Cranford Community College is a large, multicultural school based in West London with around 1,500 students enrolled, including a large and busy sixth form college that wants to give their students the best possible preparation for life after school, whether that is in the workplace or in higher education.
Like many educational establishments Cranford is embracing technology and giving students greater access to the wide range of sources across the internet which, in turn, presents more opportunities for students to develop their work with the support of wider reading.
It is this access that, while vital in preparing students for the world beyond school, that presents its own challenges as Barbara Lodge, Head of ICT and Computing says:
"I love ICT and all the benefits that it brings; but one of the downsides as a teacher is over the years I’ve noticed an increase in the number of students who find it easier to use somebody else’s work as their own. Technology has made the process of doing that much easier and at Cranford we really wanted to be at the forefront of preventing those kind of issues and teaching students a better way."
Being forward thinking, Cranford has adopted Turnitin and allows students to submit work online. Instructors then receive a clear, concise Similarity Report revealing colour-coded sources that correspond to matching passages in the student paper, so that matches can be quickly evaluated and shared with students when required.
Turnitin Feedback Studio is easy to use and accessible across desktop and mobile devices. Teachers have the ability to drag and drop standard or customised comments directly onto the student’s paper or even leave voice comments, while rubrics can provide students with guidance on marking scales and promote consistency.
While Barbara uses the reports from Turnitin throughout each course, there is a specific unit on information literacy in an effort to get students to think carefully about the sources of information sources they use in terms of their relevance and integrity. As Barbara says:
"We want them to think about where they’re getting their information from, who it’s being presented by and what that person’s agenda might be if they have one and to really come to their own conclusions and become independent thinkers."
The time savings have been immediately apparent with each student assignment processed in minutes, which has been a revelation to Barbara:
"I still remember the days when I would sit and take a phrase from a student’s work and type it into Google to see where the source was because I knew it wasn’t their own work and now we’ve got a piece of software that’s going to do that for you in a second."
Voice comments have given Barbara the ability to leave audible feedback which has enabled her to engage with students on another level and is something she is using with great effect to save time and better engage with her students:
"They thought it was funny at first because it’s new and different but actually the overwhelming response was that they had more detailed feedback.” Barbara goes on to explain, “When you’re giving the feedback orally it’s just a much easier process to say you really need to look at this, then actually I want you to go away, I want you to think about this, I want you to change that."
Barbara has been able to use Similarity Reports to engage her students with valuable feedback and help achieve the institution-wide goal of creating independent thinkers:
"We make the originality reports available to the students, we let them upload their work and then go back and start redrafting, rephrasing and trying to make the work better and more their own. I mean it’s been fantastic; the unintended side effect of this has been how competitive the students have been over their originality scores. It’s brilliant!”"
Many teachers seeing the benefits are now coming to Barbara to find out more about Feedback Studio:
“Most teachers are surprised by how easy the software is to use. Ultimately the whole point of any technology product or software service is to make our lives better, or easier, or simpler in some way… It absolutely will make your life easier and solve problems.”
The rollout is continuing across the school from department to department and Barbara is constantly experimenting with different features and ways of engaging students in the process to take ownership of their work. The goal of creating independent thinkers is ambitious but Cranford is continuing to build on success.