This week Schoolshape director Peter Smith had the pleasure of conversing with the highly respected and influential online commentator, Kirsten Winkler. Kirsten is a prolific exponent of the latest Web 2 technology with a shrewd understanding of how new online initiatives facilitate the teaching and learning of foreign languages.
Although the collection of informative articles on Kirsten's blog are centred on the burgeoning personal education sector, there is no doubt that Web 2 is beginning to have a profound effect on teaching and learning in the classroom. Today's generation of schoolchildren is indeed 'internet ready'. Searching for information, connecting with others, and using web tools are skills which have become second nature to most students. Educationalists are in a unique position to capitalise on these skills already acquired by their students. The teacher can profit from web 2 by setting, marking and differentiating. By tailoring work more precisely to each student's needs, he can allow them to progress at their own pace, guiding them and encouraging them to use a medium which they accept as part of their daily lives.
New and noteworthy:
Live Voice Communications: you can now directly call students for one-to-one conversations or broadcast to all students simultaneously.
Screen control: you can now blank student screens, or display the current task and manipulate what students see to give presentations and demonstrations or play audio or video to the students
Supervision: you can now view what any student is seeing on his screen, or supervise all students simultaneously
Who's online: you can see which students and staff in your school are also online from the 'Online Now' tab on the home screen.
Notice Board: each task now has it's own notice board where students can post questions for the teacher or discuss the task.
Private messages: teachers can now send and receive private messages from students, but students cannot message each other.
Graphical redesign: the navigation layout and home screen have been redesigned so as to be easier to use and display more information about the progress of your students' tasks
Following the successful Pilot Scheme of May 2009, many prep schools used the Online Examination Entry system for submission of the MFL CE Speaking Tests in May 2010.
An offline version of the software was provided for use during the examination period. It enabled files to be recorded onto the computer's hard disc in the event of an interruption to the school's internet connection. This provided a safety net for those schools with unreliable web connections.
- 88 prep schools used the online system to record their CE Speaking Tests.
- 2,045 examinations were successfully submitted.
- 12,723 minutes were recorded at CD quality.
- 126 senior schools moderated online.
Comments from teacher examiners in prep schools and moderators in senior schools have been very positive. These are just a few samples:
'Having moderated some of my CE Speaking tests using Schoolshape for the first time, I must admit I found it extremely helpful in terms of time management. I also rate very highly the excellent quality of the recordings and the user-friendly format to access and moderate the audio files. Some other schools sent out tapes and CDs which made the task in hand more tedious and time consuming'.
'The system is a highly efficient way to liaise with the Senior School staff for feedback'.
'All moderation done, and the quality of recording and ease with which the job can be completed are exceptional'.
'I am very grateful to Schoolshape for making the marking of the CE oral much easier; the quality of the recordings is very high, access to the files is clear and user friendly. It is a pity that some schools have not yet joined. There are still some people sending cassettes'.
'I do like the interface of the product - it is so simple and easy to use'.
'I approve of the online method - it is environment friendly.'
'Conducting the speaking tests was SO much easier this time. Many thanks for all your hard work in bringing in such a useful system.'
Issues and Recommendations for Teacher Examiners
The positive feedback and encouraging statistics indicate a successful first year of widespread use of the online method of submission for the CE Speaking Tests.
Online Language Lab
With the online language lab, speaking and listening tasks are as easy to set and monitor as reading and writing exercises. Students can practise all their language skills not only at school, but securely at home or anywhere with access to the internet.
New and noteworthy:
Tasks can be shared between teachers. For example, you can set work for your students and ask your teaching assistant to monitor students and mark their work. The results will appear in your markbook. Click the 'Advanced' tab when setting work to unveil this option.
Improved library and my resources. The interface has been streamlined, making it much easier to search for teaching resources and browse by category. We have recently also added many new French listening resources.
Speed improvements. Welcome for those using older computers, the software is now much faster in many areas, especially in marking work and opening resources. Loading the software and logging in is also much faster, and files are cached for improved performance.
Improved markbook. The markbook is now more clearly laid out, and you can easily page through past work for any group of students.
Improved control setting tasks. You can now specify when your students are allowed to start tasks as well as set a deadline, or specify that the task can be completed at the students' leisure.
As always, these improvements are automatically available to existing users at no additional charge.
These will be the last set of improvements before we release the 'Live' version of Schoolshape, due in the summer, featuring collaboration features, control of students screens, and teacher to student calls. This will be the biggest upgrade to Schoolshape ever, so we're looking forward to letting it loose in the classroom!
From winter 2009 to spring 2010, Schoolshape Examination Entry was used to record 1,120 mock exams at 41 different schools in the UK. In total, 117 hours and 12 minutes of audio was successfully recorded, including French, German and Spanish exams.