Podcasts for Study at Lochaber High School

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It is often the case that schools in rural areas lead the way in terms of using digital technologies to enhance learning and teaching. I was fortunate enough to visit several schools in the Highlands and in Shetland when I worked in the education department of the Scottish Executive (as was) with the task of celebrating innovative uses of ICT to share across the country. Nice work if you can get it!

I may be making this up but my memory is that at one time Papa Stour Primary School had the highest internet use per pupil in Europe. The 2 pupils on this remote island were highly motivated to connect with others around the world. Anderson High School, also in Shetland, has a proud record of creating and participating in international communities both remotely and through extensive travel. The art and music departments of Gairloch High School did amazing collaborative work in the far off days before Curriculum for Excellence. Ardnamurchan High School, with less than 200 pupils, was paving the way with its beautiful new build that incorporated new technologies way before any schools that I had worked in. And this was several years ago now when Glow was little more than a twinkle in the Minister’s eye.

And this great tradition continues. I am indebted to Jim Henderson for pointing out (through Twitter – I’m getting the point of it) this report from last October, about an innovative study aid system created at Lochaber High School which received very favourable comments from Dyslexia Scotland about a venture blending the latest technologies with traditional methods, ‘effectively delivering revision opportunities across the curriculum’. The idea originated from a working group set up to identify the technologies that actively support children with specific learning difficulties that led to an idea to create audio revision material which pupils access to support their exam revision.

From the original concept of recording revision materials straight to CD for issue to pupils on request, the plan evolved into a comprehensive facility available to all pupils.

From the school’s curriculum network, pupils have the option of listening to the audio revision files during study time, downloading to their USB pens, mp3 players or burning to CDs for listening while on the move. External access is through the new site which makes use of technologies such as RSS feeds and podcast subscriptions, with traditional streaming or downloading of audio files, offering pupils the freedom to choose their preferred method on demand.

Lochaber High head teacher Jim Sutherland said: “The site is aimed at pupils who have dyslexia to ease their burden at exam time when too much text-based learning can be a struggle. We are delighted that in developing the project we now have a fresh approach to providing learning opportunities both in and out of the classroom, for the whole school community.”

This is a terrific example of differentiating resources that benefit a considerably broader cohort of learners than originally intended: inclusion in action.

As someone struggling to learn Spanish I find podcasts invaluable to reinforce what happens in the formal classroom setting. I do get funny looks as I chatter away, apparently to myself, as I drive around but it sure helps embed the language. I use the wonderful (Scottish) site, Coffee Break Spanish on the RadioLingua Network. It’s fantastic – and all eighty 15 minute lessons are free to download!

Study aids

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flippers book

These study cards seem to be a simple, way to memorise facts, figures, formulae, to help with revision for exams.

The company that produces them, Pink Porcupine,  says:

Flippers consist of 60 small blank cards on a metal ring. Pupils write down the word, sum or question on one side and the answer on the other. When all the cards for the lesson have been filled in they look at the questions and try to answer them. Then they just flip over the card and find out if they were right.

Repeated use of the cards helps them quickly memorise the information. Once learned to fluency, if wished, those cards can be removed to allow pupils to concentrate on facts they are still “fuzzy” about.

Teachers have identified 36 subject areas where they have proved extremely effective.

In primary schools, these include numbers, number bonding, multiplication tables, sound and word recognition, common words, spelling, spelling reinforcement and individual or class revision.

In secondary schools uses include English and foreign vocabulary, chemistry formulae, music studies, art history, homework and personal revision.

Pupils achieve best results when Flippers study cards are fully integrated into lesson formats and used regularly in class – either daily for a time slot of a few minutes or three or four times a week.

A different Flippers booklet should be used for each individual subject.

 They could be very useful for recording timetables too and providing scaffolding for learners with organisational difficulties.
Until such time as we finally move away from the ridiculous system of examining how much information  is retained in someone’s head at the hottest time of the year, we must support our students as best we can. I know it is too late for this year’s round of exams but I shall bear these in mind for the future.