Redefining Teaching & Learning with Technology

This year the West London Apple RTC is running a Teacher Learning Community focused on "Redefining Teaching and Learning with Technology." The community meets face-to-face once per half term to discuss recent research related to educational technologies.

Fourth Meeting: March 2019

summary by Jonathan White with contributions from Kate Frayling and Katie Tallett-Williams

In March, our Teacher Learning Community met for the fourth time. Our goal for the year is to examine the impact of educational technology on the classroom, specifically focusing on how it can be used to "redefine" teaching and learning. Each meeting is preceded by a some assigned pre-reading. If you're not familiar with TLCs, have a look at the post from our first meeting for some more general information.

The theme for this meeting was animation and stop motion, with two readings: one focusing on learners viewing animations, and the other on them creating the animations.

We opened with feedback about our last meeting, which had focused on video assessments. Members shared their experiences trialing Flipgrid in their classes, and further plans to pilot the technology. We spent some time discussing other ways in which Flipgrid or Recap might be useful in lessons.

A new member joined us from the Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) department, and we spent some time talking about issues recently facing MFL and ways that tech might help. Girls are very stressed about their oral exams and need ways to practice. A few ideas were floated, including audio flashcards (e.g. Quizlet) or Flipgrid/Recap. We also discussed some possibilities opened by screen recording.

We then turned to the new learning, with a brief discussion of how we viewed the two articles. The reading by Shaaron Ainsworth was a thorough meta-analysis of research on animation for learning, up to 2008. Ainsworth goes into a lot of detail about ways to analyse whether animations have a positive impact on learning. As part of this, she goes over some of the implications of cognitive research regarding dual coding and cognitive load theory, which are topics we have discussed before in this and other TLCs. The article also briefly mentions “rhetorical explanations” for the impact of animations, including a 2003 study by Hübscher-Younger and Narayanan that looks at the benefits of students constructing animations. However, most of the article focuses on consuming animations as a means to learning.

New Learning

Ainsworth, S. (2008). How do animations influence learning? In D. Robinson & G. Schraw (Eds.), Current Perspectives on Cognition, Learning, and Instruction: Recent Innovations in Educational Technology that Facilitate Student Learning. pp 37-67. Information Age Publishing.
Wishart, J. (2017). Exploring How Creating Stop-Motion Animations Supports Student Teachers in Learning to Teach Science. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 49(1-2), 88-101.

The study by Jocelyn Wishart looks more particularly at learning by group construction of animations, particularly in the case of trainee science teachers. Wishart found that the discussions that took place among group members helped to aid the understanding and embedding of the scientific models being animated. She also found that creating animations helped these student teachers to think about how they might present this content to others, and that the animations themselves offered teachers an opportunity to assess student understanding and offer constructive feedback. Personally, I felt that the Wishart article was the slightly more relevant of the two, as it meshed with our general philosophy in using the iPads -- that they are at their best when students use them for creation rather than consumption.

Building on this, the TLC then discussed how we might leverage these findings to deploy animation in our own lessons and evaluate the impact, and two group members shared their past experiences with learner-constructed animation in the classroom, including some of the pitalls like students using the playdough as a tool for procrastination and task avoidance. Finally, we wrapped up with a discussion of where animation might be usefully implemented in our own subjects, and members made action plans to try it out in lessons.

Our Experiences in Practice


I felt in general that my experiments were less successful in terms of output but still helpful in getting a better understanding of the girls’ knowledge and encouraging them to think through the questions. The girls’ focus on having the play dough perfectly set up and the time they took between photographs was a significant part of this, but I also felt that the students had not provided enough written information in their animation to explain what was happening (labelling etc.). In future activities it may be worth removing the play dough all together and instead requesting drawings with more detailed annotations.

In our TLC meeting, I shared one student’s animation of interlocking spurs which was fairly successful, but it also demonstrated that the student hadn’t entirely grasped the material in 3D. As a TLC, we discussed the tremendous potential in these animations for modelling landforms in Geography, which students find difficult to translate from memorised 2D diagrams into a more realistic 3D model. Although the play dough had taken time to set up, repeated practice might allow more speedy animation.

Contributed by K. Tallett-Williams


I have had generally very good results from my attempts to use animation to model processes, although the distraction of filming sometimes required managing. On the whole, I found the following helpful:

  • Publish differentiated success criteria for the task.
  • Set a hard time limit for the students (knowing you can always extend 5 mins if YOU choose).
  • Use mini whiteboards combined with plasticine- can be much quicker to draw.
  • Give them QR codes or resources on hand to help.

With IB physics students, I encouraged one of them to go a step further and model her own animation. The student did an amazing job with it for her IA (internal assessment) practical work. By designing and modelling it herself, she immersed herself into the topic much more readily.

Finally, I used the Flipgrid app, introduced to us in our last TLC meeting, to assess some practical skills and retrieval of key knowledge on a particularly challenging experiment. I set a three-minute video task with key questions and set it on Google Classroom. It went pretty well. The students evaluated their own experience of it and said the following:

  • They felt they learned better when they had to say it out loud.
  • It was fun.
  • They understood the key points really well by the end.
  • They didn’t like working individually.
  • Some were self conscious about being filmed.
Contributed by K. Frayling

Sharing Our Learning

A week after this meeting, the entire teaching staff of G&L attended a showcase of Teacher and Student Learning Communities' work. Each TLC was given a room, and put on two half-hour sessions in which the chair introduced the general work of the community, and members discussed things they had learned and tried in their classrooms. Every staff member (aside from those presenting) had the opportunity to attend two sessions to learn about the work of different learning communities, while the TLC sessions were organised in such a way that presenters got to listen to the work of at least one other group.

Staff found this to be a really informative and interesting event, and enjoyed the opportunity to learn about colleagues' work in the learning communities. The event also served as a kick-off for our planning of learning communities for next academic year.

Our next TLC meeting will be on 8th May, and we will be looking at using the iPads to deliver audio feedback on student work.