Social mobile platform transforms learning at SJI International School
How can social, mobile and cloud technology be used to transform education? SJI International School in Singapore has implemented a new platform known as Teamie, to create a collaborative virtual learning environment for the school. With a social network-like newsfeed and workspace, the platform allows students and teachers to ask questions, discuss topics, share resources and work collaboratively on projects.
eGov Innovation speaks with Mr Trevor Hughes, Assistant Principal at SJI International School, on the use of Teamie to facilitate and transform learning in the school.
How is the learning platform used in the school?
The Teamie learning platform has been extremely beneficial to both students and teachers in SJI International. Aside from daily assignments within the classroom, our teachers make use of the platform to hand out tasks and share online resources with their students. With its user-friendly interface, it allows students to scroll through their timelines to visit the posts that their teachers or peers have made to catch up on lessons or upcoming tasks.
Similar to how users comment on their friends’ posts on Facebook, students become more engaged in this conversational approach of learning as it makes it easier for them to share and exchange ideas, while their teachers provide feedback accordingly. This is helping students to develop the skills of self- and peer-assessment, helping students to become more independent learners.
On the teachers’ front, they are also able to set their own grading metrics to grade their students, or provide feedback against shared rubrics without necessarily demanding grades. In addition, the platform is beneficial when it comes to sharing learning resources and curriculum mapping. Teachers have created department groups on the platform where they can create learning resources, upload existing learning resources or embed resources from the web, manage when and by whom a learning resource is consumed, track consumption, or map learning resources on the platform to specific objectives of a curriculum.
At SJI International, Teamie is now the go-to place for parents as well. Following the adoption of the platform, all parental communication, from handbooks, to curriculum documents, to the staff directory and weekly newsletters are now provided. It has very quickly become the platform that unites all members of the SJI International Community.
What is the impact of the learning platform on students and their learning outcomes?
In the past, both students and teachers will have to be together physically in order to discuss on their assignments and facilitate the classroom experience. However, Teamie being a cloud-based collaborative learning platform with its mobile app, enables teachers to now be able to release topical assignments anytime, anywhere to their students. The platform blends the collaboration, engagement and interaction of traditional classrooms with the innovation and convenience provided by technology.
We have experienced positive outcomes following the adoption of the learning platform:
Firstly, this increased the convenience of learning and ultimately, the efficiency of learning for students. For example, when a student is not present on a particular day, he can still retrieve what was taught in class during the day from the portal and seek clarifications from not only his teachers but his peers.
Secondly, students have also become more independent, as we leverage on the platform to challenge their critical thinking skills by encouraging them to conduct online researches as compared to just within their textbooks.
The beauty of the platform is that it captures not only the shared resources for a lesson, but also part of the rich discussion that can happen around those resources. Combined with the feedback on submitted assignments, means students can at any time go back to old work and be immediately reminded of everything they did in learning that material the first time. This is particularly important for students in preparing for external examinations.
What effect does the learning platform have on classroom dynamics?
We strongly believe that collaboration and engagement are an essential part of learning as it is through interaction where students can learn from each other, as well as their teachers. With the increase in peer-to-peer and peer-to-teacher engagement through the Teamie platform, students have not only become responsive and generated more discussions because of the widespread availability of collaboration.
The learning experience has become more enriching as students are able to access material in advance before coming for classes the following day, allowing students to come to class with a clearer understanding of what to expect and hence, better contribute to in-class discussions.
In addition, the platform also provides a gamification feature. By contributing to the posts and being part of ongoing discussions, students earn points within the system. This has already resulted in increased motivation to participate, not only among the students, but also with students.
How has the learning platform benefited teachers and staff?
The teachers and staff of SJI International have benefitted from being more organised and efficient, planning customised curriculum for students. With the Teamie platform, they are able to keep track of their students’ consumption via a curriculum mapping feature. Teachers can also craft specific learning points tailored to the respective students and can personalise learning plans tailored to the respective learning abilities of students.
One of the benefits of the platform is the ability to share resources across classrooms. Teachers are able to create resource banks collaboratively and then simply share their preferred resources with a simple click of a button. Students can be guided through differentiated material based on their responses to questions set within the platform’s lesson pages.
Tell us about your research on the use of virtual learning environments in education.
There has been plenty of research on the benefits of virtual learning environments (VLE) in providing greater access to resources, and in providing immediate feedback in quiz-type activities. Teamie, of course, delivers in all these aspects.
However, one of the things that sets Teamie apart is the collaborative feature, such as voting on ‘best answers’ to questions. I am currently doing a piece of Doctorate research on how these features can influence learning. I am still in the early stages of that research, but findings so far suggest that the use of well-crafted questions in the newsfeed can be powerful.
I am using specific features of Teamie that ensure all students have to provide their own answer to the question before seeing what others have written, and then students are encouraged to look through other answers, to evaluate solutions, comment on any spotted errors or misconceptions, and vote up the answer they consider to be the best. I find that students are developing strong self- and peer-assessment skills and becoming more critical, independent learners.