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.