Technology in the classroom: digital learning at schools in Singapore

Technology-in-Schools-Singapore American School
We speak to five international schools about the impact technology is having in the classroom...

Sometimes it’s hard to relate to the way our kids are learning in the classroom when it is such a contrast to how we were schooled. And while we are occasionally a little envious that our kids have the answers to everything at the press of a button (without the need to trudge off to the library and browse 15 books for one tidbit of info), we’re happy to move with the times and get on board the tech train. We’ve been speaking to the experts – teachers and principals – to find the answers to all our burning questions when it comes to technology in the classroom…

 

SINGAPORE AMERICAN SCHOOL (SAS) – Kelli Rae Buxton, Elementary School Educational Technology Coach

What are the school procedures that teach students how to stay internet safe while using technology in the classroom?
Today our students are using the immense power of digital media to explore, connect, create, and learn in ways never before imagined. With this power, young people have extraordinary responsibilities. At Singapore American School we build key skills and mindsets around digital resilience, online safety, and online security through a variety of ways.

Students are explicitly taught about going online safely, protecting passwords, and maintaining a positive digital footprint. We also observe digital citizenship week. Teachers facilitate the viewing of relevant digital citizenship videos and guide discussions on the key points. Additionally, teachers model good digital citizenship related to current school and internet communities topics throughout courses of study. Parent engagement and support is also crucial. We strongly encourage parents to use Common Sense Media and other resources to support their child(ren) in developing appropriate online behaviour.

Our primary mission is to ensure that students, teachers, and parents all feel empowered to have continuous, open, and honest conversations about online activities that reinforce positive character, morals and values. By providing opportunities for these conversations, SAS students can learn how to engage online in safe, respectful, and responsible ways; therefore, building digital resilience.

EtonHouse students have access to multiple platforms in the ICT suite.

ETONHOUSE INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL BROADRICK – Vibha Sheth, ICT Specialist Teacher-Coordinator 

What types of technology can we expect our primary children to be using in the classroom and how does this support the curriculum intentions?
Gone are the days when ICT was a stand-alone subject. Today, technology is integrated across all disciplines and subjects from primary school and beyond. Using technology, students can now connect with experts in the field, research and uncover different layers of information, enrich their understanding on a subject through collaboration (e.g. Skype, blogs, forums), and even create games and prototypes that bring their ideas to life.

At any given time, learners have access to multiple platforms (Windows/Mac) in our ICT suite, green screen technology, coding kits (Makey Makey, Arduino, Rasberry Pi and Microbits), AR/VR equipment, robotics, graphic writer and the 3D printer.

Robotics and programming
These facilitate the acquisition of logical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration and work management skills.

Design Technology
Students work with 3D pens and 3D printers to create original designs, learn the aesthetics of designs and transfer learning in other disciplines into tangible 3D objects. Through these unique experiences, students acquire skills in:

  • Concepts of design thinking
  • 3D design and how it works
  • Spatial awareness and intelligence
  • Engineering skills of building objects
  • Developing their own prototypes

Little learners getting to grips with tech at GESS

GESS – Verena Zimmer, Educational Technology Coach

Why is technology so important for students and their learning experiences today?
The approach to teaching and learning needs to change in response to the changes in the world. Students these days need to be critical thinkers, creative communicators, digital citizens, knowledge constructors, designers, computational thinkers and global collaborators (ISTE Standard for Students). Technology can support those standards and add new depth to a student’s learning experience. It transcends time and space limitations to enable connected learning (e.g. in GESS the usage of Seesaw currently gives students a voice and opens up possibilities for them to connect with fellow classmates. Eventually they will even be able to learn from peers around the world). Technology also facilitates reflection on learning and solidifies understanding and retention of concepts.

Through the usage of apps like Explain Everything, GESS students are able to think critically about the knowledge they receive and this promotes greater learner agency. Technology also opens doors for self-directed inquiry i.e. students are able to ask questions and independently find answers to these questions. In the end, it is about using the right technological tools in the right situation in order to be successful.

Tanglin Trust has a brand new D&T suite to encourage students to really get to grips with all kinds of tech

TANGLIN TRUST SCHOOL – Stephen Morgan, Head of Faculty, Technology for Learning and James Bleach, Head of Design & Technology

What types of technology can we expect our secondary children to be using in the classroom and how does this support the curriculum intentions?
We encourage our students to be enquirers; to question and find answers for themselves. Integrated technologies are one way of placing learning more in the hands of our learners, provided an analytical mind-set is developed as well. We use technology to break down barriers of time and space. Student tablets allow live access to teaching resources and a location to collaborate and get instant feedback, enabling rapid progress. To interact intuitively with digital material, we use pen-enabled devices. By ‘thinking in ink’: taking notes, sketching, mind-mapping, marking-up and organising on screen, our students gain greater freedom and depth of learning across the curriculum than pen and paper or keyboard can offer.

To support demand for Design and Technology as a standalone course, we also have a new D&T suite. Students can model with CAD and present designs with realistic renders, as technical drawings or as file types to be made on our 3D printers, laser cutters or milling machine. The enthusiasm and ability of the first students to use this space is inspiring − we learn much about the positive power of technology from them.

AIS uses technology in the classroom to enhance traditional teaching methods

AUSTRALIAN INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL (AIS) – Nicole Timbrell, Head of Digital Learning, Secondary School

As parents, technology in the classroom is something that we never had access to as students. Is technology replacing writing and research the way that we learnt in the classroom, and will students still learn through more traditional tools during their learning journey?
Students today do not see their classrooms as being filled with technology. What parents may see as ‘technology’ in their child’s classrooms, the students see simply as an extension of their world in which screens and devices are everywhere. Rather than viewing technology as replacing reading and writing, it is far more appropriate to describe educational technology as transforming and enhancing traditional ‘offline’ teaching and learning methods.  

For example, primary school students still write and illustrate narratives using pencils and paper. However, now they might use an app to upload and animate their illustrations, record themselves narrating the story, and add sound effects. This student’s work can then be shared with other students, schools and family members, bringing their creation to a wider audience. In a secondary school classroom, teachers may create instructional screencasts in which they explain challenging mathematics skills, and upload these to YouTube.  Students can then re-watch the videos to check their understanding when doing their maths homework in the evening. Both examples have students still working in traditional ways, with additional technology-enabled educational benefits.

Will technology exposure in the classroom lead to my child becoming addicted to technology?
At school, teachers control the ways technology is used including the purpose of the task, and the amount of time a child spends using a device. At home the responsibility of monitoring technology use transfers to the parents. To avoid ‘addiction’ to technology, families should set clear boundaries for its use to ensure a balance between ‘online’ and ‘offline’ time at home.

Lead image: Singapore American School


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