A year in the life of Harry Traynor – Global Student Ambassador

There is only a certain amount of times you can use the term ‘right hand man’ in these kind of blogs, but that is how I would describe Harry Traynor who is one of our Microsoft Global Student Ambassador’s here at Wymondham High School.

Harry is 18 and we have been working together on the rollout, deployment and ‘crazy ideas’ to do with IT both in and around the school. I first met Harry as a Year 13 student along with Paul Harvey, back in September 2013, and we first started talking about Microsoft certifications, this soon expanded into Harry’s passion of building computers and generally playing with technology when he had the opportunity.    To me this blended in well with the vision of scrapping the VLE in school and replacing it with Office 365, who better to help me to launch this to students?

It soon became obvious to me, that there was a different message to come from a students mind than there was an adults!  Harry & Paul soon offered to manage the rollout to the 6th form students, overseeing organising assemblies, initial training and troubleshooting any user issues.

OneNoteShakeSpeareOne day we were joking in the office about marketing our campaign, and soon after I came back to my desk to find the first Office 365 poster that Harry had created.  These unique posters blending curriculum, with technology soon started to generate interest around the school – again a great example of the student mind overtaking the stayed mind of someone older !

By Christmas, Harry (& Paul) were leading the charge with Office 365 & Yammer in the school.  Harry had also offered to develop our SharePoint site after feedback from students.

So by now Harry’s free slots on his timetable were taken up with showing me what he had found on SharePoint, and how we could roll this out to other years.

As we moved through 2014  the Harry’s role grew into a position of complete trust from both the IT teams perspective and that of our staff.  Students would tend to prefer asking another student for help, and staff were quite happy for students to come and assist them.

We started running regular CPD sessions for staff, and I gave Harry the opportunity to host them, and again his presence (at the age of 17) was fantastic, highlighting to teachers how students work.  Our relationship with Microsoft really was the catalyst for Harry’s other passion to come to light, that of video production, we were soon getting calls from different people from within Yammer and Microsoft to see if we can create a promo video for them.

April time was when I approached Russell Boulton (Principal) with the view to keeping Harry on in the school via an apprenticeship scheme.  He nature and enthusiasm really meant we did not want to let him go and luckily he decided to stay.

In September we have been working with Old Buckenham High School, an it really is second nature to take Harry  into a training session knowing he has the skill set to deliver  great knowledge to staff. We have done various presentations to other schools on our work with Office 365 in the classroom and where possible I get Harry to run those session with myself on the sidelines!

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Harry Traynor talking about the Surface Pro 3 at Bett 2015

 

This work culminated in Harry being asked to present at the Bett Show at EdExcel with members from the Surface team from the states – and again never ceasing to amaze me with his level of professionalism at the age of 18 delivered some stellar presentations with Jacqueline Russell.

Team Yellow in action pose Bett 2015
Team Yellow in action pose Bett 2015

 

This year Harry is being invited to the E2 Conference in Seattle, to talk about his Minecraft  development with students at Wymondham High . I have been privileged to build some great stuff over the past 18 months, and cannot press home the value of working with students to help shape their future. I am sure 2015 will be another exciting year for the Global Student Ambassadors here at Wymondham High.

 

 

 

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My BETT Show Presentation – ‘Bringing Learning to Life at Wymondham High Academy’

By JASON BROWN, Thursday 29th January, 22:24 PM

On Saturday 24th January I was fortunate enough to present with Kevin Sait at the BETT show at the ExCel Arena in London. For those of you who don’t know what the BETT show, it is quite simply the largest technology show in the UK with many large corporations such as Microsoft, Google, Samsung, Dell, HP and Acer each with stands and presentations. The show is held each January and is approximately a mile from end of the exhibition hall to the other – quite an event!

Kevin and I behind the Microsoft lecture stand at the BETT Show.
Kevin and I behind the Microsoft lecture stand at the BETT Show.

A week or two before the BETT show began on January 21st Kevin and I began creating our presentation. Our presentation was focused around how we use Microsoft technology at Wymondham High to bring learning to life, most notably Yammer, OneNote, Office 365 and Sharepoint and we also talked a little bit how we have helped to deploy Office 365 at Old Buckenham High School and how we offer Microsoft qualifications to students at Wymondham High as well as Office 365 Pro Plus Benefit, of course.

Is it fair that some students are disadvantaged because they cannot afford to buy the latest version of Microsoft Office every three years? Of course not! Office 365 Pro Plus Benefit ‘levels out the playing field’ and allows any student access to five copies of the latest Microsoft Office software.

