The IB program stresses the importance of high-level critical thinking skills, while emphasizing and requiring that these skills be applied in projects that focus on international-mindedness and community engagement.
SEK International School Atlántico is a middle size school established 26 years ago in the outskirts of Pontevedra, Spain. 670 students from pre-school to high school attend the school and it is the only school in the region to offer three IB programs for varying age groups.
The Primary Years Programme (PYP) for students aged 3 to 12, the Middle Years Programme (MYP) for students aged 13 to 16 and the Diploma Programme (DP) for students in grades 11 and 12.
The emphasis IB programs place on the student learning experience means that class activities must be focused on inquiry-based methodologies. That means students need to manage several different sources of information, even from the earliest grades, and develop research and communication skills for searching, selecting, comparing, summarizing and presenting knowledge. To facilitate this, students need to shift from teacher-guided inquiry to self-guided inquiry, to better develop critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity skills.
Secondly, the emphasis IB places on international-mindedness, means that being able to simply and effectively collaborate with peers across the globe is a foundational component of truly achieving the goals of the program.
Finally, the programs (especially MYP and DP) stress that student learning must have an impact in the community. These community-oriented projects are primarily led entirely by the students themselves, meaning that teachers need to have a way to follow their progress and give feedback.
Any one of these foundational elements of the program would be greatly enhanced by technology; however, the required emphasis on all three makes a robust technology solution a must.
In order to meet the technological demand of the IB program, SEK combined SMART Learning Suite software with student devices (netbooks and tablets/iPads) to allow teachers to present content and tasks, give direct instruction, help students in the research process and to do formative and summative assessments. More importantly, the software enabled students to collaborate, share and present knowledge, both in the acquisition of information and its transformation to knowledge, as well as in the presentation of this new knowledge to the community of teachers, parents and peers (globally).
SMART Learning Suite combines lesson creating and delivery (SMART Notebook), game-based activities (SMART lab), assessments (SMART response 2) and web-based collaboration (SMART amp). Here is how SEK told us they use each component of the suite:
According to teachers at SEK, SMART Learning Suite perfectly complements inquiry-based learning. It has applications that enable all of the configurations needed to develop students’ skills (from individual research and information management, to small group activities and tasks, collaborative content building, whole group presentations and discussions). In addition, many tools inside SMART Notebook, SMART lab, SMART response 2 and SMART amp make it easy for students and teachers to follow their personal learning journey, including formative assessments, on-the-fly questions and student-guided activities that shine a light on comprehension. Plus, the software has a global reach, making collaboration around the globe as simple as across the classroom.
SEK is now focusing on the deeper development of several concepts stressed by the IB program, including gamification, peer-to-peer mentoring and community engagement. The plan is to use SMART Learning Suite’s pedagogically focused features to complement these efforts.
SMART lab represents a fun way to gauge student understanding and its integration with SMART response 2 formative assessments have teachers excited about the prospect of further exploring its impact in the classroom.
Students have some experience with peer-to-peer mentoring already, but SEK is poised to take that to the next level with SMART amp. Creating a repository of student created content, accessible from anywhere via SMART amp. This way, older students can become virtual peer mentors for younger students through SMART amp workspaces.
A mandatory component of the IB program is that projects have an impact on the community. SMART amp’s anywhere, anytime access makes it simple for teachers to follow each student’s projects whether they are working in the classroom or not. Each step of the project, from research and planning to action and reflection, can be viewed by teachers at anytime, with easy channels for feedback available in the software.