we want to do something with out technology in school!
The rest is history as the say, here is a summary of what can be achieved in a year. Its certainly work in progress and I am sure in 2015 there will be a lot more to tell.
Old Buckenham High School is a small size high school based in South of Norfolk, and has been at the centre of village life since opening in 1938. Today OBHS (as its known) has about 600 + students, and has recently been involved in the journey of transforming the use of technology in the classroom. OBHS over the past years has not been able to invest openly in the ‘technology’ which we see in a lot of bigger ‘academy’ schools in the area, but has more recently has played catchup and now will have overtaken a lot of other Norfolk schools with its use of technology entering the classroom.
The teaching vision was to allow students access to mobile devices to facilitate their learning , utilising Microsoft Office 365 as a content and learning platform. The great part of this story is how the school went around thinking about there ‘mobile first’ strategy, instead of simply buying devices and then deciding how to use them in the school, they looked at the ‘technology vision’ and worked its way backward leading to the right decision in the hardware choices.
The first part of the journey has been well documented on this blog The first part of the journey was to ensure the school had the correct infrastructure to support the schools vision of using Office 365 in the classroom. The school implemented an upgrade program of the core and perimeter switches, and brought a new server running Microsoft’s Windows Server 2012 r2. As headteacher Aron Whiles said,
there is no point in having a fast car if you have not got the road to run it on!
From a non technical perspective, that statement from Aron Whiles, showed great understanding of the situation. It is really important to make sure that any infrastructure is upto dealing the workload it will be required for. There is no point in deploying Office 365 into computer rooms with slow internet connections as the experience would not be pleasurable for teacher or student!
The next stage was a big jump!, the school had no Wi-Fi and it was decided that initially the science block should be enabled. This soon rolled into ‘well lets get a price’ for the whole site. Prices came in from suppliers invited to quote and there was a big difference! to complete the whole school the top price was £52,000, the lowest price was £18,000 , for installing the RUKUS Wi-Fi solution – my obvious advice as a school is make sure you shop around it really does pay!
So over the summer break Wi-Fi was enabled, over the whole school, meanwhile the Network Manager had created the Office 365 tenancy and using the free DirSync tool had created over 600 Office 365 account for staff and teachers.
So we had the infrastructure, we now needed to decide on the device to work with Office 365 and our students working in the cloud. What were we looking for? . Traditionally the Ipad has been the only route forward for schools, primarily being the only tablet device available. However these days we now have both Android and Windows devices to look at, price is always keen for a school in any deployment, so we initially looked at the Google Nexus and the Toshiba Wt8. However though unplanned sometimes a delay in making a decision can be a helpful one..
While we were evaluating tablets, a new range of Windows 8 tablets from Linx http://linxtablets.com was launched, the Linx 7, Linx 8 and Linx 10. These tablets feature full Windows 8.1, a quad core processor and start from just £62.00 + vat.
The super smooth 7 inch tablet from Linx is ideal for students as a personal learning device. It allows students to use all the functionality of Windows 8.1 and Office 365. The quad core processor gives a responsive feel to the product, and with a MicroSD card to upgrade the memory you just cannot go wrong.
For more information on this superb range of devices look at http://linxtablets.com
The Linx tablets allow the real possibility of increasing our vision of allowing every child in school to have access to a device to accompany their learning journey at school. Using the familiar Windows 8 interface, its a natural progression to the transferring of documents to the desktop PC knowing where everything is.
Also the Windows platform gives us the scalability to look at different models for different needs in the future. Where as a tablet is just a tablet, we may require, bigger screens, full tactile keyboards, or improved inking capabilities which is the great thing about the Windows platform, there are plenty of hardware vendors that can supply a range of devices to meet the school’s needs.
So the school had the vision about how the use of mobile can help with learning in the classroom, it overcame the deployment issues and made the infrastructure sound and then decided on the right technology to inspire the vision. However there was still one thing missing, that was the students! The school started its own digital leader team, whose aims are
to support and develop the use of mobile technology throughout the school.
The team was formed to help other students and teachers understand Office 365 and cloud technologies, as these are skills for students for there future. The team’s first job was to complete a tech day at Wymondham High Academy, with the training team. This focused on some key skills of Office 365, some fun with the Raspberry PI and finally some hands on with Office Sway and gaming solutions like Project Spark.
After a productive day the team changed there name to the OBHS Tech Team, to reflect there aims and the role they are to play in the school. The end of the day also made them more confident with editing pages in SharePoint Online and also supporting users with queries on products like OneDrive for Business.
I think everyone understood the benefits of saving to OneDrive and its flexibility, and once we had looked at OneNote and what can be achieved with Office Lens (mobile app), students were feeling excited about the future of using technology within the school. These students are now working with teachers to develop great SharePoint sites for sharing resources, have established a Yammer presence to collaborate with other schools (and the Digital Leader team here at Wymondham High). These students really are the future about changing the way things happen with technology at school.
In reflection the school (which didn’t have a big pot of money) has been able to establish a policy for enabling students to share, communicate and collaborate using Office 365, been able to offer the first steps for students to use mobile devices in the classroom and create a sustainable BYOD scenario for the future. This has been done with a shared vision of the senior leadership group and the right approach to maximise the investment. Rather than thinking ‘lets buy the devices and then decided what to do with them’ the school started with ‘ what’s the end vision’ and lets map everything back from there. This is now backed up with the Tech Team a core bunch of students with the passion and excitement to transform learning in the classroom.