Using EdTech in IB schools to “create a better world through education” online
Written by Khushi Hunt, Communications Coordinator, and Katy Wrench, Marketing Leader at Halcyon London International School
International Baccalaureate schools have the mission of producing open-minded, inquiring communicators that are ready to take on a complex modern world. Tasked with the challenge of transitioning to a remote learning environment, however, many educators may be daunted by building an online classroom where students can communicate with one another as well as with their teachers.
At Halcyon, we embrace the challenge of remote learning. As an innovative, digitally-equipped EdTech 50 school, we know that there is a plethora of tools available to build a successful remote learning environment for the IB curriculum. In virtual classrooms, we can create spaces that allow students to do more than watch a teacher’s instructions behind a webcam. We can use EdTech to facilitate engagement, interaction and enquiry. Even further, we can build community platforms where students can play an active part in their Extra-Curricular activities, from Model United Nations to Dance Club, and reach out to our Wellbeing Team. To enjoy participating in online classes, “students need to feel that we’re there for them as a community,” explained Halcyon’s Digital Learning Leader, Jon Neale - and that means more than delivering video-conferenced lessons.
Using EdTech to engage students in online Approaches to Learning
International Baccalaureate students are challenged to develop a range of Approaches to Learning - including self-management skills, research skills and thinking skills. As schools transition to remote teaching, planning complex lessons may seem challenging. Halcyon has shown that educators can deploy apps like Flipgrid and GSuite for Education to deliver an IB standard education from a distance.
We can encourage our students to take a self-managed Approach to Learning through using EdTech to assign them tasks with a social, interactive dimension. Ms Liao and Ms Jenkins’ Grade 7 Science classes required students to complete refraction experiments at home. Asking students to then upload their videos to FlipGrid - where they saw their own creation alongside others in a ‘Grid’ - added an element of peer comparison, motivating students to complete the task to add to their classmates’ shared virtual gallery.
Our students are encouraged to take a research-focused approach to their lessons that reinforces their informational literacy, and class-wide discussion encourages this in a virtual space. In MYP Design classes, Ms Rees used Google Meet’s ‘Present’ function to evaluate students’ research portfolios on Hostile Architecture with the rest of the class. Many of our Extra-Curriculars provide students with a space to strengthen these skills of inquiry; and Dr Shearer and Ms Mancho’s virtual continuation of MUN Club on Google Meet has given our young delegates the task of assessing national COVID-19 stances together.
EdTech can equally be employed by MYP and DP teachers to strengthen students’ critical thinking approaches. At Halcyon, our students use London as a vibrant resource of cultural and historical reflection. Just as Grade 6 Science students used their iPads to find examples of environmental niches and habitats in the Natural History Museum, MYP Visual Arts students were able to use Google Arts & Culture to participate in virtual tours of Benin’s Plaques and impressionist art, where they could closely zoom in on brush stroke techniques and colour choices.
Encouraging interaction through community spaces
At Halcyon, our team has used EdTech to create ways for every student to reach out for support, building their confidence in virtual class interaction. Our usual Wellbeing sessions are an opportunity for students to access guidance on caring for themselves - and in times like these, we want to remind our community and their families that they are “connected and supported” by our school. Grade 7’s interactive map of London provided an opportunity for our students - physically apart from one another - to connect through surprise discoveries about their neighbourhoods. After half an hour of exploring the articles, videos and stories on the map, Mr Harvey prompted them with questions with answers that ranged from Tudor myths to details about the Hatton Gardens robbery.
Our Student Council has played an active role in encouraging students to share their experiences and remote learning hobbies with one another. A ‘Just Dance’ challenge and a movie scene recreation challenge in one Wellbeing session invited students to join each other in amusing budget remakes of famous moments from the Lion King and Black Panther on Flipgrid. Our elected student body also led an end-of-term Spring Assembly, connecting with students through sharing performances, speeches and a Kahoot quiz. Many of our students have taken the initiative to continue Extra-Curricular activities such as Dance Club; bringing students together to celebrate their passions from their separate living rooms.
Lindsey Fairweather, English and English as an Additional Language (EAL) teacher, remarked on the students’ awareness of the need for mutual support. Students conscientiously used Google Meet’s ‘hands-up’ add-on to ask questions one after another instead of speaking over each other. Some students even remembered one another’s health during this time - reminding each other to ‘stay hydrated’ in the chat throughout the lesson.