Students drive GCSE/IGCSE learning at Deira International
“Our students are growing up in the YouTube era. GCSEPod’s 3-5 min videos help concepts become clear, very quickly to students. There’s no doubt that this approach is having a positive effect.”
Deira International school
Staff changes, lack of time for effective CPD on numerous different software products, IT issues, students having a preferred learning style can all play a part in making the embedding of technology across the school a real challenge.
At Deira International School (DIS) in Dubai, Electronic Learning Coordinator and science teacher, Linda Parsons, has recently turned the adoption of learning technology on its head. Here she explains how their students’ competitiveness and curiosity is driving a true cross curricula adoption of technology.
Deira International School (DIS) is a dynamic, high-performing British Curriculum secondary school in Dubai Festival City. In our 15th year of operation, and now attract 1,800 students across 80 nationalities, supported by 300 members of staff. We work with our students take both IGCSE’s and the International Baccalaureate.
It was at the Queen’s Croquet-Ground in the story of Alice in Wonderland, that the game begins with Alice using a flamingo tucked under her arm as the mallet, a rolled-up hedgehog as the puck and the Queen’s soldiers bent over, acting as the hoops. The players all start playing at the same time without waiting for their turn. The hedgehog continually unrolls itself and the Queen’s soldiers are called away to another beheading. The game quickly turns into disorganised chaos with everyone running in different directions.
“We are an Al Futtaim Education Foundation School, we work hard to that ensure our students are motivated and empowered to learn independently; taking control of their own learning, and ensuring they are engaged in challenging, stimulating activities which are facilitated by the teacher but led by their individual needs.
We do this by focussing on our students’ holistic development by considering their individual needs and learning styles. To support this, two years ago, we started using GCSEPod, which provides learning content for each curriculum area in a video ‘pod’ based format. Our students are growing up in the YouTube era so could see that the short, three to five-minute audio-visual ‘pods’ explaining the various learning concepts provided an ideal homework and learning resource.
Watching the videos our students are able to make links and connections and frequently identify real life scenarios where a learning concept is relevant. We started off by seeing the benefit of these video based ‘lessons’ for maths. We realised that our students are less likely to be engaged in learning about very dry learning objectives, such as converting decimals into fractions, from a book.
However, when they saw it laid out in a graphical format in a three to five-minute video, the concept became clear, very quickly. There was no doubt this approach to learning was having a positive effect but at the end of the first year, we found that while our students regularly used the platform in maths, many teaching staff were still unaware of its potential in their own subjects; mainly because they had not seen the way our students were using it.
Cross curricula revision
This is when I decided to turn it on its head. Instead of In directing one-off CPD sessions to teachers on inset days that were devoid of student input, we set up whole school revision assemblies targeted to year groups. We started with our year 10 students. Through cross-curricular links, our students were inspired to broaden their thinking of how each theme and topic may impact on other curriculum areas. We found our students were actively seeking out Pods in other subjects that had never used GCSEPod before; they had taken ownership of adopting the resource into our curricula.
We noticed that our students started assessing their own success and confidently setting targets; they knew exactly where they needed to go to improve within the context of their own learning. Our year 10 students in particular started using it with a more competitive element, because they wanted to do better than their peers, and even started encouraging their friends to use it. They no longer see each subject as a silo and use the videos as they move around subjects, as a passport to interleaving their ideas and supporting their own learning.
In addition to using the resource for revision we have also started using it to give the students a deeper understanding of each learning objective. At the start of each new topic we give them a play list of videos that will facilitate their learning.
We found that their naturally curious and inquisitive nature has meant they have often already watched many of the videos we are directing them to; they are coming to the lesson with a strong level of understanding that the teachers can build on; It’s a form of flipped learning, taking classroom learning to new heights.
In addition to using the resource for revision we have also started using it to give the students a deeper understanding of each learning objective, introducing flipped learning to the classroom. At the start of each new topic we give them a playlist of videos that will facilitate their learning. Reporting
The powerful diagnostics give us the information on which areas need additional focus. One student, Aya, recently arrived at the school in year 9 having missed a lot of the chemistry curriculum.
Despite being provided with textbooks and worksheets her chosen method of learning and reviewing the material was GCSEPod. In the Metals and Reactivity Series topic, she achieved a 95% pass mark.
As a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) based school, the students are able to actively use the resource in their break time, on the bus and at home, without having to write out never-ending study and revision notes; creating an environment of flexible learning, complimentary to our students’ busy lifestyles.
By turning our adoption of technology on its head, we have moved from having our teachers dictating when technology is used, to a place where we have self-motivated students proactively using our platform to learn content in their own time. At DIS, we certainly don’t have the hedgehogs unravelling as the Queen’s soldiers walk away; our students’ natural curiosity drives them to proactively structure their own learning and revision, which leaves us to ensure they have an in-depth understanding with no gaps.
“Nationally, GCSE resits are a challenge and we felt that just purely classroom-based learning wasn’t working for us, so we have to try and engage students in a different way.”
GCSEPod’s short bursts of audio-visual learning designed to drive student progress and engage them in the subjects at their own pace, makes the platform not just an ideal solution for those struggling to conform to what may be regarded as usual study times, but an important tool in plugging knowledge gaps.
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