Hong Kong SAR, China
Since 2004, The Independent Schools Foundation Academy (ISF), a private independent school located in Hong Kong, has focused on delivering education steeped in Chinese culture accentuated with global awareness. The aim is to ensure children attending the school have a strong connection to their Chinese identity, without overlooking the diversity and value of other cultures.
A Pre-K to 12 school, courses are delivered using Putonghua (also known as Mandarin Chinese) and English using inquiry-based and collaborative learning in Hong Kong’s highly competitive education market.
But these goals are not that easy to achieve, unless you have the right tools. Education is a journey that has changed over the years, and students and teachers all over the world are now more demanding.
Faced with the challenges of delivering a high quality education covering a wide range of learning styles, needs and cultures, The ISF Academy recognized it needed flexible tools capable of meeting these demands. After conducting research and evaluating several platforms it was decided Moodlerooms meet these needs.
Technology is used by everyone at The ISF Academy, from the youngest to the eldest and by all the teachers. Primary school children use school provided iPads, laptops and desktop computers while Middle school students (Grade 6 to 8) participate in a One-to-One Laptop program. They are required to purchase a 13” Apple MacBook Air or Pro. The ISF Academy finds that a dedicated, personally owned laptop makes the students responsible for both its care and use in support of their learning. Senior school students (Grade 9 to 12), being more mature and technically capable follow a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) laptop program. They are allowed to purchase any laptop (Windows or Apple) that suits their individual needs.
“Using technology with education is great.” asserts Sean Moran, the Head of Educational Technology for The ISF Academy, “It allows teachers to access a wide variety of digital resources that enhance classroom learning.” However, Sean found his teachers struggling with the organization and sharing of these resources and had a hard time collecting work from them.
Moodlerooms solved this problem. “Our Moodlerooms website was launched three years ago, and ever since it has been the center of our online resources. It is an easy to use platform, where resources of any kind, documents, PDFs, audio files and more can be shared with students. It’s also great because teachers can put links to the websites or videos they want their students to use.”
In the case of their younger students, parents are more involved in their child’s education. The ISF Academy wanted a tool that made it easy for Primary school students to access the resources their teacher wanted them to use at home while being helped by their parents. According to Sean this is one of the reasons why they chose to use Moodlerooms with their Primary school. As the children get older they can work towards the objective of becoming more independent.
Moodlerooms is therefore the perfect Learning Management System (LMS) for delivering course content. Students and teachers have one platform that is familiar and consistent. Once a student has logged in and accessed their courses the teacher can take them to any place they like. Students become familiar with the layout of Moodlerooms so they do not have to learn a new tool every day. Additionally, Moodlerooms offers sufficient flexibility to connect users to additional tools that meet their many different needs.
While Moodlerooms is used with the Primary school, at The ISF Academy the majority of hosted courses in the platform are for Middle and Senior school students (Grades 6 to 12). Courses offered include Science, Maths, ICT, Humanities, Chinese and English classes. Teachers make use of quizzes, assignments, attendance and the gradebook to make managing their courses easier.
Additionally, there are hosted courses that support the teacher’s professional development; everything from how to use Moodlerooms, Google Apps, and iPads to the school’s information management system. There is even a course for new teachers helping them as they move to Hong Kong.
Choosing an LMS is not an easy task and when it came to making the decision The ISF Academy took many factors into account: flexibility, extensibility, ease-of-use, cost, and support. What proved to be the turning point is that Moodlerooms works closely with the open source community that supports and develops the Moodle platform. They noticed that if there was a problem or perhaps a new idea, the Moodle platform was flexible enough to allow people to create solutions and to share them so everyone could benefit. “Other platforms have great resources and support too, but often you have to work through a lot of processes and then you have to pay for the solution, so it becomes a big and complex problem”, said Sean.
Building a strong sense of community is one of The ISF Academy’s main objectives. It considers students, teachers, staff, governors and parents to be equal participants in the community. And the school maintains that a learning community is one in which the pursuit of knowledge is valued by all and mutually supported. Moodlerooms is ideal for them, because being able to connect with a community of other teachers, peers and experts really helps the school grow, develop and innovate.
In today’s world we need to work together, to work with a community and to be able to collaborate and share, to give and receive, and “Moodlerooms embodies the philosophy we are trying to teach our kids”.
*Sean Moran, Head of Educational Technology, The Independent Schools Foundation Academy
*Photos by: AFP Jayne Russell