Ben Tipton, Sacred Heart RC Primary School scoops Pearson Award in the National Teaching Awards 2012
Award winning teacher makes big changes with UniServity learning platform
ICT innovator Ben Tipton of Sacred Heart RC Primary School in Westhoughton near Bolton has scooped the Pearson Award for Outstanding use of Technology in Education in the National Teaching Awards 2012. The judges said: “His implementation of the school’s learning platform has transformed teaching and learning. The school is developing rapidly and Ben’s contribution has been tremendous.”
Many schools use their learning platform to garner and store useful resources but Sacred Heart has gone so much further. The school’s UniServity learning platform is packed full of different stimuli and entertaining activities so pupils might gather vocabulary from a topic and make a Word Cloud or create and upload an animation. They might post ideas onto a Wish Wall or practise their French by sending an online message to Benjamin Bear.
Ben has always been interested in ICT and relishes the fact that there is now a central place for wikis, forums, videos and their in-house radio station Radio Heart. "I want to make learning fun," said Ben and pupils at Sacred Heart would certainly agree that he has succeeded.
Ben has used the learning platform to bring a new dynamic to education at Sacred Heart, encouraging pupils to take ownership of their own learning and collaborate with their peers. He has also used the platform to improve parental engagement and facilitate easy dialogue with school stakeholders.
Keen to create independent learners, equipped with life-long learning skills that will position them well for the world of work, staff at Sacred Heart have actively encouraged pupils to take ownership of their learning. Rather than handing the children photocopied lesson material, Ben has set up wikis (online collaborative learning and writing tools) for his colleagues, which the children use to find out information for themselves. The teacher determines the topic and each group of children researches a particular aspect of that topic and shares their findings with their classmates. Using an online forum tool, pupils also collaborate with their peers and engage in debate, learning from one another.
Communicating with schools stakeholders – local community, governors, parents and teachers – has also improved dramatically with teachers using an online staff room to plan and share ideas. It has also enabled governors to communicate easily with the leadership and management team on the direction of the school and policy and to inform existing and prospective parents about fundraising events, celebrations of their children’s work and links with other Catholic organisations.
Parental engagement has also received a boost. No longer can a child go home and say to their parents “they did nothing”, with anytime anywhere access to the platform, parents can simply log on and see what their child is learning, their achievements and their targets.
Judges said: 'Staff spoke of the way in which Ben supports them in their learning, taking time to coach them but never making them feel silly or inadequate.' Sacred Heart's teachers now have such a wide range of resources they can make every lesson unique. One pupil said they were doing 'far in excess' of what was expected for homework because they were fully engaged in learning. 'It's fantastic,' she said.
And for the future? Sacred Heart has upgraded to the Life Learning Cloud from UniServity - a dynamic web 3.0 cloud-based learning platform. It uses 'semantic technology' which analyses a pupil's level of knowledge, skills and interests and sends them information which meets individual needs in a very precise way. It seems that pupils at Sacred Heart have even more to celebrate.
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This is what the Pearson judges and others had to say about Ben…
‘This is fun!’ was the vibrant cry from the majority of pupils at Sacred Heart R.C. Primary School, when Teaching Awards judges visited outstanding teacher Ben Tipton. Their learning has become exciting due to Ben's enthusiasm for using his technological expertise to enhance learning for all.
Ben's vision for the use of technology at school is simple; it must make a difference not just to the children’s ability in IT, it must also enhance and develop their key skills as an important educational tool. If children enjoy technology, then they will learn more and the learning often continues well into their spare time and weekends.
His work in technology has tremendous impact strategically throughout the whole school. As leader of “connected learning” and standards, his implementation of the school’s learning platform has transformed teaching and learning. The school is developing rapidly and Ben’s contribution has been tremendous. As his head teacher says “Ben and his work has been of tremendous significance in raising standards and aspirations throughout our community.”
Ben joined his school just four years ago as a newly qualified teacher, but he has already become Lead Year 6 Practitioner and his work is valued not just at his own school, but throughout the area. He is keen to share his expertise with others and, for the last two years has held best practice sessions with a cluster of 9 local primary schools. He is also a leader for his local authority’s “No School Left Behind” project, coaching others in technology to help other schools improve and develop teaching and learning in turn.
His head teacher describes Ben as “an outstanding teacher, an extremely effective leader, and a great asset to the whole school family.”