Jason Brown

If you’d like to read exactly how we bring learning to life using technology at Wymondham High Academy, I recommend reading my article here. You may also be interested in reading all about our Student Digital Leaders here.

Our presentation featured some videos including one about how easy OneNote Class Notebook Creator is to set up for a class and also a video asking students what they use Yammer for in school and how Yammer and Office 365 has allowed collaboration compared to the old system which did not. We hope to have this video on the O Team YouTube channel in the near future.

Here I am in 'full swing' during my presentation.
Here I am in ‘full swing’ during my presentation.

Kevin had already been presenting this presentation several days prior to me present it with him on Saturday. Whilst the crowd was certainly not the largest, it was still a great experience presenting at a show as large as BETT and I felt that the presentation went very well with several members of the audience calling me an ‘inspiration’ and even getting the ‘nod of approval’ from Head of Microsoft Education UK, Steve Beswick who commented after the presentation that he liked the fact that I put my own opinion in (notably about how it’s unfair that students can be disadvantaged by using old software because they cannot always afford the latest releases).

After our 20 minute presentation, I spent the rest of the day looking around the stands and also doing a little bit of ‘shopping’ with our network manager, Andy Underwood, for a new server and some laptop trollies. Watch this space! 😉 I also watched fellow O Team member, Harry Traynor’s presentation on the Surface Pro 3 which was the final presentation at the show. In addition to this, I also enjoyed a lovely foot-long beef cheese-melt sandwich from Subway and I am surprised that didn’t give me a heart attack to be frank (definitely the best bit of the day!) 😉

Here is Kevin in 'full swing' with me 'waiting in the wings'.
Here is Kevin in ‘full swing’ with me ‘waiting in the wings’.
OneNote Product Manager Ari Schorr gives a great presentation on Microsoft OneNote 2013 at the BETT show.
OneNote Product Manager Ari Schorr gives a great presentation on Microsoft OneNote 2013 at the BETT show.
English teacher Emma Hicks gives a great presentation on Microsoft OneNote 2013 at the BETT show.
English teacher Emma Hicks gives a great presentation on Microsoft OneNote 2013 at the BETT show.
Here I am with the 'Steve head' at the BETT Show.
Here I am with the ‘Steve head’ at the BETT Show.
Kevin Sait with the 'Steve head' at the BETT Show.
Kevin Sait with the ‘Steve head’ at the BETT Show.
Here I am underneath the infamous 'Minecraft Tree' at the BETT Show.
Here I am underneath the infamous ‘Minecraft Tree’ at the BETT Show.
Harry Traynor delivers a presentation about the Surface Pro 3 at the BETT Show.
Harry Traynor delivers a presentation about the Surface Pro 3 at the BETT Show.
Kevin experiments with holographic technology at the BETT Show.
Kevin experiments with holographic technology at the BETT Show.
And finally, the kind of expensive handset a poor person like me can only dream of - here's a Nokia Lumia 930 at the BETT Show.
And finally, the kind of expensive handset a poor person like me can only dream of – here’s a Nokia Lumia 930 at the BETT Show.

Be sure to follow the Wymondham High O Team on Twitter for regular Wymondham High IT updates: @WyHighOTeam

The O Team also has a YouTube Channel with several Office 365 tutorial videos for students at Wymondham High Academy.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter so you can read all about my amazing life(!):@JasonBrown2K13

Also be sure to follow Kevin Sait’s Twitter for Microsoft Educational updates and updates on IT in the classroom at Wymondham High: @kevin_sait

Last updated: Thursday 29th January, 22:24 PM

Head to head: laptop or Surface Pro for education – what’s better?

By JASON BROWN, Sunday 11th January 2015, 22:00 PM

At Wymondham High Academy we welcome technology in the classroom and encourage the students to bring in their own devices to work on. Using the power of Office 365 and OneDrive, it is now possible for students to work on the same document on a range of devices, from desktop PCs to smartphones and even games consoles (if you are mad!), it makes more and more sense to buy your own portable device to work on in school and continue working at home either on the same device, or on a different device without the need to worry about transferring the latest version of your document to a flash drive and then deleting or overwriting old versions or having to worry about emailing yourself the latest version.

When choosing a device for school what is the best thing to go for? Are you better off being ‘boring’ and ‘sticking to what you know is tried and tested’ and getting a laptop, or are you better off being adventurous and using a tablet or a ‘convertible’ device for your education?

