A document to prompt discussion and debate
Mr. Tom Toppal, English teacher at Tameside High School arrives at work and logs into the Tameside learning platform and checks for messages. Three of his students have forwarded their homework and a couple of others are asking for some guidance. Tom reads over the submitted multi-media enriched assignments (critiques of poetry enhanced by some pupils with sound files, media clips and graphics) and annotates them; making comments and suggesting web sites that could help the students deepen their understanding of the topic. During planning and preparation time he enters the pupils’ grades into the system and then reviews the work that he uploaded last night (utilising the broadband umbrella within Tameside) to the network for his lessons later today.
Each of Tom’s classes has a folder in the learning platform and within each folder there is differentiated access so that learning is personalised, with some pupils provided with additional support and others able to utilise folders with activities and resources to further stretch and challenge them. He drops another couple of files into the gifted and talented folder for his year 8 class and then opens the year 9 folder to look over the work prepared for today. His presentation and the linked resources are there and so he is set to use the interactive presentation technology in his teaching area later that day. His resources include video, sound and graphics files as well as specially selected web links and purchased materials from the school resource bank. He has planned to integrate a class voting system into this lesson and support staff have confirmed that the voting handsets are booked and will be set up ready for use.
Tom’s first class of the day, like all classes at Tameside High School, is automatically registered electronically allowing the parents to access the information when they want to – even in real time as the registration itself is taking place. This is not limited to registration; parents are able to access a host of information related to their children – the grades that teachers have entered; homework assigned to the pupils and the responses their children have created. All of this is facilitated through the parents’ portal – a secure and dedicated private space accessed over a standard internet connection – provided by the Tameside broadband umbrella.
The pupils’ whereabouts is transmitted via satellite systems so that at any one time, there is an indication of where they are on the Tameside campus. If traffic delays students then they can still take part in the lesson remotely as they can view Tom’s presentation using their ultra mobile PC or listen to a podcast of the lesson content via the integrated MP3 player later in the day. His ability to reach children across the campus – whether stuck on a bus or at home for a variety of reasons, means that he spends less time and energy catering for lost time caused through absent children.
After lunch Tom has planned a video conferencing session with a Shakespearean acting troupe. The class will be able to direct the actors and discuss interpretations with them, whilst the teacher will interact with the class and the text and various websites and videos on the classroom interactive screens.
Tom has already sent off some suggestions and instructions to the teaching assistants who will be working with him in the session and he plans to build on the lesson by having groups of students act out scenes from Romeo and Juliet, directing each other and videoing clips which will then be shared via the learning platform so that all class members will be able to comment and make suggestions. Some pupils are also engaged in virtual set design and have been interacting via email with backstage staff at the Royal Shakespeare Company. Using a video archive service they have been able to look at various past productions to see how different directors and designers have interpreted and dealt with the staging of the text.
During the afternoon Tom receives an email from one of his student’s parents and he reviews it during a free period. They are concerned about her grades and are asking for advice as to how they can support their daughter with her work. Tom gives some individualised advice and also directs the parents to helpful information on the school website. By being able to review all the material submitted by this pupil in one central place – at the same time as the concerned parents – Tom is able to show areas where improvement could be targeted and suggests how the parents can use the system to monitor their child’s progress against their individual improvement plan.
One of Tom’s roles is as a Tameside staff learning mentor. This means that he coaches teachers new to the profession, including encouraging collaboration on lesson planning, sharing of resources and schemes of work which are then made available to all teachers in the borough via the learning platform. This afternoon he has an online conference planned around the topic of ‘personalised learning’. Tom hopes that all twenty two of the teachers he works with will log in and join in the discussion. He has also planned to show some video clips of exemplar work and some of the teachers have also promised to share short videos of their own practice for group comment. Knowing that teacher’s time is precious however, Tom is comfortable that the conference outcomes are being recorded and will be hosted on the web meaning that teachers who miss this date through unforeseen pressures (and other teachers in the borough) are able to access the learning remotely.
Tom is also working on the new school policy for extended learning opportunities with a Deputy Head and a Head of Faculty. The three teachers are in three separate places, one at home and the other two in different schools. They work remotely using software designed for collaboration. They can each see the documents they are working on and can comment and amend remotely, whilst engaging in a mini video conference. They have a session planned for early evening.
Tom has organised some online mentoring for some of his students with a member of the support staff between 6pm and 8pm: around twenty students will be online and the learning mentor is well briefed for the session and has access to a range of documents and resources via the learning platform. Tom has also set down some key learning points which will be visible to all those who log into the session, including children recuperating in hospital or away from school for other reasons.
Tom arrives home after a long and productive day. He checks his personal and work email. The borough’s wireless broadband umbrella provides him with free internet access from anywhere within Tameside. He downloads some music which he then plays across his home network, before catching up with his favourite TV show ‘Star Trek’ which he’s recorded to the hard drive of his TV satellite system. Before retiring for the night he does one last thing and books a Caribbean holiday for himself and his partner, using the internet to search for the cheapest flights and best hotel deals. He snoozes, thinking of white sand beaches, brilliant sunshine and exotic cocktails….