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Remote secondary has its finger on the digital button

Video diaries, video clips in spoken French and using email to deliver English homework were only a few of the outcomes achieved in an innovative digital technology project at one of Scotland's most remote secondaries.

An evaluation by a Glasgow University team led by Professor Eric Wilkinson found that it had encouraged teachers at Gairloch High to develop their ICT skills and extend their repertoire of teaching styles.

The project, supported by the Scottish Executive's Future Learning and Teaching (FLaT) fund, allowed departments to explore the use of digital technologies across art, music, modern languages, computing, modern studies, science and support for learning. A key aim was to create a bank of digital resources.

The evaluation report found that the project allowed teachers to collaborate across departments and to give in-service sessions to other teachers in the school, within Highland Council and in the local community in Ross-shire.

Pupils preparing for a Duke of Edinburgh Award submitted a video diary of a kayaking trip instead of the traditional text format, and there were signs that all pupils, but particularly those with support needs, had become more creative and independent in their learning. There were considerable improvements in the conversational skills of pupils who made video clips of role play in French.

The support for learning department provided more opportunities for experiential learning and group work in a variety of environments. The English department used the technology to develop formative assessment techniques of pupils' discussions.

Collaborative ventures were being set up with the local heritage museum and the Wildlife Service at Inverewe Gardens, and pupils honed their editing skills at their local radio station.

The evaluation report, published this week, states: "Although there is evidence that secondary schools in Scotland are not using ICT in flexible ways within typical classroom contexts, there are some remarkable exceptions and one example of innovative practice is Gairloch High School.

"In some respects this project was very much building on the already acknowledged skills and expertise in the Gairloch High School staff."

Key features identified by the Glasgow University team which made the project work so well were: having project champions - teachers with some ICT skills keen to develop them further; enthusiasm from pupils about working independently; and good infrastructure and IT support systems.

Pupils wanted more access to digital technology, and teachers raised the concern that for national exams the Scottish Qualifications Authority tended to require individual work (although discussions with the exams body were bearing fruit).

Gairloch High School: Using Digital Technologies to Empower Pupil's Learning - Evaluation Report. By Julia K Davidson, Irene McQueen, Fraser McConnell and J Eric Wilkinson. Available at www.flatprojects.org.uk.

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