Option one will probably bring you to a laptop from somebody like HP, Dell, Acer and Lenovo. You tend to get good value for money and can even pick up machines with dual-core Hyper-Threaded i5s for as little as £500 these days which comes across as being great value. There is a wide range of devices to choose from, with screen sizes ranging from a tiny 11.6″ to a massive 17.3″ and processors ranging from the smallest Intel Atoms to the biggest quad-core i7s with some AMD options and i3s and i5s in between.

When choosing a device for school I needed something that was tough, reliable and dependable. It also needed to be fast and able to run Adobe CC 2014 well as well as of Office 365 of course. I also needed a decent battery life and I wanted something with a great display and I wanted something that was fairly portable.

A traditional laptop or a tablet convertible? It can be a tough choice!
A traditional laptop or a tablet convertible? It can be a tough choice!

I ended up spending upwards of £900 on a Lenovo ThinkPad L540. The reason I went with Lenovo and the ThinkPad was because I am a big fan of Lenovo and I owned several ThinkPads whilst they were still manufactured by IBM, so it’s true that you never ‘get over your first love’. For those of you who are not familiar with the ThinkPad line, they are legendarily reliable business machines, with even the most basic models being ‘military-spec tested’ in this day and age. They are not what you call ‘beautiful machines’, being somewhat square and ‘corporate-like’, but I love them because they are quite unique in the United Kingdom where I live and there is something about them that I find very ‘badass’.

Yes, for what you get people told me ‘you’re crazy to spend this kind of money on a mid-range ThinkPad’, but hey, I wanted the ThinkPad, so I went for it.

I ordered my ThinkPad L540 in April 2014 with the following spec:

– Intel Core i5 4200M @ 2.5GHz

– 8GB DDR3 1600MHz RAM

– 15.6″ 1080p display

– 1TB Seagate SSHD (Hybrid HDD)

– Windows 8.1 x64

The ThinkPad arrived a few weeks later. In a flurry of excitement I opened it up and fell in love. The laptop felt fast, robust and powerful. I had a full review written of the laptop within a month of owning it which you can read here (if you have the time! Warning – it is long!)

My ThinkPad L540 is a fast machine, but it is heavy and bulking. I struggled to get it in my bag with my books and in the end my bag started to split!
My ThinkPad L540 is a fast machine, but it is heavy and bulking. I struggled to get it in my bag with my books and in the end my bag started to split!

I intended to use the ThinkPad for studies at Sixth Form at Wymondham High, for use in class to type up notes on and to do my photo editing and Adobe work on for. The ThinkPad was ferociously quick, especially after I had replaced the 5400 RPM SSHD with a proper fully-blown Samsung 840 EVO 250GB SSD (which can achieve reads and writes of 500MB/s without a problem) and the keyboard was amazing for note taking because of how comfortable it was to type on (I don’t think any laptop or tablet can match the keyboards on the ThinkPads – they are world class), but there were several problems with it for me:

– The weight. 2.5KG may not seem like a lot on its own, but unfortunately I also have to cart heavy textbooks to school which alone probably weigh a couple of kilograms. Add the laptop to that and my school bag is very heavy. But it gives my shoulders a good workout!

– The thickness. Originally when I took it out of the box I was surprised – it was thinner than expected. But again, taking it to school everyday, the thickness shows! Sometimes it’s hard to get stuff to fit in my bag because of the thickness of the laptop. The annoying thing is that most of this thickness is the DVD drive that I never really use.

– The battery. It’s not bad, and considering I’m doing stuff like Photoshop on battery I can’t really complain, but I can’t make it through a whole day on a single charge. My school days are typically 8am – 4pm and usually I end up charging the battery in my free lessons, which isn’t a bad thing, but it just means sometimes I have to take the A/C adapter to school (but I usually leave it there during the week and bring it home at weekends).

– The size. It’s a big laptop. I find it’s fine for use in computing and art lessons where I’m in IT suites anyway, but for note taking in geography and economics lessons where I’m in normal classrooms it takes up a lot of desk space.

The laptop was so heavy that it actually ended up splitting my bag and because it took up so much desk space in most of my lessons, I ended up taking my Surface RT in to use in lessons such as geography and economics where I also have folders. But of course the Surface RT was not a great ‘all-rounder’ for me because of the obvious limitations with Windows RT meant it could not run the Adobe suite or Python or Visual Studio for my computing lessons.

