The International Institute de Lancy (IIL) is considered to be one of the most innovative schools in Switzerland when it comes to using IT in the classroom. The school’s ICT Leader for English Secondary Adrian Hirst, shares some of the lessons they have learned.
This article was originally published in Things to do in Geneva by Chené Koscielny
What makes IIL a leader in the field?
IIL has used Apple technology for over 20 years, allowing them to learn from early mistakes and in the process develop a unique and robust approach.
So, what is the best way?
Just because a school has invested a small fortune on 1000 iPads and has unveiled a new IT room, does not mean technology is used in a way that will help your child, says Mr Hirst.
The financial investment is only the start. How the school manages to integrate the technology will determine its success.
Make the technology disappear
The first goal, according to Mr Hirst, should be to make the technology disappear.
What? You’ve just forked out thousands on new equipment and now you want it to disappear?
The overall goal should be integrating technology to such an extent that the lines between technology and non-technology become blurred.
“iPads, for example, should become just one of a selection of tools available to children when they’re conceptualizing projects. The idea is to teach them the skills to be able to decide when technology would be an appropriate tool. Get the technology out of the way.”
What technology can do, when managed in the right way, is to give students the opportunity to conceive projects that they wouldn’t even be aware existed if it wasn’t for technology.
For example IIL has just invested in a laser engraver – and will open a small STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts and Maths) lab in 2019.
Mr Hirst believes students should be involved in discovering how these tools can be used to create or enhance school projects in ways that they weren’t aware existed before. Suddenly a geography or science project can take on a whole new dimension. These tools should be integrated across classes and the curriculum in an organic, unobtrusive way. It removes the restraints about what can and can’t be done.
Don’t restrict access to the internet
The IIL approach is not to restrict or filter access to the Internet. They have a basic firewall to ensure inappropriate content can’t be found, but beyond that there are very few limitations and restrictions.
“Our approach was revolutionary. We went from one ICT lesson per week to one iPad per child for the whole school –where children (in secondary) had 24 hours access.”
At the time reactions to this approach varied from admiration to ridicule.
“We believe you can’t realistically control the access to technology as students will always find ways around it. You don’t want to play that chess game. It is far more effective to teach students to develop the skills to manage technology responsibly. They are encouraged to think for themselves, but when they fail, of course, we’ll help them.”
A new way of teaching
If the teachers are on board, the technology in the classroom could snowball into a totally new way of learning.
“We are moving away from the traditional model of a teacher in the front of the class sharing his or her knowledge. The children have more knowledge through their access to the Internet and are teaching themselves. The teacher is almost demoted and this could be seen as a threat.”
The challenge is for the teacher to take on a new role – instead of passing on knowledge, they now have to focus on sharing their experience and life skills – to guide students how to use the knowledge they acquire in the best way.
Innovation in education
Technology has the ability to stimulate a totally different approach to education. “It totally explodes the old way of teaching.”
The school has to rethink its entire structure and be open to a new and collaborative and cross-curricular way of working, which has implications on every level, down to the layout of the classrooms and buildings.
In IIL the school is managing this challenge through the work of an Innovation Team, which meets weekly to discuss how to stay abreast of the latest developments and meet challenges head-on.
The school regularly hosts workshops for parents to teach them how to help their children to stay safe online.
“It’s important to stay as involved as you can be and not to be left behind by the technology. You can’t control your child, but you can be there for him or her.”
To find out more about IIL and the approach to technology, contact Adrian Hirst:
Phone: 0041 22 794 26 20