At Lambeth CLC we often wonder how much can be achieved in one day. This is partly out of practical concerns; we usually only have one day to work with a group, and we want pupils to get the most out of their visit to the CLC. Plus, as our interest is in ICT, we are intrigued by the power of computers to help pupils achieve more, in terms of what they learn and the work they produce. After all, what is the value of a computer (or any piece of technology) if it’s not a labour saving device?
Our ‘Virtual Journeys’ workshop is all about achieving more. On a ‘Virtual Journeys’ workshop pupils complete an entire local area investigation on Clapham Common, from start to finish, all in one day. We recognise this is a big challenge and we use computers in 3 ways to help pupils complete this task. We use ICT to aid research, to support outdoor learning, and to showcase learning. Here is a quick summary of how ICT can be used to enhance learning in each of these 3 areas.
You won’t be surprised to hear that we do our research online, and like many other educators we begin with a list of relevant websites. This means pupils need not surf around Google, trying to work out if a website is reputable or of any informative value. We recognise that learning to analyse the value of a website is an important research skill, especially as more and more information migrates to the digital domain. However, we ask pupils to focus on identifying which pieces information on a website are of greatest utility. We feel this is a more fundamental research skill (it can be applied to other information sources, even something as archaic as a book) and therefore deserves our focus when time is tight.
We also use ICT to amass and share research. We ask pupils to put their finding on a website called Primary Pad. Primary Pad creates a Word Processing document that lives online. Up to 50 people can enter information on this document simultaneously. Obviously, this will create some confusion at first; 30 pupils typing simultaneously on the same document requires a bit of practice. Plus, it has the added danger of allowing pupils to post rude messages or delete each others’ work. We would be lying if we claimed neither had ever happened. However these deviances are outweighed by the fact that pupils can share the fruits of their research immediately, giving them an opportunity see what has been discovered by others, and what else still needs to be looked for. This means a whole class can work together to produce a large body of research in a short amount of time.
Many people believe more ICT in schools will hinder outdoor learning. We have probably all heard someone say something along the lines of “children should not be stuck inside in front of a computer, they should be outdoors climbing trees”. We share these sentiments, and believe that outdoor learning is an essential part of education. However, we don’t agree that the conclusion “computers are bad for outdoor learning” follows from this premise.
Virtual Journeys is all about how computers can be used to enhance outdoor learning, not used instead of outdoor learning.
Pupils visit Clapham Common armed with digital cameras and GPS enabled phones. We use the cameras to investigate and record all the physical and human geography in and around Clapham Common and the GPS phones to help pupils learn about mapping and location; seeing exactly where are you are on a map helps you make the conceptual jump from your position in the world to your position in a 2D cartographic representation of the world.
These are just two examples of how ICT can be used to support outdoor learning. There are a plethora of ways ICT can used to help learners access the wider world.
This final stage of the Virtual Journey process is where ICT can really come into its own. We contend computers allow pupils to produce high quality work in a short amount of time, helping pupils to consolidate and share their learning. We don’t want to use rhetoric to back up this claim. Just have a look at these adverts for Clapham Common, produced by some Year 6 pupils in under two hours. Hopefully this will go some way to prove ICT can help pupils achieve more.