Don’t get me wrong, the ThinkPad is one hell of a laptop, if a little showy, expensive and heavy, but sadly the weight was the biggest downfall for me. Eventually my backed ached so much from carrying it and a load of textbooks that something had to be done.

The trouble is that with laptops unless you spend a lot of money it’s very difficult to find a good blend between power and performance. Most ultrabooks that are £1000 tend to have fairly weak CPUs and a small amount of RAM, which makes laptops such as mine seem more appealing and those £500 i5 laptops you see even more appealing.

What I really needed was a device that was small, portable and powerful.

The Surface Pro I got runs Adobe CC 2014 near enough perfectly and is small and light. Perfect mobility!
The Surface Pro I got runs Adobe CC 2014 near enough perfectly and is small and light. Perfect mobility!

Oh, what’s this we have here?

Could it be a Surface Pro 64GB running Windows 8.1 Pro x64 with an i5 3317U CPU and 4GB of RAM? I believe it could be!

The Surface Pro comes in several different variations and is the perfect blend of portability and power.
The Surface Pro 3 comes in several different variations and is the perfect blend of portability and power.

Option two may lead you towards something like this: the Surface Pro is one of many Windows tablets on the market now. The Pro is aimed more for those who want to truly replace their laptop with a tablet, especially the Surface Pro 3 with its i3, i5 and i7 offerings with 120GB, 250GB or 500GB SSDs and 8GB RAM, but you can now get your hands on a 10″ Windows tablet for as little as £150 these days which will run Office 365 and basic apps quite nicely. These cheaper tablets are absolutely ideal if you just want a portable tablet to fling in your bag or carry around to run Office and browse the web – and spend less than the cost of a Surface RT but have the flexibility of being able to run proper Windows desktop apps on it. Many of these tablets have quad-core Intel Atom CPUs and 1 or 2GB of RAM with a 32GB SSD, so the spec isn’t bad at all and for £150 or less the value certainly shines.

I got my Surface Pro tablet from Kevin because he was lucky enough to be given a Surface Pro 3 for free from Microsoft. All I can really is that it seems to me like it is the perfect blend of power and portability.

Yes, it’s not quite as powerful as the ThinkPad and it has an older CPU and half the RAM and yes 64GB of storage is a little limiting when working with the Adobe suite and Adobe Creaitve Cloud (but I did add a 32GB microSD card to increase the total capacity of the device to 96GB which has helped, and let’s be honest – my work is in OneDrive and it doesn’t need to be synchronised to my Surface) and the keyboard has taken some getting used to and yes this thing can run slightly hot at times, but the best thing about the Surface Pro is just the mobility of it. It is fantastically portable, something I can easily carry around in my bag or under my arm.

The pen and touch screen are nice novelties. I’ll be honest I don’t use them that often but Adobe Illustrator CC 2014 is pretty cool to use with a pen and it’s fun showing friends the OneNote ‘Ink to Text’ feature on my Surface. Several of them have been blown away by that, but again they were also blown away by the 180 degrees tilt on my ThinkPad’s display and its fingerprint scanner.

The battery life seems decent. When I owned a Surface RT the battery in that lasted for days but we have to remember that this Surface Pro has a fully-blown i5 in it whereas the RT only has a basic ARM processor, so this Surface Pro is much more like my laptop in terms of battery life. It doesn’t seem to be terribly good at estimating how much charge it has left though. Sometimes it can go from 5 hours to 2 hours in a matter of minutes when just browsing the web, and then it can shoot back up to 5 hours. But I haven’t completely drained it yet!

Side-by-side, the Surface is obviously much more portable than the ThinkPad.
Side-by-side, the Surface is obviously much more portable than the ThinkPad.

The performance is nice. Adobe CC 2014 runs very well on it. The display is nice and bright and with it being glossy the colours really ‘pop’ too so editing photos in Lightroom is good, but my gripe would be that the small size of the display makes working on big documents in programs like Word and InDesign where there is a lot of text quite hard. Mind you, with that being said the 1080p resolution makes good use of the small display and the real estate is pretty good as a result of this.

To conclude, the Surface Pro is a good all-rounder and is the perfect mobile device. I found that each machine has its benefits and each has its flaws, but for pure mobility and power in a tiny package, at the moment I am finding that the Surface Pro is probably the better machine for education. But that doesn’t mean to say that my ThinkPad is obsolete. I could go back to using it if I find more limitations with the Surface Pro.

