In September of 2012, Wilberforce block at Huntington School, housing the English and Media classrooms, was redesigned. We didn’t have a glossy new building, but money was invested in giving the classrooms a new lick of paint, de-cluttering the classrooms and storage spaces and significantly enhancing the technology provision, including a set of twenty-four iPads and a wireless infrastructure, for the newly branded English and Media Faculty – HuntingtonEMF.
There was a great deal of thinking that went into the building redesign. At the centre of all our thinking was how to improve pedagogy. We reviewed what were the best tools to enhance our pedagogy, eliminating any distractions from the core business of learning in the classroom – such as clutter and unnecessary furniture. Some core principles of how we work as a department was central to our design. We have a system whereat each classroom has six group tables to enable better collaborative learning. It also allows for real consistency of seating when classes and teachers use different classrooms. It is something we have developed over a few years and is integral to our approach to teaching and learning.
Another key aspect of the redesign was to make a simple addition of multiple whiteboards on the classrroom walls to allow for greater flexibility in using the walls for different teaching and learning strategies. The concept of ‘making the learning visible’ emerged from the idea to improve how we use the classroom spaces, including the walls – not simply as wallpaper, but as something more active. We had the idea for using multiple whiteboards to allow for more flexibility; for example, guided writing; or to allow for writing lesson objectives, key words and ideas that could be used throughout the lesson up on the different boards, whilst allowing for the projector and the ‘main whiteboard’ to be free and clear at all times. We also had the idea to subtlety de-centre the classroom – again linking back to the use of group tables – to move away from the fixedness of facing the ‘front’, and to encourage us as teachers to use the whole classroom space more actively. It also has had attendant benefit in allowing for ‘competitive writing’ between the different whiteboards; drawing contrasts between the ideas on the different boards etc. These ideas and teaching strategies are still developing and we have embedded sharing our ideas and pedagogy into our coaching programme to ensure we can all develop using the simple new tools.
Another integral aspect of the classroom design was embrace the best of technology as a tool to enhance learning. After undertaking a great deal of research, we invested in twenty-four iPads – giving us the best tools on the market – allowing us to continue to be flexible with our teaching by using these mobile devices. We undertook our research and formed our own clear focus for using the tools. Our research document (with suggested apps):
To further embed the concept of ‘making the learning visible’, we invested in Apple TVs and our Head supported us by invested in a robust wireless system (crucial in supporting tablet devices for truly ‘visible learning’). This has allowed us to ‘mirror’ student work through the iPads directly to the projector instantly – a truly powerful tool for learning. With many of the EMF owning their own iPads (and with an investment in two faculty iPads), we have been able to embed the iPad as a ‘visualiser’ amongst many other things, to show examples of students work, such as: iMovie, ExplainEverything presentations, or images of students prep book work, immediately through Apple TV to the projector. Plenaries that involve sharing the work from the lessons have been taken to another level, with students taking even more pride in their work knowing it could appear projected at any moment.
Some of our iPads with their sturdy tyre-style covers:
With the new design changes and the new technology we are busy learning every day, whilst keeping focused on the core business of great teaching and learning. In many ways, there has been an enhanced sense of pride in our English and Media lessons, from students and hopefully teachers alike, and we have shown a willingness to try to keep getting better. More exciting times are surely ahead!