Tuesday 13 February 2018

Online Courses: Will Teacherless Classrooms Become A Reality?

The education company Pearson is launching a “virtual” Spanish A-Level later this year with plans to offer a range of other subjects such as French, maths and physics in the near future. Pearson has a well-established “virtual schools” business in the US and says they are interested in bringing virtual courses to the UK to help schools manage time and budgets while maintaining the breadth of their curriculum.

The courses, which are supervised by teaching assistants, do not require a teacher to be present in the classroom. The Spanish A-Level is designed to take five hours of learning per week, like a traditional A-Level. One hour will be spent in a small-group online session, delivered by a fully qualified and vetted Pearson teacher, with the other four hours spent working through guided interactive and engaging learning resources under the supervision of a teaching assistant. The teacher will be contactable via email or chat messages as well as providing a weekly one-to-one online session with each student.

This method of delivery has evolved from the Flipped Classroom, the teaching model in which the typical classroom and homework elements of a course are reversed. Students watch short videos/lectures at home before the class session, while class time is devoted to exercises, projects or discussions. The video element is a key ingredient in the flipped approach and is either created by the class teacher or selected from an online repository. Within the classroom, activity learning and concept engagement takes place with the help of the teacher.

In order to implement such a method in the classroom it is important to have an online platform that can bring all elements of the learning together in one place. Fusion VLE provides an ideal platform for flipped learning, making content easily accessible across devices and locations. Teachers are able to upload or link to videos and resources in customised class and learning spaces, as well as having the option to create blogs and forums to encourage student interaction and discussion online as well as in the classroom. Content remains available for students to revisit for revision or consolidation and is also a great way of minimising the effects of student absences. Features such as the Content Library, Blogs and Forums and Task Lists make Fusion the perfect platform for a Flipped Classroom. Click here to read a case study from GEMS Modern Academy’s Flipped Day. 

It is certain that online learning is becoming more prevalent in our schools and while integrating online elements into lessons has proven to be useful I don’t think that we will be seeing a big move to teacherless classrooms within schools any time soon. As the new education secretary Damian Hinds has said, "technology can make teachers’ jobs easier but it will not replace them".  

For more information on Fusion VLE visit www.mylearningltd.com

Monday 5 February 2018

E-Safety: Providing Children With Skills to Stay Safe Online

The NSPCC has called for immediate action on children’s online safety, criticising the government for failing to implement recommendations to make young people safer online.

10 years ago, the charity wrote a report making 38 proposals to tackle online safety for children of which it says 11 have been ignored, seven partially implemented and four are now out of date. Professor Tanya Byron, an NSPCC Trustee and clinical psychologist, said the government was “playing catch-up”. 
"The internet is absolutely ubiquitous in children's lives today. The online world moves too fast for government to drag its feet for another decade." 
Byron was the author of the original 2008 report and the NSPCC has now, a decade on, reviewed the progress made in implementing recommendations and has produced a report considering what still needs to be done to protect children and young people online. You can view the full report here

While the government is working to ensure there are robust protections in place including considering changing the law where necessary, it is vital that children are educated in online safety and given the opportunity to be online in a safe and protected environment.

Fusion VLE provides the perfect playground for students to learn about e-safety and social media. The ability to create a personalised profile, send and receive instant messages, post blogs and reply to forum topics gives them a taste of social media whilst remaining in a totally safe, fully moderated environment. Staff are able to view all student posts and are required to moderate any comments/posts made before they are viewable by other users.

Fusion users, Meadgate Primary School commented, The ability to practically follow up e-safety sessions using the VLE as a safe playground for learning about netiquette, personal and private information and digital footprint is a valuable tool in our school.”

For more information on Fusion VLE visit www.mylearningltd.com

Monday 29 January 2018

EAL: Supporting Different Languages in the Classroom

According to 2016 government figures, there are more than 1.3 million pupils speaking English as an additional language in our schools. The definition of EAL used by the Department for Education is if a child is exposed to a language at home that is known or believed to be one other than English. This definition covers pupils who may have recently arrived in the country, as well as families that have been here for many generations.

Because of funding cuts, many schools no longer have an EAL co-ordinator, the job of integrating pupils successfully increasingly rests on the shoulders of the classroom teacher. Proper staff training, regular visits home, and specific guidance can all help students and parents for whom English is an additional language. Each EAL pupil will vary in their level of proficiency in their mother tongue, as well as in English, across the four language skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing. It is important for teachers to gain an understanding of their students’ ability in these areas as well as taking into account their prior learning in order to obtain a well-rounded assessment.

Google Translate is a frequently used tool to help develop two languages simultaneously, as is Fusion VLE. With over 110 languages to choose from, students are able to view the entire Fusion platform including timetables, reports, calendars etc. in their chosen language and can also choose a second language to view alongside, an incredibly valuable tool for anyone learning a new language.

