A shot of Espresso and a drop of news

30th November 2012 at 00:00
The cross-curricular digital learning service is tuning pupils into world news and sparking interesting discussions, as Jackie Cosh reports

An increasing number of children do not watch the news. Buying a paper is no longer the norm, and the way we receive our news is changing. So the pupils at Carmyle Primary in Glasgow are quite unusual in their love of current affairs.

"We all enjoy the news in our class," 10-year-old Ben McKee tells me.

While Ben admits to regularly watching the news at home, many of his classmates' interest stems from the daily "News Bites", topical, age- appropriate stories from Espresso, a cross-curricular digital learning service that all classes in the school now use on a daily basis. Presenter-led, with images and language the children can understand, teachers use it as a starting point for discussions, for assemblies and for quizzes.

Principal teacher Anne Hutchison has recently used Espresso with her P6 pupils. "It helps make the children aware of the world and of current affairs," she says, "and it is good for debate. Sometimes we have it on first thing and we have a daily challenge using it."

Espresso is a digital curriculum provider of visual media and interactive resources for schools. Carmyle started using it 18 months ago, and since then teachers have used many of the resources and provided such valuable feedback that Espresso has asked them to work with them to develop their dedicated Scottish homepage, tailored to Curriculum for Excellence and including more Scottish content.

Miss Hutchison was teaching P4 last year, when they were asked to help film a Scottish dance module for the new homepage. "We did three different country dances and recorded it," she says. First they performed the dance, and then they broke it down into steps. When the children saw it on screen, they were really pleased."

Eight-year-old Reece Cartwright enjoyed making the video. "When we found out we were doing it, I was really excited. It was really fun," he says.

"We did three dances, with different partners," recalls nine-year-old Robyn Brown. We did the Gay Gordons, the Dashing White Sergeant and the St Bernard's Waltz".

Ben and his classmates in P6 are now benefiting from this video and access it on Espresso. Ben raves about Espresso to the point where you wonder whether they should employ him for their PR.

"We use Espresso for lots of things - for games, for the news," he says, "and we all have log-ins so we can use it at home. I practise my times tables on it.

"Recently our topic was Black America - the Little Rock Nine and Martin Luther King. We did some writing and the Espresso resources on it helped inspire us," he adds.

"I also love the daily challenge, where you have to list as many countries as you can, or design a chocolate bar. With one, we had to find as many words from the word `Olympics' as we could."

Ben's teacher, Ms Hutchison, describes it as a "teacher time saver" and uses it daily. "I showed them video clips of the Little Rock High School, of the nine trying to get in and of the racist chants," she says. "The writing afterwards was tremendous, and some of them said that the main thing that helped was the video.

"We use it lots for research, and if we have a topic we search on Espresso for all resources on it. You can then select it and save it as a lesson plan.

"We've also used it for French because it has native French speakers, which obviously we don't have. When we were covering renewable energy in science we used the weather maps on it which you can hone in on. It really brings things alive for the pupils."

Headteacher Linda Logue admits to being sceptical about the resource when she first heard about it.

"I always resisted signing up to these things, but after speaking to Espresso, I gave in and agreed to a trial," says Ms Logue. "Staff agreed to a twilight session and they all came out as if they had won the lottery.

"Espresso gives great support for planning, particularly when developing a new curriculum, where we are working very differently, trying to come up with exciting lessons."

After the free trial they signed up and have never looked back, using it for planning lessons whenever possible. "It has helped staff to up their skills, is great for interdisciplinary learning and teachers can plan pathways out," says Ms Logue.

"We have focused on upskilling teachers. Espresso is seeing different ways of learning and teachers are getting good CPD because they are sharing methods. It is promoting better thinking around planning.

"Teachers are always going on about workload issues," she adds. "We always have this at out fingertips, whereas before teachers could have spent a long time searching for resources."

Subscription costs vary, depending on the size of school, but start from pound;300 per annum. Contact gherron@espresso.co.uk

The route to success

To help teachers to plan lessons, Espresso has developed Route Creator, which enables them to bookmark resources ahead of time, so they can concentrate on teaching rather than having to navigate resources during lessons.

Espresso can also be easily integrated into other applications.

Photographs, maps, text and graphics can be copied and pasted into PowerPoint and Word to incorporate into lesson plans and schemes of work.

The search engine enables users to search by a keyword, subject, level and resource type to find the most relevant resources.


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