Anne Everest - Head's Message - 13-09
Our Parent Teacher Forum (PTF) is one of the ways we communicate with parents on a whole range of issues, which can be raised by parents and staff. Once or twice a year we hold an Open Forum, to which all parents are invited to find out more about a particular theme or strand of the curriculum. Previous meetings have looked at the delivery of learning and teaching in different subjects (from Nursery to Upper 6) and we have also addressed major concerns like internet safety and sex education.
Last week we invited parents to hear more about our IT strategy throughout the school. Presented by Dr Andrew de Ville and Mr John Hughes, the session gave parents an opportunity to hear about IT throughout the curriculum and the steps we are taking to use new technologies to support classroom learning.
IT literacy is a priority for the school: teachers receive in-service training to enhance their practice and their use of our management systems, and IT is part of the students’ curriculum as a discrete area until the end of Upper 4. Thereafter, further skills are embedded in the curriculum through many different subjects, and Computing can be taken as a subject in its own right at Higher. Those wishing to pursue computer studies at university are encouraged to take mathematics and physics to an advanced level (and these are the subjects that top universities often demand as a condition of entry to relevant degree courses).
Every student and teacher has a school email account and may use the internet through the school, which has very tight control over access. The school has a Microsoft licence that allows each student and staff member to use standard Office applications (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc) from their computers or devices at home. The virtual learning environment has always been an area of interest for many teachers at St George’s, and the introduction of “Yammer” through Office 365 allows learning to take place within learning groups very readily.
For many years we have led the way with virtual international exchanges: different classes have worked with students in other schools in Texas, Denmark, Bangalore, Philadelphia and elsewhere, and we have shared our digital exchange policy with schools throughout the world. On-line journals are now used throughout the Nursery to keep parents in touch with their children’s learning, and iPads and other devices are used throughout various academic departments.
At the Open Forum we discussed matters like data protection implications as well as the monitoring of these self-contained chat rooms that can be used so positively in learning and teaching. We are all still learning and we are now at a point where we can see a useful function for individual devices, not least so that we may alleviate the weight of school bags: text books can be kept at home in the future, if copies of them are available electronically.
There are certain other considerations: IT is just another tool in the education armoury, and using iPads “for the sake of It” is not the way forward. We want learning and teaching to be facilitated by technology, not subservient to it. We shall be careful in the way we move forward, mindful also of the latest research into the effects of using electronic gadgets on cognitive and physical development.
Nevertheless, we were delighted with the informed discussion we had with parents on this subject last week. The next Open Forum will be a “meet the head” event on Thursday 12 January, when Mrs Alex Hems will address the parent body.
Anne C Everest
Head. St George's School for Girls