The following is an extract from the recently published handbook entitled Developing the home-school relationship using digital technologies written by Futurelab‘s education technology senior researcher Lyndsay Grant, looking into the use of web applications by the our Modern Languages Department at Nottingham High School.
Nottingham High School is an independent boys’ school for ages 7-18. In the modern foreign languages (MFL) department, the use of internet tools and applications to support learning is prolific. The activity is spearheaded by José Picardo, head of languages at the school, who fervently believes in:
“making education compatible with the needs and expectations of students through the effective use of technology”.
José uses Edmodo as a closed social network in his classes to set work, provide access to resources, present work, discuss and communicate – both amongst students themselves and between students and teachers.
“It acts like a mini VLE, but it’s not as verbose as a VLE – it’s a lot less school like and students nag other teachers to use it.”
The significant use of interactive technology in the MFL department started as “a reaction to kids’ use of Web 2.0 tools” which, according to José, was especially motivating to pupils in an all boys’ school. Alongside Edmodo, a range of Web 2.0 applications are used such as Xtranormal (creating 3D movies from text), Glogster (create and share multimedia posters), and Go Animate (animated cartoon maker) to support teaching and learning in both the classroom and at home.
The school also recently created a blog (using simple blogging site ‘Posterous’) to accompany a trip to Germany. Students made a video each day and uploaded it for parents to view and comment on.
José sees many advantages to using Web 2.0 tools. They can be more accessible as they are free to use and available on the web (not all students had access to PowerPoint or Microsoft Office at home for instance). Tasks can be started at school and finished at home or vice versa.
A further advantage is that students can collaborate or contribute to the same piece of work, comment on each other’s contributions and have conversations around their work and there is then a record of these conversations to refer back to.
The use of web applications such as GoAnimate and Xtranormal in school was quite a challenge to begin with, as the school’s internet safety software automatically deemed them ‘unsafe’ and blocked access to them. José also found that children needed to be educated about not giving too much information away online.
The full handbook explores key issues around home-school relationships and aims provide school staff with a framework in which to consider how schools can support the home-school relationship. This essential handbook provides a clear vision for home-school communication using technology and it can be downloaded here.