Innovative practice - Dedicated space

8th March 2013 at 00:00
Creating an interactive room to help pupils engage with maths through collaborative '360-degree' learning

The background

Maths is a strong subject at The Heathland School, with more than 200 of the 500 sixth-formers at the comprehensive taking the subject at AS or A level. The head, Harinder Pattar, wanted to build on that success and further engage pupils who struggled with maths.

But one of the biggest obstacles was pupils feeling embarrassed at showing their calculations or afraid of being seen to get things wrong.

So the staff took an empty room at the school and turned it into an interactive "Immersive Learning" classroom where pupils could share and correct their work in a stimulating, high-tech environment.

The project

The room, which seats 26, was designed to help pupils work together while allowing teachers to assess and discuss the work of individuals.

The teacher uses projection screens on two walls, one of which is 3D, and 10 whiteboard surfaces placed around the walls, two of them magnetic, to create "360-degree teaching". The plasma screens on the walls can be used to show videos and content from the teacher's iPad.

The pupils' desks are smaller whiteboards, which flip up so that others can see their work, making collaboration a normal part of the learning process. The pupils use markers to write down their calculations before showing their work, discussing it with others and correcting it, explaining their solutions and asking for help where necessary.

They can erase their errors quickly and easily and end up with a neat, clean piece of work, which improves their confidence.

The room's lighting is also controlled directly by the teacher using an iPad. Screens can be lit up in different colours, or dimmed, for different tasks and to change the mood.

The school now plans to purchase iPads to enable pupils to interact more with material on the plasma screens

Tips from the scheme

Peter Manns, maths teacher and assistant headteacher, says:

"Use the technology, and the freedom it gives, to make maths practical and fun."

"Allow children to explore ways to use maths to solve problems."

"Use the room for other subjects to help bring them alive and inspire pupils."

Evidence that it works?

The interactive room has stimulated discussion, increased pupil participation and led to more enjoyable and productive lessons, Manns says.

The room was designed for maths but is being used for other subjects such as English and geography. In the latter, 3D images were used to take pupils on a virtual tour of a rainforest. Other schools have also shown interest in the project.

"The whiteboard means everyone is able to work in groups, which increases understanding, and no one is left out," says one pupil.

Another adds: "It's a much better way of learning... it's fun and you get to work independently and also with the class." A third says: "The lighting is awesome... highlighters glow in blue light."

The project

Approach: Building an interactive room for maths teaching

The school

Name: The Heathland School

Location: Hounslow, Middlesex

Pupils: 1,850

Age range: 11-18

Intake: Most pupils are of Indian or Pakistani origin.

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