A few years ago Paul Hadjipieris, a History teacher at RuTC, found himself feeling stagnant in his teaching. He was being plagued by a feeling not uncommon to the teaching profession – the feeling of disillusionment – a result of teaching the same material, year after year for 10 years.
Around the same time, there was a new buzzword of education that was seemingly getting a lot of educators excited around the world. The buzzword was e-Learning. It was the very thing Paul needed.
‘As a result of the boom in e-Learning, there is a huge amount of free online tools made by programming students available to try and test,’ says Paul. After exploring a range of tools, Paul found Prezi, an online presentation app, which allows teachers to create mixed-media (including video, audio, images, text, documents and links) presentations and upload them to a visual archive of course material. Paul spent the next year creating and uploading presentations for each of his history courses at Richmond upon Thames College, initially a tremendous tax on his time but over the long-term, a enormous time and energy saver as it effectively became his own electronic resource.
‘I realised I was doing far too much work before,’ says Paul. ‘I was giving them all the answers. Instead, with Prezi, they learn and find answers at their own pace and I facilitate.’ Students have access to the archive on their computers and mobiles. With WiFi readily available even on the tube, they could do their revision virtually anywhere. What’s more, Paul says it is more successful than traditional teaching in engaging the shy and lower ability learners and non-native English speakers.
‘They are able to go at their own pace and go over the content again until they feel confident,’ says Paul. ‘They also have the opportunity to participate in their own time and way. Many learners who wouldn’t usually have the confidence to speak out in class find their voice online.’ Teachers are also aware that all bad attendance is not created equal. For the learners who cannot attend class for valid reasons, having the lectures online can give them a lifeline to better opportunity.
‘The key thing is to pick something the learners like and enjoy and invest in it, invest time in discovering how it works best and take risks with it.’ Exploring e-Learning technology has brought endless verve back into Paul’s teaching and won him the RuTC Innovative Teacher of the Year award in 2015.
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