This tool can not only be utilised by those for whom English is and Additional Language, but by any user looking to improve their language skills. Increasing MFL knowledge in schools and equipping students with the ability to understand, speak, read and write in a foreign language will be vital in a post-Brexit Britain.

For more information on Fusion VLE visit www.mylearningltd.com

Monday 22 January 2018

Smartphones in the Classroom: Invaluable Tool or Dreadful Distraction?

The French Education Minister has announced that mobile phones are to be banned from French schools and a snap poll by TES has revealed that 72% of respondents believe that schools in the UK should follow suit. However, many UK teachers and parents recognise the benefit of using smartphones in the classroom as a teaching resource and believe that greater control is needed over mobile phone usage as opposed to a blanket ban.

Peter Twining, professor of the future of education at the Open University, told TES at the time, that rather than banning phones, schools should include them in lessons.
Schools can’t afford all the [technological] kit they need. It seems bonkers not to take advantage of the fact that young people have this technology in their pockets that they could use for educational purposes,” he said.
While the issues of distraction and bullying are highly valid in the argument for banning smartphones in schools, every day millions of pounds worth of technology walks through the school gates. Should schools really ban it or should they make use of it? With school budgets stretched so thinly it makes sense to embrace and utilise mobile technology, particularly when students today will go into a world where such technology is prevalent. If students are taught how to use such technology properly then they are being given the tools to enter such a world. Building apps, understanding the benefit and misuse of technology in the modern world e.g. how to distinguish real news from fake news etc. and being able to access knowledge, music, art, writing and so much more are very real benefits that students can put to good use.
There is a plethora of excellent educational apps and tools available for use on smartphones that many teachers choose to access and use within the classroom. Fusion VLE is just one example that can be accessed on a smartphone or any internet connected device. Students are able to capture video and audio and save it directly into their file areas or a piece of work they are creating. They can take quizzes, work through task lists set by their teachers, view, complete and submit assignments and so much more. Teachers are able to view students’ progress from their own platform and can manage the resources, assignments, homework and more that they wish their classes to access. Fusion VLE is a powerful platform for use in the classroom and beyond.

For more information of Fusion VLE visit www.mylearningltd.com

Monday 15 January 2018

Teacher Workload Crisis: How Can the Load Be Lightened?

According to a Department of Education survey 75% of ex-teachers cited workload as the reason they left teaching. This comes after the latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive show that teaching is ‘one of the most stressful jobs in Britain’, with cases of work related stress in teaching being twice the average across all industries over a three-year period.

Articles on the TES website relating to teacher workload have gained hundreds of comments from teachers feeling the pressure, including those whose physical and mental health, relationships and families are suffering due to the amount of work and pressure placed upon them and those who have ultimately chosen to leave the profession altogether.

Tasks that teachers are expected to complete throughout the year include (but not limited to):
  • ·         Planning and delivering high quality lessons
  • ·         Marking work and providing feedback
  • ·         Designing assessments
  • ·         Marking assessments
  • ·         Tracking student progress
  • ·         Organising and delivering extra-curricular activities
  • ·         Making phone calls home or meeting with parents
  • ·         Attending meetings
  • ·         Data entry
  • ·         Attending open evenings
  • ·         Supervising detentions
  • ·         Compiling student reports
  • ·         Writing references
  • ·         Helping draft university applications
  • ·         Helping students with job applications
  • ·         Attending professional development sessions

But what can be done to lighten the load? School leader and TES columnist Colin Harris suggests living by the rule “If it doesn’t improve the lot of the pupil then don’t do it”. Perhaps easier said than done but in practical terms finding ways to speed up processes and make the work easier to complete are highly valuable.

While all the tasks listed are valuable, planning and feedback are the activities which contribute the most to the academic success of students. An online, cloud-based platform can provide easy to use, streamlined processes to help teachers save time when setting and marking work. For example, Fusion VLE allows you to create assignments that can be resource rich using the easy drag & drop upload. Assignments can be given start dates and deadline dates which can be automatically added to student calendars and students and parents can be automatically notified of any new assignments that have been set. You are provided with a clear, visual indication of when a student has completed work and as the teacher you are able to then go into the student work and view, mark and provide feedback via a single screen. Self-marking quizzes are also a great way to assess students without creating a hefty pile of time consuming marking. Fusion VLE keeps an up-to-date log of assignments, submissions and grading, making the process much more efficient and saving valuable time. The fact that it can be accessed on any device with an internet connection means teachers can access materials and data, including tracking pupil progress, quickly and easily in one place.

Other Fusion features include easy communications with parents, students and colleagues, writing reports, creating and compiling resources, school and class blogs & forums, website building, MIS Integration and much more.

For more information on Fusion Virtual Learning Environment visit www.mylearningltd.com