Continued links

December 1, 2010 | Parklands  |  2 Comments

Teachers and pupils from Dong Mak and Shingwang elementary schools have kept in contact since our return to the UK. We have just received a parcel from Dong Mak, containing snacks, audio books of traditional Korean tales and letters from pupils. Rachel (teacher) has also recently emailed to say that the recent exchange between North and South Korea has resulted in houses in Incheon province being destroyed. Obviously our thoughts are with the people that made our stay such a memorable one.

The South Korean education system is very different to ours. However the similarity remains that the primary aim of schooling is to produce fine and able adults of the future. In fact we were struck with the amount of importance placed on education as a means to improving life chances. Several different people explained to us how children in Korea commonly go to after-school tuition and work extremely hard on their studies. Parental pressure to ensure their child is successful in getting into a good university seems the norm.

To ensure that learning continues when children are at home, the Government have created an electronic text book. This is an e-learning tool which is an online version of the Government approved text books used by teachers. The electronic textbook covers lessons taken in school and thus children can progress at a faster pace through accessing the textbook at home. The textbook contains, cartoon animations, films and text which can be annotated and returned to the teacher to be marked.

We also saw examples of the electronic textbook being used during class. Each child was given a netbook and was able to follow the lesson as directed by the teacher. A screen at the front helped the teacher to monitor what the children were doing and examples of children’s work could be displayed before the class on the interactive whiteboard. The idea of a resource that is accessible in school and at home which will help children to access the learning content of the day is something that we are beginning to work on in terms of a learning platform. The e-learning tool is also accessible to parents via a system called NAIS which holds data on children. Again this is something that we are beginning to do in schools, but it is currently in its early stages with parental learning platform logins being rolled out over the next year.

One of the most striking comparisons was the children’s ability to engage with technology. The children that we saw effortlessly interfaced with a range of ICT. Their typing speed was incredibly fast and they had an excellent awareness of multi-medias. Much of this comes from living in a society where access to new technology at home is routine. Nearly every household in Korea has a PC and children come to school able to use a PC. Although ICT classes are held in schools, the children do not need to be shown basic skills. At High School (16-18) we saw children learning about CAD technology, robotics and computer programming. Facilities in this specialist school were very advanced and impressive. In fact in all the Elementary schools we visited we were amazed by the amount of ICT resources they had at their disposal. All the schools had a broadcasting studio, numerous ICT suites and a range of advanced interactive technologies in the classroom including plasma TVs.

In Shing Wang Elementary school we saw a particularly good use of the plasma TV screens in an English lesson. By linking the TV to a laptop, the class was able to skype a native English speaking teacher in America who team taught the lesson with a Korean teacher. Web cams and mics were used to allow the children and the American teacher to interact visually with one another thus enhancing the children’s emersion in the English language. This is a model that we are keen to explore in order to develop the teaching of French within our school.

In conclusion, this experience has broadened our horizons and helped us to understand the need to enhance the use of ICT in school. After all, our children are going to be competing for jobs in an ever shrinking global market against children who are very versatile in their ubiquitous use of ICT.

It has also been a great pleasure to work with teachers from other schools and we hope to continue to strengthen the network between schools in the county as well as global links.

Jacinta and Hannah

A bit of a waffle

November 10, 2010 | Parklands  |  3 Comments

Now that I’ve had time to reflect on the Korean trip, I find that the experience has had a deeper impact than I initially thought. Sure, it was a good trip and we managed to have fun as well as immerse ourselves in the Korean culture, but there’s more to it than ‘just a trip abroad’.
Firstly, the Korean culture has shown me what we seem to have lost in Britain – respect for each other as well as an innate friendliness and openness to other people and cultures. Although this wasn’t part of the brief, I found that it permeated through everything that we experienced, both in and out of schools.
Within the schools there seemed to be a desire to learn and the pupils seemed eager to further their education, technology helped immensely. E-textbooks, webcam links with other countries and to pupils in hospital, plasma touchscreen TVs, visualisers, were all seen as everyday tools to fulfil this quest for knowledge. Watching children interact with Lizzie in Wyoming as she taught them about Halloween in the USA was a great sight. The fact that she was thousands of miles away in a different time zone, as well as a different cultural zone, didn’t seem to matter. To the pupils she was just ‘Lizzie the English teacher’. How far have we come in such a short time? When I was their age, a transatlantic phone call was a thing of mystery, only afforded by the well-off who had their own phones ( my household was still on a party-line with the house over the road!). Now, here are children speaking and watching live from their classroom as well as seeing their ideas pop up on screen as soon as they say them out loud.
What else has stuck in my mind? Well I can’t leave out Peter’s fanaticism for Ustream producer. Having used Ustream previously, I was intrigued to see what else this particular version offered – for free. I have to say that I can now see why he rates it so highly, as it is simple but effective. I’ll certainly be using it as an embedded web part in our school VLE. Hopefully our pupils will become producers of their own programmes.
Having spoken to various members of my staff, they are keen to find out more about my trip (obviously I let them try the Kimchi) and so I will be leading part of a staff meeting as well as a presentation to governors. There has also been brief feedback on a recent BLT day. However, I find that it is parents and pupils that asking the most questions, especially those that took time to log onto our daily broadcasts. We have already established links with 2 schools in Incheon and their staff have access to our school VLE, via guest logons created by LP+. They have already written on our South Korean wiki page, as well as emailing photos of their class and are keen to answer questions from our pupils. I’m also encouraging the Korean pupils to ask questions about life in the UK in order to develop a dialogue. Hopefully our pupils will learn from this exchange.
It was a real privilege to share the hospitality of the South Korean people, if only for a short time. They seem to have done something that we haven’t managed – adopted modern technology without losing the essence of what makes their country such a special place.

