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Action research into mixed age teaching groups at local primary school

I've recently written about the fabulous and innovative work going on at a local Primary School, on my mobile blog site. I noted how the school has adopted a very brave strategy of grouping children by ability in both numeracy and literacy. An extraordinary amount of time and effort has gone into making this example of action-research become reality for the pupils and staff. Year 3 and Year 6 pupils regularly mix and exchange thoughts between them - it is seen as common place now and not at all demotivating or a concern.

What this does allow is, the pupils to be appropriately challenged. Pupils learning amongst others of similar ability which allows them to collaborate, communicate and share their findings in a way that doesn't make them different. It's working really well.

As a school governor I try to be supportive and offer insight into new ideas and opportunities. I showed one class the immediacy of using web based technologies. I took the picture (left) and 'blogged' it, effectively uploading it and creating a webpage on the Internet. One pupil immediately entered appropriate search terms into Google, ready to hit 'enter' as soon as the blog page had been created. Clearly, immediacy wasn't a concept children in the 21st century were at all phased by.

I showed the class teacher how to podcast from the computer controlling the interactive whiteboard. I installed a product called Audacity and showed how that can capture sound ready for broadcast to the 'net.

Later that day, I took 3 groups of children to a quiet area and asked them to give me their thoughts on the use of ICT in the school curriculum. I asked them if they are given enough scope, were they sufficiently challenged. I also asked if there were any issues preventing them from using ICT in the classroom. This was all podcasted as three episodes, which I shall add to the podcast channel that I started last year. I'll share the URL shortly. However, one observation that was made, and supported by the two other groups, was the imposed content filter that prevented them from viewing sites that the pupils knew to be appropriate. Their comments were fascinating as they went on to explain how games are blocked, yet held significant educational value. The pupils were very aware of their own learning and what activities would benefit them most.

As governors, we are now reviewing the implementation of the content filter since it seems to be blocking the learning potential of the youngsters at the school and impeding on teachers wanting to be innovative and creative with the technology. My argument has always been that we should be teaching children the safe use and application of the Internet, rather than making available some cut down, moderated view of the Internet and the world around them. The arguments in favour of the content filter are equally strong, litigation, protecting children, parental pressure, and so on.

In my view, we aren't educating these youngsters as 21st Century learners if we continue to make these decisions for them. Yes, run a content filter, but include the children in the maintenance of the filtering rules, running a white-list strategy rather than black-list.


This is a really interesting post Jon - we still do not listen to students enough right now - they are much more able than we give them credit for nor do we allow them to utilize their tech skills fully! Interesting.... and challenging

Thanks for your comments Gareth.

I have always found pupil's comments to be very insightful and honest (!) which certainly helps when you need to gather data about the success of the school or an initiative. Of course, if we take the time to involve pupils in telling us about what works and what doesn't work well then we must value their contributions and place them at the heart of the school development plan.


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