We introduced you to Benhurst Primary located in Havering, UK, back in January when we first blogged about the school in our article Collaboration is the Heart of Improvement. As the term winds down, we checked back with Stella McCarthy to ask for an update about their school improvement initiative and learn a bit more about how their student-centered collaborative learning process has evolved including the use of SMART amp collaborative learning software.
The transformation continues
After moving from “requires improvement” to the category of “most improving” by Ofsted in the UK, interest in Benhurst Primary and their approach to learning has garnered a lot of interest outside the community. New students have come on board who did not have access to as much technology in their former schools and there is a plan to refurbish the ICT suites this summer. The school has expanded access to school-owned student devices for those learners who do not have access to technology in the home through homework lab time that takes place Wednesday at lunchtime.
Student peer teaching in Year 3
Once students became immersed in collaborative workspaces and peer collaboration with facilitation by Stella, they were keen to share how they were learning together by participating in peer teaching – sharing how they learn and imparting SMART amp tips to pupils in another Year 3 class.
In addition to sharing how they interact with each other within a SMART amp workspace and divided themselves into different roles, the Year 3 students also modeled login, lock and unlock features, watching videos, moving around in the workspace, reading, and creating spaces.
How was peer teaching? Here’s what the students had to say.
- I think SMARTamp is brilliant. It was nice being taught by a younger year group (Year 3). Our first thing we learnt was about food chains. It is really good because the teacher can make you follow them at any time. You’re not only able to get pictures and information; you are also able to see anybody’s work at any time. You can also get other people’s opinions on the work you’ve done. Leon Year 4
- I enjoy SMARTamp. It felt a bit weird at first with Year 3 teaching us, but it was good. The learning we did was about animals and their food chains. SMARTamp is a good way to learn because the teacher does not have to waste their voice on teaching us. Another reason is because you can see other people’s comments on the work and we can learn from each other. Oliver Year 4
- I like SMARTamp because you can teach different lessons and instead of your teacher coming all the way around the class, she can see all the work on one screen. It’s simple and smart because you could know nothing about what you are learning at the beginning of the lesson and by the end of the lesson you would just know so much. It’s absolutely awesome! Rose Year 3
- I like that if you are in different classes you can still work with other people between the two classes. On SMARTamp you can see videos that can really help with your learning. Freddie Year 3
- When Class 3M came and taught us, they taught us how to use SMARTamp. I really liked how you could communicate even though you are in different classes. You can look at other people’s ideas and this helps to give you examples of what you should be doing. Daniel Year 3
- When 3M came to our class I thought it was going to be a boring lesson, but when they taught me I was so amazed. They actually tried really hard to persuade me to like it, but in a few minutes I just loved it. What I liked about SMARTamp is that you can do lots of things and move everything around. It has lots of detail and I like the way you can see everyone else’s work and learn from them. I absolutely love SMARTamp. Arisha Year 3
- I like the way there is a big workspace where you can see what other people are doing. I really liked it when we worked with 3M and they taught us how to use all of the different features. 3M were very helpful which made me enjoy it. Ella Year 3
Sharing with older peers
The student peer teaching model proved so successful that Stella undertook it with Year 4 and Year 6 pupils as well. The older learners focused on the discussion of content and the younger ones focused on teaching the older students the skills necessary within SMART amp to achieve what the older children wanted to do. They were co-creating and co-learning simultaneously.
Collaborative homework project
With KS2 adoption of SMART amp at Benhurst, Stella and the teachers are looking to adopt the collaborative project model and use of this cloud-based software outside the classroom. Imagine at the beginning of a topic unit like The Victorians being able to extend the digital workspace into the home? Teachers will prepare the workspace, students will access the embedded video links on safe Internet sites and then work on their own digital pieces and handouts. Stella looks forward to reducing the sharing of printed materials from home and having both learners and parents access the same digital workspace the students are working in at school.
The collaborative homework project hinges on effective parent engagement. Parents are already aware of the change in the classroom from their excited children and have already asked “What is amp and how do I download it?” The next step will be hosting meetings at the school for parents about the collaborative homework project along with e-safety guidance. If parents want to learn more about SMART amp or get more hands-on, Stella and Benhurst teachers will host workshops for parents and students together.
Thank you so much for the update Stella! We look forward to hearing more about the collaborative project and how the parent engagement program moves forward. What do you think of how Benhurst Primary is implementing a collaborative model including SMART amp? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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