Our school is one of the oldest schools in Hong Kong. Our school started at 1951. The school building is nearly 60 years old. We have a deep traditional culture and values. How can this “60 years old school” can have a big change within 3 years to become one of the innovative school in Hong Kong. The key is the ICT. We built up the “Salesian Cloud”, this initiate a big change. What changes? Let see our story.
The “Salesian Cloud”
In 2009, our education department started to promote e-learning in Hong Kong. This made a big problem to our school. Our school is a church school, students mostly come from lower-income families, and most don’t have regular access to technology. Resources of our school also limited. Our computers are old, nearly all the computers have used for 7 years, they cannot support the new software, and we don’t have extra resources to replace them. But we cannot just stand here and do nothing; we must help our kids to change their life. We have to give them the same learning environment as others. But what can we do? Luckily, I just joined the Microsoft Valued Teacher Program. In this program, I learned that cloud computing can just solve the problem. I brought this technology back to the school and put into practice. We then start to build the “Salesian Cloud”. We used the virtualization technology to build up virtual PC for each students and teachers. We also put all the most updated learning software in the virtual PC. We set up the remote desktop protocol, students and teachers just can easily use the remote desktop to connect their own virtual PC no matter they are using what machine. Also, we set up Live@edu as the communicate and learning platform for teachers and students. We use the “Salesian Cloud” to link up the school and the home of students, thus a seamless learning environment. This help use solve the basic problem. At that time, every student can have the equal chance of learning and they also have the best e-learning environment. But this isn’t enough, it just make a small change; just provide a good e-learning environment. So we start our “e-Learning for All” program, this program make our school, teachers and students a big change.
Start to change
The main aim of this program is to build up the culture of e-learning, not just students, but also teachers. We hope that all teachers in our school can make use of ICT to make their lessons be more interactive and students centered. Students can make use of ICT to acquire 21C skills. So our school made use of the “Salesian Cloud” to build up this culture. The Salesian Cloud is just like fertile soil, it is very suitable for “e-learning” to grow. The first seed we planted is the “mouse mischief”. It is the booster to build up the e-learning culture.
We first organized workshop for teachers. Then we set up “mouse mischief” environment in the classrooms. Lastly, teachers can make use of the PowerPoint 2010 in their virtual PC to develop their mouse mischief learning activities. After a few weeks, miracle happened. The learning atmosphere in the classroom totally changed. Students more engaged in their lessons, more fun, more discussion and collaboration. The most interesting things is, The grade 6 students also make use of their virtual PC to make their own mouse mischief PowerPoint to play with their classmates or even the lower grade students. How about teachers? It is the most amazing part.
Teachers not just use mouse mischief as a game or multiple choice answer machines in the lesson, but a tool to arouse discussion in the class. Teachers start discussion according to the “mouse mischief” activity (students’ responses). Teachers do not just “talk” in the lesson, but be more students centered. Besides, we found that teachers feel more confident to use ICT in teaching. They even ask for more and want to learn more about how ICT can use in the classroom. We can see a simple technology can make a big change. Base on this experience, we have shaped out our e-learning mode, “Simple Technology but Big Change”.
Base on the experiences of mouse mischief, we planted another two seed in the “Salesian Cloud”. We planted “Scratch” and “Small Basic”. Both software are easy to use, but can make unlimited interesting things! But the software is quite new for teachers. Only a few teachers knew what it is. Many teachers afraid and didn’t know how to use this in the class. We then organized a series of workshop for them. After the preparation, we start this program in a small group of teacher. We put this program in the extra curriculum activities lesson. But this time, teaching and learning style changed. We teach less, only teach students how to use the software. We provide lots of information (websites, books, Facebook group…) for them to discover what they want to learn themselves. We don’t act as a teacher, but learning partners of the students. In this program, we form students into different group. Students have to use Small Basic or Scratch to develop their animation or program in group project. Supported by the “Salesian Cloud”, students can continue their project after schools. Students can share their experiences and ask questions on the Live@edu platform. Students also have to search information on the web themselves and have to choose correct information to use. They also have to manage all the resources they get. At the end of the project, we have received many innovative animation and program. We can see how innovative our student is. But the most important is that we have observed a big change in the learning habits of students. They now do not so rely on teachers. They have developed their skills of learning. They now can use ICT as a tool to help them acquire knowledge. Some of them developed good leadership and the communication skills of students have improved. For teachers, mindset has changed. Lessons design is totally different. In the lesson, teachers talk less in the lesson, but more time to discuss with students and give feedback to students. Teachers now as a partner in learning with students, they give guidelines to them to led them to a correct way of learning.We can see two simple software can lead to a big change.
Is this enough? Totally not. We always in the middle parts of changing, students’ needs is changing every day. What can we do is do change with them and provide the best environment for them to learn and acquire the skills they need. In the future, we will develop more innovative learning activities for students, we will change with them, grow with them and be the pathfinder for them!