Last week I was lucky enough to visit two schools in HK for completely different reasons.
First up was Yew Chung Inernational School in Kowloon Tong. I met with Dan Everest from there along with Jane Harris from CIS to discuss our use of the programming software Scratch.
We've all used the software in completely different ways and it was good to talk about what we had learnt and share our expertise. Yew Cheung have been using Scratch in their Literacy lessons to enhance student understanding of MacBeth, whilst CIS have embedded their work on Scratch within Numeracy, using it to explore shape and space. At Kellett we've been using Scratch to investigate aspects of computer game design with our P6 and Y7 classes.
Whilst our experiences are clearly different there were some common trends for all of us.
Firstly, the usefulness of Scratch as a classroom tool is obvious. It is engaging and stimulating for pupils and there is an easy entry level for those students who need to work at a basic starting point.
Secondly, the scope for students to extend and self-explore progression in the software is enormous. Tasks can be open ended and exploratory in their nature, which means students can continue to expand their horizons within the environment at their own pace.
Thirdly, we all agreed one of the marked successes of working with the software was the emergence of experts within the classroom who take on the role of mentor with their peers. These self-acting "pupil teachers' are able to add their advice and insight into the software. Students seem to naturally accept this type of help and have far fewer hang-ups about it than teachers do.
The days of the 'sage on the stage' are long gone. It's simply not possible for teachers to have a wide enough experience and expertise on new software and we need to accept that's ok! That can be quite a difficult thing for teachers to do and can be a major barrier to 21st Century Learning. Most students don't have a problem with it.
As a result of our discussions and sharing we now have a bank of good practice using Scratch and we are now formulating ways we can develop this further. It may be that the upcoming World Scratch Day Event at the Cyberport in Hong Kong gives us the opportunity.
Saturday May 16th is World Scratch Day and events are taking place around the world to showcase and introduce the software to teachers who are new to the platform, as well as those who have more experience. HK's event is at the Cyberport and the programme looks to contain some interesting sessions. I will be meeting with the group involved in organising the event shortly, so will have more information then.
My second school visit in as many days was to Canadian International School. I accompanied our new ICT Strategy Manager, Billy Ling to look at Canadian's successful implementation of the Apple platform into their school. It was certainly impressive and gives us lots of helpful information as we look to develop our infrastructure for the future.
One of the key aspects of schools progressing in the the 21st Century is the ability they have to share their expertise, either through a teacher's own development of their personal learning netoworks, or through good old fashioned sitting down and talking face-to-face! Without that things would be so much more difficult.