We spoke to several international schools to find out how they integrate tech tools in their students learning. See what they said!
Say what you want about technology, parents, but we kinda love it. Though technology has integrated into (read: overtaken) our lives and we rely on it so much every day, it’s certainly been handy in connecting us to friends and family around the world, especially in this climate. And though too much screen time can be something we try and avoid with the kiddos, since we’ve started working from home and are social distancing from one another, we’re so thankful it exists. In fact, even without the coronavirus pandemic, international schools have increasingly been using technology to assist in their students’ learning. Why, you might ask? Well, you’ll just have to read below to find out…
Technology in the classroom: digital learning at schools in Singapore
One World International School
One World International School (OWIS) is set to open its Digital Campus* in Punggol this August 2023. This is a state-of-the-art campus that will be outfitted with ultra-modern technology and highly innovative learning spaces for students. We’re talking about tech-enabled classrooms with smart boards designed for collaboration, digital lockers for secure storage of belongings, and smart usage of iPads and Macbooks for learning. OWIS Digital Campus will also have skills studio labs – areas for robotics, sports, arts, and all things STEM – equipped with the latest interactive technology and equipment. There are also two libraries in the works, well-stocked with digital resources (e-books and online databases) as well as a vast collection of books and journals. These libraries are designed with flexible and modern seating arrangements, as well as collaborative and maker workspaces that encourage learning and creativity.
But technology is not confined to learning spaces alone. OWIS Digital Campus injects state-of-the-art technology into its recreational and performance facilities too. There’s an immersive blackbox theatre, and 1400-seat auditorium equipped with an iMax screen and the latest audio-visual technology. The latter can even be converted into two basketball courts!
While using technology to support its students’ learning experience, OWIS also uses it to educate them about digital citizenship. OWIS’ Principal of Lower School, Mrs. Angela Henderson, explained, “We embrace the power of technology to support learning outcomes and different learning styles. Our digital classrooms will truly enhance students’ learning experiences. But we won’t put technology in the hands of students without proper guidance. So digital literacy and educating learners to use technology responsibly will be the key.”
*Proposed site for an international school that will open in August 2023 subject to regulatory approvals.
Nexus International School (Singapore)
Nexus International School (Singapore) is one of the few Apple Distinguished Schools in Singapore. This means that the school demonstrates both educational excellence and a commitment to innovation. Every learner at Nexus is equipped with an iPad, which they can use to access learning materials and resources that they need for their lessons. They can even share content and give presentations with the many Apple TVs on campus using Airplay, allowing them to learn anywhere at any time. Nexus is also well equipped with a wide array of tech tools, including 3D printers, laser cutters, sewing machines, and much more.
Picture this: The learning goal for the day is to understand how mangroves are essential to our ecosystem. Instead of learning about this through a traditional classroom setting (lessons delivered by the teacher), Nexus learners are encouraged to test this concept out for themselves. They achieved this by creating a 3D-printed mangrove tree (printed with the help of Nexus’ specialist Makerspace Technician), using it to get hands-on and test their hypothesis in a real water tank! This project was even shared with parents at the school’s IB PYP Exhibition. Besides this, learners are also given complete freedom of expression with their individual iPads: whether it’s through taking notes with an Apple Pencil, getting personalised feedback for assignments via Canvas, or making their own Apple Books!
The Perse School Singapore
If you’re looking for a school that blends innovation, technology and face-to-face learning, you’ve landed in the right place. “The Perse School Singapore is a fully technology-enabled school,” says head of science, Jeffri Khalid. “Technology is integrated seamlessly into our curriculum, facilitating learning while enhancing pupils’ collaboration skills. For example, this month, our pupils’ term project is to create a movie using their iPads, which features all the classes they are taking. This means that they are utilising the narrative skills they learn in English, with the sound-mixing skills they learn in Music and experimental skills they learn in Digital Literacy (amongst others!) in an interdisciplinary manner.”
Sara Ngooi, head of music at The Perse School Singapore explains further: “As an Apple-enabled school, pupils use music software like GarageBand in their creative music and music arrangement tasks in class. This gives them access to knowledge outside of their textbooks. For example, the students get a chance to learn about traditional instruments, when it isn’t possible for these instruments to be demonstrated live – giving pupils more exposure and multiple ways to learn and experience a concept.” The best part? “It keeps them engaged and we can tailor the students’ learning experiences to each pupil,” she adds.
