Dr Kenneth Lim, a Research Scientist in the Office of Education Research at the National Institute of Education (NIE), has collaborated with 19 schools to impact thousands of students with one of NIE’s most promising research projects – the Six Learnings Framework.
Since 2009, the framework has scaled across different levels in primary and secondary schools. Teachers adapted the framework and designed specific units for subjects such as Social Studies, Literature, Elements of Business Skills and Design & Technology.
The framework describes the affordances for learning of immersive environments and game-based worlds. The framework consists of six lenses through which these virtual worlds can be analysed and critically evaluated. By using these virtual spaces in the classroom, the student will learn by exploring, collaborating, being, building, championing and expressing – which are the six lenses or learnings.
In late 2014, CHIJ St Nicholas Girls’ School (Secondary) implemented the framework for their Secondary 2 Integrated Programme (IP) Art curriculum. Three classes were involved in the intervention. The actual roll-out took 5 weeks, but the pre- and post-implementation work took about 6 months.
The teachers had already completed their planning of the Scheme of Work (SOW) for Art when Dr Lim introduced the platform to them. They came together to see how the SOW might be integrated into the platform.
“Dr Lim wanted us to explore the platform on our own – which I think is great! We can put ourselves in our students’ shoes and feel how painful it is to go through it and really learn how to use the software,” says Art teacher Mr Razali Puasa. “Through this, we managed to pre-empt and resolve certain issues we find, or certain things we’re not sure of, and then we met Kenneth to clarify with him. That’s how we were introduced to the software.”
The students started off by sketching on paper, before progressing to drawing on a free digital sketchpad software. Then, the teachers move it to Open Sim, the Six Learnings platform provided by NIE. “It is basically a sandbox where students create 3-D models based on the sketches they did,” explains Mr Razali. “As the class is building in the sandbox itself, the students get to see and help each other’s work without walking around the class.”
Mr Razali shares that while they previously incorporated digital technology into the class, they were usually one-off sessions and subject-focused. “We used to focus on visual appreciation – digital sketching, stop motion, simple photography and photo editing – but there was nothing much for them to take away and apply to other subjects,” he notes.
With the Six Learnings framework in place, the Art teachers of CHIJ St Nicholas Girls’ School found a positive impact on the students.
“We can see that student engagement definitely went up. They have a sense of ownership of their own work, product and learning. It certainly helps with their 21CC skills!” says Mdm Peh Siew Hoon, the school’s Aesthetics Head of Department.
“When we introduce the Open Sim platform to the students, we let students explore on their own,” Mr Razali says. “It was important for us to see them become self-directed and independent learners who are willing to make mistakes.”
“They are more confident, self-directed learners, and they’re more willing to try and explore. They may not want us to interfere so much, so we don’t!” says Art teacher Ms Tey Poh Choo. “They’ll say, ‘Wait, let me try first’ and are generally more independent and they want to learn.”
Overall, the school felt that the collaboration with NIE has been a beneficial one.
Mdm Peh notes that the teachers are now open-minded about trying new things. “In terms of teacher capacity, it helps open up the minds of teachers to new learnings, alternative ways of teaching, different modes or mediums they can use. My observation is that teachers are more daring to try new things. They really look like they enjoyed the process and have grown in terms of willingness to embrace new things.”
Mr Razali explains: “For us, it opened up new possibilities to improve our pedagogy, our curriculum, the way we deliver it and improve ourselves, basically. Otherwise, we won’t know how well we’re doing, we won’t know how it is outside the school.”
The teachers felt “safe” implementing the new approach as they knew the NIE team was there to support them. “There was at least one person to assist us in every lesson,” Mdm Peh shares. “The NIE team has been very kind to emphasize that anytime we need anything, we can approach them. The help they provide is also very prompt and helpful. It is especially important at the beginning, because ultimately, as teachers, we should be able to seize the research and modify it according to our classes’ needs. ”
The teachers are excited about the possibilities of the platform. They are working towards using the Open Sim platform as a tool for students to present their ideas in the future. This can be expanded to other subjects as well.
To find out more about the project “‘Worlds in Your Pocket’ – Building towards a Self-sustainable Multi-school Diffusion of the Six Learnings / Disciplinary Intuitions Learning Programme” (NRF2014-EDU001-IHL05), please contact OER at email@example.com.