China is embracing STEM, and CLWB.org is proud to be partnering with Pearson China to accelerate its adoption there.
Last week we delivered thee events in Beijing:
It was great to be able to present at the launch of ASTIE – Alliance of Science Technology and Innovation Education, and the Summit Forum on the International Science Technology and Innovation Education at the Beijing International Convention Center. The launch ceremony included a great speech by Kevin Kelly, founding executive editor of Wired magazine, who talked about the “cognification” of the physical world through AI.
We were delighted to present the work that Pearson has been doing in China, which includes projects in all major regions.
Beijing National Day School
As part of the ASTIE launch, we presented a detailed analysis of what it takes to implement STEM programs in schools.
The Beijing National Day School produces some terrific STEM learning, including underwater robotics and automated parcel systems.
Pics c/o Beijing National Day School
STEM Teacher Training Workshops
We then delivered 4 x 1-day workshops covering roller coaster design; environmentally friendly chemical products; designing running shoes; and bridges.
The teachers learned how to implement creative collaboration and design thinking in their schools, and how to use science to inform design decisions.
Thanks to Niko Zhang, Magic Shi, Rao Zhen, Chris Zhang, and all those at Pearson China.
This is the second in a series of articles that aim to help schooling systems develop their technology, the first being “Taking the First Steps“.
There are four distinct phases through which technology in schooling evolves. The first phase is characterized by access. In this phase, giving students and teachers access to computers to improve some aspects of lesson delivery and administration is the main focus. In the next phase, technology is used to enhance existing processes. It’s about providing content and tools to increase learning, organising communications and starting to manage data and information. The third phase is characterized by using technology strategically. No longer is technology considered a “bolt-on”, or “veneer” on top of existing processes – it now helps drive schooling towards strategic goals such as significantly improved learning and better return on investments. In the final phase, leading edge schools use ICT to transform their operations, using it to personalize learning, integrate deeply with the wider community, run extremely efficient administration systems and develop a culture of performance.
The “Enhanced” Phase
The goals of the Enhance Phase of ICT development are to:
Improve communications with parents
Manage data and information
In this phase, computers are available in several areas of the school, some in labs, and others scattered in classrooms and other learning spaces. These computers are connected together in a network and key resources, such as content, printers, scanners, and users are managed centrally.
Students use computers as a learning tool – e.g., using multimedia learning packages; solving maths problems; researching; reading from e-books; developing writing skills; learning languages; and developing 21st Century skills.
Curriculum Area Examples
Word structure and spelling
A great example of how to help children remember how to spell individual words is the “Look Cover Write and Check” web application on the Ambleside School site
Bilingual audio books combine rich graphics with spoken word for foreign language learning. Award winning Mantra Lingua have combined traditional print media with a “talking pen”.
Learning from feedback
Word processing software now enables students to “word process” maths to clearly show complex formulae, along with 2d and 3d graphs, making it easier to communicate their thinking and get feedback on it. Check out the free Math add-in for Word and OneNote.
Students can use Logo software to draw patterns students quickly learn the importance of expressing their commands unambiguously and in the correct order
A software Graphing Calculator can be a great tool for teaching maths when used with a data projector for whole class teaching, or better still when given to students to use. A lesson can be built up and stored then each stage “replayed”. Check out the free Microsoft Math 4.0
Students can design surveys, such as the heights of their peers and teachers, and enter the data into a spreadsheet to learn about averages and correlations.
Electronic telescopes enable pupils to collect images from different locations on Earth and at different times of the day. Telescope sites also provide learning resources and galleries of images.
Recording and measuring
USB microscopes and data loggers can be used in the classroom to observe, record results, plot graphs and analyse data. E.g. see this data logging programme from Kent which explores topics such as: most effective sunglasses; which surface will slow down the car? Who has the hottest hands; where is the noisiest place in school?
Providing models or demonstrations
Simulating experiments can enable students to experiment with phenomena that may be too slow, too fast, too dangerous or too expensive to experience in school. Check out Crocodile Clips’ Yenka for example.
Additionally, worksheets with practical examples and screenshots explaining how to use ICT in Primary Schools are available here
Other resources developed for classroom use by teachers, for teachers can be found in the Teachers Toolbox and here.
