This case study focuses on the professional practice of Christine Bodin, an experienced Modern Languages teacher at Notre Dame High School in Sheffield. It documents her exploration of e-learning and embedding Moodle into her teaching. Overall, the focus is on barriers and enablers in the uptake of digital tools for teaching and learning, with an emphasis on issues involved in sharing resources and good practice between peers.
5.2.1 Case Study 9. Exploring Issues in the Uptake of Digital Literacy Tools
Notre Dame is a Roman Catholic secondary school in Sheffield with a specialist status in technology. It has approximately 1,400 pupils between the ages of 11 and 18 on roll. The school was rated outstanding in the most recent Ofsted Report (2008). In terms of intake, 4.5 per cent pupils are eligible for and claiming free school meals, and for 94.1 per cent of pupils, the first language is English (DfE statistics for schools).
Various e-learning initiatives have been implemented at Notre Dame and it offers strategic leadership to other schools in e-learning. In 2009, it was awarded Becta Excellence Award for Best Whole School (Yorkshire and Humberside); Paul Haigh, Assistant Head Teacher, is the author of The new technologies handbook for schools (Optimus Education 2011). In recent years, students have been allowed to bring their mobile phones into the school to use as a learning tool (Mobile phones untapped learning resource), TES, 2010]
Christine Bodin is a French and Spanish teacher with over 30 years teaching, 20 of those spent at Notre Dame. This case study documents her journey to becoming more engaged with e-learning and embedding tools such as Moodle into her teaching practice.
22.214.171.124 Digital Literacy Practice
Christine has a keen interest in technology to support her teaching and her case study consists of two related strands: the ways in which she has adapted to technological changes in her teaching over the years; her reflections on the role of technology, specifically Moodle at the present time, with regard to her own practice. She is also interested in how it is used and perceived by her colleagues and among students. Technological change and teaching The first strand has resulted in a film documenting Christine’s ‘journey into digital literacy’: Christine traces the various technologies available to her during her teaching career. These range from flash cards, through cassette tape recorders, to BBC computers and now a VLE. The film underscores the pace of change in technology and exemplifies how these changes have impacted on teachers. This area of Christine’s professional development was dependent on her own initiative, training courses and curriculum innovation roles. The film sets the scene for Christine’s current situation, in which she makes extensive and enthusiastic use of Moodle in her teaching. Moodle: Christine’s practice The school’s languages department stores its schemes of work and associated resources on Moodle which facilitates the sharing of curriculum resources. Christine has also developed a large number of her own resources and made these available on Moodle, which she uses in her teaching. These include homework assignments, games (with different levels), quizzes and links to relevant websites. Christine has created these, some with authoring tools such as Task Magic, and draws on them both in class and for student homework. They are complemented by short instructional videos made by Christine using Camtasia which recap the necessary linguistic points or contain a practical demonstration of the task.
Christine also makes use of the open source voice recording applet NanoGongthat Christine integrates into Moodle allowing her to send mp3 files in French and Spanish for students to use for speaking and listening practice. Christine values Moodle for a number of reasons:
- it makes teaching more varied for her students, helping them with tasks such as learning vocabulary and verb endings
- the quizzes and games she has devised check how effectively students are progressing in relation to specific lesson objectives
- Using the activity report, she can see which students have completed a task, and when, and how many attempts they have had
- students’ marks are collated; this allows Christine a quick overview of their progress over the course of a school year.