Korean Reflections

November 7, 2010 | Gateway, Our Schools  |  Comments Off

There is clearly a firm commitment from national and regional authorities to build a cutting edge digital infrastructure in South Korea. For me though, the main benefit was the opportunity to learn about a variety of software used by my colleagues such as Ustream and Prezi, and to be able to get to use them in a relevant and meaningful context. The opportunity to access training and further help with these is going to be an added bonus.
I’m particularly keen to explore using things like voicethread with some of my students who are reluctant writers.
Our school has only just recently gained tecnology status and this trip has provided me with some excellent links and contacts as well as ongoing training opportunities.
I have made a commitment to my SLT to cascade back to the rest of the staff team the skills and knowledge I’ve learnt.

– Ben Smallwood

That Kimchi moment

November 5, 2010 | Our Schools, Parklands  |  7 Comments

Pupils in my class were brave enough to try some Kimchi – some even enjoyed it!

‘What has Mr Dicken fed me?’

‘Mmmm….Kimchi….I wonder if we can persuade Tesco to stock it’

‘I’m smiling….but only for the camera’

‘If I hold it long enough…will it taste any better?’

Animoto – Day 5 & 6

November 4, 2010 | Our Schools, Team BLT  |  1 Comment


November 4, 2010 | Our Schools, Parklands, Team BLT  |  3 Comments

I’ve managed to allocate usernames and passwords for my school website to some of the Korean teachers. One of them has already added to our class wiki on S. Korea – and her pupils are going to think of their own questions to ask my children. BLT at work…

I had no idea as to what to expect as I visited schools in South Korea.  I had heard rumours that this was the country that was leading the way in terms of ICT and I genuinely couldn’t wait to see how ICT was used in schools and pinch some ideas, not only for my own practice but to share with other colleagues within the Local Authority. 

After visiting Shingwang Elementary School I was impressed with the way they used video web conferencing to teach English.  The school had made links with various American teachers who would appear on screen in the classroom, via a webcam, during English lessons and become part of the lesson alongside the class teacher.  The children would get to hear the proper pronunciation of English words and it worked. The American teacher would work closely with the class teacher and everything that was said could be heard both in the classroom and and back in America.  

Dong Mak Elementary School also used video web conferencing but in a different way.  They had become a pilot school to experiment with teaching children who were either poorly in hospital or sick at home.  These children would have been identified before hand and attend other nearby schools.  The teacher would set up a video conference with such children so that she could see each of them on screen and would then teach them specific skills using a digital text book.  The students would also have a digital text book in order for them to respond accordingly.

The digital text book is of small laptop size and could be used either by the use of the keyboard or by using a pen to touch the screen with.  Dong Mak used these digital text books in a number of classes instead of using ‘real’ text books.  The teacher would use one at the front of the class that would be displayed onto a big screen whilst children followed using one of there own.

At the time of writing, no data was available to compare the academic progress of students who had used a digital text book compared to those who didn’t.  Interestingly, the school said that students were given a choice as to whether they wanted to use one or not and those who didn’t express an interest were usually the more able student.   

Many schools in Incheon used web based learning tools to support both the teacher and the student.  It seems to me that teachers are given little choice over the content of what is taught of how it is delivered with the Government selecting the teaching material in terms of text books.  Teachers are encouraged to use a web based tool called Edu-I which contains many teaching materials.  The Government fund this site. 

Students can access a web based tool known as the Cyber Home Learning System in which they are encouraged to use outside of school to help with studies.  The site contains resources, activities and the ability to communicate with other students and teachers via web cam conferencing.  Once again, the Government fund this.

This web based tool was born from parents having high expectations of child progress and the need to reduce private tuition costs.  As the normal school day finishes between 1pm and 2pm, many children carry on studies which are paid for by the parents and attend after school classes.  This web based tool eliminates the need for paid tuition and can be carried out at home.  At the time of writing, 90% of children use this tool and it has been in place since 2005.   

Here at Croyland Primary School we are very proud of the radio station that is used by the children.  At the schools I visited in Incheon, they have gone one better!  They have TV stations that are used by the children.  A TV studio is available to use in which live, or pre-recorded, bulletins or programmes can be broadcast around schools.  Each classroom has a ceiling mounted TV screen in which such broadcasts can be seen.  My group and I did present a live broadcast whilst we visited Shingwang Elementary School.  It was amazing!

Although I expected to see more in terms of ICT technologies being used to enhance the learning of children within schools I did bring back with ideas for a couple of projects I wish to set up.

The one initiative that I want to try out in my own classroom is that of video conferencing.  I think it is such a powerful tool in which the opportunity exists for students to communicate with other members of not only the immediate community but members of communities further afield. 

I also want to explore the use of blogs and video streaming with the children I work with.  Although this idea didn’t come from the schools in South Korea, it did come from the blog the TIPD group used to communicate whilst we were away.  After seeing how other members of the group used such a tool, it is definitely a tool I wish to investigate using upon my return.

I intend sharing my experiences in a number of ways.  Firstly, the whole experience will be shared with the school through assemblies, displays and presentations to staff and Governors.

In terms of ICT practice, both within school and with other schools, I intent to work with members of the Northants Better Learning Technologies (BLT) forums to share and gain new ideas, not just from this trip but from what other colleagues in the county use and experience.

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