Djanogly Academy is one school which is beginning to experiment with Web 2.0 technology to personalise learning.
Two prominent buzz words Tin the educational sector - which, let's face it, loves its Tbuzz words - are personalisation and Web 2.0. At Djanogly City Academy, we see the two as inherently complementary concepts.
The academy is an 11-19 institution serving inner-city Nottingham with around 1,400 students. It became a city academy in September 2003, having opened as a city technology college in 1989.
Our specialism is ICT and we have worked closely with key partners such as Toshiba, Microsoft and XMA. Our Key Stage 3 centre now has a near one-to-one student to Tablet PC ratio while our 14-19 Centre has a hybrid of Tablet PCs, laptops and desktop PCs.
Having experimented with a number of virtual learning environments (VLEs), we acquired our Learning Gateway in 2005 as an off-the-shelf SharePoint product and gradually integrated email, MIS, Library and Network Services helpdesk. It is now used on a daily basis by virtually every student and staff member, in school and at home.
In early 2007 we began to move into stage two of our gateway development; utilising its Web 2.0 functionality.
This provides opportunities for students to engage with their learning outside school hours, in formal and informal ways. Also, by providing a distinct space for students to organise their work and collaborate with their peers, they are able to record and monitor their own progress and identify future targets.
The examples over the following pages represent our first attempts to secure enhanced personalisation through this technology.
'My Site' and student self-design
Each Djanogly student has a Personal Vision Plan to help guide them through their personalised learning journey. Given our technologically-rich environment, it was natural that our Personal Vision Plan should harness this.
We knew that our students were already 'expert' at using social networking sites, although they needed guidance on how to develop a more appropriate web presence.
Thus the idea of 'My Djanogly Space' was born to provide each pupil with a secure web space on the VLE to house live information about their learning and progress.
In addition, we hoped it would raise aspirations, improve standards by showcasing best learning, enhance literacy skills through blogging, improve tracking and monitoring, supply links to websites and the VLE and improve communication between home, school and student.
The space would be accessible by each student, by staff and by parents/carers and could be shared with peers by invitation only.
The next step was to develop a prototype and who better to experiment with this than the 'experts' themselves - the students.
To date the students have used Web Parts to customise and adapt the My Site area. Our next steps are to pilot our existing gains and then adapt and improve until the 'My Djanogly Space' vision becomes a reality that helps to secure improvements in teaching and learning.
Emily Brown, Vice Principal: Learning and Teaching
English lessons: anytime, anywhere
At home, students multi-task using a variety of new technologies. While doing an essay, they will be chatting with friends on MSN and text, updating their My Space site while listening to their favourite group's new album downloaded onto their mobile or laptop.
I wanted to find a platform that students would find approachable and familiar and use it to expand the learning environment. I alighted on a teen networking site called Piczo. It tends to be used by younger teens; however it offered a very easy-to-manipulate environment.
One of the key features was the ability to add unlimited pages in clear pathways, making it very easy to navigate. It allowed for very simple upload of text, pictures, video and linking.
On this site, each English teacher was given an area in which to upload outlines of coursework, links to web pages (for example, exploration of the language of gothic fiction, to back up work done on Frankenstein), essay plans, and, more importantly, short videos that would introduce topics to students and provide seminars.
The immediate effect was that a student did not have to be in school to participate. For example, a student who was absent because of illness emailed early in the day to say she was bored at home.
No problem, I emailed back, we are doing this today and it's all on the Piczo site. She did the lesson and emailed me her work by the end of the afternoon.
Pushing this technology, we have linked into the site another web-based technology, UstreamTV, which allows for live streaming.
Every Monday evening I live stream a lesson via the Piczo site which the students can watch. It can be recorded, creating a library of seminars on the site, that the students can access when they want.
At the moment the Piczo technology is used in a one-way direction, with teachers uploading content to share with students. The natural next step would be to turn it around, as a medium through which students can upload their work, whether that be written, Power Points or videos.
Stephan Collishaw, Faculty Leader of English
Discussion forums in GCSE history
Exploring learning in a social context was the next step. This started with the Year 10 GCSE history class using a discussion forum on the VLE to bounce ideas and discussion points around the group outside their double lessons on a Tuesday and Wednesday.
Previously, unless formal homework was given, there would be a tendency for students to leave the lesson on Wednesday and not think about history until the following Tuesday. The idea was to encourage students to engage with the course content between lessons, particularly outside of school hours.
This deliberately was done in an informal way; we didn't have requirements for participation (as in "Your homework this week is to go onto the forum and....") as we wanted students to use it in a light-hearted, social context, much the same as they would use Facebook, albeit with a historical slant.
The findings from the pilot were in line with what we had suspected. The vast majority of entries were made between 7 and 10 pm, with a few being posted in school at lunchtime. All comments were directly related to the course content and the specific questions that had been posted by myself.
To this point, my involvement had been heavy, with weekly reminders about the forum and nightly access, giving quick responses and feedback to the students. All the discussions were prompted by myself by posing a question or problem related directly to the recent lesson content.
From here we wanted to see whether the forum would become self-perpetuating and managed by the students independently. I therefore withdrew to a large extent to see what would happen. Unfortunately the usage did not just slow down but stopped altogether.
Taking this evidence, in addition to feedback from the students, we drew a number of key findings. The use of an informal discussion forum was very successful in encouraging and facilitating students to engage with the course content outside of formal lesson time. This was due to focused, up-to-date and relevant discussion topics being initiated by the teacher.
The students appreciated the teacher responding to their comments on a daily basis, providing advice and challenging their ideas in reply; indeed the students continued involvement relied upon this.
The skill of providing evidence to support an argument also showed signs of being developed through an insistence that all opinions were backed up.
Matt Buxton, Assistant Head of ICT Development and Humanities Teacher
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