St Patrick’s High School, Keady, Co Armagh, is a non-selective, co-educational 11-18 school with over 1000 pupils. Like most schools they have been developing ICT for a number of years. The school has been involved in a number of development projects, for example, the CCEA KS3 Certificate of Competence in IT, the digital movies project in History, the Dreamlab multimedia project and they were the first school in NI to offer an online examination.
For a number of years they have been using the Performand Review and Staff Development (PRSD) scheme to focus the attention of departments and teachers on, amongst other things, the development of ICT. In 2007/8 the school decided to focus on the development of LearningNI. They recognised that this resource could enhance traditional teaching and learning and support the introduction of the Revised Curriculum.
They began by writing a PRSD target that asked every teacher to use some element of LearningNI in their class teaching. They then created a support structure so that teachers could realise this target.
The first step was to get teachers to actively engage with LearningNI. They decided to ask all staff to get involved in an online discussion which had been set up in LearningNI, to ask for their opinions on the 2007 end of year staff outing. Staff responded enthusiastically and the discussion branched out in all sorts of ways and some threads, particularly those discussing inter county rivalries, became very active! The discussion forum was designed to be a bit of fun with the underlying motive to get staff to log onto LearningNI and participate in an online discussion; this proved to be a successful way to raise interest and awareness of LearningNI.
In 2007 the school planned an INSET day with the aim of getting staff to the stage that they could develop online courses for their own departments.
The day began with all staff gathered in the Drama Studio and an affirmation board was used to introduce them to the PRSD targets for 2007/8. One of these targets focused on using LearningNI to support teaching and learning
Staff were shown how pupils were developing skills in organising and exhibiting their ICT work by maintaining an electronic portfolio in LearningNI. Teachers were asked to encourage pupils in their classes to upload their completed ICT work onto LearningNI so that the pupil portfolios could be used in the future to assess the pupils’ ICT competencies.
In the next part of the day staff were shown how the History department had used LearningNI to set up an online course to support teaching about ‘Life in the Tudor Age’. They were shown a number of tasks that pupils have engaged in, e.g. creating a podcast, participating in on line forums, and using Photostory to create an audio visual presentation about life on a Tudor warship. The course structure and some of the pupil responses were shown to staff
The next part of the day staff got involved in a series of practical tasks, the first of these was to use LearningNI’s the Learnnewsdesk to create a worksheet for a Key Stage 3 activity in their subject. This encouraged staff to ‘get into’ LearningNI and use some of the resources or adapt existing ideas to create lessons that they could use.
Following this staff explored a course that has been set up for all our Year 9 students. The “I’m a celebrity get me out of here” LearningNI course was developed by the ICT department and comprises a series of activities that gets pupils to create multimedia slide shows, use spreadsheets, design tickets and posters, use a mail merge and participate in an online forum discussing the nature of celebrity. Each activity has an exemplar and a pupil worksheet. In a hands-on session staff explored the structure and tried out some of the activities, including adding some comments to the online forum. We hoped that this experience would give school staff some ideas for creating their own online courses.
The final part of the day began by demonstrating how to set up an online course. Staff were asked to do this for a year 8 group. A slide show and help sheets were used to show how to create a course, add users and tutors, set up a discussion forum and so on. In a final hands on session each department was given time to develop a course for a class or year group. ICT teachers and members of the ICT committee moved around the departments offering support and guidance.
The day was a great success. Staff appreciated the potential of LearningNI and will continue to develop courses to support teaching and learning in their own department.
This year the school designed an online course in LearningNI for staff to store documents relating to the revised curriculum and other items of interest. This is regularly accessed by staff. A staff blog was also set up that invites comments on any topic of interest.
The development of LearningNI is an integral part of the overall strategy to develop ICT in St Patrick’s High School, Keady. The school continues to use PRSD to focus attention on curriculum development and improving teaching and learning, for example, this year one of the school’s PRSD targets asks teachers to identify how they are addressing the 5 E’s (Explore, Express, Exchange, Evaluate and Exhibit) in the year 8 and 9 ICT activities their department will be delivering.