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The iCentre at St Mary’s School, Waverley: fit for the 21st century: part two

| October 28, 2013 | 0 Comments

By Anneli Silvennoinen

The new iCentre at St Mary’s School, Waverley, in Johannesburg, takes us into the 21st century to facilitate teaching and learning in an interactive and interconnected world.

The resource centre website at School/Resource Centre is managed by the librarian. It is a valuable virtual teaching and learning aid, comprising links such as ‘How to compile a bibliography’, ‘Student support’, ‘Reference desk’ and ‘Reading resources’. This website contains links to the eLibrary and our online book club.

The resource centre Facebook page and online book club wiki page encourage virtual interaction between learners about topics such as book recommendations, interesting magazine articles, comments and technical support about social media matters relevant to the iCentre, as well as including notices and photographs about iCentre happenings and events. This is a ‘learners-only’ zone, monitored by three resource centre staff members.

The online book club wiki page runs concurrently with the Facebook page, as some parents forbid their daughters to use Facebook and these girls can contribute via the wiki. Online book assignments have been done directly onto the online book club and are included on the site.

Reading promotion
Reading is achieved by encouraging pupils to recommend items for both the electronic and print collections. Recommended reading lists are to be found on the website, as well as the Facebook page and the online book club wiki page.

A staff book club also meets once a month in the iCentre, and staff are introduced to e-books on iPads and in the eLibrary during these meetings. Casual reading nooks are scattered throughout the iCentre where users can settle down and read in peace and quiet.

We particularly want our Grade 8s to have fun days in the iCentre. This year’s theme to promote reading is ‘Around the world in 80 books’. On an ongoing basis, we transform the iCentre into a VIP airport departure lounge, the girls dress up as tourists, provide food of an international flavour and recommend books set in various countries. The learners each compile a review of a chosen book as a scrapbook page. These pages are combined to form a scrapbook for each class. We display these scrapbooks to help others choose their reading. So, print still has an important part to play!

Magazines and newspapers
All subject-related magazines are digitally ordered by heads of departments and the magazines arrive in their e-mail inboxes. They then e-mail these magazines to their departmental staff members. This ensures that all department members get to read these magazines in their own time. It also closely involves the departments in the selection of magazines and journals in their fields. Articles are available without having to photocopy them. Digital copies are easy to share with pupils, either on the interactive whiteboards or via e-mail.

While the librarian maintains a print collection of general interest in the staffroom to cater to all needs, all magazines and newspapers are electronically available on iPads in the iCentre. The learners are moving to digital copies, which spark greater interest in our magazines and newspapers than the print copies. Interested readers may request the relevant iPads from the issue counter, where they are issued to the user to be read in the iCentre lounge. Teachers and learners are encouraged to recommend magazines and newspapers for the iPads. This system has many advantages over the print system as items are easier to renew, do not get lost and contain numerous features that were impossible in the days of print, such as the inclusion of video and auditory files.

Large-screen wall-mounted TV
A large-screen wall-mounted TV connected to a computer is used for book displays, to announce new items in the collections, promote the eLibrary, give handy hints about social networking etiquette, display notices about events in the iCentre, reminders about overdue books, photos, videos, current affairs and any other relevant ideas. Everyone is encouraged to contribute to these displays. Our learners love seeing their work up on the big screen. It also hones their technology skills. The screen is also a wonderful way to display class projects, school plays, art videos done by the learners and numerous other visual and auditory happenings. It is usually a silent facility with headlines across the bottom. Current affairs are also screened via Sky News and Cable News Network (CNN).

Resource monitors
Our learners volunteer to be trained as resource monitors, learning how to shelve books, download and choose magazines onto and for iPads, use the eLibrary, search for items on the online catalogue, organise and upload displays for the TV, manage privacy on the Facebook page and social media etiquette and ethics. These pupils help their peers with queries in the iCentre as well as training during Podcamps. This is an ideal opportunity for team building and leadership skills to develop.

iCentre the heart of the school
The iCentre is now able to enhance the teaching and learning experiences at St Mary’s, Waverley, by providing print and electronic, interactive and interconnected resources. The teenagers of today are drawn in by the new technology, and our own internal research is showing us that children read more when using e-books. We are now fully equipped to develop our learners to meet the technological demands of the world beyond school as independent thinkers and creators of new information.

Category: e-Education, Featured Articles, Summer 2013

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