In international schools worldwide, technology is being integrated into every facet of teaching and learning. Students submit assignments online via educational platforms such as Google Classroom or Edmodo. Teachers share resources and grade work electronically. iPads, laptops and a myriad of other digital devices are ever present in the classroom, just as they are in most homes.

Granted the prestigious title of ‘Apple Distinguished School’ in 2018, Garden International School in Kuala Lumpur (GIS) has been globally recognised for its “innovation, leadership and educational excellence”. So what sets GIS apart from other international schools in regard to technology?

It isn’t simply the number of gadgets, though the school is extremely well-equipped. It isn’t just the quality of teachers, though they are highly qualified, with high levels of technological competency. Indeed, a number of features set GIS apart and contribute to its ‘innovative learning culture’.

Integrating Technology: The Need for Balance

Although Garden International School is proud of its 1-1 iPad scheme, in which every student from Year 3 upwards has an iPad, this doesn’t automatically mean that all learning has shifted online. Pop into any classroom at GIS and you will see plenty of learning without an iPad in sight.

At GIS, teachers appreciate that typing on iPads shouldn’t replace pen and paper, nor should students’ ability to collaborate via Google Docs reduce the number of face-to-face conversations, discussions and debates taking place in the classroom.

However, it is also incumbent upon teachers and school leaders to ensure that students are well-prepared to thrive in the 21st century globalised workforce, and this includes the need for high levels of technological competence and confidence.

Thus, integrating technology effectively in the classroom is a delicate balance. At Garden International School, teachers are reluctant to automatically integrate technology into lessons, unless there is a genuine benefit to student learning. When planning learning experiences for their student, they consider questions such as:

How could technology help me to personalise learning for my students? Could I use technology to help support a child who is struggling, or stretch a child who is ready for more challenge?

How could I use technology to help support my students’ ability to develop key skills like collaboration, organisation and research?

How could I employ technology to help inspire student creativity, collaboration and critical thinking in my classroom?

Professional Learning

Being able to judiciously apply the correct technology at the correct time in the learning process takes careful thought and planning on the part of the teacher. It also requires a degree of confidence and knowledge of how different technologies can support and enrich learning.

Garden International School has one of the world’s finest professional learning programmes for teachers and is deeply committed to ensuring their staff remain at the forefront of their profession. All teachers at GIS participate in a comprehensive professional development programme, carefully designed to provide them with frequent opportunities to build their understanding and skills with regard to technology in education.

Every term, teachers at GIS can elect to join Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) to research, explore and advance their professional knowledge with like-minded peers. Many of the PLCs focus on advanced technological topics, such as how to use technology to personalise learning, how technology can improve assessment and how teachers can ‘flip’ learning using online learning platforms such as Versal and GoFormative . Whole-school events like ‘speed geeking’, in which teachers share ‘tech tips’ and knowledge in quick 5-minute sessions with other teachers, also run regularly and are very popular.

The school also employs specialised ‘Digital Learning Coaches’ - qualified teachers with considerable technological expertise. The Digital Learning Coaches research and explore new ways of using technology to support and enrich teaching and learning in the school, from the Early Years up to the Sixth Form. They also offer invaluable support to teachers as they learn about new software and Apps, and enjoy working with students to support their understanding and use of technology as learners.

Students Leading the Way

GIS is proud of its extensive Student Leadership programme, aimed at developing leadership potential in students and empowering them to engage and inspire their peers. There are ‘Digital Learning’ Student Leaders in Years 5 and 6 (Primary) and Year 10 (Secondary) that are passionate about enriching their peers’ understanding and enjoyment of technology in the school.

With the support of the GIS Digital Learning Coaches, these student leaders lead popular CCA groups for students covering such topics as animation, film making, coding and even Minecraft! The Primary student leaders have helped organise and lead their peers in the annual global event, ‘The Hour of Code’, while the Secondary student leaders in the Digital Strand have been brave enough to lead professional learning workshops for teachers!

Student ‘Digital Learning Leaders’ in both the GIS Primary and Secondary Schools also play an active role in educating their peers about staying safe online: they help plan and run relevant and engaging ‘Digital Citizenship’ lessons, and also work together to run a Twitter account to share ideas with their peers and wider school community.

A Community Approach to Digital Citizenship

The school’s Digital Learning Coaches share regular ‘Digital Tips’ with the school community, informing them of new digital trends and fads and their potential benefits and associated risks, as well as other tech tips that families might find helpful at home.

GIS also runs weekly parent workshops as part of its commitment to the GIS school community. Many of these workshops focus on different types of technology and how these can be used safely and effectively to enhance learning. By educating parents as well as students, and increasing awareness amongst all members to the school community, we have the best possible chance of keeping our children safe online.

Get a firsthand experience of our innovative learning culture and join us at our Open Day on 27th September 2018 - to register visit www.gardenschool.edu.my or call +603 6209 6888 

You can also follow the GIS student digital learning leaders on Twitter: https://twitter.com/GISDigital