But what device is best for you in education? It really depends on what you do and what your budget is if you ask me.

If you want something to just browse the internet with and write some documents using Office 365 on, grab a cheap tablet or laptop (it doesn’t necessarily need to be a Windows device, Office 365 apps are available for Android and there are some great low-cost Android tablets on the market too!), but ultimately if you want the portability then a tablet would probably be best. If you store your work on the cloud using OneDrive then storage space doesn’t really matter too much.

If you need something powerful and portable I would highly recommend something like the Surface Pro – look at the i5 Surface Pro 3. It’s the perfect blend of power and portability and for the same cost as something like a Lenovo Y50 or a ThinkPad T540p or a higher-end Dell XPS or HP machine, the Surface Pro 3 is the clear winner if you need power and portability. The other options are big and heavy, especially the gaming-grade Lenovo Y50 which may be able to max out the latest games at 1080p, but is big and bulky!

The bottom line is to think about what you want and need, and buy around that criteria.

Be sure to follow the Wymondham High O Team on Twitter for regular Wymondham High IT updates: @WyHighOTeam

The O Team also has a YouTube Channel with several Office 365 tutorial videos for students at Wymondham High Academy.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter so you can read all about my amazing life(!):@JasonBrown2K13

Also be sure to follow Kevin Sait’s Twitter for Microsoft Educational updates and updates on IT in the classroom at Wymondham High: @kevin_sait

Last updated: Sunday 11th January 2015, 22:24 PM

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Microsoft Global Student Ambassador – Jason Brown

For those who don’t know me, I am the Head of IT Strategy at Wymondham High School in Norfolk.  I have been in post for just over a year, and in that year we have implemented both Office 365 & Yammer as our core software  in the the school, which in turn has empowered students to communicate and collaborate on work projects like never before.  We have also migrated to Windows 8.1 on over 600 PC’s , implemented the Microsoft Surface (over 200 of them), had students gain both Microsoft Office Specialist and Microsoft Technology Associate status. This busy year was topped off by becoming a Microsoft Global Showcase School in early December 2014.

Therefore I would like to take this opportunity to tell you what an important role The O Team and Student Ambassador Jason Brown has in making this journey a reality.  The O Team is purely student based – no adults, and in that alone has given a unique perspective during the deployment and development of Office 365.

Our two lead members of the O Team are Harry Traynor and Jason Brown. These guys are my work colleagues and

On November 6th 2014 Wymondham High became an International Microsoft Showcase School. Pictured here are Jason, Harry and Kevin in front of the IT Academy plaque on November 13th 2014.
On November 6th 2014 Wymondham High became an International Microsoft Showcase School. Pictured here are Jason, Harry and Kevin in front of the IT Academy plaque on November 13th 2014.

instrumental in  making the IT journey at Wymondham High the success it has been.    I first met Jason over a year ago when I was new in the job, at a meeting about the Microsoft IT Academy.   Out of all the students, Jason struck me as having a real passion about technology. After a brief conversation and finding out how he helps his dad’s  computer business, and had a knowledge of Microsoft products all the way back to Windows 95 – I thought that he has a talent that we can harness at school to help others!

Little was I to guess just how much help Jason could offer.   Now before I go on any further, if your reading this article and are an IT Pro in a school please think about finding your own Jason. Students relate to students and will give you ideas and ways of thinking that as adults you forget how to.   Almost certainly our Office365 offering would not have been as successful if it had been ‘ another IT deployment’ like the previous VLE deployment.  STUDENT INPUT GOES ALONG WAY!

Back to Jason’s story,   both myself, Harry and Paul Harvey wanted Jason to be a part of this newly formed O Team. So Harry and Paul challenged Jason to create something that promotes Office 365, This could be anything and within 24 hrs I was emailed with this

This really blew my mind! A 16 year can produce this inside of 24 hrs, better than any coursework I have seen in a long time!.   Jason was well and truly in the O Team. Jason continued to build a wide variety of learning videos and soon created The O Team YouTube channel which soon picked up by colleagues at Microsoft Education and used to promote Office 365 in other schools. Colleagues at Yammer also picked up on this and asked Jason to use the video  to launch an education conference in Canada . Jason Brown was launched on the world stage.

The O Team has also been working with Aron Whiles Head teacher of Old Buckenham High School to develop IT systems and Office 365 at school. Jason again was inspirational in presenting Office 365 from the students perspective, happy to present to over 650 student over three days, it really showcased the skills of a 17 year old student who was almost born to present.

