One of the key challenges in education is how to incorporate modern technology into the classroom, without loss to the aesthetics or the fundamentals of good order.
A living digital wall
All too often, digital work is carried out by pupils only to be left to sit on a server with no teacher assessment. Pheasey Park Farm Primary School however has given its pupils’ online work a chance to shine by projecting it on a 40‑foot digital wall in a public school corridor
“I just pressed save and now I can’t find my work,”echoes frequently around classroom walls – even in the best equipped and well run technology enabled classrooms across the UK. Over recent years, schools and education technology companies have collaborated to enable some really innovative classroom hardware and software solutions; but one major hurdle still to be overcome is storing, retrieving and assessing pupil digital creations.
Quite rightly, the Welsh Government has highlighted the need for pupils to manage their digital creations as part of their new Digital Competencies Framework. It states, that by year 3 pupils should be able to “save files to a specific location using an appropriate file name, e.g. select a file name that would be searchable at a later date and understand the importance of saving work periodically to avoid losing work.”
In practice, all too often, digital work is well planned by teachers, carried out by pupils, only to disappear to the specific app’s storage – be left languishing on an old server network drive or (in more enlightened schools) sit on an online platform. It is rarely assessed.
Pheasey Park Farm Primary School in Walsall wanted to find a new way of saving, retrieving, valuing and assessing pupil’s digital work. Their journey has been a fascinating one utilising the latest digital wall technology.
VALUING PUPIL’S DIGITAL CREATIONS
Do you ever worry that your pupil’s digital work is not valued by school management and formal inspection services as highly as pupil work created using traditional pen and paper methods? Think about it – the teaching profession has had over 100 years to develop highly efficient and sophisticated ways of marking and assessing and moderating work written in exercise books or folders.
Is our assessment and feedback of pupil digital work so highly developed? We seem to produce digital work; but it is difficult to find robust examples of the effective assessment of it. This is creating an artificial “glass ceiling” over the use of digital technologies for teaching and learning in the UK.
The Education Endowment Foundation Toolkit rates the effect of digital technologies as +4 months impact, whereas effective feedback has an effect of +8. Imagine if the effect of both could be combined? Pheasey Park Farm Primary wanted to create a digital equivalent of “Book Trawls” for standards, subject coordinator moderation and most importantly a “live” shared interactive digital display of pupil work for feedback and assessment.
A LIVING DIGITAL WORK DISPLAY
Headteacher Sally Lanni and digital learning coordinator Gareth Hancox had clear ideas about what they wanted to achieve in their school. Pupils and teachers were regularly using technology and digital work was regularly showcased in assembly; but the bulk of the digital work carried out by pupils in classes was not seen nor fully valued.
They wanted it to be valued by other pupils and teachers and to be assessed and moderated. The school was keen to build on recent whole school initiatives on positive marking, pupil peer assessment and recognition (by Ofsted) in their recent school inspection that “technology is used effectively to develop collaboration between pupils.”
They sought to create a “live” display wall of pupil digital work which could be contributed to from any classroom or any device from within their large three form entry primary school. The digital display wall needed to be in a public school corridor area to be seen by the maximum possible number of teachers and pupils.
Finding the technology to deliver this was quite a challenge. Fortunately for the school – the inventors of the SMART board (Nancy Knowlton and David Martin) had just bought to market the Nureva Span system.
It offers a 40 feet expansive digital canvas onto which pupils and teachers can contribute digital work, images, digital sticky notes and much more, in real time. It can be accessed from existing classroom displays and enables contributions from a whole range of pupil devices. Although it is a software service – Span works best with its own bespoke linked projection and digital wall hardware.
It is this total solution that Sally and Gareth chose to install. A detailed school site survey showed that there was a suitable shared area at the junction of three corridors, right next to the main playground exit. A 20‑foot Nureva Span system with twin linked projectors was fitted into an L-shape where two walls joined.
This meant that 20 feet of the 40‑foot digital canvas could be seen at one time with the other parts of the canvas accessible by a simple scrolling technique. The installation of this technology has created the living digital display that the school wanted and has transformed a forgotten corner of the school into a central hub for showcasing school digital work.
THE DIGITAL DISPLAY IN PRACTICE
The first trial of the system involved connecting every class in the school from Reception to Year 6. Gareth created a template canvas around three e-safety issues which he wanted all classes to contribute to. Following on from a morning assembly to launch the idea, each class took time during the morning to respond by submitting their ideas, work and digital e-safety posters to the shared canvas.
A group of pupils from year 5 worked in the corridor space at the system, curating the canvas, moving and organising the work once it had been submitted. A digital flip chart tool was inserted onto the canvas to enable the next stage of the process.
By playtime the canvas of whole school contributions was complete and could be seen by pupils as they walked out to play. Many pupils stopped to look at the digital work and also leave their contributions via the digital flip chart. The corridor was buzzing and the living digital display wall was born.
At the end of the day, the whole canvas was reviewed by Sally and Gareth. They were able to see and evaluate the range of e-Safety work across their whole school. The first part of their vision had been achieved.
The next step was to develop other scenarios for use, in order to transform the assessment of digital work. Year 4 created a year group digital canvas to share their project based learning on environments. All three classes contributed their work which had been created on iPads, laptops and Interactive whiteboards to a shared canvas which the year leader could then review and assess for consistency across classes.
Year 6 created a shared canvas to enable all three classes to collaborate towards their understanding of English work relating to Macbeth. Year 5 showcased their word-processed poems which would otherwise have been consigned to a dusty folder on the learning platform.
In each case the Headteacher Sally Lanni was able to log on to the same canvas and watch work across her whole school being created live in front of her very eyes – and what is more – she was able to interact with the process too.
Also, at play times and dinner times, this work is made very visible by the 20‑foot display system. As part of assessing the work, pupils are encouraged to add evaluations and work improvement suggestions to the canvas. To see year three boys giving up their playtimes to read and comment Year 5 poetry has been an unexpected positive outcome.
WHOLE SCHOOL MODERATION
Two teachers responsible for maths coordination in the school, who were walking past the display, approached Gareth Hancox to suggest another use for the innovative technology. They asked if they could use system to collect and moderate fractions work from across the school.
Just days before, they had presented an updated fractions policy to school governors and wondered if they could use the system to moderate work instead of using the traditional book trawl. Having set up a structured Span canvas, the two teachers were able to stand in front of the digital learning wall and watch, as during the Tuesday morning maths lesson, selected digital and traditional work was uploaded to the canvas from all classes.
The two teachers made their moderated assessments and then used the canvas to feed back to staff and governors.
Pheasey Park Farm Primary has not completely solved the problem of assessing digital work, but using the digital wall, they have made the digital work in their school much more visible and have elevated its status to equal traditional pencil and paper work. That is not a bad start. They now plan to share their canvases with pupils and teachers in the US and Canada.Further Information: