their work and prior learning, but the teacher steers their responses to guide the next stage spontaneously.    Whilst the students are not currently allowed to take their tablets home, all of the students have prepared something digital to show that they have completed their flipped task.    Some students have also brought their own mobile device to the lesson and they can use this throughout to support their learning.

In the second part of the lesson, the teacher has created a webquest that she has shared with the students via Edmodo.  The task is for the students to create a learning app, a chapter for a wiki, a Popplet or a Glogster to demonstrate their new knowledge on different forms of energy.    The teacher uses RUBISTAR to enable the students to write their own assessment criteria for the task.  The rubric can then be downloaded or printed so the students have a checklist for their work. (Title, Content, Accuracy, Attractiveness, Audience Appeal)

The students rearrange the desks into groups of four to collaborate on their product.  (This is a seamless transition and the students are soon engaged in what they are going to produce – there is a lot of ‘brain’ energy this morning.)  The students discuss their work in Italian, but the end product has to be in English.  The students now have the rest of the lesson and next lesson to “create” their resource.

  • How can you use technology to develop assessment criteria?
  • How do you use the Flipped Classroom approach in your school?
  • Have you given your students opportunity to create their own apps?
  • Have you changed the layout of your classroom/learning spaces to encourage collaborative learning?

Istituto Comprensivo Merano II: Scuola Media Luigi Negrelli

A quick flight to Verona, two trains and I'm ready for my next stop in the North of Italy: Merano.

My second observation visit is at Scuola Media Luigi Negrelli, set in the South Tyrol.

This is a small junior high school with approximately 300 students aged 11-14 years.    In today’s lesson, I am with a class of 18 students aged 13 years.  This classroom has Samsung SMART school which means that each student has their own device in class, but the classroom is also equipped with a large screen which can ‘communicate’ with the different devices.   This school has chosen to assign their devices to a particular group of students and this means the students can take the devices home too. The CCL teacher in this school is Paolo Soldani, but in today’s lesson I am with one of his colleagues.  The teacher has only just started with work the scenario development process this year.  Today, the students are at the ‘create’ phase of the scenario.

The focus of the lesson is different cultures.  The students are working in groups of 3 and each group will create a presentation on a particular country: UK, Australia, South Africa, Canada and New Zealand.    The students will use Polaris office to create their product.   The students will work on this for two lessons and then present their work to other students.  The teacher has prepared some assessment criteria for the end product, but at present these are paper based.   

Whilst the students are creating one single product and sitting together, they are becoming experienced at some collaborative learning.  The students know what they have to create by the end and soon divide up who is “researching” each part. 

This teacher is new to the methodology of the scenario development and one of the most critical points is the need to plan smaller tasks or activities within the learning story.  It is essential for the teacher to give each phase lesson outputs as well as lesson outcomes.  For example, in this scenario, the students are creating a presentation, but in this lesson, the students would perhaps have benefitted from a planning template to create key questions.     This would encourage them to find answers and identify significant information, rather than copying and pasting text.  Subsequently, this would then develop their presentation skills along the way. 

  • What writing templates do you give your students?
  • How do you encourage your students to collaborate?
  • What kinds of activities enable students to collaborate?
  • When do you give the criteria for the assessment?
  • What effective smaller tasks or learning activities can support the final product development?
  • How do your assessment criteria consider all the different phases of the learning process?

At the end of the lesson, I just have time to see a couple of the groups share their progress – they have made a promising start and are beginning to articulate their research.  It will be great to see what the final presentations look like.

Next Stop: Portugal

How Can You Encourage Your Students To Explain Everything?

Athénée Royal d’Ans

My first observation visit in Belgium Wallonia region is an hour away from the centre of Brussels to Ans near Liege.  Athénée Royal d’Ans school has 1000 students and consists of one main building surrounded by quite a number of small buildings across a huge site. 

