Today’s school pupils are growing up in the digital age: they are part of a “connected generation” that uses technology to communicate and collaborate with friends, family members, and the world around them.
Children communicate and learn differently than previous generations, yet in many countries around the world, including South Africa, pupils in some schools are still asked to disconnect their digital devices upon entering the classroom. In the United States, for example, things are done differently: pupils are becoming more connected as a result of technology introduced in the classroom.
The use of technology in the classroom brings opportunities to students and opens a window to the world of knowledge beyond the classroom, thereby helping them develop the skills necessary to prepare and qualify for the competitive nature of business. Thus, local schools need to re-evaluate how students are taught. Technology needs to be incorporated into teaching and learning - and transforming education as we know it.
Simply adding computers to the classroom is not enough to impact pupils’ achievements. To truly transform education for the digital age, schools need to focus their vision on student learning and unite the entire school community to prepare pupils for future success.
Dell believes technology can help every pupil reach their highest potential. Dell’s Connected Classroom for Schools is a strategy that brings together every member of the education system, empowering each to play a key role in its success. It helps school systems address the needs of teachers interested in understanding how technology can be infused into the classroom to enhance their own teaching methods, transform learning, and help increase student achievement. Dell works with the school to help them redefine learning; modernise the computing infrastructure; to maximise operational and cost efficiencies; and find practical ways to steer more of their technology budget towards the classroom.
When a classroom is a connected classroom, teachers have the opportunity to transform the way they teach, engaging pupils in the manner that they prefer to learn - interactively.
BRESCHIA HOUSE INTEGRATES THE CONNECTED CLASSROOM
A pilot study of the connected classroom in South Africa was conducted with the Grade 10 pupils at Brescia House School in 2011.
According to Lyneth Crighton, ICT Co-ordinator at Brescia House School, “the school needed an IT vision. Integrating digital learning in school is integral – everything is changing and this generation is different, we are teaching these pupils for the future and need to empower them as such. ”
In 2009, Brescia House School decided to visit the US to investigate how schools there were integrating technology into the classroom to facilitate the learning process. They discovered that some of these schools were already 13 years into the programme. They studied how the schools used the technology and the impact that this had on learning. Upon returning to South Africa, they compiled a list of everything they thought would be necessary to implement their strategy based on the pupils’ needs.
This led to the challenge of finding a local technology vendor that would be able to provide the complete solution and not just be a box-dropper. Brescia House School sought to find an IT vendor that would:
• Be able to provide laptops that would be functional for up to four years for the pupils at an affordable price;
• Install the necessary Windows software and Brescia House School’s own applications so that the machine is functional straight out of the box;
• Provide 24/7 aftersales support.
Brescia House School approached various IT vendors in the country with their “shopping list” to see who could best deliver on these criteria. After much research, they determined that Dell’s Connected Classroom best met their needs. “Dell came to the school, looked at our infrastructure, tried to understand our needs and provided a solution based on this” says Crighton.
JOURNEY OF LEARNING
The pupils were introduced to the laptops at a three day workshop hosted by the school. This three day workshop dubbed ‘The journey of learning’ was based on Cry the Beloved Country, which was part of the Grade 10 2011 English syllabus. During the course of the workshop, the pupils were encouraged to use Facebook, Twitter, Skype, YouTube, instant messaging using their smartphones , music, word tag clouds, etc. as they ‘journeyed’ through the set book giving their students a new way of looking at Cry the Beloved Country while using technology.
Crighton says, “It’s not what you know, it’s how you use this to create new knowledge. The pupils were already practicing and applying what they had learnt and, more importantly, they were sharing their knowledge with each other and helping each other find solutions. It is like when you drop a colour in water and watch it spread”.
According to English teachers at the school, they have never seen such a solid foundation and understanding of the novel before. When encouraged to use social media to understand the story, they found that pupils were able to identify the parallels with minimal assistance from teachers and understand what the book truly means and represents. Most pupils chose to read the book voluntarily after the project.
The introduction of the connected classroom has truly changed the lives of these pupils. The pupils are more engaged in the classroom and use social media for research and to learn more immediately, rather than having to look it up later. As a result, they are more organised than before: notes are not lost and the calendars and sticky notes help to ensure that deadlines are met. Homework is also completed more quickly and in a manner that allows each pupil to express their individual creativity. Access to the school’s wireless facility makes it easy for pupils to work from anywhere in the school - including the outdoors during break time. Crighton cites an example of a pupil whose mother rather reluctantly bought into the concept, until the day that they were stuck in a three hour traffic jam and her daughter took out her laptop and completed the bulk of her homework during this time.
“Modern knowledge is all about collaboration to achieve an end. The connected classroom is a complete revolution and school, educators, pupils and parents alike need to immerse themselves in this initiative and commit wholeheartedly to the project. Teachers need to now start looking at the message from a pupil’s work and its actual contents versus how it is packaged. It is about being open minded and using progressive thinking skills to show that pupils understand; and you have achieved your teaching outcomes” concludes Crighton.
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