Jason delivers the third and final Office 365 launch assembly at Old Buckenham High to Year 7 students wearing a Yammer t-shirt on October 3rd 2014.
Jason delivers the third and final Office 365 launch assembly at Old Buckenham High to Year 7 students wearing a Yammer t-shirt on October 3rd 2014.

Jason very much continued the year in developing Yammer and Office 365 in the school.  Jason become a Yammer manager, being instrumental in developing and educating students in the use of social media in school. During August we applied to become a Global Showcase school for Microsoft. Microsoft products were truly a part of everyday life in the school,  we had a natural pathway of students from using Microsoft Office, to Office 365 to getting certified on Microsoft Office products through the IT Academy.

The Global Showcase school membership required us to nominate a Student Ambassador to represent the school from a student perspective.  Jason and Harry were the obvious candidates.    So this culminated on the launch day for the showcase schools n the 5th December at Microsoft’s London Offices, Jason & Harry tirelessly to interviewed a range of Microsoft Innovative Educators, and Showcase school members about there views for the following year.

The photo that sums up the day! Harry and Jason give the thumbs up after interviewing 30 Innovative Educators!
The photo that sums up the day! Harry and Jason give the thumbs up after interviewing 30 Innovative Educators!

The next stage in the journey for Jason, was to become and instructor in our Tuesday IT group for students.   Jason has been teaching students in topics such as building PC’s, installing software  and building networks, this has been in preparation for some students to complete there Microsoft Technology Associate exam in Networking Fundamentals.

More recently Jason has been working closely with me to develop the new Student Digital Leader team for Wymondham High School.  Having had a meeting with Jason about the role of the digital leader team in school, Jason was happy about taking on the role of managing the team.   This meant Jason worked with Year 11 student (& Microsoft Office Specialist) Jenny Andrews to advertise, interview and recruit new members in the team.  We had our first digital leader meeting  this week, when Jason used the new Office Sway to present an outline of the year to the new team.

 

The 2015 Student Digital Leader Team. Excuse the Christmas jumpers - it was all for charity (honestly!)
Jason Brown and his team

As we go forward into 2015 as a showcase school, this will be an exciting year for all.  I can’t stress how much  student ownership can help in the development of IT and technology in the school.  The old days of a Network Manager being the sole ‘knowledge base’ in a school need to be forgotten and its a case for the IT pro to work like a network in school, utilising a student and staff knowledge .  Our students are developing there own 21st century skills, and as educators we need to be there for them.

I would like to finish with saying a bit thanks to Jason for the support in the last year.  Wymondham High would certainly not be a Global Showcase School this year if it was not for his efforts. To the IT Pro I would say go search out your Jason!

Jason will also be on the Microsoft stand on the final day of the Bett Show this year at EdExcel, if you would like to grab sometime with a Microsoft Student Ambassador.

As Jason says ” These are exciting times.”

Jason Brown is on Twitter please follow @WyHighOTeam  and please follow @WyHigh_SDL there is an exciting story unfolding.

Inspiring The Younger Generation: Welcome to the 2015 Student Digital Leader Team

By JASON BROWN, Wednesday 17th December 2014, 21:57 PM

As regular readers of this blog will be very aware, we are very much into ‘student lead’ projects at Wymondham High. Over the past year we’ve had students such as myself, 15 year old Nick McGee and 18 year old Harry Traynor working with the IT team over the summer holidays to update the school’s infrastructure, install new IT suites and turn the school into a Windows 8.1 and Office 365 haven in the space of six weeks. We also introduced the first Student Digital Leaders in late 2013/early 2014. These are a group of younger students, typically aged between 11 and 13 who also work alongside the IT team and the O Team members on projects such as flying Raspberry-Pi cameras and helping out at events showing off the IT capabilities of Wymondham High Academy.

Over the past year the 2013/14 Student Digital Leaders have made students in the school aware of the amazing possibilities that being a Microsoft IT Academy brings (you can learn all about what Wymondham High can offer by reading my articles here and here) and as a result student interest in IT at school has exploded over the past year. You can read all about the interview process for the 2015 Student Digital Leaders here which I summed up quite nicely as ‘the two ends of the school working together’ (referring to some of the youngest students in the school working with some of the oldest). As I wrote in that article, we were simply overwhelmed with responses from new Year 7 intakes who wanted to become Student Digital Leaders. We were extremely impressed by the response and we feel very privileged to be working with a such great team of enthusiastic, keen students with a passion for technology.

