Pupils' best efforts go on the record

20th January 2012 at 00:00
Children can illustrate milestones in their learning and leisure from the age of three to 18, thanks to a new online profiling system devised by Aberdeenshire, writes Jean McLeish

Pupils have likened it to Facebook for school and seem to get it with consummate ease. For teachers, the problem may be just keeping the children's enthusiasm in check.

"I Can" is an online profiling tool which allows youngsters to celebrate their achievements, assembling their own personal electronic profile of their learning and leisure throughout their schooldays from 3 to 18.

The software is the strategy Aberdeenshire has developed in conjunction with commercial providers, in response to Building the Curriculum 5: A Framework for Assessment. The teachers who piloted the project named it "I Can", because it reflected the expectations and outcomes of Curriculum for Excellence.

Profiles aim to provide a snapshot of a child's best achievements and are to be produced at transition points in P7 and S3. This online system records milestones in their journey both in and out of school - from three times table to Advanced Higher physics, with all the sponsored walks, proms and piano exams along the way.

It will be available to children at school and at home on Glow and no red pen will mar their moment with putdowns like "must try harder" - it's a positive record to celebrate their efforts and fits in with the reporting system.

When children achieve new personal goals, teachers will encourage them to add it to their record in "I Can".

"The beauty of it, though, is that it's not a static, boring typewritten document. It handles rich media," says Jim MacLean, Aberdeenshire's Learning Through Technologies officer, who is leading today's continuing professional development session for headteachers and deputes.

Pupils will be able to upload personal photographs, audio and video footage onto their e-profile in the blink of a click, drag and drop, he explains. Authorities across Scotland are developing their own strategies for profiling - some with written statements, some on blogs and others with e-profiles like Aberdeenshire.

Unfortunately, "I Can" is not available online at New Aberdour School today, because it's an unused school and there's a problem linking up to it. But TESS had the benefit of an earlier preview at Fraserburgh Academy, part of the cluster where it was piloted.

Aberdeenshire's "digital natives" appear to have got up and running with it in no time. If families have internet access, it looks like a colourful and enjoyable way of involving parents - and something a bit more exciting than your jotter to show granny and grandpa.

Mr MacLean explains how teachers will fit the system to curriculum needs, with health and well-being, literacy and numeracy tabs as standard, and they can add other areas they are covering for CfE.

Younger children will need more help to start them off, as well as direction about the quality and quantity of their input.

"P1 pupils can use it and as they move through the years, the media they can put into the `I Can' becomes more and more sophisticated," says Mr MacLean, a computing teacher on secondment from Mearns Academy.

The authority elected to go down this route because "I Can" is set up quickly and easy to operate: "I think it improves children's self-esteem because they can see the work that they've done," Mr MacLean says.

After the session, Hilda Creighton, the headteacher at Crimond School, said: "I think `I Can' is an exciting, pupil-friendly way for children to profile their progress and achievements all the way through school. It is the way forward - it's what children want to do and it's the way they like to do things."

A ROUNDER SENSE OF ACHIEVEMENT

Marcia Mackie began using "I Can" with her P7s at Rosehearty Primary last January, when the system was tried out in schools.

"I found it really successful," says Miss Mackie, who made a presentation to colleagues during their CPD session.

"I think the kids really, really enjoy it. They're all about technology these days and I think it links so much to things they're used to doing - their Facebook, and it used to be Bebo, and things like that. It's so easy for staff to use and pass on to the children as well, so I think it's been great."

Using "I Can" needn't be time-consuming, she says: "It really depends on how a teacher chooses to use it. I myself don't spend a huge amount of time on it because if a child has done something really good, then I will say to them `Can you go and put that on to your I Can?'"

She's able to allay teachers' concerns that they won't have enough computers to cope: "I only have two computers in my class. We have a big computer suite, but I don't take them through for `I Can' slots to the computer suite - that was just for the setting up. They use their computers at home if I have asked them to input it, or they can use the computers in my class when they're free and when the time's right for them to go and pop it on."

The system was piloted with P7s in the Fraserburgh cluster and with S1 at Fraserburgh Academy, where Ian Berstan, PT guidance, represented the school on the network working group.

He says it gives a much rounder appreciation of children's achievements and can open teachers' eyes to their talents and activities in the wider world outside school. He thought pupils were enthusiastic about it: "One or two have mentioned it's like a schools Facebook almost, in terms of putting up all the images and the video clips. It's been really good for them to get involved and take ownership of this."

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