Managing Learning Content
When ICT is implemented, lots of content gets created. In order to get maximum efficiencies from ICT, this content needs to be organised and managed in a way that means that people don’t replicate one another’s work.
At school level, content can be managed through a file sharing system on a server on a network. For example, Windows Server 2008 enables files to be centrally shared and managed. The “Shared Folders” feature enables file-shares to be created and permissions set, which will allow students and teachers to store their work.
At a more advanced level, content can be better managed using a portal such as SharePoint Server 2010. Combining content management with collaboration tools and powerful search, SharePoint makes information easy to find, share, and use.
Beyond the school, regions or even whole countries are beginning to provide organised learning content, as explored in the articles on SULINET and managing learning content.
In Brazil, for example, Educopedia is a learning content portal run by the City of Rio. Users are presented with a list of all of the elementary and middle school grades and under each of these they can access all the school curricula for each discipline.
For example, a teacher can click on a subject area link, and see a content index consisting of the school year course plan which contains the lessons and related curriculum standards.
From there, they can download lesson plans with suggestions on how to make the best use of the resource materials available; a list of the skills and competences addressed; a PowerPoint presentation for classroom use; and a quiz with questions about the class content.
Educopedia also provides users with communication and collaboration functions through live@edu, which provides a mechanism for user authentication.
The usual way in which schools communicate directly with parents is via “parent evenings” – many parents end up seeing a teacher once or twice a year for 5 minutes. Hardly enough time to say “hello” and “goodbye”.
Research demonstrates that active parental involvement in educational activities delivers a positive impact on attainment. Technology can be used to connect parents with information regarding the educational progress of their child, and a range of supplemental activities in which the parent can support the learning process. For example, ICT can be used to:
Enable parents and teachers to communicate more frequently with each other
Identify problems and issues at an early stage and involve parents in rectifying them
Give parents the tools to support learning activities at home
Provide parents with immediate news about the school and its activities.
At a basic level, ICT can contribute:
E-mail news bulletins
Digital learning resources to assist the student with homework
Educational resources for parents, such as behavioural management guidance
Alerts on critical issues such as lack of attendance, dropping attainment levels, behavioural issues, etc
Managing Data and Information
Teacher Administrative Tasks
ICT can really help with reducing the time spent on teacher’s basic administrative tasks including:
Lesson plans and materials
Producing class lists
Keeping and filing records
Analyses of attendance and results
Ordering supplies and equipment.
Producing formal minutes of meetings
In Latvia, the Ministry of Education were able to achieve time savings of 30% by deploying SharePoint Server across 100 schools. This allowed them to automate routine grading tasks and reporting, delivering significant time savings for teachers.
For a report on how ICT helped UK teachers reduce administrative burdens, click here.
Managing Baseline Administrative Data and Information
Whilst different countries have different mandatory requirements for essential data that they expect schools provide, UNESCO (2003) has set out a recommended specification of essential data to collect at the national level from each education establishment.
Data on students
Data on teachers and other categories of personnel
Distribution by grade, gender and age
Distribution of teachers by level of qualification and certification, by grade and by gender
Distribution of repeaters by gender and grade
Distribution of teachers by age and by gender
Number of learners attending double-shift classes by grade.
Number of teachers working double shifts
Data on education establishments
Number of teachers in multi-grade classes
Number of classrooms
Number of non-teaching personnel by categories, age and gender.
Places available in schools
Distribution of teachers by level of qualification and certification, by grade and by gender
Distribution of teachers by age and by gender
The budget as part of the overall State budget (budget voted and budget disbursed) broken down by level
Number of teachers working double shifts
The expenditures at the local level, of private organizations by level
Number of teachers in multi-grade classes
Student Information Systems (SIS)
Schools need to keep records on their students which should, at the very least, include:
Personal – name; address; photo; family contacts
Performance – actual and predicted grades; teachers comments
Attendance – by day, by lesson, over time
Risk profile – learning, social, medical and demographic
Intervention history – what assistance and guidance has been given to the student
A study by the UK Institute of Fiscal Studies in 2009, shows that “learners who use a computer at home for schoolwork could get as much as ½ a grade to their General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) examination results and as much as a term on to their GCSE learning”. No surprise then to see the explosion of national level projects for the wide-scale introduction of ‘personal learning devices’. However, many of these schemes wrongly focus on a ‘blanket’ approach of providing huge numbers of cheap portable PC’s. Unfortunately most of these projects have been driven by getting the most computers for the lowest price, rather than focusing on getting the right device for the learning that needs to be done.
