2009 was certainly a year for pushing educational boundaries to new heights; an explosion of online learning allowed students to develop in their own time and at a pace that suited them. 2010 continues to see ICT dramatically advancing; the digital generation are maintaining their veracious passion to explore the benefits of online learning.
Skills for school and workplace
New to the curriculum as of September 2010 will be ‘functional skills’. Part of the 14-19 reform, this topic will ensure that learners develop key skills to solve problems at school and in the workplace. Practical skills in English, ICT and maths will be built into each of the four qualification routes of education: GCSEs, Diplomas, Apprenticeships and the Foundation Learning Tier.
Functional skills can also be taken as stand-alone qualifications, and schools and colleges are being incentivised by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) to encourage this among young people, particularly through the proposed new School Report Card, which will be introduced from 2011.
EDI, the first awarding body to deliver on-screen functional skills, will be on hand to deliver seminars and one-to-one advice to delegates on the implementation and integration of functional skills. Available on-demand, the on-screen assessments allow schools and colleges to deliver the qualifications via an online site, increasing the interactive and accessible appeal to learners and teachers.
Assessments are submitted to EDI for marking, reducing the amount of paperwork for teachers and allowing for results to be processed swiftly. The assessments are also fully customisable to allow for inclusivity, and learners with special educational needs can use this solution with ease.
The online vocational courses from ‘vision2learn’ for schools by Creating Careers, a company offering e-learning services specifically for post-14 learners, enable students to learn at their own pace on computers, completing units and submitting work through the online environment. They can choose units from a broad selection of modules to build a flexible, personal course of study that meets their individual needs, and teachers can monitor and mark online.
Another novelty are WorkSkills courses. They are work-related online courses that focus on the new Essential IT Skills qualification, which leads to a Level 1 and 2 iTQ in IT user skills. iTQ enables pupils to gain accreditation for the practical IT skills they already have while also developing new ones.
Subjects include email, websites, using the internet, word processing and spreadsheets. Learners are able to pick and mix to further personalise their course of study.
‘I need to see it to believe it’
Online learning presents an interactive form of pedagogy that invites students to engage with their own work both in the classroom and at a time that suits them. Online learning is a form of visual learning; reportedly 35-40 per cent of learners prefer visual aids, as they need to see the information to understand it. Recently, visualisers have been immersed in classrooms across the UK and included in Becta’s Next Generation Learning initiative.
They allow for live demonstrations to be generated to the whole class, encouraging class discussion and debate. Placing a book or piece of equipment for instance under the visualiser camera, the image is then displayed via a data projector onto a large screen such as a whiteboard. A teacher can present this to the class and write notes around the object to aid group discussion.
As an example, in numeracy lessons a teacher can demonstrate the correct uses of apparatus such as a protractor. Pupils can observe living creatures in science, and copy drawing techniques in arts and crafts lessons.
Futuristic educational ICT
Let’s not forget our younger learners; they too are highly inquisitive and possess a natural excitement for all things ICT. There is, for example, ‘Dizzy Tron’, the most advanced programmable floor robot available. It combines smooth movement with highly developed controls, and is an extremely fun ICT addition to any early years and primary setting.
Dizzy can be used for directional language and early programming for young children aged four and upwards. It can also act as a learning aid for numerous curricular areas such as science, maths and English.
Twenty-first century learning will also be brought to life in the Future Learning Spaces (FLS) feature area, which has in-depth information on the issues, possibilities and opportunities of capital building programmes. It aims to be fully interactive, thought-provoking and strives to encourage communication and the sharing of experiences for successful BSF projects.
Online learning and IT training opens many a door for today’s digital generation; be the first to see what’s next to storm schools and colleges across the country.