- parents are able to assist in their children’s learning by looking at the resources on Moodle
Staff experiences of using Digital Technology within the language department: Christine has shared her expertise and resources with other members of staff, who have differing perceptions of new technologies and their role in teaching and learning. To find out more, she interviewed five colleagues in the languages department and the virtual school co-ordinator. They commented on their use of Moodle as a teaching tool, an administrative tool, a reference tool and as an archival tool. Gill uses Moodle with Key Stage 4 students, regarding it as a resource bank rather than as a teaching tool for classwork and homework tasks. For her, Moodle complements other methods rather than replacing them totally She believes students, especially the more able want to print off worksheets because it helps them to feel they are navigating and doing the work properly. She is concerned that Moodle can be overused, leading to students becoming disenchanted with it. Personally, she has been frustrated by limitations on the size of files that can be saved to Moodle and has had difficulties accessing the resources of others. Oliver uses Moodle to access schemes of work and associated resources as he is in his first year of teaching. Like Gill, he feels Moodle can add variety to teaching but would lose its novelty value if used too much. Oliver believes that students like doing their homework on Moodle and, as ‘children of a more technological age’, it is important that they acquire competencies relating to digital literacy. Jane has been trained in the use of Moodle but does not use it very much in her teaching; she feels that its educational benefit to students is limited. Instead she has used it to archive teaching resources and to upload past papers and listening files when absent. She has used Moodle with less able students, devising homework tasks and games around vocabulary but overall finds it time-consuming when she does use it. Helen finds Moodle particularly useful for students needing to catch up on classwork; her teaching resources, and those of her colleagues, are on Moodle. She keeps resources up to date and likes the fact that they are all in one place and can be shared. She monitors how the programme of work is progressing from one term to the next but is not in the habit of setting homework on Moodle as she, is not confident that all students can use it effectively. She suggests that the students need dedicated ‘how to use Moodle lessons’ and then all the teachers could become involved in reinforcing the use of the VLE. Beatrice uses Moodle with Key Stage 3 students, mostly for homework to make tasks more interesting and has sometimes used Moodle to plan her lessons. She recognises that some students find it difficult to access Moodle from home and accommodates them by providing printouts. The advantages are that Moodle allows her to monitor the work students have done and when they have done it and it enables them to see feedback; it also reduces the risk of work getting lost! She thinks that students enjoy using Moodle and respond to the use of technology; when she uses it for quizzes the students do ‘engage’. For Christine, the case study led to an increased awareness of Moodle as a digital technology for teaching within her department and encouraged a move towards incorporating other technologies that provide more agency for students. The case study also gave insight into staff perceptions relating to professional development in the area of digital literacy. The school plan to disseminate their work primarily through digital means, by posting the film on YouTube using Twitter and ICT blogs to promote it, with a target of getting 500 views within three months. It will also be promoted through promote the School and Teaching School Alliance website and it will be available at Teaching School new technology events in 2012/13, giving p a chance to meet Christine and talk about her work.
126.96.36.199 Reflections on Teaching
At the outset, Christine was not clear what was meant by the term digital literacy and her case study was based on the VLE at her school. As a result of the DeFT project, she has encountered a range of digital literacy projects and has been particularly interested in work using iMovie and its use in motivating children. She now feels more confident about how digital literacy can enhance teaching. She has also learnt how it incorporates terms like communication, sharing and collaboration. She feels lucky that a highly developed IT system in her school facilitates the embedding of new methods in the curriculum and provides technical support. Christine feels that IT is becoming an increasingly essential part of her teaching.
With regard to digital literacy and creativity, Christine was more creative in previous years when the curriculum was not so restrictive. She allowed students to ‘play’ in role with shops for example to practise their French making films that she could use with the students in classwork. She made films and PowerPoint presentations for children when she had more time in the syllabus. However the to accommodate the constraints she faces in terms of delivering curriculum objectives, Christine would like to use Moodle in a more creative way and acknowledges that as she has in-depth knowledge of the syllabus and knowledge of what is possible with Moodle, she would be the best person to develop creative ideas within these parameters. She would be excited to explore making films, quadblogging in French/Spanish, sharing good practice with other teachers and using OERs from the project.
188.8.131.52 Reflections on Learning
Moodle survey with students: their uses and perceptions.
The survey comprised multiple-choice questions and one open-ended question.
95 students surveyed (Y’s 8, 10 and 12); 54 (57%) responses received.
89% of responses received said they used Moodle at least once a week.
|Moodle Student use||%||Unreliable %||Time consuming %|
|home and school||57|
|at home only||15|
|Reasons for not using Moodle||57||35|
17% spent longer than 30 min; 61 % preferred to do homework on paper
|Students’ preferred tasks (Moodle)||%|
|listening to mp3||11|
|Task Magic and quizzes||9|
|past exam papers||6|
|online exercises, Spellmaster and ‘other’||2|
|How/why is Moodle useful?||%|
|Work cannot be lost||22|
|Provides instant feedback||11|
|It helps me learn vocabulary||9|
|The quizzes are self-marking||9|
|Easier to have set targets||2|
|Enhanced speed doing tasks||26|
|Helps remembering words and structures||15|
|Who checks your Moodle work at home?||No-one %||Mother %||Father||Private Tutor|
|Work cannot be lost||57||35||6||2|
|Which technology would you like to use in language learning?||%|
Suggestions of specific ways of using computers included ‘emails with a foreign pen-pal’, white boards, PowerPoint and the free programming language Scratch. Other devices mentioned were tablets, iPods and motion capture. Several students provided extended comments on the way technology was used in maths lessons:
In math we use vote pads … it is a really good learning experience. We type our answer into our vote pad and submit it. Once we have all submitted our answers it displays the data in various ways including charts and graphs on the computer. It is good as you can use the computer to control asking questions to all of the class not just one.
I have used voting devices in maths and it was useful because it times how long it takes for you to get to the answer and it also encourages you to be faster but also to get a right answer as other people can see your scores.
In maths I have enjoyed using the mobile devices because you get to use different methods to learn with.