We begin the morning in deep discussion, unpicking the challenges of implementing tablets in schools.  (And of course, there are quite a few…)

This term the lead teacher Sandrine Geuquet, is going to start working on school to school collaboration but today she has a special task for the students, to communicate with a virtual expert.  One of the teachers in the school has recently won a prize to spend six weeks at the Princess Elisabeth research station in Antarctica.  Today, he will liaise with students and give them opportunity to ask questions.  Whilst previously the Antarctic has only been in films or documentaries, today for these students, it is very real.  It enables them to understand the direct challenges the teacher is facing. No supermarkets, a small group of people in a limited space.  There is opportunity for greater understanding of survival strategies.  This is a good example of “Bring in the Expert” and whilst not every school has a teacher travelling to the Antarctic, it is crucial that schools make the most of such opportunities for students.

  • Do you use real experts in your classroom?
  • Have you connected to someone from a different organisation to work with your students virtually?
  • Have you tried connecting to someone in a different country?

The second lesson of the morning is French and today the focus is on spelling.  This is sometimes a difficult subject to inspire and excite others, but Sandrine skilfully manages to enable the students to participate.  The lesson begins with a 10 minute listening task.  The students have one device between two and have to write down the test that has been recorded for them, identifying the spelling rule.

  • Do you give your students regular timed tasks using the tablets?
  • How can regular listening tasks improve the students’ learning outcomes?
  • What kinds of tasks do you give to the students to enable them to improve the pace of their work?
  • What resources can your students create to support their own revision?
  • Which apps do you consider essential for different subjects?
  • Has your school identified a short list of apps that all teachers and students can use?
  • What different kinds of outputs can the students produce in the lesson to demonstrate their understanding?

The students respond well, knowing that they have a limited time.  In the next part of the lesson, the teacher gives the student groups a different spelling rule and they must use the app Explain Everything.  The students work in pairs to make a podcast using the app; when they are ready to record, they can leave the classroom.  The final products can be shared between the students using the teacher’s website and become great home-made revision examples.  The students have produced creative outputs and also developed transferable skills that can be used across subjects.

Next Stop: Italy


Working in groups to support independent learning with tablets

 Kaunas JP Vileisiu Basic School

My morning begins with a 75 minute drive from Vilnius to Kaunas.  In this school, some of the students are in their third year of having access to the tablets.  The school has worked with Microsoft for three years, and this has led to the development of the Microsoft Prestigio Classroom. 

Like many other schools, it was a difficult to decide whether to give the tablets to a dedicated group of students or to share them between several groups.  This school chose to give one group access, the 5th grade students are now in 7th grade.

  • Do you give your tablets to an identified group of students and monitor their use?
  • Do you distribute the access to tablets across the whole school, or a smaller group of students?

This morning, I spend time with Geidre Prialgauskiené who is one of a team of Creative Classrooms Lab teachers in this school.  Today’s lesson is computer science.  The students are working on the explore part of the scenario.  The students have to design a Christmas card using different types of drawing software.  The students work independently on the task.  Whilst the teacher suggests that the students may like to use “Stickdraw”, she also encourages them to make their own decisions.  Some students try Paintjoy and also apps by Doodle Joy Studio.  The students use Yammer to write a description of each tool that they use and evaluate it; this is good for reflection within the lesson.  This is a social media tool for schools; the teacher has set it up so that they can only see the work of their group.  (The students need their own account on Yammer, but this is connected to their Office 365 account.)  Some students are given ‘credits’ for their reflection on the use of particular tools as part of the assessment in the lesson.

 My second visit is back in Vilnius to the Vilnius Jezuit Gymnasium

These students have access to the Samsung tablets just once a week in Physics.  This Samsung Smart school has been in place for two years. However, at the moment, access to the tablets is only within lesson time.

In today’s physics lesson CCL teacher Antanas Dzimidavicius, the students work in pairs. The teacher begins by showing the students the learning objectives for the lesson. The students must use their individual devices to access various tasks using a QR Code.  The first QR code provides a link to a quiz.  The students complete this at their own pace within a Google form prepared by the teacher. Students can wear headphones, and they are asked to bring their own headphones to use.  The students also have a link to the ‘subject content’ on slides. The student must answer the questions and then save their work to a pdf. on the Google drive.

