Encouraging both independence and collaboration
Steven Hope, Leeds City College’s Head of Independent Learning, is overseeing an evolution in the college’s approach to teaching. “To go beyond the traditional classroom, we set up independent learning zones where students can work on their own,” he explains. As of mid-2019 there are 16 independent learning zones, with more being added every year in spaces across campuses.
Leeds City College students were already using G Suite and Chromebooks to work independently or on group projects. Hope wanted to encourage even more independent learning and collaboration within these spaces as well as in the college’s classrooms.
“Over the years, we’ve seen the value of this approach,” says Hope. “We’re keen to help teachers to enable students to lead their own learning.”
To drive even more student-led learning at the college, Hope sought out tools that fostered easy collaboration among students and teachers. “There’s a big discussion to be had about how digital tools have changed the skills needed for learning,” he says. “We have the 4 Cs—creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration. As it’s such a big part of what students need now, I see curation of content as the fifth ‘C.’ It’s our job to give students tools to enable that curation.”
“With tools for creativity and curation like Jamboard, all students have the ability to find the answers and present them just as a teacher would. It gives every student a voice regardless of their level.”Steven Hope, Head of Independent Learning, Leeds City College
Using Jamboard to power student learning zones
Hope learned about Jamboard, the interactive digital whiteboard, at a Google Next event, and thought it might enhance collaboration and curation for students and teachers. “It’s so intuitive that I needed only an afternoon to pick up how to use it,” Hope says. “I thought that if it was that easy for me to understand, it would be for the rest of the staff.”
During a week-long trial of the Jamboard, he asked as many people to try it as he could. “We wanted to see how we might apply the Jamboard to learning,” says Hope. The college decided to add eight Jamboards to independent learning zones as well as various curriculum programs for math, sports and coaching, and special education.
The Jamboards connect to G Suite as well as the web, allowing teachers and students to add images, sticky notes, and documents to the jams they create. For example, a teacher in a sports class can create training plans on a Jamboard and add images showing football training exercises.
“Teachers can search the web and add content in real time,” Hope says. “Students can collaborate on a jam in real time just as they do with a Google Doc, curating content from the web or from Google Drive. It’s a new way to present knowledge.” Once teachers save their jams, students can access them simply by logging in to G Suite.
A range of learning benefits
Encouraging students to learn independently
When Jamboards were placed in the college’s independent learning zones, students were immediately curious about the new devices.
“We have teaching assistants and study coaches who engage students in the technology,” Hope says. “But students will get creative with Jamboards on their own—they don’t need extra support.”
Because jams show the process of solving a problem or curating content, students gain a deeper understanding of their lessons. “In maths and other subjects, learning is not just about the end result,” Hope says. “ It’s also about showing how you got there.”
Once students create a jam, or access a jam that a teacher has created, they can review and collaborate on the jams on the web or from a Chromebook or smartphone with access to G Suite. That access is helpful for students who might have to miss classroom time because of other responsibilities: Many of them care for family members, or work in addition to attending college. “They can learn at home, on the bus, or in a coffee shop”. “This can make the difference between a pass or a fail.”
Inspiring creativity and collaboration
The college’s teachers have enthusiastically embraced Jamboard, especially since they can start creating jams with little training. “Teachers are passionate about learning new ways to teach, but their time is in such short supply,” he added. “Jamboards enable creativity because they are intuitive. As I tell teachers, they can use the Jamboard to imagine the unimaginable, and to think beyond what they are doing currently.”
Teachers seek out YouTube videos from other educators who are creating engaging lessons with Jamboards. “We get what I call the magpie effect, where everyone is snatching everyone else’s ideas,” he said. “It’s great to see.”
Jamboard has also inspired students to showcase what they have curated. In a health and social care class, one student gathered online images in a jam and added icons and symbols, such as stars and crosses, to draw attention to her findings. “It was ingenious, and really brought the project to life,” says Hope.
Focusing students on the process of problem-solving
“What I love about all using Jamboard with G Suite is the way the tools recede into the background, so we can focus on pedagogical approaches and student outcomes,” says Hope. This is particularly true when teachers and students use a Jamboard to work together on problem-solving: The technology enhances the classroom environment instead of getting in the way.
In one maths class, the teacher wrote an answer—not a question—on the Jamboard, and asked students to figure out the problem that would lead to that answer. Students contributed to the jam using their Chromebooks; the teachers showed some of these responses on the Jamboard and asked students how they’d solved the problem.
“Everyone took a different path,” he said. “And the teachers could step in to support students who need help in solving the problem. It was a simple exercise—but so powerful for the students.”
Hope sees Jamboard as a way to empower students to share how they are learning—not simply what they are learning. “With tools for creativity and curation like Jamboard, all students have the ability to find the answers and present them just as a teacher would,” he says. “It gives every student a voice regardless of their level.”
What they wanted to do
- Help teachers and students curate content
- Enable student-led learning
- Give teachers and students tools to inspire creativity
What they did
- Added Jamboards to classrooms and independent learning zones
- Saved jams for students for an anytime/anywhere experience on mobile devices
What they accomplished
- Guided students through the problem-solving process
- Added content from Google Drive and the web to presentations
- Inspired students to share their projects with classmates