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Transforming learning spaces with Edtech

11 Apr 2020   |   Steven Hope   |   Elements Primary School

Steve Hope is the Head of Independent Learning at Leeds City College. He is a Director for Edufuturists. He is a Google Innovator, a status that is not bestowed lightly by Google. He was also nominated for, and chosen as, one of the Edtech50 for 2020. He is also Elements Primary School’s Chair of Governors. Steve is a huge influencer when it comes to technology led learning and has been a fantastic support to the work of the school and its Google journey. Here Steve writes about a slightly lesser known piece of technology has been found to be transformational at Elements and can be highly recommended.

I have seen so much stuff out there talking about the learning spaces of tomorrow and in 30 years time. But what does this actually mean and look like?

Well the truth is a lot of it is guess work but one thing it definitely isn’t is replicating what is happening and replacing like for like. One product and tool which I feel will help with this is Google Jamboard.

The first question people ask about the large kiosk device is… that’s an ‘expensive interactive whiteboard isn’t it?’ My response is always ‘yes it would be, but that’s not what it is!’. You have to have a culture in your organisation which is looking for new ways of delivery and innovation and if you are after just another interactive whiteboard then I would suggest this is not for you. The Jamboard was a tool created by Google as a meeting room solution to solve problems such as having to take pictures of the work done in the room on the board, and also how to extend and engage people who cannot be in the room. Well this is exactly what I saw as a problem I saw and one of the reasons why I thought Jamboard could help with extending learning beyond the 4 walls of the college building at Leeds City College.

Let me go back to the beginning and explain what it is and then some of the key functions. So the jamboard is a device (55 inch
intuitive board) but also is a free app available and is device agnostic (web, app and mobile versions). It comes with or without the stand but if you are wanting to transform your learning space then my suggestion would be to not put it on a wall and go for the stand. The reason I say this, is that what are you changing if it is on a wall? If it is moveable, then so is the learning it is there for.

So the features? Well, some key ones, are handwriting recognition (and of course normal handwriting feature too), shape recognition, Autodraw (where Google’s machine learning guesses what you are trying to draw and then converts into a high quality image if you wish). It also has ability to add post it notes and emojis. It also allows you to add content direct to the board from your Google Drive (using a device), but also straight from the web, meaning it is your one stop shop for collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and curation. All of this can be brought together as learners (up to 50 collaborating on one Jam) all use a multitude of devices and using the functions mentioned from anywhere in real time. Imagine you have a snow day or a learner cannot make it in for that one lesson then they can still make progress and learn. It also empowers all learners to have a voice without having to raise a hand or come up to the front and present an idea, and this is great for learners who have confidence issues but also less able learners

At Leeds City College we started our journey by getting a board on a week’s loan from BenQ (the worldwide distributors of the board). This week was jam packed (pardon the pun) for learners and staff from all curriculum areas to come and have a go and see how they might use it. This was very successful and we placed our first orders. We now have 8 boards in a variety of spaces and curriculum too. This varies from being in classrooms to our ILZs (See previous blog which explains these), The sessions we see these used for are Maths and English, Sport and Health and Social Care, as well as for our SEND provision; and the ideas I have seen using the tool have been amazing.

The board and the app has been brilliant with our learners and so many times I have had staff contacting me saying they cannot believe how this tool has skyrocketed their learner’s engagement and them taking ownership of their learning. One thing I say is that the biggest plus is that staff are thinking differently how they can use and be creative with it and that I have seen so many ideas which I had not even considered

So next steps if you have G Suite then go to the app and give it a try and if you are interested in giving the kiosk a try then contact BenQ for a free trial of one in your space.

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