  • How can you support students who have good subject knowledge, but less digital skills?
  • How can you make more time for teaching digital skills?
  • What different roles can you give students within a lesson to enable them to demonstrate different skills? 

In the final task, the students need to find the volume of a book.  They have to take photos and make a video saying what they are doing at each step.  This is a challenge because some students are competent with the use of the tablet, but need support with the subject knowledge, however, several students also need support with the use of the tablet.  In this situation, it might be useful to put the students into small teams with dedicated roles within the lesson, i.e. dividing the tasks to ensure that students who have more digital skills can support the less confident students. Some of the students use Explain Everything to create their short videos explaining their calculations.

Next Stop: Belgium Wallonia

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
Content Creation and Experimenting with Tablets in Science and English

My third observation visit was to the five schools in Belgium Flanders who are involved in the Creative Classrooms Lab project.  The teachers have been working on a learning scenario that looks to enable content creation. 

Middenschool van het GO! Ieper

CCL project teacher: Philip Everaerts

During the four day visit, I have opportunity to spend time in all five schools, but for the purpose of this blog, I’m going to write about three of the schools.  My first visit is to Middenschool van het GO! Ieper. The school has 189 students aged 12 -14 years.  The school has 25 iPads and these are now being used by several teachers across different areas of the curriculum. 

Philip Everaerts is the CCL project teacher.  The students have ‘Active Learning with ICT’ for 2 hours a week.  The students have been introduced to the work of the CCL project and understand the different stages.   Dream - Explore- Map - Make - Ask - Remake - Show. The teacher has created new digital learning resources and activities for each aspect of the learning story.  The students have to create their own iBook about communication over a series of lessons using creative book builder. The students can access the activities as an iBook.   The teacher has created videos for the students to watch and then copy the same tasks.   One of the advantages of the different sections is that the teacher can organise the students so that they are able to rotate through some of the activities over a number of weeks.  This means that the students can organise their own learning and work at their own pace.  The students get a list of competencies at the beginning of the task and they know are going to be scored against these. (Maximum of 4 points)   One of the tasks involves the students making their own Perspex cell phone holder. (Produced by Technotrailer) The students have to watch the video and heat the different folds in the Perspex.    Every lesson begins with a briefing so that the teacher can assess the students’ progress.  Philip has also defined the APPS that the students will use for each task; however, he now believes that it would be effective to give the students opportunities to identify their own APPS and to become more responsible for deciding the format of the outputs for their actual tasks.

  • Do all your students produce final outputs in the same format/application?
  • How do you enable students to work at their own pace?
  • What criteria do you give to the students prior to the task?

TechnOV Vilvoorde

CCL project Teacher: Marc Deldime

The afternoon begins in the Chemistry lab.  There are just seven students aged 17 years old and this afternoon’s lesson is industrial sciences.  The students enter the room and put on their gleaming white coats.  Today’s task is to conduct an experiment that has been assigned to each individual student via the school learning environment.  Each student uses their device to access the instructions and begins to organise the equipment required.    The objective of the lesson is to look at the influence of catalysts on different chemicals.  The students examine how the starch separates into different sugars and reacts to the various enzymes, for example, dishwasher tablets, and saliva.  The students have all the steps on their tablets that they have to follow. Each student prepares with a Pyrex measuring jug, test tubes and a Bunsen burner.  The students also have to look up the health and safety codes on the products.    The teacher has created PDF template files, and the students have to document the different sections of their experiment, they are allowed to add photographs and gather additional evidence.  The students take photographs of each other for the different parts of the experiment.  The teacher also takes a photograph of the students working and sends it to the students via DisplayNote.  This software allows the teacher and the students to add annotations and then save these with the photo.  This is a simple, but effective way for the teacher to gather evidence.  It also enables the students to create a joint visual narrative of their work.   The students have until tomorrow to complete their report, and when it is finished they can add it to Dropbox. 

