We have introduced the ability for each subject, department, teacher, student (anyone, actually) to have a web space that they can use to support teaching and learning at Surbiton High School.

Why Digital Learning Spaces?

All our staff and students have tablets. This means that our students are going to carry around with them the means to access knowledge, not just in lessons, but also wherever else they may happen to be. Digital Learning Spaces provide the vehicle with which we can deliver that knowledge to them.

It’s important that we understand that neither the introduction of the iPad nor that of the Learning Spaces are designed to exclude other, more traditional and effective means of teaching and learning. Both are as-well-as tools, not instead-of tools. From this perspective, they simply become another tool at our disposal, albeit tools with very specific advantages.

Making resources available online through Digital Learning Spaces, combined with the introduction of the means to access those resources – the iPads – at any time and any place means that the learning environment is extended beyond the classroom. Once again, we must remember that we are not talking about abandoning classroom teaching, but rather about supporting the teaching and learning that starts off in timetabled lessons.

One final aspect to consider in this section is the fact that we acknowledge that face to face contact is always preferable, but it is not always possible. With this in mind, we can then begin to conceive ways in which to support our students’ learning, not just in lessons, but also when teachers are not available to offer such support.

What can Learning Spaces do?

Learning Spaces can:

  • Allow access to learning resources anytime, anywhere – If you make resources available on Learning Spaces, your students will have access to them in lessons but also at home or anywhere else where there is an internet connection. Click or tap here to see an example of this from Geography.
  • Foster independent learning – You may be using your departmental Twitter account in a similar way. Learning Spaces can be used to encourage pupils to learn independently and go beyond the curriculum. Click or tap here to see an example from Science.
  • Provide both extension and support – As the resources available on Learning Spaces build up, students will have access to an ever growing set of resources that is always only a click or a tap away. As you create new resources you could easily differentiate by adding links to extend the more able, as well as other links to support those who need it. See this example from Languages, where students are asked to practise a grammar point with the help of a video and an accompanying worksheet. Notice the links to further resources.
  • Showcase pupils’ work – Either the work students complete for specific subjects or perhaps a Learning Space dedicated exclusively to this purpose, such as the Surbiton Student Laureates.
  • Be a peer assessment tool – Learning Spaces allow comments (they can also be turned off, as I have done on this page). This means that we can exploit the social nature of the internet to encourage our students to peer-assess, leaving a permanent record of such assessment, not just for each other, but also for the teacher, who can then plan future lessons informed by the content of the comments students left for their peers. Click or tap here to see an example of peer-assessment in action from Languages (scroll to the bottom of the page).
  • Bridge the gap between formal and informal learning – One of the most interesting aspects of Learning Spaces is that they can be accessed anytime, anywhere. Combine this with the fact that we are not limited to curriculum content and we can begin to imagine ways in which we use Learning Spaces to pique our students’ curiosity about our subjects. See this example from Classics.
  • Develop a greater understanding of digital citizenship – Our students have grown up associating the internet with leisure. However, as they begin to use online resources for more academic purposes – through our Learning Spaces – we hope that a more mature attitude to the use of online resources will emerge. By encouraging our students to publish their own content, we are supporting the development of their digital literacy and citizenship. Click or tap here to see radio programmes (podcasts) scripted, recorded and published by students in English.
  • Disassociate learning from a particular time at a particular place – Whilst we recognise that the classroom is still the primary place for learning, we acknowledge that ubiquitous access to knowledge and information means that the classroom is not the only place for learning. With Learning Spaces we hope to play a role in taking the learning to wherever the learner happens to be.
  • Encourage collaborative practices – We have referred above to the social nature of the internet. It is worth pointing our that Learning Spaces can be harnessed to foster collaboration both online and offline. The Surbiton High Times is a wonderful example of this.
  • Provide students with digital portfolios – Something it is rather easy to forget is the fact that Learning Spaces can provide students as well as teachers with a digital space to call their own. Click or tap here is Lily C’s wonderful Art portfolio.
  • Raise the profile of subjects and departments – As any Head of Department knows well, one of the most challenging and important things to do is to raise the profile of your subject or department, especially if it’s an option subject from early on. Learning Spaces can play an important role in this.
  • Be an outlet for news, announcements and developments – Learning Spaces can be used very effectively to keep students, staff, parents and members of the wider school community updated. The Boys’ Prep are using it to do just that, click or tap here to see what they have been up to.
  • Gather and record evidence of learning and progress over a period of time – As new entries are added to Learning Spaces showcasing pupils’ work, providing opportunities for peer-assessment, or simply just gradually contributing to the subject content, a growing and compelling record of learning and progress will begin to emerge.

How do I get started?

If you wish to contribute to Learning Spaces by creating your own teacher, class, subject or departmental space, the first thing you need to do is to get in touch with me, so I can set you up. Once you receive your username and password, adding content to Learning Spaces is very straightforward. You can do this in two ways:

1.- Do it yourself

Once you log in to Learning Spaces, you will see a tab across the top bar labelled New. Click or tap here to add new content. You will then be presented with a form that very much resembles and behaves like an ordinary word processor. See below:

Screenshot_051214_044501_PM2.- Get us to do it for you

We are all very busy and are often juggling a multitude of balls in the air at the same time. Fear not, if you wish to start your own Learning Space or add content to an existing Learning Space and are struggling to find the time, please get in touch with me or with Tessa Groves – both of us will be more than happy to help.