Learning hubs and pilot schools

Like other countries, Scotland faces new influences and competitors, which means that we must look differently at the curriculum, giving opportunities for our young people to develop the attributes that will give them the confidence to face change. These changes include global social, political and economic change
Appendix 1 indicates in general terms how ICT can contribute to some trends which are clearly discernible in school education in Scotland, and across the developed world
Appendix 2 shows how ICT fits into the principles for curriculum design which were outlined in A Curriculum for Excellence in November 2004

What are pilot schools going to do?
Based on the first round of discussions in pilot schools, the project pedagogy group has approved further discussion and refinement of the following areas within the curriculum:

In primary schools
• Europe thematic study
• Aspects of personal safety which are part of the PSE programme
• Mental arithmetic
• Spelling
• Primary science activities (eg those in the Renfrewshire primary science programme)
• Writing stories
• Cross-curricular issues such as citizenship, eco-school activities, healthy school activities

In secondary schools
• Adding value to one or more units in existing (certificate) courses through more involvement in areas which are perhaps 'dry'
• Contributions towards broad school-wide issues: citizenship, healthy schools, eco-school projects, enterprise education (Determined to Succeed)
• Activities relevant to the emerging 3-18 curriculum, in tune with the approaches articulated in A Curriculum for Excellence: Building the Curriculum 1 (November 2006)
• Relevant to developing good practice associated with increasingly established formative assessment approaches

Questions for discussion with schools
  1. To what extent do you want curricular goals in these areas to be directive? The range would be from the current level of 'general commendation' through to detailed schemes of work for at least some of these suggested areas. Towards which end of the continuum are you inclined at this stage?
  2. How important is it for you to be working on the same things as other schools in the piloting process?
  3. In secondary schools, how important is it to trial the use of the personal learning hubs in all subjects which the young people will study in the course of the 2 year pilot? What about a gradual introduction from early adopters to some of those who are less keen initially?
  4. In primary schools, is it important that all teachers involved in the project are trying out the same areas?
  5. What are the reactions to the use of more than a single form of personal learning hub? [It seems unlikely that any single device will meet all the 'desirables' of the project for functionality while remaining small, personal and portable]
  6. How important are the following aspects of proposed staff training and support?
    1. Time to experiment within a loose structure
    2. An audit of interests and needs (perhaps after the experiment period)
    3. Seeing analogous projects using personal learning devices
    4. Sets of notes or other 'starter' materials
    5. Workshops where operational use of the learning hub devices are explored and developed
    6. Workshops where classroom management aspects of the use of learning hubs are explored and developed
    7. Involvement of all staff, including classroom assistants, technicians and librarians
    8. Involvement of parents in the explorations and developments
  7. What are the optimal forms of ongoing support for the experiments in the early days of the pilot phase? Will these change in the course of the first full year of the pilot?
  8. What is your best advice about how potential learning hub devices should be tested for compatibility with the school's network?
  9. What do you think should be included in the success criteria by which all involved will judge progress in the pilot phase? Is the framework articulated in appendix 3 potentially useful as a starting point for this process?

Appendix 1: the contributions of ICT
Some of the attributes "that will give them the confidence to face change" will be strengthened - and even enabled - by the appropriate use of ICT as part of the learning process. ICT may be seen to help trends already in evidence, including the following
  • From a corpus of knowledge to a knowledge economy
    • general purpose tools for communication using both words and a range of visual and aural media
    • specialist software to model the real world (eg in climate or in physical forces)
    • increasing use of e-learning to offer scope for learning beyond the limiting confines of the school day and timetable

  • From rote learning to thinking skills/critical skills
    • advanced organisers in the form of outlining tools
    • brainstorming tools such as those in online learning suites (eg Think.com)
    • visual organisers and mind mapping tools (eg Inspiration)
    • templates offer the 'big picture' and small steps approach which appears to be particularly useful for boy-type learners

  • From learners as consumers to learners as producers
    • tools for the management of learning, and assessment of learning [eg Virtual learning Environments (VLE) or Managed Learning Environments (MLE)]
    • an environment in which experimentation is risk free - and even sometimes fun - with structured menus/inspectors/toolbars and help systems
    • youngsters are able to 'own' the processes by which they tackle tasks when using ICT by making choices as to how they achieve the target

  • From replication and rules to enterprise and creativity
    • a word processor or e-mail client to express oneself
    • the development of web pages or movies or PowerPoint and equivalent tools to report or to imagine
    • 2 and 3-dimensional design software to make actual 'things'

  • From convergent uniformity to divergent metacognitive awareness
    • tools to help to develop more consciousness about how we learn, what are the barriers to learning and all the elements in the list below
    • an environment in which experimentation is straightforward (and even enjoyable), where you can readily learn from mistakes, you can change your mind, you can explore alternatives

  • From individual learning to collaborative learning
    • tools which can help to provide 'scaffolding' for properly structured group tasks within the classroom, and beyond
    • help to break down a task into component elements, offering each collaborator a worthwhile role
  • From a wholly cognitive curriculum to an appreciation of emotional intelligence
  • From competition to inclusion

