Schools should be ready to equip their pupils with a strong set of digital skills to succeed in the workplace, says Aisling Hagan, senior teacher and director of e-learning at St Mary’s Grammar School in Northern Ireland.
Today’s young people face the prospect of entering a more fast paced, leaner and more creative workplace made possible by the latest technology. To prepare pupils to thrive in a digitally evolving world, schools increasingly need to look at ways to embed technology right through the curriculum, which is what we have done here at St Mary’s.
Belonging to a generation of digital natives, our pupils already have an affinity with technology, so I see a school’s role being more to do with showing pupils how they can use IT to get more out of their studies, and equipping them with skills for their next steps in education and the workplace.
Studying is greatly enriched when pupils understand how their learning can be used in the real world. Take languages, for instance. When our Irish department started using green screen technology for oral assessments, pupils presented their assessments against backdrops of different locations such as city scenes or travel destinations.
This encouraged pupils to be much more creative in their speaking tasks, giving greater context to the subject matter and bringing this element of their language learning to life.
Taking this to the next level, our Irish language pupils set up their own radio station – GaelTalk – and broadcast news, music and sports reports in Irish. The impact of the project was far-reaching, giving pupils greater proficiency in the language as well as an appreciation of the nuances of different forms of communication – a valuable commodity for any career path.
As a result of the initiative, we were awarded a British Academy Schools Language Award (BASLA).
Technology not only inspires creativity in the classroom, it also enables pupils to work interactively, mirroring the more collaborative approach to working which is currently being adopted by many business sectors.
I feel that pupils have a lot to gain from working in partnership with pupils from other schools around the country, or even the world. But rather than bussing pupils from one county to another, schools can turn to technology to get pupils sharing ideas.
Through live discussions, online forums and interactive learning walls, St Mary’s has built learning partnerships with other schools. Pupils can exchange learning with other young people across the country using tools such as Showbie, an app which pupils use to share folders of documents and images.
With digital resources at their fingertips, pupils become adept at working independently too, accessing and sharing digital textbooks, course material and podcasts. We are confident that our pupils will take their flexible working skills with them as they embark on their future careers.
For this approach to work successfully, schools need a reliable IT partner which can provide infrastructure solutions such as servers, storage and connectivity that won’t let your school down. In our case, we use Capita Managed IT Solutions who have helped transform our IT environment with innovative technology. With a secure technology environment, pupils and teachers are free to explore their digital creativity in the classroom.
As schools look at new ways to prepare pupils for an evolving workplace, a fresh look at the technology that underpins teaching and learning may be the best place to start.
St Mary’s IT partner is Capita Managed IT Solutions www.capita-mits.co.uk