Improving Student Outcomes and Empowering Teachers Through the Implementation of Digital Content with Edmentum’s EducationCity
Across the world, schools have different strategies and views on how to improve their students’ outcomes and empower their teachers with time-saving tools and the resources they need to do their jobs more effectively. Abura Apiny, Lead Coordinator Academics at Jaffery Academy Mombasa; Miranda McGovern, Head of Hillcrest Early Years at Hillcrest International Schools; and Kelly Pugh, Assistant Headteacher at Braeburn School, discussed these areas in relation to digital content and Edmentum’s EducationCity in a roundtable event.
In this roundtable session, the speakers discussed their school backgrounds, the ways their use of online learning programs has changed over the last two years, the manner they utilize blended learning in their learning spaces, and their goals for the future in terms of their use of digital content. They discussed these topics alongside Edmentum’s K-6 personalized learning and assessment program, EducationCity, which all the speakers use to maximize their teaching and learning.
Prefer to read? View a summarized video transcript below.
Can you tell us a bit about your history with EducationCity and say if your use of it has changed over time?
Miranda McGovern: I got to know about EducationCity about five years ago, and it was really used as an in-school tool. It was really something for the teachers in the school I was working in. We were also encouraged to do homework on it. When we had to go to online learning, everything just kicked into a fast-forward mode, and the parents got involved, and even now, the parents are still very, very much involved with EducationCity and use it at home.
Kelly Pugh: I started using it as a class teacher when I first started at Braeburn. I think it was maybe eight years ago now. We’ve had lots of training over the years, lots of information, and implementation plans put in place based on what we wanted and needed as a school community. We did start off [with it] in the classroom. Everybody had login details, but as Miranda also said, it didn’t really kick off with the parents really, really engaging with what we were offering through it until we had to go to online learning. Then, it became a very fundamental tool that we were using. Children love it, the teachers love it, and so do the parents.
Abura Apiny: Our success story with EducationCity started somewhere around 2017. At first, we used EducationCity as a supplementary teaching and learning resource with more emphasis on the games and the worksheets. I must say that these baby steps have made EducationCity an integral teaching and learning resource in our school. When COVID came, we were way ahead in our usage of EducationCity, and when the government of Kenya decided to close schools, that was the first port of call. As a school, we said we have to continue learning, and we’ll continue using EducationCity. Our learners interacted with EducationCity as their sole means of teaching and learning.
What challenges have you faced with online learning over the last two years?
Abura Apiny: One of the greatest challenges that we face as a school is the inability to get optimum support from parents. We have a slide on our presentations on EducationCity whenever we have our orientations with parents at the beginning of the year. At that point, we make . . . the level of cooperation and support we’ll need from them [clear].
Miranda McGovern: When we had to close down . . . Early Years were quite lucky because we had EducationCity in place, and the rest of our school, the prep school, had taken a bit of a leave from EducationCity. They were very quick to . . . rekindle it and to join us.
What has your school’s approach to blended learning been like, and what does it look like now?
Abura Apiny: After COVID, after one or so years of purely online learning, we moved on to blended learning. Our approach was to have part of the school in school and part at home. We started with the candidate classes. It’s from the candidate classes that we checked on our gaps and we fixed what needed to be fixed. Then, we moved on to roll it out in bubbles, and we said, “OK, we will have this bubble in school on Monday, the next bubble on Tuesday. . . .” One good thing about our blended learning was that it gave us room to review what had been launched or what our kids had covered online.
As we’re speaking right now, we are fully on campus, but we are aware of what is happening all over. Notwithstanding the fact that we are fully on campus, we have put in place good mechanisms that can guarantee successful blended or virtual classes at any point in time.
How has your use of online learning tools such as EducationCity changed since you’ve returned to school?
Kelly Pugh: Of course, we didn’t want [students] to lose all that online learning that they’ve learned. We don’t want to hinder that progress. What we do is we set weekly homework through EducationCity. Our home learning approach has totally changed since the pandemic. We do set homework, and it does tend to be through EducationCity for English and maths every week. We do projects through science, and some of that is through EducationCity also. But that’s a free choice, and we’ve taken the approach that we don’t give consequences for children not completing their homework. We do have a homework club set up if parents would really like their children to complete it so that there’s a teacher there to support them and they can use all the online equipment that we have in school.
How did you successfully embed EducationCity into day-to-day practices?
Abura Apiny: Children learn best when they’re given consistent routines. We’ve worked towards ensuring that we have a consistent routine in terms of our engagement with EducationCity or in terms of embedding our daily activities with our digital literacy.
Then, we have to agree that our learners learn better when they realize that their teachers are taking an active, leading role. The moment learners realize that even Mr. Abura loves EducationCity, that is the very moment that they will change their perception and love it. We had our mathematics marathon, and to spice up the week, we said, “Fine, boys and girls . . . we’ll be having our PlayLive [challenge].” Believe me, our kids are super mathematicians. None of our teachers could beat them. We will meet the following day in the morning, and it will all be stories of how I outsmarted Mr. Abura, how I outsmarted teacher so and so. One of the things that has really helped us to [encourage usage of] EducationCity is the active, leading role taken by teachers.
