This article is brought to you by Garden International School. This article was written by James Wellings, Whole School Deputy Head – Director of Innovative Learning.
Garden International School has built a strong reputation for developing innovative teaching and learning practices and has recently been recognised by Apple Education for innovation, leadership and educational excellence. This has been the result of the school’s successful implementation of a 1:1 iPad programme and the design, creation and delivery of “Large Scale Enquiry” learning.
For the last three years the school has been seeking new ways to effectively engage teachers and students in their own learning. This search has been driven by a key question: How can we engage all learners in an experience that will have an impact upon their learning long after that experience has finished?
The Large Scale Enquiry Programme
In endeavouring to answer this question, Garden has developed a “Large Scale Enquiry Programme”. In simple terms, this refers to a five-day period within the school year where students from a range of year groups collaborate vertically (in mixed aged groups) to identify, investigate, and draw conclusions on a chosen line of enquiry. It looks like this (below):
The learning opportunities for students and teachers during this kind of experience are immense. Students become coconstructors of their own learning and levels of engagement are high as they investigate something they are genuinely interested in.
Refining the Use of Technology in the Classroom
The programme has also allowed the school to experiment and refine the use of technology within the classroom. As part of the “Respect” enquiry students were tasked with producing a two minute video designed to raise the levels of respect within our community. Before the enquiry, the standard of student filmmaking was extremely low. After building in filmmaking workshops, and developing expertise in camera operation, storyboarding and editing into the enquiry we have found that standards have increased dramatically across all areas of the school.
The use of iTunes U has allowed us to discover an effective method of information transmission that is now been used by departments and year groups to ensure students have access to key information and tasks anywhere at any time. Teachers and students have also been able to experiment with a variety of apps and electronic tools that have become regular features in day-to-day lessons.
The Role of the Teacher in the Modern Classroom
The enquiries have also created the opportunity to explore the role of the teacher within the modern classroom. A powerful innovation has been to use the concept of “free flow” for the students to investigate the big idea. This is normally something that can be found within the early years of a school and allows young learners to freely move around a large area engaging with activities and materials as and when they want to. Using this idea with nine 14-year-olds would be considered by many to be madness! This programme created an opportunity to try it with older students, and it worked, in fact it worked better than could have been hoped for! Teachers carefully design the experience and then allow students the freedom to explore it.
The role of the teacher becomes to watch, question and probe for critical thought rather than to deliver. This theme continues throughout the programme with the adults acting as observers, mentors and coaches. These practices have been adopted around the school and now represent a well-used and understood teaching and learning methodology.
Much more information is available on the purpose, design and success of Garden International School’s large scale enquiry programme on the school website. The iTunes U courses are available for public
download as an interactive iBook and examples of student outcomes. The next enquiry will take place in January 2016 and planning is already underway to further develop a world class learning experience built on research, innovation and the effective utilisation of the latest technology.
To learn more, please visit Garden International School’s Innovative Learning web page.
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