e-Learning: Enhancing Learning
As a committed teacher, passionate about pedagogy, I am driven to use all the tools at my disposal to improve the quality of learning and teaching for my students, and indeed all students.
People are often surprised that, as an English teacher, I am so passionate about e-Learning. While it’s true that the last great technical revolution in my subject field is almost 700 years old (the printing press!), I have always been enthusiastic about the opportunities afforded us by new technology, and new applications of existing tech. The “e” in e-Learning doesn’t just stand for electronic, it stands for enhancing: fundamental to my role is exploring, supporting and developing new ways to improve and refine how we teach.
It is important that we prepare our students for life – and work – in the 21st Century; that means training them in the key skills they need to survive and thrive in the modern workplace: ICT skills, collaboration, flexibility, adapting to hybrid and remote work… The reality of the modern workplace is a far cry from that of 20, 10 or even 5 years ago. Everyone is connected – through devices, cloud computing, social media. We all leave a digital footprint in our wake, and it is important we empower our young people to take control of that, to own their digital identity, and that can only be achieved through learning digital skills.
Another important aspect of e-Learning is the use of video content; young people today are increasingly consuming media and gleaning information from multimedia sources, so it’s important to harness its potential in education, for flipped instruction, revision, independent study and broadening students’ understanding. Equally, it’s vital that we equip students with the listening and critical thinking skills to make the best use of video and digital content they consume, both within school and in their lives and careers.
Accessibility and equity is another key driver of e-Learning. There are rafts of technological options to support learning – and independent learning at that – for neurodiverse learners and students with dyslexia, or other barriers to their learning. Leveraging digital solutions to overcome those barriers is key; both to offering equitable support for examinations, but to providing students with the skills – and confidence – to take control of their learning and unleash their potential.
A lot of lessons were learned in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the shift to distance, hybrid and blended learning. At St George’s we’re capitalising on these lessons, retaining the advantages offered by technology, even as we return to the very best of more traditional teaching.
e-Learning for Girls
‘Yes She Can’ is one of our core mottos, and e-Learning is a crucial aspect of smashing gender stereotypes and offering students the best opportunities. The more skill and confidence with technology and digital solutions is needed in adult life, the more important it is that we overcome traditionally restrictive gender norms, particularly in STEAM subjects, where women have been historically underrepresented. We want our students to become the digital leaders of tomorrow, which starts with how we use technology today.
e-Learning at St George’s
One of our greatest strengths at St George’s is our flexible approach; subject disciplines, teachers and students are all different, so we eschew a one-size-fits-all approach in favour of a more bespoke, tailored approach to pedagogy – and e-Learning. Our 21st Century classroom project has untethered teachers from the physical limitations of the traditional, Victorian-era classroom so prevalent in schools today. Teachers and students in our Upper School have access to Windows laptops with digital inking, meaning we can: wirelessly project to screens in the classrooms; write, draw or annotate digitally; offer written, typed, audio or video feedback; collaborate with students in the same space, or remotely. In our Lower and Junior Schools we make full use of interactive technology to support learning and the curriculum, developing students digital skills as they progress through St George’s.
Central to our e-Learning strategies are the use of Microsoft’s Office 365 apps: Teams is used to communicate and coordinate classwork, coursework and homework; OneNote offers a digital notebook for notes, student work and feedback, enhancing the efficacy of student learning, and making revision more impactful; Outlook is used for emails, and to manage calendars and meetings; experience with Word, Excel and PowerPoint is vital for most workplaces, and offers students the opportunity to refine and develop skills in writing, data analysis and presentation.
We have also begun implanting virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) into our curriculum, offering students the opportunity to experience virtually things that would be impossible to experience physically: from walking on the moon, to holding a human heart in their hand.
e-Learning at St George’s: Case Studies
Here are a few specific examples of how different areas of the school are making use of technology to enhance learning and teaching.
OneNote & Video: Flipped Instruction in English
RUAE (Reading for Understanding, Analysis & Evaluation) is one of the core aspects of the SQA National 5 and Higher English curriculum. Through the pandemic, the English department began using videos, recorded by staff, both to explain approaches to different question types, and to model the analysis of prose nonfiction texts. Now, these videos are embedded into OneNote pages, which are issued as Assignments through Teams, as regular homework, flipping the classroom. Student engagement and attainment have increased, and precious class time can be spent more productively, with students putting the skills into practice and receiving valuable feedback,
Clickview: Video Content in Social Sciences
Many departments make great use of the video content available on Clickview. In particular, there are vast swathes of content there, tailored specifically to the Scottish and English curriculum, especially in support of Social Sciences and Humanities. Our Geography department make excellent use of these, using interactive videos to teach and consolidate key concepts, and offering playlists of other, related videos for students looking to increase their subject knowledge by learning around and beyond the core curriculum. The analytical tools offered by the platform make it simple to track student engagement.
Microsoft Flip: Digital Exchanges
Part of our International Education programme involves school exchanges, and physical exchanges and trips are complemented by a swathe of digital exchanges. Flip offers a safe, intuitive video sharing platform for digital exchanges, transforming the traditional “pen pal” to something more modern, innovative and engaging.
The e-Learning Community
Of course, one of the crucial aspects of life in the 21st Century is our increased connectivity. Students work with one another in class, with their peers who may elsewhere, and with students in other schools, cities or countries. In the same way, our teachers are part of a wider community of educators focused on e-Learning. We currently have three Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts (with more on the way!), who are part of a vibrant community of skilled and enthusiastic teachers around the globe, an excellent resource for advice, and inspiration. Our Practitioner Research Seminars offer opportunities to explore aspects of pedagogy, including e-Learning and digital skills. We have connections with a number of other independent schools in Edinburgh, as we are developing a schools e-Sports league.
The Future of e-Learning
One of the maxims of technological development is that it is near-impossible to predict what the future will bring. But with our focus on making the best of use of technology to enhance and enrich learning and teaching, and a commitment to embedding the development of digital skills and confidence, we are confident that we are empowering our students to make the most of their futures, whatever they may bring.