Listening to the views and perspectives of students was a central recommendation highlighted in the in the 2007 Diversity and Citizenship Curriculum Review. Technology has had a major impact on allowing schools to successfully meet the recommendations our students have made. Mandeep Atwal from Shireland Collegiate Academy in the West Midlands has produced a Virtual Classroom Tour that describes how her students have increased their religious and cultural awareness and sensitivity within their diverse community at the same time that they have developed high-level website building skills.
Mandeep, who is Head of Religious Education for Shireland, co-ordinates the Young Voices project at her school. This project aims to give youngsters of all ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds an opportunity to share their experiences, in the hope of developing tolerance and acceptance. Becoming ‘Young Voices’, students are not only ambassadors for the school, but also for the faiths and cultures they represent.
The students undertook a unit of work that gave them the ICT skills needed to build websites, and the project produced a number resources to support students in learning these skills. Although important in this project, ICT skills were not the central focus. Students needed to produce an online virtual platform that would generate awareness beyond the classroom walls to reach a much wider audience such as families, communities and the Academy's partner and link schools. The message that the students needed to communicate was the main focus in this project.
Mandeep said ‘‘I hope students in this project strike a natural balance of developing their e-learning skills, whilst also contributing to their own and other’s spiritual, moral, social and cultural development".
One of a number of projects that provided students with content came from Shireland Collegiate Academy’s involvement in a cultural celebration event held at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall. The event showcased the diverse dance and cultural backgrounds of students, who worked with top Birmingham based art professionals. The show hosted various arts forms ranging from Bhangra, Dhol, Bharatanatyam, Dhandia, Bollywood, Afro-Caribbean Fusion, Carnival Parading, Contemporary and Street Dance and much more.
Students used their newly found ICT skills to promote the event, inform other students, parents and the wider community and to showcase the event.
Kirandeep, a student involved with the website said, ‘‘’We work on creating Podcasts and documentaries for the website. We think it’s a really good idea hosting these as then we can share what we have done with our families and friends at home’’.
Mandeep will be joining us at the European Innovative Teachers event in Vienna in March where she will be presenting her work to teachers from all over Europe.