Our resident Year 5 teacher, and IT guru, Andy Reeder has set about introducing a wide array of new equipment, classes and afterschool clubs for students in the junior school.
The reinvigorated curriculum involves two key changes – the addition of a one-hour coding lesson for all students each week, and the introduction of new technologies, such as iPads, for use in lessons across all subjects.
“The coding lessons are about preparing students for the modern world,” said Andy. “We’re opening up a traditionally inaccessible topic to children of all abilities via age-appropriate technology such as Microbits. It’s amazing to see them embrace new technology with such enthusiasm.”
Alongside classes, Andy has also introduced a club for eighteen of the school’s most enthusiastic coders. Each week, they learn how to build and programme LEGO robots, introducing them to physical computing with real-world applications.
Elsewhere, Andy is working with the Junior School headteacher, Carrie Whyte, to train staff to make the most of technology in other lessons such as Art and English.
“Andy has really helped our staff embrace technology”, Carrie says. “We’ve introduced ‘app of the week’ sessions for staff meetings, where Andy trains the entire team on how to use the best apps available.
“For example, a recent English class saw students writing their story on paper before transferring it to their iPads. They used an app called Book Creator to make an interactive, multimedia book with a front cover and illustrations they designed – it’s incredible to see students taking ownership of their learning when they’re given more freedom to do so.”
In particular, the school’s green screen has become a favourite for pupils. “For the younger kids, it can transport them anywhere in the world – whether that means visiting Santa’s Grotto or the Pyramids of Egypt,” Andy added. “The older children like to use it to augment their work. When they read a poem to the class, for instance, they can choose any background they want to build an atmosphere.”
The new focus on technology has also benefited teachers, who now use iPads to assess how well children have understood their lessons, using apps such as Plickers and Kahoot!
Ultimately, though, Andy and Carrie hope the improvements will enhance, rather than replace, the traditional standards of primary school learning. “It’s about finding a balance,” Carrie concluded. “We’ve introduced these changes at the same time as our new Forest School, so pupils can go from a morning in the mud to spending the afternoon programming a robot. Our curriculum is so diverse and this is intended to expand what students can achieve.”