184.108.40.206 Reflections on Digital Literacy
In this case study we see digital literacies being interpreted as the ability to use digital technologies confidently. Student involvement is invited after teachers have acquired skill and expertise to introduce new resources into the classroom in ways that allow them to keep control over students’ learning.
In this case, the aim was to explore existing practices and to reflect on the professional journeys of teachers using technology in the school’s Languages Department. The main technology was Moodle; usage across the department was variable and teacher attitudes to Moodle were equally varied, with teachers selecting technologies to suit their pedagogical styles and ideologies, as well as the perceived needs of the pupils in their classes.
Christine’s positive attitude to Moodle tended to relate to the efficiencies it lent her as a professional. It allowed her to produce higher quality materials, to easily store and share her materials, and to allow pupils constant and consistent access to the curriculum material, potentially increasing their exposure to language material. In this way, the space of the school could also be shared in the home with the parents. The activities available tended to replicate those that were possible through the use of older technologies, so where teachers expressed a preference for paper and pen, they presented their views in terms of preferred medium and mode, as opposed to the quality of learning allowed. However, one teacher valued older methods because it allowed her to spontaneously react to students’ interests, to be more dynamic and interactive. The criticisms against the VLE approach tended towards the difficulty in quickly adapting it to aspects of dynamic teaching and learning situations; in one instance pupils could simply guess at answers instead of thinking. In this way, many saw technology as sometimes getting in the way of good teaching and learning, while others saw the benefits in terms of the increased engagement of some pupils and making aspects of their professional lives a little easier. At the same time, it was clear that teachers recognised that there was a substantial investment of time required in learning how to use new technologies, and being comfortable with them, before risking their use in school. Even though Christine is a highly enthusiastic user of technology, she found that she could not use it as much as she liked owing to time constraints.
Davies and Merchant (2009) refer to ‘polished performances of old practices’ to describe how teachers often begin by using digital technologies to enhance their teaching performance. They describe how the use of PowerPoint, for example, allows teachers to create professional looking texts and design attractive materials. This can give them confidence: pedagogical relationships tend to be reinforced rather than challenged; teachers remain in control of learning and conduct such lessons in quite traditional ways. Moodle offers benefits such as the ability to closely monitor, to involve parents, to more easily assess and record individual learning. However, it is clear that some teachers in the languages department also see the potential for something more dynamic from technology and they express the desire to move onto blogs – hosted beyond the Moodle – and to use cameras and Facebook. This is likely to give learners more agency in the future, perhaps disrupting some of the more traditional pedagogical relationships. Edwards-Groves (2012a) refers to the way in which practitioners need to make a ‘knight’s move’ towards using technologies in the classroom. She describes how the route may be indirect, skirting towards full use. Her research observed excellent teachers taking steps towards technology which might at first be referred to as ‘digital colouring in’ before allowing students more autonomy. Edwards-Groves (2012b) describes how many teachers introducing something new may be tentative for all kinds of professional reasons before ‘letting go’ and allowing children more agency in their learning – something we have seen in other cases in the DeFT project. Many teachers’ professional journeys may be indirect, carefully adopting digital technologies in a steady way. Some of the teachers at Notre Dame talked about wanting to move on to use other technologies, such as the mobile phone, but may have been deterred because of the all-important consideration of discipline in the classroom. These very important reservations are ones that need to be taken into account in structured step-by-step approaches and Notre Dame has put in place support for staff in taking the next steps.
220.127.116.11 References/Links to Further Information
Davies J., and Merchant G. (2009). Web 2.0 for schools: learning and social participation. New York: Peter Lang.
Edwards-Groves C. (2012a). ‘A knight’s move: reconceptualising literacy practice in contemporary classrooms’. [Seminar presentation]. Sheffield Hallam University, 12 September 2012.
Edwards-Groves C. (2012b). ‘Interactive creative technologies: changing learning practices and pedagogies in the writing classroom’. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 35(1): 99–113.
Links to Further Resources
Haigh, P. (2011). The new technologies handbook for schools, Optimus Education
Camtasia: Camtasia Studio and Camtasia for Mac are screen video capture software packages. The user defines the area of the screen or the window that is to be captured, or the whole screen can be recorded instead retrieved 2/11/12
Moodle retrieved 2/11/12
Nanogong: a piece of software that can be used to record, playback and save voice tracks in a web page retrieved 2/11/12
Quadblogging: for your class or school blogs. Over the last 12 months 100,000 pupils have been involved in QuadBlogging from 3000 classes in 40 countries. retrieved 2/11/12 3/11/12
Scratch: a free download that is a programming language that lets users create animations, stories, simulations, games and more. retrieved 2/11/12
Scratch: Embedding Scratch in the Classroom
Scratch: 10 Resources to support Scratch Day in the classroom (website, May 2012)
TES (2010) Mobile phones untapped learning resource, retrieved 2/11/12