To get the best return on investment a device for students should have the following features:
Provide a platform for use of the widest range of productivity, creativity, and communication and collaboration tools
Result in users acquiring relevant knowledge and employability skills
Have a display of around 13 to 15 inches
Have software that makes learning accessible to all, including those with disabilities
Capable of being managed remotely and as part of a managed network
Sharable with other users
Battery life should exceed 3 hours under full CPU load with full screen brightness
Appropriate ports to allow them to connect to other equipment
·Wireless networking capability
Be self-contained and work without needing high levels of internet access once set up
Protected from viruses, spyware, and other malicious software
Hard Drive encryption for security
One of the advantages of giving students a PC – as opposed to lower specification devices – is that they can share them with family and friends, amplifying the effects of the investment. For example, Mouse Mischief enables students to share applications extending the use of the device.
Ideally, students will be able to bring their laptops into the school and make use of them within a managed network, but this takes time, so a more likely scenario in the Enhanced phase is that students use shared computer resources at school. In this phase, there is likely to be an ICT suite with enough computers to take at least 30 children sharing a computer in pairs. Computers will also be found in other learning spaces in the school to support the kind of learning scenarios mentioned above. The computers that were originally used in the school can now be distributed throughout the school, some of which can be used as Thin Clients networked to the Server and/or Windows Multipoint Server.
Of course, computers aren’t the only hardware devices used in the classroom. Digital cameras; video cameras; voting devices; interactive whiteboard tools; robotic kits; digital microscopes; and projectors all have a role to play in the learning process in the Enhanced phase.
With ICT across the school, there is need for an organised network to manage ICT services. Learning content, devices, peripherals, access, administrative processes and users. Connecting with a local authority, state or national level learning content service is crucial, and this has to take place within a secured environment. The school will also need to connect to secure Local Authority services within a Wide Area Network.
An important question in this phase is how to manage e-mail. This can be done “on-premises” using server software such as Exchange Server; as a ‘rented’ service such as Exchange Online; or as a free “commodity” type service such as Office 365 for Education. The answer depends on the amount of resource available to manage the service, and the degree of control that a school wants to have over e-mail policy. Increasingly email – along with services such as calendaring and personal file storage – are commodity services that institutions are happy to see moving into the Cloud.
For a useful document from BECTA that sets out key considerations for school ICT network design, click here.
With a system in place for collecting baseline administrative data, there now needs to be a continuous flow of information between schools, the Local Authority and Ministry of Education with budget allocations flowing downwards and reporting on performance flowing upwards. This has to be achieved through a Wide Area Network to ensure the secure transfer of data. Several technologies are available for this including “Leased Line”, “Circuit Switching”, “Packet Switching” and “Virtual Private Networks”.
As we saw above, the Local Education Authority of Rio City also provides learning content and collaboration services to schools. These can be delivered as a web service from a data centre.
The foundation on which the entire schooling architecture is built is called “Optimised Infrastructure”. This provides a scalable, secure platform which can be built on to provide a growing number of services.
Key capabilities of an Optimised Infrastructure are:
The key component without which none of this will work is stringent security and networking protocols. This is needed to protect students and employees from unauthorised users, viruses and unsuitable content. Security systems should automatically identify threats and respond automatically.
Local Area Network (LAN)
Computers need to be connected to a LAN – wired and/or wireless – with a server that controls the network, stores files and enables printing. A classroom might have just a few computers that all the students take turns using, so it’s important that an educational computer be configured just the way the teacher wants. The teacher shouldn’t have to waste valuable teaching time troubleshooting. Each PC in a LAN needs to be “locked down” and reset easily.
Data Protection and Recovery
As ICT becomes increasingly “mission critical”, it’s important to manage data so it can be rapidly recovered. When infrastructure is fully optimised, recovering information should be as simple as browsing the network. Backup devices are now very cheap to buy and manage, and will automatically run in the background.
