Reveal project: The new face of teaching

The days of a blackboard, chalk and a textbook to share between two are now long gone. Step into any classroom today and you are more likely to be faced with laptops, interactive whiteboards and even webcams. 
But giving someone the tools does not necessarily make them an expert craftsman. Advanced technology is an inescapable feature of the modern education system, but there is not always time, or the resources to assess how much or how effectively such equipment is being used.
Now a major new study by the Learning Technologies team at the Midlands Leadership Centre, part of Education Partnerships at the University, has set out to investigate for the first time the use of voting systems, or Learner Response Systems, in schools across the UK.
The technology allows pupils to actively participate in lessons by sending electronic responses to questions, or discussion topics set by the teacher, which appear on an interactive whiteboard or projector screen. For example, pupils can be quizzed on their understanding of a particular topic or give their reactions to particular scenarios.

Most extensive study in the UK

The £250,000 Reveal Project is a two-year development and research project which focuses on the effective use of one form of e-voting system, Promethean’s Activote. The project aims to identify best practice and highlight creative ways of working. In addition, the researchers have produced a DVD as a guide to education practitioners, and to suggest how to expand use of it. The DVD, titled ‘Effective Teaching and Learning using Electronic Learner Response Systems’, was launched at the Interactive Technology in Education (ITiE) Symposium in London and is available via the project website
Diana Bannister MBE is the Development Director for Learning Technologies at the Midlands Leadership Centre, and led the research. She says:
“The Reveal Project is the most extensive study of learner response systems across the UK. The technology can be used for initial participation and engagement but the focus can be much deeper than that and can be used to track pupils’ progress.
“Learner Response Systems (LRS) can be used for a range of subjects, including numeracy and literacy. They can be a stimulus for all aspects of teaching and learning, but at the heart of the technology is the ability for a teacher to exploit the principles of assessment for learning.
“Our aim was to lay down what best practice is and identify the key themes in terms of leadership decisions for the education sector. It is about real practice in real schools – the lessons filmed were actual lessons in schools across the country.”
Key messages from the research include:
  • Practitioners should be encouraged to have more talk time, thinking time and jotting time to develop ideas with the pupils
  • Many pupils like the lack of writing and there are times when this can help to prepare learners for a challenging task ahead
  • Pupils like the anonymity when using the technology
  • Many practitioners need support in order to judge their own progress and need guidance on how to move forward with its use.
The team, which also includes Lead Researcher Helen Sargeant, has developed a detailed model, ‘The Response Technology Pyramid’. This tool supports schools in successfully introducing and developing classroom practice using their learner response devices.

Pupils love the feedback

Filming for the 50-minute documentary-style DVD took place in schools in Newham, Hartlepool, Lancashire, Staffordshire, and Telford and Wrekin, as well as at the University of Wolverhampton’s School of Education. The researchers observed lessons and interviewed teachers, and the DVD features footage from real classroom situations.
Andrew Hutchinson, Reveal Project Manager, says: “One of the strengths of the research is that at its heart is a range of teachers from a range of schools. The pupils are from a wide variety of ages and socio-economic groups. The children – particularly the boys – love the immediate feedback they get from the technology.
“We also filmed University of Wolverhampton staff using the technology with students to find out what they had got from lectures, and we interviewed lecturers about how they were using it.”
The technology is now used in around 12 per cent of schools in the UK, but this is expected to rise to 50 per cent in the next five years. The Reveal Project is the first research of its kind into Learner Response technology and many of the key messages from the study are applicable to other brands of ‘voting’ system.

An international angle

The project is also gaining international attention. Professor Sir Geoff Hampton, Pro Vice-Chancellor Education Partnerships and Director of the Midlands Leadership Centre at the University of Wolverhampton, gave a presentation to education leaders in New Zealand about the findings.
As schools, colleges and universities continue to assimilate technology, the research will provide a valuable tool to educational professionals at all levels.
Diana Bannister concludes: “We are certain that the DVD shows effective practice and illustrates what can be achieved when the use of technology is embedded within teaching and learning. The teachers who have worked with our Learning Technologies team have demonstrated real commitment in helping us to understand the true potential of this innovative technology."
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