With all this technology, the school has also implemented practices to ensure effective learning. Stella Rainalter, head of Chinese at Perse, shares, “We conduct lessons in bite-sized formats, allowing students to use their devices. This way, pupils pay attention to the lesson and the use of technology acts as a reinforcement for their learning. To prevent a pupil’s focus from wandering, we ensure that our students have breaks from their devices and engage with their classmates face to face.”
Overseas Family School
Let’s admit it: one of the biggest struggles with school-aged kids is keeping them engaged in their learning. And for teachers, it’s probably even harder – especially when they have a class of at least 20 students at one time. But technology can be a wonderful tool, especially when it keeps students engaged in class. Overseas Family School (OFS)’s CAS and community service coordinator, Arin Mares, agrees. “Technology offers amazing opportunities to strategically enhance learning,” she explains. “And, as a part of our classroom practice, it opens an endless amount of possibilities for students and teachers.”
How do the teachers at OFS practise good use of technology in their classrooms? “OFS teachers decide if technology would be most appropriate for the lesson, or if technology is the best option,” explains Arin. Take OFS mathematics teacher Jason Ellwood, for example. He uses an iPad to annotate his notes as they are being taught and projected on his classroom’s board, which are later saved and archived so that students can access it later when they need to. Plus, specific handouts can even be annotated so that the whole class can literally “be on the same page”. As Jason explains, “It’s useful as our class notes reflect the unique conversation we had, and it’s recorded for students to access at any time, making the class more efficient and interactive.”
Besides this, OFS students also have access to a learning portal that allows them to view assignments, upload homework, receive feedback, download class resources and join an online class forum. Arin adds: “Our students have become familiar with online platforms that will allow us to run our entire timetable remotely. Students and teachers have had practice sessions and feel confident our classes and learning could continue on seamlessly at a moment’s notice.” A brilliant solution while the world navigates the COVID-19 situation, we think!
Sir Manasseh Meyer International School (SMMIS)
In an increasingly globalised world, technology can be a great tool to support teaching and learning, and a way for students to acquire important skills they need for their future. Skills like preparing them for the world of work after school, and being able to evaluate huge amounts of information from digital sources. But how does the school help its students to do so? “The use of technology at Sir Manasseh Meyer International School (SMMIS) is really ubiquitous – other than when it is explicitly being taught as part of the school’s design and digital technologies curriculum, it’s seen as another tool in the classroom,” shares Emma Shulman, a digital innovation and change consultant for SMMIS.
And this is made easy with the integration of technology on the school’s campus, with a range of devices and apps available for use for students to augment their learning. “For example, primary school students use SeeSaw to collaborate, create and go through the process of feedback and reflection,” explains Emma. “What’s wonderful is that this opens up the learning so that parents can see it, feel involved and support and encourage their children’s efforts.”
With all this technology available to students at school, SMMIS also values the importance of online safety. “Besides filtering the wifi and having safe searching turned on at a network level, students at SMMIS are taught digital citizenship,” Emma says. “Topics of privacy, safety and netiquette are constantly explored and reinforced by their teachers in the classroom.”
Tanglin Trust School
Technological advancements have certainly made learning easier, with multiple resources and devices available for students to use. And that’s certainly the case at Tanglin Trust School. “Tanglin Trust School uses a range of technology to provide a variety of experiences and skills, and has facilities and resources such as interactive screens and projectors, one-on-one and shared devices,” shares John Ridley, director of learning at Tanglin. “We also have online resources, multimedia content and virtual reality headsets to help bring the world into the classroom and bring learning to life.” Think iPads, Macbooks, desktop computers, pen-enabled devices and more!
So how have students benefited from the use of technology in their classrooms? “Students can access and edit their work and school resources in real-time, enabling rapid and sustained progress with their learning,” explains John. “Tanglin has cloud-based platforms that allow teachers to provide timely, high-quality feedback, which students can easily respond to in their own time. These platforms also mean that students have a permanent record of anything that the teacher has shared ‘on the board’ on their devices. No time is wasted copying down notes, allowing all focus to be on understanding new concepts in class.” Keith Rutherford, director of technology at Tanglin, adds: “Our aim is to have technology as seamless and easy to use as possible, so both teachers and students are not focusing on getting the technology to work, but instead are focused on teaching and learning.”
But that’s not all – with ever-changing technology, learning and adapting to new technologies is valuable to students, and especially teachers. John shares, “Staff are supported and inspired to explore and innovate with technology through regular personalised professional development and practice-sharing opportunities. This is so that teachers continue to add to their repertoire and all students can enjoy an increasingly integrated experience of technology in learning.”