  • How can we encourage the students to be more independent learners
  • What are the benefits of providing templates?
  • How often do you use photographs/video evidence of the students within the lesson to demonstrate their understanding?

Sint-Augustinusinstituut Bree

CCL Project teacher: Jan Thoelen

Jan is the full time pedagogical co-ordinator in school and is based within an open learning centre; this is a separate building within the school that was opened over ten years ago to provide access to technology.  There are also smaller open learning centres in some of the classrooms in the main school building.    The school has 1030 students and approximately 160 members of staff.    The school has a steering committee for ICT involving the ICT Co-ordinator, pedagogical co-ordinator, headteacher, and the principal who meet every five weeks to discuss the development and implementation of technologies.   There have been 23 iPads in school for about the last 12- 18 months and the teachers can reserve these by box.  (5 ipads per box.)  WiFi is available throughout the school. The teachers themselves don’t have ipads but can borrow them from school. 

One of the most notable points is the size of the main teaching room in the open learning centre.  It is a huge space, (like a large school hall) that can be sectioned off with wooden separators.  In today’s lesson, the students begin in a horseshoe around the teacher who has access to an interactive whiteboard.  However, in the paired task, the students move to the space beyond the horseshoe, but can easily find a quiet space to create their resource.

Jan also does some team teaching where he can work with the staff together in the lesson.  Today’s lesson is with the English teacher who has been working with Jan to learn about the use of the app “Explain Everything.”  The teacher has asked the students to find a video on the internet to learn about the art of paper folding. (Origami)

This is a 50 minute lesson, the teacher has asked the students to bring an example of Origami to the lesson that they will be able to recreate.  The students have to then use “Explain Everything” to capture the process of making their folded shape.  The students can also add text/arrows on to each photo.  Finally, the students can go back and add voice.

  • What apps work well for enabling students to create content?

Students have been able to find a video on Youtube prior to the lesson.  e.g. Searching on Google “Folding with paper”.  One student has made a rabbit.  The student has copied the instructions from Youtube and now recreates these in the lesson recording each step.  Another group of students use a 10 Euro note (the size of the money is important for the ‘shirt’ that the boy is creating).  There is also a great example of a flying dragon /pterodactyl.  The students have to create between 9-15 slides as instructions.  The students have 25 – 30 minutes to create their video. Two students have chosen to make a boomerang.  Prior to the lesson they have worked together via Skype to discuss what they are going to do in lesson.  Some of the students have printed out the instructions and some of the students have written notes to remind themselves on notepaper; only one student has saved her instructions to her Google Drive at home and now accesses them again in the lesson.  She has a pdf. of the instructions to follow.

  • How do your students access learning resources prior to the lesson?
  • How can the students transfer files between school and home?
  • What opportunities do you give the students to prepare/extend their learning collaboratively?
  • How do students work together either before the lesson to prepare ideas or beyond the lesson to extend their learning?

So as I leave Belgium Flanders, the next challenge for these schools is to begin to plan the content for their second scenario.  It sounds like there will still be a focus on content creation, but with a need to consider how to build opportunities for collaboration between the students.

Next Stop: Austria

How can we encourage collaboration in the classroom using tablets?


