HKIS goes online for hybrid teaching

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 November, 2011, 12:00am


When the Hong Kong International School (HKIS) was faced with the challenge of operating as a 'virtual' school, it did so with relative ease as teachers and students were already used to working collaboratively online.

'Appropriately used technology enables learners to access and process information in ways never before possible. [The late Apple co-founder and CEO] Steve Jobs elegantly called the personal computer the mental bicycle in that it allows people to think faster and further than would otherwise be the case,' says Justin Hardman, director of technology at HKIS.

The school is moving towards a hybrid, or blended, learning model that combines classroom and online instruction. This process is ongoing and continually expanding as paper-based resources go increasingly digital.

At HKIS, all teachers have laptops that they use throughout the school on a wireless network. They are able to communicate to students and parents via a variety of server-based tools, including online grading and reporting, as well as a learning management system.

In Grades 5 to 12, students have their own MacBook Pro laptop, while students in Grades 3 to 5 have access to laptops during class time. For younger students up to Grade 2, iPads are provided during class time.

The school's library database services provide access to a wide range of information via facilities such as EBSCO, which provides access to hundreds of archives, as well as up-to-date news sources that are not usually available online.

Britannica's archives provide thousands of images that are royalty free and enable students to illustrate their presentations to show their understanding of the concepts they are learning in the classroom.

Students and teachers are also able to access databases and services that provide interactive activities. These are used by teachers to enable learning to take place on a more personalised level.

Some examples of these are Renzulli, BrainPOP and Gizmos. Renzulli assesses students' learning styles and gives them personalised recommendations. BrainPOP provides students with a range of interactive learning activities. Gizmos is a maths site aimed at older students. It has interactive activities that can be tied directly to a unit of study by the teacher, and the site can also be browsed independently by students.

At HKIS, teachers of Grade 5 students regularly divide their classes into groups, with one group receiving direct instruction from the teacher on a particular maths concept, while the other goes online to reinforce particular maths concepts using interactive activities.

At the secondary level, teachers direct students to an online resource that teaches a concept as a homework activity. This frees up more classroom time for teachers to practice the concepts involved with the students through group work and one-on-one instruction.

'The big move at the moment is towards cloud-based technologies. We're moving towards more online services that allow for our hybrid style of teaching to achieve more personalised online learning,' says Hardman.