I love my job but there are days I REALLY love it! You see even though I left the classroom almost a decade ago I still feel ‘alive’ when surrounded by vibrant, honest young people.
In the late 90s, I worked as a science teacher at Burntwood School. Burntwood was where I learnt to teach, I mean REALLY learnt to teach. It caters for almost 2,000 young girls across the Borough of Wandsworth. Quite a feat in itself. I remember my first few weeks just feeling in awe of the number of girls filling corridors and classrooms – quite an intimidating sight for a young teacher. But Burntwood is rare. It’s a true comprehensive (as we used to call them) – representing every diverse corner that South London has to offer. And for that reason alone I loved it then and still do!
Today was special. Burntwood acts as a research school for the EdTech company, Wizenoze. Over the past few months, I’ve been lucky to work with some great teachers and today was no different. Chris Solecki is a dynamic music teacher keen to continue keeping his practice relevant. Getting a teacher to let you in front of their students is not easy but as the bell for period 4 chimed, 30 Year 8s came in and my precious opportunity was realised.
With over 80% of the UK population unable to fully read most online content – imagine what this statistic looks like for students wishing to find readable, relevant content. In short, Google is not good enough for education. With online content been too complex for most. That doesn’t mean we dumb down. Instead, we must write more intelligently for our young people and that means more simply. Quite different.
The Web for Classrooms is a readable web containing only teacher approved online content, tagged by age and reading level. It helps students and teachers to quickly source relevant content but also content they can read. The result? Better learning outcomes.
Armed with a research task, the students were given the chance to use, deconstruct and give prototype ideas for the current version of the Web for Classrooms. We observed and spoke to these students for 2 hours – seeing what they liked and where they struggled with it. Gaining invaluable user experience to feed new ideas on what we should add, remove or change to our tool. They were not shy. A trait Burntwood girls rarely have. Instead, they bombarded us with informed ideas from having spent the best part of an hour delving into The Web for Classrooms. With some volunteering to stay behind into their short lunch break to work with me for longer. Priceless! By the end, my brain (and thankfully dictaphone) was jam-packed, but most importantly, I had learnt lessons that could not have come to light without my direct engagement with these students.
I’m happy to report they liked the Web for Classrooms and asked if they could use at home too. Yes, they can! But what they most enjoyed was being treated as the expert as indeed they are. Just because the end-user is a student in a school doesn’t mean their voice is less meaningful.
To conclude, I will never understand why more Edtech companies don’t spend more time in schools. Maybe it’s the fear of dealing with the blunt honesty that these end-users have to give. But let’s face it – if they don’t like it – you have not got a worthwhile product!
Can’t wait to return and bring in the digital prototype the girls’ designed. Thanks, Burntwood and thank you, girls!