Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School (PEGS) is a well-established Melbourne independent school with a long history of a focus on student-centred learning and higher order thinking skills. In sharing their experience of LearningField the school describes it as a teaching and learning tool: to guide student learning, provide a deeper understanding of concepts and ultimately allow students to be thinkers and not just learners. The school has also been a strong user of the collaboration features of the service with notes, discussions and online communication with teachers improving the sharing of concepts and making projects more interesting.
History teacher Susannah Gray speaks of the importance of helping students to understand the difference between information and knowledge. Teachers are facilitating students’ deeper conceptual understanding and in this context History and English teacher Tom Ruttkay says “LearningField has become an absolute bonus” as it has made the internet and the research task so much easier to navigate.
Vice Principal Nina Bilewicz takes this further. “The magic of LearningField is not that students can carry [the text] in a lighter form… it is that students get a complement of texts for every single subject.” A PEGS student comments on what this means for them: that this variety of sources “gives them a higher level of diversity so they become a thinker and not just a learner”.
Tom Ruttkay explains how this is changing his teaching practice. He can now “divide the class into five groups, give each of them a textbook on a particular topic, have spokesperson from that group, look for common threads, have a class discussion which creates a springboard for us to move forward. And that caters for all levels of ability.”
Geography teacher Alex Scott explains the most important aspect of the service for students as the opportunity “to guide their own learning and use different books as they see fit”.
A number of students also comment on the collaborative features of the service. This includes the ability to share notes, annotate together so their fellow classmates can see what they are working on and make projects more interesting given the variety of sources they can draw from. Students feel “they can communicate better with their teachers and classmates and together they can share key concepts they learn in their studies”.
Alex Scott also talks of LearningField’s support as follows: “it is also good to have ongoing support for staff as some are more proficient than others with newer technologies. As long as everyone feels they are supported and there is access to support then most people are pretty happy to use their technology.”
Finally Tom Ruttkay sees the future of their use of LearningField as “endless as students can get access 24/7, students can communicate with each other, they can take notes, [and] they can communicate with the teacher”. Nina Bilewicz sees LearningField as an important part of their evolution of education: “not only for the present, but also the future.”