Home' Independence : Independence Vol 31 No 1 May 2006 Contents 48 Independence Volume 31 No. 1
So when I was invited to work with
UniServity as an educational consultant,
my first mission was to visit schools in
the United Kingdom and Hong Kong
that were already using the software.
It took no time to realise that Learning
Management Systems such as the CLC
had been redefined and encouraged
greater use of the available technology. Its
use also appeared to promote a sense of
community not seen before and, in many
cases, enhanced teaching and learning.
However, the notion of using technology
as a suite of tools to form specialized
groups, extend personal experiences
to anywhere in the world, and share
resources and best teaching practice
captured my interest as an educator.
The CREATE project
For example, a group of schools
in the UK and Europe have joined
together to work collaboratively on a
common design-and-technology project
called CREATE (Creative Realisation
Emphasising Aspects of Transitional
Education). Twenty groups of students
and teachers from Italy, Poland, Finland,
Romania, Spain and the UK work
together on a common design brief,
culminating in a final presentation and
a week together in a designated country
sharing ideas. The software provides the
communication tools and the facility to
share and exchange ideas and resources
during the course of the project. Most
importantly, it also provides the ability to
create secure and clearly defined groups.
Participating students and teachers find
the experience unforgettable and interest
in similar projects is growing rapidly as
other schools learn of its success.
I see the greatest value of such a project
organised in this fashion as extending,
deepening and globalising personal
learning experiences. From what I
observed, the design project itself is but
a part of a greater learning experience.
The English Schools
Foundation – Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s English Schools Foundation
also saw the benefits of creating
specialized groups beyond the traditional
classes. With five secondary schools,
ten primary schools and additional
educational resources schools, the ESF
wished to tap into teachers’ expertise
across all schools and link students with
common needs, skills and backgrounds.
Teachers learning to cope with new
technology such as Interactive White
Boards (IWBs), students with special needs
and gifts (SNAGS), and languages groups
were just a few areas that were identified
as critical to improving teaching and
learning across the ESF. Whilst the groups
existed prior to the implementation of
a learning-management system such as
the CLC, they tended to be disjointed,
fragmentary and somewhat ineffective
because of increasing pressures on
teachers and diminishing opportunities for
groups to meet. So the software allowed
all those who wished to be included an
opportunity to participate. Discussion
forums are used extensively, instructional
videos are online and resources are shared.
I was also very impressed by the speed
with which the teachers took up the
software once they were trained.
Primary school teachers post homework
for parents and students to access
from home, year projects and themes
are discussed openly via forums and
student work is celebrated electronically.
Secondary school teachers keep students
informed of assessment tasks and
resources and specialist teachers have
created reading groups and mathematics
groups to assist and extend learning to
students more effectively.
Why use a set of online
UniServity has over 500 schools that
use the software in varying capacities.
However, the degree to which it is used is
generally only limited by the vision and
energy of the school leadership. It would
appear that the company has responded to
the needs of schools and in doing so it has
found a very keen and receptive market.
So what did schools in the UK, Europe
and HK consider the essential uses of
the software? Amongst other things,
• To create a school-centric learning
environment in which students
and teachers find
interest in similar
projects is growing
rapidly as other schools
learn of its success.
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