Then, another thing that has helped us embed EducationCity in our programs is the tracking of [student] progress and discussing feedback with both learners and parents. The moment you track a child’s progress and discuss this feedback with the mother, the father, and the child, the child realizes that it’s not just a game. This is something really, really important. By discussing this with parents, we involve them fully. We ensure that when we have our orientations, we do tell them what we expect of them on EducationCity. We do also organize workshops for them so that they understand where we’re coming from and that they work with us.
Miranda McGovern: In the rest of the prep, it’s very much used as a homework tool as well, so besides using elements in class for teaching, it’s setting it as homework. Our teachers get very excited because when our Edmentum representative shares our usage with us, it also highlights the teachers who are very skilled in putting homework on MyCity. You can mention to the teachers, “Oh, you had the highest number of logins” or “Your students are the best,” and these students get a certificate. In that way, it’s really become part of the way we do things at school.
Parents [also] allow their children a lot of tablet time. I now say, if they have screen time, just log EducationCity in for them, put it on, put the app on, and then, at least it’s something which is also educational and will benefit your child. We were working on that with their parents.
How do you utilize the support at Edmentum?
Kelly Pugh: The support that we get from the EducationCity representatives is really, really amazing. They are so prompt with communication. I work a lot with the international implementation specialist at EducationCity, and we have midpoint reviews. One thing that we didn’t do when we originally got set up was we didn’t, maybe, make the most of the training that’s on offer. We used to have quite a big staff turnover every year because of the climate that we’re in. I guess we have a lot of expatriate teachers. They come for three or four years and want to move on. That would be quite consistent, and we never took advantage of the fact that the training can be offered, and it’s part of the subscription. That’s something that we definitely do now and have done in the last couple of years.
What impact has EducationCity had on the students and teachers?
Miranda McGovern: I think one of the biggest impacts for me is independence. I see it every year in FS2 [Foundation Stage 2] when you do your first sounds and use EducationCity. After that, they just go to the computer, they know how to find the sound, they know how to do the little activity, and they just don’t need you. It’s independence that really stands out for me when you use EducationCity.
Abura Apiny: I’ll look at it differently from our perspective at Jaffery Academy. I’ll pick up a subject like mathematics. What I’ve seen our teachers of mathematics do is [tell the class], “Tomorrow, we’ll be looking at this concept, algebra. Now, class, I’ve put up some tasks on EducationCity.” Mostly these tasks are Learn Screens. We’ll have children go home, watch the Learn Screens, and learn a lot. It’s more of the flipped classroom. The child learns a lot, and then the following day, children come excited, ready to share their experiences. I feel EducationCity has enabled children to own the learning process.
I must also say about the assessment aspect in EducationCity—you assess a child, and then, EducationCity gives you the feedback and goes ahead to tell you which concept you need to teach. That differentiated analysis gives a teacher an easier time analyzing performance in a test or an assessment.
Kelly Pugh: I think the biggest for us is the motivation. The animations are so interactive and so child-friendly.
How do you use the student scores and data that you receive through EducationCity?
Kelly Pugh: It basically gives you a gap analysis. You can see how long it’s taken for a child to complete [activities], so that’s an indication of how confident they are with the concept that you’ve set for them. You can also set it so that they can repeat it. It can tell you how many times they’ve tried to do it, and it’ll give you the whole overview for every single activity. Even for the tasks that you don’t set, you can click on a child’s name, and it will tell you exactly what they’ve been focusing on. Again, this is a really big indicator as to what they’re struggling with and what they find really, really easy so that you can build on that in the classroom further.
Abura Apiny: The icing on the cake is the fact that you can track the success and learning opportunities of each child. The keyword here is each “child,” using the SuccessTracker. I love it.
What are your plans and hopes for the future in terms of your use of digital content tools such as EducationCity for learning?
Abura Apiny: Now, we are talking of learning in 2050, right? I believe that the post-COVID era will see a lot of accelerated integration of I.T. in our education. As a school, we actually believe we are more than ready. We are investing heavily on our I.C.T. [information and communications technology] infrastructure. We’re putting in place some measures that will ensure that 2050 finds that way ahead. We’ve also introduced A.I. [and] robotics. Super exciting. So, I believe the future is so bright. We have good plans for it. We are working with our parents together, and now, we have great partners like EducationCity. I must mention that our Edmentum representative has been of great support when it comes to monitoring how we use EducationCity. With you watching our back, the future is safe.
What would you say are the most important elements to consider when implementing online learning programs such as EducationCity?
Miranda McGovern: Training—it comes down to training. We’re always able to implement something better if we’ve had the proper training. Otherwise, we don’t use it to its fullest potential, so it is a very short answer.
Kelly Pugh: Yeah, 100 percent, and making the most of the support that EducationCity staff can give you as well. They are on hand all the time. If you even want your staff to have one-on-one training with them, they’re there to do it. They’re more than willing and excited to do it. That’s definitely something that we need to make the most of also.
Abura Apiny: I believe that the first thing should be exploiting the trial period. Fully subscribe for the trial period, and make use of it.
If you want to find out more about how Edmentum’s EducationCity can support your K–6 personalized learning and assessment needs as it does at Jaffery Academy Mombasa, Hillcrest International Schools, and Braeburn School, request a demo today.
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