Representing Scotland in Vienna will be Deputy Head Teacher Ollie Bray, from Musselburgh Grammar School outside of Edinburgh. As Ollie mentions in his own blog, he's not new to the Innovative Teachers Network, having joined back in 2005.
Ollie's Virtual Classroom Tour is called Guitar Hero Transition and was designed to help improve pupils' transition from primary to secondary school. In this project, students work in groups using Guitar Hero for Xbox as a context for learning across the curriculum. One of the things that impressed us most about the Guitar Hero project is how it is now being implemented across other schools in East Lothian.
Ollie seems to be a bit of a rock star himself up in Scotland, as everyone I have met with on recent visits knows him, this work, and his blog. He has made a reputation within East Lothian for the innovative work he does in creating technology-rich environments for teaching and learning. He also drives a lot of CPD activities within the schools in his authority. Although he led the development and execution of this project, he did not work alone; 9 teachers from 6 other schools were credited in his VCT, along with the support of East Lothian Council.
Ollie's project had three phases:
- Using Guitar Hero as a context for learning in the primary schools. Schools and students were able to develop their own learning activities around Guitar Hero, which ranged from creative writing and character studies around fictional bands, design of t-shirts and animations, marketing merchandise, learning and performing music and dance, and more.
- Bringing together all of the primary classes - pupils who would be attending the secondary schools in the autumn- for a "Battle of the Bands." Throughout the day, children had the opportunity to work together in workshops that allowed them to develop a band (logo, name, and jingle), compete against each other using Guitar Hero, and participate in several dance, music and drama activities
- Continuing to work on Guitar Hero activities in the context of secondary subjects up to and during the pupils' transition to secondary school. This allowed children to have connections with other pupils when they arrived at their new schools in the autumn and to continue a project they had already started on in primary school. They designed a Guitar Hero postcard about their work, which they sent back to their old teachers in the primary schools.
There were so many things we liked about this project, that I don't really know where to start. (You can look at Ollie's award-winning VCT on the ITN by following this link.) I was particularly interested in something Ollie said at the Forum when he was presenting this work to the other teachers. He said he initially received some resistance when he wanted to purchase so many Xboxes and copies of the game for the schools. People were concerned that he wanted to spend so much money on technology. Ollie's response was perfect, I think. He said that first of all, Xboxes were much less expensive than computers. And secondly, they were investing in children, not in technology. You can't really argue with that.
I've already mentioned Ollie's project to a local authority in London that is interested in using it. I can't wait to see the reception it gets when he showcases it in Vienna.