Due to the fact that the #gafesummit was cut down to just one day, I had an extra in London. On the website of SMART Technologies I searched if there was a SMART Showcase School in London to visit, among other interesting things to do. And actually there was one and via Twitter I got in touch with the principal of St. Matthew Academy Mr. Michael Barry and he replied that I was more than welcome to pay a visit. Via email I explained why I wanted to visit the school and while I was there the school provided me a guided tour, lunch in the school cantina and a wifi connection to get some other work done after the visit. Mr. Barry trusted me enough to offer me his office to work a little (Tweet, blog, check in for flight home and email), while he was away, how nice is that.
During the guided tour which was done by a too modest student, I was allowed to take pictures, ask loads of questions and had a chat with a few teachers. I was particularly interested in the subject geography and its curriculum, the way computers, devices and Raspberry Pi was being used and of course the in the use of the SMART Boards. After all St. Matthew Academy was a SMART Showcase School. The school did not encourage students to bring their own device or provide mobile devices yet, as I believe that is part of the roadmap for the upcoming years. So no information to gain from the school on how they were using mobile devices.
During the tour I witnessed a geography lesson and talked to the teacher, whom explained to me that she did not use books, students didn't have books and she created her own different assignments to differentiate in her lesson. Some students were brighter than others, or could handle more lesson content than others. They were working individually on creating a geography newspaper about the storms on the coast. I liked that very much, because the students could be creative and it was all about their own community. When the teacher needed to explain something about physical geography, she used school books that remained in the classroom. This particular teacher was the right teacher for the group of students that attend this school. I would love to see her and her students using mobile devices and/or web 2.0-tools for her designed assignments.
Another thing I really liked was that coding was in the curriculum of ICT and that the school had began with the Raspberry Pi this year. Attached to each monitor in the computerroom was also a Raspberry Pi besides a regular Windows 8 computer. The students need to learn how to code and program a small computer such as the Raspberry Pi. In another computer room there were lots of iMac computers to work on. Great!
Media was a subject taught at this school as well. There is a film-club, film and photo shoot room with green screen and they produce a lot of movies and films and join lots of competitions and also won a few (lots?). With the iMac room and all this looked very professional and this is probably the most professional one that I've seen in secondary education. And you could tell by the enthusiasm of the students that they were engaged by this and how this subject is being taught in school.
After the tour I had another chat with the principal and the head of the secondary school and they asked me very good questions. They asked what I thought was good and asked me was I thought was not good. I explained that from the first few steps that I took in the school I immediately noticed that this school was student centered. At the exception the lady was first helping out the student that came in after me before she attended me. Same sort of atmosphere I felt at some schools while I was in Finland visiting schools. I also mentioned the matters from above. The one thing that could be better in my opinion was the use of SMART Notebook. That interactive whiteboard software could and should be used way more often to enhance interactivity in the classroom instead of showing Powerpoint presentations. Perhaps I could do some training next time I'm around. ;) Anyway, you'd best check it out for yourself and witness several success stories from this school by principal Michael Barry.