[Acer Innovative Schools] From Zero to Hero: the role of technology in Escola Global, Portugal

This is the experience shared by Diogo A., from Escola Global in Santa Maria da Feira, one of the Acer Innovative Schools from Portugal.

My name is Diogo and I’m a middle school STEM teacher at the Escola Global Group.
Since we decided to bring technology into classes in the 2015/2016 schoolyear, we’ve been recognised as a Microsoft Showcase School, one of the most innovative schools in Portugal.
A few months ago, we shared our experience with the Acer TravelMate Spin B118 and how dynamic it was for our students to have new learning experiences this school year.
On May13th, we were invited to share our story in the Microsoft EDU Day, an event organized by Microsoft Education that pretended to demonstrate the best practices in education in Portugal.
Our students from primary and middle school talked to a large audience about their school projects, and some of our teachers conducted STEM workshops to other teachers from all over the country.
So, now, after this recognition and participation in the EDU Day, we think that this is the best moment to share with the Acer community our success story and how far we’ve come.

1st year

When we started our technological project three years ago, TeK.escolaglobal was originally planned as a 1-to-1 solution with students aged 2 to 9 years old having a personal tablet and students aged 10 to 18 having a notebook. In preschool and elementary level, there was only partial WiFi coverage and restricted use of the tablet in the classroom (only up to one hour per day). Furthermore, parent involvement was not a sure thing: a questionnaire distributed at the beginning of the project revealed that around 40% of the parents were afraid that – because of these technological devices – students would study less and be distracted within the classroom.

At the pedagogy level, the school decided to adopt the Flipped Classroom as a model and the school started to slowly increment technology in the relationship between teachers and students:

  • Video-lessons with key concepts for students to access prior to class, and classroom activities on teacher-student interactivity
  • Computer programming activities and educational robotics as a school project for levels K-15, framed by a storytelling approach
  • Occasional initiatives with Skype
  • New Office 365 tools explored: Outlook, OneNote, Sway and Yammer.

A survey, answered by almost 500 parents in the beginning of the second school year, revealed that 98% of them were very happy with TeK.escolaglobal project.

2nd year

In the 2016/2017 school year, the administration decided to deploy identical laptops for all school levels and to increase the investment in the technological infrastructure, by providing a complete WiFi coverage in the whole school environment.
As device, we chose Acer TravelMate Spin B118 because it’s perfect for our teaching methods: its rugged design and its versatility, combined with a battery life of up to 13 hours, are fundamental features that empower student exploration and achievement.
Furthermore, the school also decided to explore Project-Based Learning as an overall school practice: students had to develop a project geared towards increasing sustainable tourism in the region, with all courses involved in the project activities with interdisciplinary exercises. Throughout the year, over 20 different activities were organized by students outside the school to promote local touristic spot.
At the facilities level, following teachers’ requests, it was created the Collaborative Innovation Lab (CoIL), a new building equipped with flexible furniture and technological devices, following the recommendations of the Future Classroom Lab (FCL) initiative of European Schoolnet.

3rd year

In the end of the 2016/2017 school year, we were asked by Microsoft Portugal to allow a team of teachers to go to Microsoft Copenhagen (Denmark) for training at the STEM SUMMER SCHOOL 2017, focusing on teaching approaches to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
The school started using CoIL for elementary and middle school to conduct both classes on traditional topics and on a new combined curricular unit on STEM. Following the teachers’ summer school participation, a new pedagogical project was started in the beginning of this year in which all K-15 students have a space in their schedule to develop real projects integrating the STEM areas.
We also implemented a gamified strategy in which students belong to teams and for each challenge or class project teachers give points to the team. Each week students get an update their score and the school ranking: at the end of the term, students get a card with their final score and that puts them in a bronze, silver or golden category. With this methodology, we saw students more motivated, especially those with poor results in written tests. For each of the school terms, students and teachers explored different tools: Paint 3D, Micro:bit and Microsoft Minecraft.
And this is our story: the story of how the use of technology was embraced by Escola Global’s teachers with the goal of enhancing interactivity and student participation. It’s now clear that it is important to prioritize dynamic learning over rote learning, making students active contributors, by experiencing, making, and creating educational contents, showing new skills and critical thinking in a real-world experiences and different contexts.

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