My first stop in Slovenia was in Ljubljana to High School Gimnazija Jožeta Plečnika Ljubljana where CCL Lead teacher Simona Granfol teaches German.
In this classroom, the 25 students do not have tablets, but they do all have access to a netbook. 
Simona begins the lesson with a quiz on Karl Benz that she has prepared and saved on the school VLE. As part of the CCL project, the teachers in Slovenia have been working on a scenario on collaboration. Simona has shared all the stages of the scenario with her students. Today she revisits the “Dream” part of the scenario and shows where the students’ initial ideas came from. 
The teacher shows the students a video about German inventions; Aspirin, BMW, Beer, Levi Strauss and Haribo to name but a few. It is fascinating when you start to think about what has been invented in a particular country. The teacher then shows the students a second video about Karl Benz and how he developed the car and the brand. Although this is a language lesson, it is clear to see the transferable skills that the students are developing by collaborating with their peers. 
The teacher then divides the students into groups with three or four students to undertake their own research and create a presentation on a German invention.   This is the “Make” part of the scenario process. The students are allowed to decide the software application that they want to use for their presentation.    Some of the students choose PowerPoint, or Prezi, but the teacher also introduces the idea of Glogster or a Wordle too.
  • How often do you let your students choose the application that they will use? 
  • How do you arrange your students to work in groups?
  • Have you ever tried to allocate different roles to your students?
Each group will also have to make a questionnaire with a set of questions so that other students can watch their presentation and then answer the questions. The teacher also asks the students to allocate roles within the group.
  •  1 person is responsible for a slogan/advert
  • 1 person will find the information or the invention and collate it in a google doc
  • 1 student will write the quiz
  • 1 student will create the presentation
The teacher has found that a standard 45 minute lesson is not enough to create something and has therefore used a double lesson for this part of the scenario. However, the students soon get to work as they know there is a lot to do.   The double lesson allows the students time to think and discuss their ideas. The teacher is able to go around and support each group. One of noticeable advantages of this task is that not all the students are doing the same; the students know that they have to remain focussed on their task as the teacher will be looking at their individual outcomes. The information that is collated in the Google doc is accessible by the whole group and this will mean that the students can all see each other’s work. 
  • How do you collate work that is being completed by a collaborative group?
  •  How much time do you give your students for discussion and planning their tasks?
  •  How do you assess the collaborative work of the students?
  • How long are your standard lessons in school? Is 45-50 minutes long enough?
  • What opportunities do you provide for peer to peer assessment?
 Secondary School of Hotel Management and Tourism, Maribor
The second school visit in Slovenia is 90 minutes drive from Ljubljana to the Secondary School of Hotel Management and Tourism in Maribor.
This morning I am with the CCL teacher: Andreja Pečovnik Mencinger who is teaching maths and today’s lesson is about exponential growth. In this classroom, all the students have access to a 7“ Prestigio tablet. The teacher has a Promethean interactive whiteboard. The teacher begins by discussion the students’ homework with them and goes through some algebraic equations and demonstrating examples. The students have had to answer multiple choice questions. The students have also had to plot the equations on a graph.
The teacher shows the students the Indian Legend of the Chessboard on Youtube, and she then discusses the mathematics behind this encouraging the students to show that they have understood. The students can then work out the continuation of the function on their calculator. In their maths books, the students have to explain the function.
The teacher then gives the students an equation on the IWB and they will then work this out in groups. First, the teacher takes 6 of the students and demonstrates how to use the app “Algeo” and they then have to cascade this to their group. The teacher gives out a worksheet for the students to write their results on. Each group has a different worksheet. Using the app Algeo the students have to work out their answers to the equations. The students have to be able to understand the mechanics of the mathematics, and the teacher wants them to know how to draw and plot the outcomes, even though they could just plot diagrams on the tablet. 
The groups work differently, in one group, the students only have 2 devices. There is a strong discussion and one student points and predicts to the other student about the calculation. In the other group the students all have devices but continue to work as individuals. 
  • Do students need to work with an individual device all the time or would it sometimes be more effective to share a device?
  • To what extent do you feel the need to use paper/workbooks in your classroom to keep a record, rather than have a digital record?
  • What other apps are there to record mathematical working out?
  • What other examples are there when students need to be able to know how to demonstrate their working out, rather than allowing the digital program to do the calculation?
  • When students are involved in collaborative work in lessons, how can we track their individual progress?
Throughout the CCL Scenario, Andreja has also recognised the importance of connecting the work within mathematics to the students’ wider curriculum around hotel management. In later work, the students who are also doing catering as part of their course will consider how the topic of exponential growth may impact upon their work. This has involved Andreja taking time to discuss the scenario with other colleagues too, but crucially it enables the students to see the relevance of learning about exponential growth. 
Next Stop: Belgium Flanders
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

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