Primary school using video conferencing to collaborate with schools in China and US

[ClickPress, Wed Feb 28 2007] Rosie Medhurst has been Head Teacher at Northwood Primary School in Bexley, Kent since 1995. Rosie explains how with help from ICT Coordinator Paul Greenwood, she is able to offer her pupils a way to collaborate with other children and subject experts across the curriculum enabling them to share ideas and invaluable knowledge of the world around them. This has been achievable for the school through the innovative use of video-conferencing technology supplied by the London Grid for Learning (LGfL).

Pupils at Northwood Primary School are able to communicate via video conferencing with children in other London schools, and also in schools as far away as China and the USA, all as part of their daily lessons. According to Head Teacher Rosie Medhurst, this has "enabled communication and collaboration in ways we could not have conceived possible!" Northwood Primary School, an Excellence Cluster School (formerly a Beacon status school), is maintained by the London Borough of Bexley and has seven teachers, all of whom use video-conferencing technology regularly across their seven classes, benefiting 194 pupils. Through a safe, secure and high-speed broadband connection to the National Education Network (NEN), Northwood´s innovative usage of video-conferencing sets a clear benchmark for other schools to take advantage of the infrastructure services and learning services strands of the National Digital Infrastructure (NDI). The NEN provides schools with access to a consistent set of resources, services and applications and is available through LGfL to every school across London. The NDI is the Government´s vision for education being implemented by Becta to transform the way the capital´s school ICT services are specified, procured, delivered, supported and connected to other educational technology. Infrastructure services and learning services are concerned with the seamless integration of services and the management, provision and availability of learning content.

Video-conferencing has enabled Northwood pupils to build relationships with children at a school in Hong Kong and to learn first-hand the martial art of Tai Chi. Rosie says: "The children´s enthusiasm and dedication from both schools has been phenomenal, with the Chinese pupils and their parents even coming into school in the evenings to allow for the time difference. To provide these classes for the children with a Tai Chi professional would have been impractical and costly, but through this technology we are able to offer our pupils this wonderful experience. To offer this technology has been exceptional and has given us great inspiration into how we can further develop collaboration with other schools around the globe."

Rosie says: "We have links with primary schools across the USA, including a school in Texas. American children have taught our pupils about their US tradition of Thanksgiving and our pupils have taught them all about Christmas and sung them Christmas carols." Learning about culture and tradition is an important part of life at Northwood School as over half of pupils are Yoruba from Nigeria. In October 2006, pupils took part in LGfL´s annual London Live event which is the largest pan-London video-conference exclusively for schools. As the only primary school taking part, Northwood pupils performed a Nigerian song, retold a traditional Yoruba tale, showed their Nigerian clothes and explained the meaning of their special names to thousands of students across over 50 secondary schools. Rosie says: "It is incredibly important to us that our pupils are able to appreciate and share their history and culture at such a young age with their classmates and other children. London Live has enabled them to do this and also to experience other cultures and traditions."

Northwood is not only using video-conferencing to communicate with other schools, but also to provide pupils with access to experts in areas of the curriculum. Rosie says: "One of our aims at Northwood is not only to provide a broad curriculum but to extend this to offer our children a rich educational experience. Bringing video-conferencing into our daily lessons in a managed way enables us to do this and provide a new way of learning for our pupils." Through LGfL´s work with London museums and galleries, Northwood is using video-conferencing to visit places of interest which gives them access on a more regular basis than would be possible through school trips. Pupils have interacted with experts at The National Maritime Museum, The National Portrait Gallery and at The War Rooms at the Imperial War Museum. Rosie says: "The virtual visits to London´s galleries and museums are easy to set up and incredibly beneficial to our pupils. Teachers can connect at a time convenient to them, at no cost, and the pupils benefit from the undivided attention of an expert at the venue. We also combine the virtual sessions with actual visits to establishments and find it very rewarding to share the children´s excitement when recognising things they have previously seen over video-conference."

"At Northwood, our teachers feel it is important for other schools to appreciate that video-conferencing does not replace good teaching but is a tool to extend this. It adds a different dimension to traditional teaching methods and gives pupils access to a huge variety of different resources and experiences. We are constantly looking for new ways to use video-conferencing and would encourage other schools to benefit from the experience."

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