Transforming Curriculum Change with Collaborative Live Links in Mathematics and Italian

The following is an article from the European Schoolnet website of CEIST school Coláiste Bríde, Clondalkin, Co. Dublin who were recently featured on the site. 

Transforming Curriculum Change with Collaborative Live Links in Mathematics and Italian

Coláiste Bríde Presentation Secondary school is an all-girls school just 20 minutes by car from Dublin City Centre in Clondalkin. On entering the school what immediately strikes me are the high quality signs and displays of motivating messages about learning for the 960 students. In the main entrance clearly on display for all to see is the school focus for 2012 – 2015. It soon becomes apparent that this level of outward facing knowledge is clearly conveyed for staff, students, parents and the community of the school, but equally it enables me as a visitor to quickly get a sense of what the school is trying to achieve.

  • What’s your school focus for the next 3 years?
  • How do you communicate this to everyone?

However, it is also important that this is more than just a statement, and having the opportunity to spend the day here with Sarah-Jayne Carey who is the lead LSL teacher, enables me to understand the “can-do” culture of the teachers and students exploring how ICT can transform learning in the classroom.

  • How will your learning spaces change?
  • What can your students and staff expect as standard?

My first lesson is with Maria Broderick; the students are working on transformations in mathematics and today is about quadratic functions. In the classroom are 16 students, but on Maria’s desk are two screens, one of which has the lesson content and the other shows two more students who are actually working in a classroom in WarrenMount school which is in town. (Though this could of course be anywhere in the world.) Maria has used Microsoft Lync to connect with the students and her classroom is equipped with a “Follow Me” Camera to enable Maria to move around the classroom as normal. (She soon knows what every student is doing and has high awareness of the individual students.) Maria also wears a microphone and this enables the two students to hear everything that is being said. The connection means that what is displayed on the one screen becomes visible on the other. These two students are being taught remotely to prepare for the higher paper in mathematics; it means that they can participate in the lesson remotely, but they can also interact with Maria and potentially the other students.

  • Do you have “subject specialists” in your school that could “connect” classrooms?
  • What are the most effective ways to connect two classrooms?
  • Can you share expertise with another school on a regular basis?

At the beginning of the lesson, Maria highlights examples that the students have already submitted on Edmodo. (This is now used as the platform across the whole school to allow continuous communication between teachers and students - it also means that parents can see what the student is learning!)

The pace of the lesson is fast, and this teacher is connected with not just what the students need to learn, but how they can learn it too. She draws on a range of resources and strategies that will enable the students to build their independent learning skills.

The students use “show-me” dry-wipe boards to demonstrate their responses to the teacher’s “what would happen if?” questions. The teacher also gives them time to work it out too. This is crucial; it shows the students that taking time to work something out can be just as important as having the correct answers. The teacher has prepared some PowerPoint files with examples and in addition to this, she models strategies on the Promethean interactive whiteboard how the students should calculate the equation. The teacher also uses Geogebra where the software will draw the graph. The teacher is able to move between the different software and each time shows how to do it, but also encourages one of the students to be able to complete another example. At the end of the lesson, the teacher shows a “Summary Slide” and this captures what the students should understand, it also recaps the homework that was given out at the beginning of the lesson. It is a really useful reminder of the key learning points.

  • At the end of your lesson, what evidence do the students have to demonstrate their learning?
  • How do the students demonstrate their understanding within the lesson?
  • Have you tried using technology to capture the student examples? E.g. ask the students to create a short revision video. Try Educreations which allows you to video your writing or drawing.
  • What subject specialist software is available in your school? Can students access this at home too?
  • How do the students access the homework task? How do the students submit their work?

The second lesson is with Salvo Cacciato who teaches Italian and French. Salvo is working with a group of students who are in their second year and whilst the oral exam in the third year is not compulsory, this school do it. This involves the students preparing six role plays and Salvo has now embedded the preparation for these as part of the curriculum. He has established a link with a school in Bassano Del Grappa Italy (between Venice and Verona) and working with the teacher there, they use Skype to enable the two classes to talk to each other. However, this is not just a little simple hello and a wave – but demonstrates how technology has led to long-term curriculum change. In preparation for the role play, Salvo’s students have been using Padlet to collate materials to help each other learn the new language. Over a number of weeks, the students have introduced each other to new vocabulary and sentence structure, eventually leading to a dialogue. By collating their ideas collaboratively in Padlet, the “wall” becomes a student generated reference point of words, MS Powerpoints, Prezi, and videos. This will culminate in the students actually having the opportunity to visit each other as part of a Comenius programme; the first travel exchange will take place in March 2014.

  • Have you got a link with a school in another country? E-Twinning is always a very good place to start.

In today’s lesson the Irish students have to role-play what happens when they go to the shop to buy a new blue jumper using only Italian language; whilst the Italian students do their role-play in English. The teachers at in both countries play the role of the shop-keeper. Each time the teachers change their responses slightly according to the students they are talking to. (E.g. speaking slightly faster to more able students, or asking them an additional question) The students also have to ask for more information too, and initiate the next part of the conversation – this is easier said than done! Using Skype enables the students to rehearse with a real audience and learn with their peers. When they go to Italy, Salvo will take his students to a real shop so they have the opportunity to act out their role play for real! They will then capture this on camera so that the students can add the finished piece to their Padlet portfolio. (Imagine having to go into the shop, try on a jumper and then ask for a different size and then having to find out how much you need to pay in a different language – sometimes it can even be a challenge in your home language, but these students are enthusiastic to give it a go - LIVE!.)

Both of these lessons offer a use of technology that could be replicated and extended in many ways. Enabling students to access particular expertise; connecting to another classroom in real time demonstrate the art of the possible, but also gives a real purpose for making use of the technologies that surround us.

At present the secondary teachers in Ireland are also implementing the new Junior Cycle to build “a curriculum of subjects, shorts courses and other learning experiences”(see Junior Cycle website for more information and you cannot fail to notice how ICT is anticipated as one of the key skills across all the different elements - don't be confused, it is targeted at post-primary "Secondary" students - but it is called the Junior Cycle.)

I also think this level of expectation and guidance at a National level helps to demonstrate how the use of technology will impinge upon whole school curriculum change. It is no longer just for the “techies”; this school is showing how all teachers can make a difference to the way in which students learn using technology for effective collaboration.