Transforming Teaching with Technology
“BET schools have a culture of innovation. This approach fits with our staff, who are passionate about delivering outstanding education. However, it has to be innovation with the right purpose, rather than innovation for innovations sake. We are looking to build game-changers, innovators and leaders. Not only do our students achieve outstanding grades but they are never afraid to throw themselves into something new. Challenge Based Learning and Guided Learning, along with our Outdoor Programme and Co-Curricular offer, play a large part in this by creating opportunities for students to struggle and opportunities for meaningful, precise, actionable feedback.” Neil Strowger, CEO of BET
Bohunt Education Trust urges schools to let Pedagogy lead Technology.
Too many educational conversations have the thread of technology running through them, rather than the thread of pedagogy; ‘If we had tablets then we would need to teach in the following way’ rather than ‘teaching in this way would be transformational; having tablets would help that way of learning’. Furthermore, technology is often divorced from the wider classroom environment, as well as the pedagogy.
Bohunt Education Trust (BET) has, over the last four years, been embedding Challenge Based Learning in Bohunt School, Liphook, in order to build the intrinsic motivation, creativity and autonomy of all students. As part of this approach inspirational learning environments incorporating the latest technologies (both digital and otherwise) are used as a stimulus for students to take responsibility for, and control of, their learning:
General classrooms have a Mac Air for every student (intuitive technology that allows students to decide how they do their work), walls students can write on (to encourage collaboration), interactive projector tables (to enable peer evaluation and ensure there is no ‘front’ to the classroom), access to a green screen and individual desks on wheels (so students can control the room’s set up).
Specialist science areas have sensors linked to iPads within collaborative learning environments; students look at experiment design, rather than just the results, so enhancing understanding and improving enquiry skills.
The iPad Band Room allows students playing iPads to jam live and/or record in groups with students playing live instruments. It creates challenge and enables all students access to outstanding learning.
A ‘Genius Bar’ allows all teachers in classrooms access to technology. As classrooms are refurbished we introduce walls you can write on and flexible furniture so that more rooms make ideal environments for Challenge Based Learning.
BET’s approach grew out of Bohunt’s involvement with the DfE’s Guided Learning (GL) Study. Qualitative data from the end of study tests showed that individuals who spent more time in the guided groups had made significantly more progress (approximately 1-2 sub levels).
Comments from students seemed to suggest that the improved attainment was due to the alleviation of barriers to learning:
“It helped us with learning skills such as teamwork as well as learning about energy“[responsibility for each other’s learning].
“It was good to work with different people of different levels and get to know them better”(person in guided group) [learning from each other, motivation].
“It helped us all understand the topic and be more secure working with the class” (person in guided group) [responsibility for each other’s learning, higher order thinking skills, improved recall].
“It was great to be able to choose our own way of doing things” [motivation].
Challenge Based Learning builds on Guided Learning by providing an immersive pedagogy that supports and enhances the more widespread use of GL. Further information on the two pedagogies is given at the end of this article.
The question for Bohunt was how to encourage and embed these pedagogies across the whole school. Again, the use of learning environments and technology helped with this, but certainly did not lead it. Rooms that were ideal for Challenge Based Learning incorporating all of the above were created. These Dynamic Learning Environments had their own dedicated STEM Technician and were very much in demand from students and teachers. However, there was a catch, teachers could only teach in the rooms if they taught in a Challenge Based way and regularly incorporated Guided Learning; their medium term plans were checked by a team of teachers, who also conducted observations. The idea was to help teachers act their way in to new ways of thinking. This was far more impactful than the approach of changing practice through INSET or Twilights.