We officially appointed these Digital Leaders on Friday 12th December in a lunchtime meeting. I delivered a Sway presentation that I had prepared outlining the course, which you can see here if you are interested.

So without further ado, I am delighted to introduce the 2015 Student Digital Leader Team!

The 2015 Student Digital Leader Team. Excuse the Christmas jumpers - it was all for charity (honestly!)
The 2015 Student Digital Leader Team. Excuse the Christmas jumpers – it was all for charity (honestly!)

From left to right along the bottom we have:

Tyler Smith (Year 7) – Tyler is a keen user of Yammer and uses it to communicate and collaborate with his friends and work colleagues. He is a keen musician and has some produced some great music using technology.

Lewis Cromack (Year 8) – Lewis was one of the founding Student Digital Leaders appointed last year and is staying on the team for 2015. He is also a keen user of Yammer and Office 365 and has represented Wymondham High Academy on both local and international-scales in Worldwide K-12 YamJams and also at the WyConf 2014 Teacher Training Event in June 2014.

Elliot Joyce (Year 7) – Elliot is a technology enthusiast and has been attending the after-school Tuesday IT Club that we run each week. He is extremely enthusiastic and a great buzz about him!

Toby Petitt (Year 7) – Toby is also a member of our Tuesday IT Club and has been interested in technology for most of his life.

Savina Ghunowa (Year 7) – Savina was recommended to me personally by her IT Teacher, Mr Howard, to be a member of the 2015 Student Digital Leader Team. Savina is passionate about technology is looking forward to working on IT projects.

From left to right along the top we have:

Alfie Dalton (Year 7) – Alfie is a confident user of technology and will make a great asset to the Student Digital Leader Team.

Ollie Frary (Year 8) – Like Lewis, Ollie is a founding member of the Student Digital Leader Team. He has also represented Wymondham High’s use of technology on an international and local scale.

– That’s me in the centre – Year 12 AS Student and O Team member who is head over heels in love with technology and dreams of a career at Microsoft who is going to be leading the 2015 Student Digital Leader Team alongisde Year 10 student Jenny Andrews (not pictured).

Nia Preston (Year 9) – Nia is going to be a valuable asset to the 2015 Student Digital Leader Team. She is completing her GCSE Computing qualification and has a fantastic understanding of computer programming in languages such as Python and a keen interest in learning other languages such as C#.

Tom Evans (Year 9) – Tom is also going to be a valuable asset to the team. His knowledge of Office 365 and IT is strong and will certainly continue to grow!

In addition to the above we also have (not pictured):

Toby Dunn (Year 8) – Toby was one of the founding Student Digital Leaders. His Office 365 skills have really shown over the past year and we are delighted to have him on the team again.

Will Singleton (Year 8) – Will was also a founding member and uses his Office 365 skills and knowledge to sell the product around the school.

Jenny Andrews (Year 10) – Jenny is my co-leader and will also bring an enthusiastic buzz to the Student Digital Leader Team.

So there’s our 2015 Student Digital Leader Team. I am really looking forward to working with these enthusiastic students and really seeing their skills develop. They will be working as Student Digital Leaders from January to October 2015 and when they will have to reapply and we will be appointing new Year 7s once again.

Seeing the two ends of the school working together is absolutely fantastic and shows great unity. I’ve already made good friends with the Digital Leaders who talk to me on Yammer and even ask me for computer help. It’s relationships like this that allow an 11 year old Year 7 student to communicate a 17 year old Year 12 student and this is what makes the team work. It’s incredible to think that I can’t remember a time in my life without broadband, Windows XP and a mouse, yet these students probably can’t remember a time before smartphones and tablets. I feel that I can learn as much from them as they can learn from me, and this is the mentality that keeps us spinning.

The first Student Digital Leader meeting will take place at lunch time on Friday 9th January 2015. From there, there will be a meeting every other Friday at lunch time where we discuss Student Digital projects (some of which are outlined in the Sway presentation).

I've used this photo many times before, but I'll use it again because it encapsulates perfectly what the Student Digital Leader Program is all about: all ends of the school working together - Year 7 students, A level students and teachers - for technological achievement at Wymondham High Academy.
I’ve used this photo many times before, but I’ll use it again because it encapsulates perfectly what the Student Digital Leader Program is all about: all ends of the school working together – Year 7 students, A level students and teachers – for technological achievement at Wymondham High Academy.

