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Views & Opinion

It’s time to listen to the students Comment by Gareth Mellor, marketing manager at SAM Learning

Over the past decade, children have grown up alongside evolving technology, with it fast- becoming part of their daily routines, and making them somewhat of experts in the process. This is something that simply shouldn’t be ignored by teachers and businesses. In fact, it is in their interest to work alongside students to ensure what they are teaching or providing is tailored appropriately to both engage and empower students. Corporates such as Thomson Reuters,

Samsung and Barclaycard are all perfect examples of companies working with students, equipping them with real-life skills and expertise they’ll benefit from when entering the working world. And while it is important for companies to impart their knowledge on the next generation, it’s just as vital to make this knowledge-sharing reciprocal, and for companies to listen to what students have to say. It would be naïve to think that students

couldn’t give a really useful insight or offer advice and feedback to education resource providers, after all, they are probably more

exposed to technology on a daily basis than most. Students understand what works, what doesn’t, and more importantly, what they like. It’s important to give students a voice and make sure that what we’re providing them with is something meeting a real need, so they can truly get the most out of it. Putting this into practice, we recently invited

four students from Ravens Wood School in Bromley to come in and present feedback on how they would improve SAM Learning if they had the opportunity. The students spent the day presenting likes and dislikes, ways of improving the system as well as pitching a new concept. Of course, you can’t change a whole

resource or piece of software entirely based on student feedback, but it is interesting to hear suggestions that you may not have thought about before. And some may be simpler to implement than you think – for example, the students felt that the homepage was too focused at teachers, making it unappealing for their age group. As a result of this feedback, we’re now looking at creating a separate

landing page for the students to make it more personalised for them. Examples like this reinforce the need to

listen to your users. Ultimately, they are the ones who use the system so you want to make sure you’re not just imposing something on them, but rather providing a resource with a beneficial outcome for them. Even incorporating the smallest of changes can make a big difference. For example, after telling us it would be useful to include recommendations or suggest similar topics after completing a revision or exam task, we are planning to introduce tagging activities, allowing students to choose activities that are grouped by a particular theme. Giving students the chance to express their

views and opinions empowers and allows them to have a more meaningful appreciation for a resource, rather than just being a passive user. It gives them the chance to delve deeper into a product and gain an understanding of its purpose but by also listening to them, it means that they are able to positively impact their own learning.

Why skills for life are vital Comment by Natalie Harling, Head of Education Business Development at The Outward Bound Trust

Preparing young people for the challenging next steps in their life after G.C.S.E.’s or A levels has never been more significant. It’s really important for us in education to remember that in addition to academic progress, it’s also vital to help students develop skills for life in order to help them transition into sixth form, further or higher education, apprenticeships or work. At The Trust we believe that by encouraging

young people to have a healthy measure of self- knowledge and self-awareness they will develop and establish positive behaviours and attributes that will remain with them for life and help them to stand out from their peers. The words of Kurt Hahn our co-founder uttered 75 years ago stand as firmly now as they did back then: “We are all better than we know. If only we can be made to realise this, we may never be prepared to settle for anything less.” One bright and lively student, 16-year-old

Harriot Denham who has severe dyslexia and poor organisational skills came to realise her true potential during a 19 day Skills for Life Award course in August last year. Harriot had

experienced a very difficult home life following her parent’s acrimonious divorce which had left her lacking in self-esteem and confidence. Having just completed her G.C.S.E.’s at Roeden School, she was having to change school to complete her A levels due family finance difficulties. One of our funding partners, the Royal National Children's Foundation, enabled Harriot’s attendance on the course. Harriot’s mother Jane explains: “During the

course Harriot developed her confidence, resilience and independence.” Harriot gained most from the camping expedition as this encouraged developing team work skills and resourcefulness. She realized her strong and upbeat character worked well in a team and this compensated for her dyslexia-related organisational problems, and her inability to map read! Another example of the positive and lasting

impact of a Skills for Life Award can be seen in Windsor Girl School student Rukayyah Yussuf. Now aged 17, she came to the UK as a 14-year- old Somalian refugee, with no family and unable


to speak English. This determined student identified last year that she needed to improve her communication skills as she would need these in her everyday life and especially for her next step to University. She applied to The Trust for funding for the 19-day course, which she completed in Aberdovey last summer. Rukayyah explains: “Everything we did on this course was extremely challenging for everyone, but within every single task there was a message to be considered, a lesson to be learnt and skills to be taken that will stay with us throughout our lives. We learnt about independence, confidence, self- belief, and team work. One of the big lesson’s I learned was not to be afraid to overcome your fears because if you keep going you can conquer your fear. Testament to her high level of attainment

during her course, in December last year The Trust held a 75th Anniversary Dinner at Buckingham Palace, hosted by The Duke of Edinburgh. After the dinner Rukayyah stood up in front of His Royal Highness and 150 guests to share the experience of her Skills for Life Award.

April 2016

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