Apps for Good – Inquiry Led Learning?

This blog post was originally published by Primary School Deputy Head Teacher Rebecca Stacey in Digital Classrooms on 27 November 2013. We liked it so much that we wanted to share it here. 

For my first ‘blog’ entry I thought I’d investigate how Apps for Good has worked for my primary class.

I went into the Apps for Good programme for many reasons:

  • Developing my own practice
  • Giving the children a real challenge and genuine purpose whilst developing new skills
  • Challenging the school – raising the profile of technology within the school community
  • I wanted to explore the curriculum in a manner that would give the pupils something real to work with – I figured Y6 deserve something special to focus on…

The Apps for Good site organises its lessons in a very specific way:

  • An online diary for pupils to record thoughts and any questions – ‘assignments’
  • Presentations and expert videos ready to go
  • Clear targets and direction for the teacher – e.g. 4 sections to a module with clear time for reflection

This organisation has meant that delivery of the programme is a simple task, both teacher and pupils aware of expectations. From my point of view, as long as I have reviewed where we need to be by the end of that module it is a matter of facilitating access to the subject matter. My role is reduced to organising the resources and enabling discussion. Something that I thought I would have trouble with. In fact, we can call on experts to support us in the more technical aspects of the course, they can support through skype if need be.

This is beginning to have some interesting consequences for my own thinking – it is rapidly becoming a genuine inquiry led development. Learners directing themselves is not new and ‘flipped classrooms’ is the latest term. That is not to say that my classroom is ‘flipped’ – it’s not – however the children are definitely dictating the direction of this project. They tell me when they have moved on, they notify me that they have finished an assignment and, as yet I have not had to insist on a deadline. They are self organising, and will go back and review video when they have to.

A random encounter in twitter led me to this blog, (thanks @eddykayshun) and to consider the thoughts of Sugata Mitre. His now near-famous ‘hole in the wall‘ computer experiment kick started the SOLE debate. Is the self-organised learning environment something which I am experiencing now?

That is not to say that the concept of completely self directed learning is something I am happy with… However it has been great fun to explore a new way of leading learning. It helps of course that the technical element of the Apps For Good programme is so well thought out.

My thoughts:

  • Setting online diary ‘assignments’ has really freed up the classroom, and the children are beginning to work independently of teacher instruction.
  • The children have really begun to move into their roles – as they decided how their team would be developed, and how they would meet their challenges.
  • The children look forward to, and enjoy watching ‘expert’ video – time will tell for how they react to visiting experts. However they will rewatch the video, and even presentations when responding to the online diary.
  • Worth mentioning that currently all of this is done in school time, with school resources. I’m still not convinced when pupils insist they have all manner of electronics at home nor am I convinced that setting homework will yield anything at all.

Rebecca Stacey has been teaching in Primary School settings for ten years and is always interested in pushing expectations for Primary Schools. She is currently Deputy Head Teacher at two Primary Schools in East London, De Beauvoir and Queensbridge, and studying for an MA in Education and Technology.