Virtual Practicum 1

Planning and preparing a virtual placement experience, meant that we needed to consider the key aspects of teaching and learning and sequence this overtime. As such, the first week of our four-week Virtual Practicum was designed to focus on the development of a digital classroom. This was considered carefully to give student teachers an experience of thinking about the place in which learning can happen, and how it could then be used to support learning.

We used Google Classroom for our digital platform and the aim of the week was to develop the students’ skills in developing a digital classroom, its functionality as well as thinking about how they can create and set digital work for pupils to complete. The application of Google Classroom was centred within the pedagogies of Initial Teacher Education with the purpose of all learning and tasks linked to the application of online platforms to facilitate pupil learning. This linked to the Digital Literacies Framework (2020) and explored 1. Digital Skills Development, 2. Pedagogy in the Digital Domain and 6. Career Long Professional Development.

The week was not only focused on digital platforms, instead the learning was spaced with focuses on observation and noticing, metacognition and curriculum inputs that would all aid the development of understanding how classrooms can operate and their functions.

This blog

I have broken this blog into three sections: Plan, Practicalities and Purpose. This is because I think these are useful ways to think about how you might prepare for digital platform usage in an Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programme in and outside Scotland.

Plan. Developing a Digital Classroom

As outlined in the Virtual Practicum overview blog the core theme of the first week of the Virtual Practicum was to design and build an online classroom.

We wanted students across the week to be able to explore key aspects of functionality including:

  • Setting up a classroom
  • Scheduling work
  • Setting assignments that need accessing
  • Exploring digital tools to generate online work
  • Using Google Forms
  • Developing tasks that would link online resources to purposeful learning

We planned for the students to work in teams of four throughout the first week. This would give each student the opportunity to engage with the tasks but also have others to talk to them about. Recordings and discussion sessions were planned in to support.

Practicalities. How Does a Digital Classroom Work?

The practicalities of developing the plan into a reality meant that we needed to consider how students would need to work through the key aspects.

First was an introduction to Google Classroom with the students designing and creating their classroom.

Second there was a focus on developing their classroom and starting to learn about how Google Forms can be used to generate work that students can access through their Google Classroom. Key learning around the various ways in which Google Forms can be designed and how this can help give students resources to use. This learning was paired with thinking about classrooms and what you can notice about them before any pupils are in them. Which helped students reflect on what was in their digital classroom.

Finally, there was a linking of how to use the aspects in combination to set, send, receive and grade work that had been sent either via a quiz or a Google Form.

There learning for students was differentiated so those feeling more confident could explore the ways Google Forms and Google Classroom could be used in more detail.

Purpose: Why Use a Digital Space

The final strand was to show the purpose of this work. We invited the wonderful Aileen Mackay a headteacher in Highland to share the work her staff and school had done during lockdown. This helped reveal to the students the purpose of the learning about digital classrooms.

Hearing how a digital classroom can be used and how it supported a community to continue to learn really clarified the learning and was a wonderful addition to the week.

Review

At the end of the week we set up a Google Form to review how the week had gone. The confidence of students using Google Classroom and Google Forms grew massively. They particularly valued the time on learning about Google Forms and Aileen Mackay’s talk. These elements were the most linked to purpose, which really underlines that if learning about digital literacy is to be successful then the purpose of its usage needs to be revealed.

After the first week we were able to reflect on the need to show how the digital platform would be useful in a pandemic, but also as a tool for general practice. The ability to set work and align this to keeping parents/ carers informed was a useful way to show how interaction with the whole school community could be improved.

Summary

Digital classrooms need to be considered throughout ITE. We may not always be in a pandemic, but the applications for home/ school learning and preparing resources without the need to print is something that will help education move to a more sustainable and digital model overtime.

My key advice is: if you are planning to add digital classrooms to an aspect of your ITE programmes, plan, develop the practicalities, but importantly show the purpose of digital classrooms. By revealing how digital classrooms can aid teaching and learning will help their usage become more integrated and natural.

Blogpost by Dr John Mynott, University of Aberdeen