Britannica School Case Study
All Saints C/W Primary SchoolBarry, Wales, UK
All Saints C/W Primary School in Barry, Wales, was already on its way to digital education. The students in the school regularly used One Note for taking notes, had a frequently updated blog, and communicated with teachers via emails. Thus, when they were introduced to HwB, they took to it like fish to water.
HwB is an education portal developed by CDSM Interactive for the Welsh Government. The two resources that the students use the most in it are Britannica School and ImageQuest.
Their most notable aspect is that they’re easy to access i.e. with just a simple keyword search. According to the Deputy Head, Aled Williams, the students preferred using the Britannica offerings for school work because “…[Britannica] was easier and more useful…”
As per Mr Williams, the tools are very useful in igniting the students’ curiosity while leaving them in control of their own work. Because the layout is so user-friendly and the information safe and relevant, they find it a simple matter to go into the Foundation Level, find the information, and comprehend it.
As for the students themselves, they had plenty of inputs of their own to give. Year 5 student, Maisie, commented that it was more fun than using Google. She felt it had more engaging content for her age group than the popular search engine.
Mr Williams echoes the school’s belief that technology “is the natural way to learn”, especially in this day and age. This is why they have made a conscious decision to incorporate as much of it into the teaching and learning as possible.
The school has a well-stocked ICT suite which is used to train students in the use of laptops and tablets. Students are free to use these resources whenever they need them. The most encouraging part is that the students are fundamentally involved in promoting the use of technology. A team of digitally-inclined year 5 students even assist in the running of the IT training inset days for teachers.
In such an atmosphere of engaged digital learning, HwB finds the ideal user-base. In turn, it offers teachers some highly useful tools like the Playlist. This is a flexible lesson planning tool that allows teachers to “… search, build, and share great learning resources simply and quickly.”, according to Rich Hart, the Account Manager at CDSM.
The usage of technology in teaching and learning at All Saints is not limited to within the school walls. Students are allowed, encouraged even, to use it when they are at home as well. By using it at home to complete homework and projects, students manage to create a seamless learning environment.
According to Aled Williams, “The students pick it up at school and work on research, then take it home and access it again”. He commented on how the parents were initially wary of technology being so pervasive in the learning environment. However, any trepidations vanished when they saw how happy and engaged the students were.
Another aspect that makes Britannica such a handy resource to have, according to Mr Williams, is the sense of security it gives the educators. The teachers don’t have to worry about the age-appropriateness of the content on Britannica School.
Even as students graduate from the Foundation level to the intermediate level, the content is comprehensive and complete, and the teachers don’t have to constantly monitor what information the students are accessing.
This is quite a load off their shoulders, especially seeing as how simple it is to access any information on it. The Britannica resources are so well-integrated with HwB that a simple search query on the portal will lead them to the relevant images, videos, or text.
Once the students find the relevant content, they can browse through the material or organize it right there, in the portal, using the Playlist feature. Adding the content to the playlist is as simple as dragging and dropping the needed information into the list. The material can then be shared and used for collaboration.
In order to ensure that the content they collate as part of their research is actually relevant, students can open it in a new window to assess it. This ensures that everything they include is valued information.
The best part about using playlists is that both Britannica School and Image Quest are well-integrated with the feature. Even the students unanimously agree about how powerful this tool is for research.
Year 5 student, Ruben, says, “It’s easier to store all the stuff you want in one place…”. He added that the drag and drop feature was what made the whole experience so easy. The students also commented on the fact that the information provided through Britannica was all verified.
Due to the heavy usage of technology, students are aware that not all information they find on other search engines is true. The fact that they can rely on the information on Britannica without having to cross-check and verify makes their work quicker and more accurate.
As Aled Williams noted, the fact that these students are aware of the reasons why they use these resources and the proper way to use them is key. They will graduate and leave the school, but the technological skills they develop with these tools will remain with them for a long time.