Appendix 2: learning hubs and A Curriculum for Excellence
A Curriculum for Excellence articulated a set of 7 design principles for the emerging Scottish curriculum for young people aged 3 to 18; these are reproduced here ICT has the capability to contribute to these principles

1 Challenges and enjoyment
Young people should find their learning challenging, engaging and motivating. The curriculum should encourage high aspirations and ambitions for all. At all stages, learners of all aptitudes and abilities should experience an appropriate level of challenge, to enable each individual to achieve his or her potential. They should be active in their learning and have opportunities to develop and demonstrate their creativity. There should be support to enable young people to sustain their effort
ICT's contributions include
  • General purpose ICT tools can be challenging, engaging and motivating; they can help young people to be successful learners able to think creatively and independently
  • Structured use of social software tools can help to develop confident individuals able to be self-aware
  • The wide range of materials available on the world wide web have the potential to encourage responsible citizens able to understand different beliefs and cultures
  • Games and other challenges - online and on CDs - can help youngsters to be effective contributors able to solve problems

2 Breadth
All young people should have opportunities for a broad, suitably-weighted range of experiences. The curriculum should be organised so that they will learn and develop through a variety of contexts within both the classroom and other aspects of school life
ICT's contributions include
  • Writing frames and other template and structured starters to help young people to be successful learners able to use literacy, communication and numeracy skills
  • The potential for 'anywhere, anytime' learning releases young people from the temporal limitations of the school day to become confident individuals able to live as independently as they can
  • The wealth of resources on the web will lead to responsible citizens able to develop knowledge and understanding of the world and Scotland's place in it
  • The wide range of tools which Glow will offer will give young people the chance to develop as effective contributors able to communicate in different ways and in different settings

3 Progression
Young people should experience continuous progression in their learning from 3 to 18 within a single curriculum framework. Each stage should build upon earlier knowledge and achievements. Young people should be able to progress at a rate which meets their needs and aptitudes, and keep options open so that routes are not closed off too early
ICT's contributions include
  • Games and other problem solving approaches allows young people to develop as successful learners able to link and apply different kinds of learning in new situations
  • The breadth of tasks which general purpose tools can sustain will lead to confident individuals able to achieve success in different areas of activity
  • Web resources in an appropriately structured context (eg a topic study) will help to bring on responsible citizens able to evaluate environmental, scientific and technological issues
  • ICT tools for creating words, sounds, pictures will help to develop effective contributors able to create and develop

4 Depth
There should be opportunities for young people to develop their full capacity for different types of thinking and learning. As they progress, they should develop and apply increasing intellectual rigour, drawing different strands of learning together and exploring and achieving more advanced levels of understanding
ICT's contributions include
  • The options most computer operations offer (menus, dialogue boxes, buttons) will help successful learners to be able to make reasoned evaluations
  • Making judgments about the currency and objectivity of information on the web will help young people to become confident individuals able to assess risk and take informed decisions
  • Similarly the experience of problem solving approaches through use of ICT can help the development of responsible citizens able to make informed choices and decisions
  • The breadth of options which ICT can offer at both practice and strategy levels helps young people to become effective contributors able to apply critical thinking in new contexts

5 Personalisation and choice
The curriculum should respond to individual needs and support particular aptitudes and talents. It should give each young person increasing opportunities for exercising responsible personal choice as they move through their school career. Once they have achieved suitable levels of attainment across a wide range of areas of learning the choice should become as open as possible. There should be safeguards to ensure that choices are soundly based and lead to successful outcomes
ICT's contributions include
  • Use of ICT individually and in groups can help young people to be successful learners able to learn independently and as part of a group
  • Social software tools through Glow and other means will help confident individuals to be able to develop and communicate their own beliefs and view of the world
  • Structured use of the wealth of resources available through the web will help youngsters to develop as responsible citizens able to develop informed, ethical views of complex issues
  • Using ICT for group activity will help young people to be effective contributors able to work in partnership and in teams

6 Coherence
Taken as a whole, children’s learning activities should combine to form a coherent experience. There should be clear links between the different aspects of young people’s learning, including opportunities for extended activities which draw different strands of learning together
ICT's contributions include
  • ICT can make a wide range of contributions to learning. General purpose software in particular can provide some degree of coherence across a range of experience, so helping to tackle the aim of breaking down subject and other barriers to the transfer of skills

7 Relevance
Young people should understand the purposes of their activities. They should see the value of what they are learning and its relevance to their lives, present and future
ICT's contributions include
  • ICT can help through the general appeal that ICT evidently has for the huge majority of young people in schools. It can also help to bridge the home and school gap

Appendix 3: a framework for deciding on qualifying school activities
The following outline and draft framework has been discussed in some of the school discussions and has proved to be helpful
Activities should contribute in a major way to at least 2 of the following, and in a minor way to 2 others from this list of 10
  • Enquiring
  • Considering or evaluating
  • Modeling or trialing
  • Creating something new
  • Being enterprising
  • Collaborating with others
  • Articulating or presenting to others
  • Developing emotional self-awareness
  • Developing self-awareness of preferred learning styles (metacognition)
  • Adding to skills (capacity building)