Djanogly Learning Trust bringing e-Learning and traditional learning closer together

In August 2003, Djanogly City Academy opened its doors as one of the first of a new type of specialist, state-funded independent school. The Academy replaced the oversubscribed City Technology College (CTC) and the former Forest Comprehensive School.

At the beginning of this academic year (2011-2012), Djanogly Learning Trust was formed as a multi-academy sponsor responsible for  Djanogly Northgate Academy (primary) and Djanogly City Academy (secondary), therefore providing education from foundation stage through to Year 13.

Now nearing the end of Djanogly Learning Trust’s first academic year, Jon Marshall, E-Learning Leader, gave me his view on how e-learning has addressed the skills gap for students and the surrounding community and how it will continue to grow in the education sector alongside existing traditional approaches to delivering GCSEs and A-LevelsDjanogly

‘’My position as the E-Learning Leader is a multifaceted role. I promote the use of a variety of e-learning software and the use of mobile technologies within teaching and learning. I organise and provide staff training and encourage the adoption of new ways to learn. Over the last year, 130 Microsoft Office Specialist certificates were awarded to our staff who had taken this exam. I am also involved with helping to reduce the digital divide and have successfully bid for grants from the E-Learning Foundation to purchase new computing equipment and Internet connections so that all students studying at our secondary academy have the chance to own a new computer at home. I also refurbish older laptops that have been replaced by new equipment so that our students and community groups have the chance to own a computer.’’ – Jon Marshall

What were the main reasons to set up Djanogly Leaning Trust?

Becoming a multi-academy trust enabled us to offer 3-19 provision and facilitates continuity of education and sharing of good practice across age phases for the benefit of both learners and teachers. Through much closer collaboration within a single employer organisation, members of staff are building on previous successful partnership working and finding new ways to ensure that a child’s transition from Year 6 to year 7 is as seamless as possible. The primary phase benefits from greater access to specialist facilities and more subject specialist staff; whilst secondary phase colleagues are able to learn more about effective cross-curricular and child-centred approaches. Also we can better resource early intervention for certain pupils at primary school, which will allow them to attain their full potential when they reach secondary education and beyond.

What type of work are they doing for students?

Djanogly Learning Trust provides a high standard of education for children and young people in the local community from reception all the way through to the sixth form. We ensure that our students leaving the secondary academy have the necessary computing skills, including those in familiar Microsoft industry standard applications, in order to meet the demands of the marketplace, be that for Higher Education or employment.

How has Djanogly had an effect on the surrounding community – parents and teachers of the students?

Djanogly Learning Trust works very closely with our local community. We provide computing courses for adults to improve their IT skills, and for those that are not employed, we provide them with a wider range of skills for their curriculum vitae. We also bring together local groups to support improvements to the way communities work together in the Hyson Green, Forest Fields, Sherwood Rise and neighbouring areas of Nottingham City so as to improve aspiration, achievement, life chances, cohesion and social capital for the people who live in the community. We achieve these aims through sharing ideas, learning from each other, working more closely, developing projects, planning events, building a directory of what is available locally, and developing volunteering opportunities.

We also bring together local groups and encourage them to communicate their ideas and events via an online blog. We foster good links with our parents using a parent portal that has been provided using Microsoft SharePoint technology to share information about timetables, attendance, results etc.

Djanogly City Academy has been awarded Investor in People status for over 10 years and was recently successful in gaining the coveted Bronze Award.. We have an allocated session for Continuous Professional Development (CPD) each week and have IT- related CPD each week for staff to up-skill to ensure that they can provide our students with the best possible education.

How has Djanogly built students’ confidence in IT?

We are fortunate to have the best facilities for our staff and students to use. Our student to computer ratio is approaching a ratio of 1:1, which is exceptionally high for any type of educational institution. Our students enjoy a higher than national average of computer ownership in their homes with over 90% of them having a computer with access to the Internet. We incorporate computing tasks into learning wherever appropriate to ensure that our students are IT literate from an early age. The access to Microsoft software and the secure network running on File Server Edition has helped both our students and staff to become confident in using software and computing facilities.

How is the skills gap of students addressed?

Student skills are assessed throughout their time at Djanogly and ICT is a compulsory curriculum subject. The access to extensive computer equipment and training allows our staff to feel confident with delivery of all aspects of ICT and thus helps students bridge the skills gap to ensure that they have the necessary skills in order to get the best from their education here. We have implemented an online system in SharePoint so that staff can request one-to-one ICT training, including in-class support for them to use and try out new technologies with their students. Also we are fortunate to have Multimedia Specialists who help with delivering more technical aspects of ICT and regularly help the students learn how to create Apps, gaming design, 3-D environments, high quality video and audio productions.

What actions and teaching advice have been put in place in order that students get the most from e-learning?

We have an in-house e-learning centre (called the Beta Centre) that teachers can book students into so that they can benefit from the Multimedia Specialists’ expertise and the latest specification computing facilities. Teachers are encouraged to continually improve their ICT skills as having teachers with a higher level of skills allows their knowledge and expertise to be transferred to their students. We also encourage our students to be independent learners and provide learning opportunities that extend past the teaching that takes place in the classroom.

Has ITA helped?

The MS IT Academy has proven really valuable for members of staff wanting to improve their IT skills and hence become more effective and efficient within their roles, be they teaching staff wanting to improve their ICT skills so that they can pass on their knowledge to our students, learning support staff seeking new ways to facilitate individuals’ progress, or other support staff involved mostly with administrative functions.

Having the opportunity to study a huge range of Microsoft technologies using e-learning gives users the flexibility to do so at a time and place to suit them. It is not always convenient to allocate a fixed time per week so this model of learning is more suitable for the majority of people. Also, providing students with the opportunity to learn skills that will make them more employable is really beneficial for them. With the job market being so competitive, having additional industry standard skills can set you apart from the rest of the other school leavers.

How do you feel e-learning will grow in the education sector? Is this something more schools should look at other than the existing traditional approaches to delivering GCSEs and A-Levels?

E-learning is becoming more prevalent within all sectors of education, which is due to the support that it provides within the classroom and the obvious advantages it provides to students wanting to learn independently, and interdependently. Students can now access the Internet from a variety of different devices and as the Internet is the natural medium of providing e-learning then many different opportunities can be provided to students, thus ensuring that they receive the best possible education.

All schools will inevitably adopt e-learning as a way to support their current offering of qualifications but it is unlikely to replace their qualifications.

Michael Gove has catalysed a revamping of the current ICT qualifications, replacing them with a flexible curriculum, to include computer science, from September 2012. The MS IT Academy will help ensure that both students and staff here at Djanogly Learning Trust’s secondary Academy are fully supported with up-to-date and relevant learning materials to help ensure that this transition phase happens smoothly and to the benefit of our students.

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