Since completing the Impact (Emerging Leaders) program at Bastow, Benjamin Pisani has taken every opportunity to realise his vision and apply the skills and knowledge he gained at Bastow to make a real and lasting impact on the achievement, wellbeing and engagement of the students.
Benjamin participated in the program in 2013, and only a few weeks into the course he was appointed Director of Music across the three campuses at Sandringham College.
Under Benjamin’s leadership, the music department at the school has seen significant changes and remarkable developments. As well as creating a cohesive course structure and providing strong leadership across the three campuses, he has also converted two disused buildings into rehearsal and recording studios; developed successful social media communication with students and parents; and established an impressive DJ Academy.
Not content to stop there, 2014 has seen Benjamin take digital learning to the next level by exploring how Apple iTunes U – a customised learning app for the iPad – could be used to enhance music teaching.
“I started with a pilot for my year 8 program and it has been amazingly successful – not only in the engagement of the students, but also for parallel learning, particularly between the two junior sites at our college,” says Benjamin.
Benjamin became interested in iTunes U when he heard Abdul Chohan, Director of the Essa Academy in the UK, speak at a Bastow Twilight event in April 2014. Benjamin was impressed by the way Abdul was using portable devices to reinvigorate and re-engage students at the school.
“Essa Academy was a failing school in the far west of London with most of its students from disadvantaged communities,” explains Benjamin. “It was struggling and was about to close, until Abdul introduced iPod Touches and then iPads for both teachers and students; he then moved all the staff’s planning documents to iTunes U and it’s been highly successful.”
Benjamin currently uses iTunes U to give year 8 students access to all course documents and teaching tools that cover the key learning concepts for the semester-based subject. This pilot program will be expanded across all curriculum music delivery from years 7 to 12 in 2015.
“iTunes U gives me the ability to differentiate the learning and caters for students with different abilities; if a student is working at an advanced level, they can move forward more quickly and if a student is struggling with a concept, they can revisit the class presentations and re-do the activities to reinforce their understanding and learning.”
Benjamin has noticed that the students are more engaged and are enjoying the control and independence encouraged by this way of learning. As well as resources, he has also created a homework page that he updates regularly.
The trials have been so successful that Benjamin is currently developing iBooks to complement the iTunes U courses. He is now looking to roll the program out to all curriculum music delivery from year 7 to 12 in 2015.
As good as the tool is, Benjamin is keenly aware that the “… real value is there when it is guided by teachers”. He is quick to point out that this digital tool is not a replacement for the instruction and leadership offered by a teacher, but that it can enhance learning and make some resources interactive and engaging.
“It’s an amazing tool that shifts the onus of learning and hands some of the control over to the students. Teachers provide all the resources so that students can work their way through it at their own comfortable speed, but stopping when they need teacher-led learning and support.”