Identity and Access management
Identity and Access Management can help organisations centrally manage user information and access rights. It allows administrators to manage each student, teacher, administrator individually by setting their role, access and functional level. This enables individual users to have information and software tools that are specific to their individual requirements – a personalised IT service. A directory service holds each user account and its access functions and allows the user to access various systems using the same set of credentials. Authentication can be by various mechanisms such as logon credentials, smartcards, and biometrics.
Desktop, Server and Device management
In an optimised infrastructure, those responsible for the management of networks have the tools to control their IT infrastructure; easing operations; reducing troubleshooting time; controlling quota; password re-setting; provisioning users; improving planning capabilities; and managing mobile devices.
Integration and Interoperability
A key goal of optimising infrastructure is to integrate different systems so they can exchange data. The advantage of this is that data only has to be inputted once, and then used by multiple systems saving time and money. Ideally data in Student Information Systems, Teacher Administration and Accounting Packages will interoperate, saving teachers and administration staff from having to re-key in data every time they wanted to update records or produce reports.
Databases are the “engines” of information management. They are used to capture, store, analyse and interpret a wide variety of information, and deliver this information to a range of different applications and devices including servers, desktops and mobile systems. Data includes text, numbers, pictures, video streams, audio content, and geo-spatial information. Not only do databases store data but they interpret, index and enable it to be searched.
Schooling system networks need to be reliable to encourage user confidence and to support learning and teaching, as well as school management and administration. This requires access to technical support, which can come from technicians within the school, or from another provider, or sometimes from students themselves. In an optimised infrastructure, schooling systems need to move away from a reactive system in which incidents are dealt with only as they arise. Instead they need to create a more pro-active system where technical support prevents problems occurring and ensures that individual ICT systems are robust and reliable and available when required.
Bringing all this together the overall architectural model for a school in the “Enhanced” phase looks like this:
It’s often harder to take the second step than the first. Indeed, moving from PCs in a single location to an integrated and managed network has many challenges. The advantages well outweigh the challenges because by developing the school’s technology in this way, students gain access to a wider range of learning opportunities, develop more skills and knowledge. Teachers can use ICT to engage better with students and their parents, and school administration can improve enabling more effective use of resources.
In the next article in this series, we will explore the next phase – moving from using ICT to enhance existing operations to using ICT to drive strategic change.
Accessibility is often seen as minority issue, but a study commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by Forrester Research found that 57 percent of working-age computer users (18-64 years old) are likely to benefit from accessible technology.
For students with disabilities, technology can open up new windows of learning opportunity. For example:
For people with vision difficulties, Refreshable Braille displays provide tactile output of information represented on the computer screen. The user reads the Braille letters with his or her fingers, and then, after a line is read, refreshes the display to read the next line. For those with less severe difficulties, areas of the screen can be enlarged using a (software) magnifier. A screen reader can be used to “speak,” everything on the screen. Speech recognition allows people to give commands and enter data using their voices.
Those suffering from motor (co-ordination) impairments, typing aids, such as word prediction utilities are available. Keyboard filters enable users to quickly access the letters they need and to avoid inadvertently selecting keys they don’t want. “Touch screens” allow manipulation of the computer by touching the screen. Alternative input devices (including alternative keyboards, electronic pointing devices, sip-and-puff systems, wands and sticks, joysticks and trackballs) allow individuals to control their computers through means other than a standard keyboard or pointing device.
For people with hearing difficulties, it’s possible for computer systems to visualize sound messages – e.g. sounds that would normally be played when an e-mail arrives can be displayed as a flashing caption.
People with learning, language and communication difficulties can use word prediction programs which help users increase written productivity and accuracy, and increase vocabulary skills through word prompting. Reading comprehension programs focus on establishing or improving reading skills through ready-made activities, stories, exercises, or games. These programs can help users practice letter sound recognition and can increase the understanding of words by adding graphics, sound, and animation.
Dyslexia is a dysfunction regarding reading and writing and technology can be used to provide:
Visualization: icons instead of text menus, magnifier – zoom
Collaboration: sharing the desktop so peers can help
Absence because of disability, illness, or fatigue, for example, disconnects students from the school environment. This can be addressed through video conferencing tools so students catch up through live distant learning. They can see all the shared items on a shared screen, listen to the explanation and interact with the teacher and with fellow students.
Ability Net – a UK based charity that provides guidance, information, assessment and training on the subject of computing and disability http://www.abilitynet.org.uk/