In recent years, Halcyon London International School has received accolades for the way it leverages the power of digital technologies to support and transform learning experiences. The secret to our success? Putting learning before technology.
The school believes that without targeted training for educators, the acquisition of new hardware will seldom bear fruit. From surveys to focus groups to staff meetings, we assess the digital skills of the teaching community using a variety of methods periodically during the year. Equipped with this data and the wider vision of the school, the digital learning leader (DLL) crafts a program of accessible-to-all opportunities to develop skills and understanding.
One way we do this is by encouraging the teaching staff to book one-to-one “tech- ins” with the DLL. These sessions are for teachers across the curriculum and often involve co-planning. They are ideal for making sure that the learning goals – not the tools – drive the discussions and decisions.
To extend the professional learning and model our ed-over-tech approach, the teacher and the DLL co-teach lessons. Co-teaching is especially important when the teacher is using a digital tool for the first time because it helps keep the focus on the learning.
We also run weekly twilight workshops and bimonthly learning showcases, where all staff (teachers and administrators) are encouraged to take a few minutes to share a tool that has worked well for them and in their own context. Key elements of this are sharing the why, the impact and ease of integration. Much like sessions for teaching colleagues, the DLL hosts small-group workshops for those on the administrative team. A significant benefit of hosting these online is that we were able to record the workshops and keep them as a permanent resource for our staff.
We are a 1:1 school and recognize that the tools at our disposal are extremely powerful. In much the same way that we wouldn’t let anyone jump into a car and wish them luck without training, we aim to do the same as we strive toward communitywide digital fluency. We don’t want any digital car crashes!
In recent years, we have also opened up workshops to parents who get hands-on with the same tools that students use in the classroom. These 90-minute classes focus on technology as a force for creativity. We’ve found these sessions can aid coffee-table discussions at home and help develop a greater insight into what happens in our classrooms and beyond.
Supported by videoconferencing and in-house explanatory videos, we were able to successfully continue all of these efforts during distance learning due to the coronavirus pandemic, and would feel confident doing so again if needed.
In our role as a Google Reference School and Apple Regional Training Center, we open up our doors to the wider education community to host workshops, whole-day events and shorter more focused visits.
Jon Neale is the digital learning leader for the Halcyon London International School in London.