Be sure to follow the Wymondham High O Team on Twitter for regular Wymondham High IT updates: @WyHighOTeam

The O Team also has a YouTube Channel with several Office 365 tutorial videos for students at Wymondham High Academy.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter so you can read all about my amazing life(!):@JasonBrown2K13

Also be sure to follow Kevin Sait’s Twitter for Microsoft Educational updates and updates on IT in the classroom at Wymondham High: @kevin_sait

Last updated: Wednesday December 17th 2014, 22:06 PM

Old Buckenham High School a year on….

Old Buckenham Area School circa 1938
Old Buckenham Area School circa 1938

 It was a year ago I first met with Aron Whiles, who was then the new head teacher of Old Buckenham High School.  Our first conversation went something like..

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 Linx 7 inch tablet  a quad core Windows 8.1
The Linx 7 inch tablet a quad core Windows 8.1

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.

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Windows 8 is supported by a wide range of hardware vendors, making choosing the correct hardware for schools an easy choice.

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.

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OBHS Tech Team members getting to grips with controlling a robot arm with the Raspberry PI during the tech day

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.

OBHS
The OBHS Tech Team complete there Office 365 tech day with the training team from Wymondham High.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Microsoft Innovative Educator Launch Event – December 5th 2014

By JASON BROWN, Sunday December 7th 2014, 22:04 PM

On Friday December 5th 2014 myself, Kevin Sait, Harry Traynor and Wymondham High Principal, Russell Boulton, headed down to London for the day to attend the Microsoft Innovative Educator launch event in Microsoft’s swish offices in Cardinal Place, Victoria, London.

The exquisite Cardinal Place offices in Victoria, London, where the event was held.
The exquisite Cardinal Place offices in Victoria, London, where the event was held.

As with all O Team outings, it was an early start, many selfies were taken and a McDonald’s just off the M11 was eaten, but a great day was had by all four of us who found the event helpful and inspiring.

The event itself began at 9.30 in the Microsoft Showcase Classroom with Steve Beswick’s (Head of Microsoft Education UK) presentation beginning at 10.00. To ensure that we could get down to London for the opening of the event we had to leave Wymondham by about 5.45, which was an early start! I was picked up from my door by Kevin at about 5.40 and we picked Harry and Russell up along the way.

The original plan was to go on the train from Diss to London Liverpool Street, but in the end we decided it’d be easier to drive down to Epping and get a Central line Tube into London. We arrived at Epping Tube Station in Essex at about 8.30 and after being crammed onto several Central and District line Tubes and having run around Bank and Monument Tube Stations exhausting ourselves running up the stairs, we arrived at the Microsoft offices in Cardinal Place, Victoria, at around 9.00, leaving us half an hour before the event began.

First selfie of the day, an 'arrival selfie' by Harry and Jason!
First selfie of the day, an ‘arrival selfie’ by Harry and Jason!

In total there were around 30 Microsoft Innovative Educators at the event as well as headteachers from each of the schools. The event began with Steve Beswick talking about how Office 365 and devices such as tablets and smartphones could be powerful pieces of technology in the classroom to help engage students, as opposed to something that should be shunned for fear of distracting the students. This presentation went down well and of course the Innovative Educators who were there were aware of how Office 365 and technology could be utilised in the classroom, but the part of the presentation that got people most excited was when Steve announced that Microsoft would be giving away a free Surface Pro 3 to each of the Innovative Educators. Unfortunately, not being a Innovative Educator (just yet!) this doesn’t apply to me, but maybe when O Team Ventures is launched I’ll be able to get myself one? * Hint hint *

Microsoft employee Graham gave a good demonstration of Sway, showing off it's touch-compatibility on a touch-enabled Lenovo desktop PC.
Microsoft employee Graham gave a good demonstration of Sway, showing off it’s touch-compatibility on a touch-enabled Lenovo desktop PC.

After Steve’s presentation the group was split up into 6 and we each had a chat with a Microsoft employee about a piece of Microsoft technology. We had demonstrations of Office Mix which adds interactivity to PowerPoint presentations such as the ability to use videos and quizzes and Sway which is a web-based presentation tool that is still in beta at the moment but is looking rather groovy and got everybody’s attention, as well as the Bing Translator app which works really well for translating text using the camera on your Windows-based tablet or smartphone.

Once these small presentations were over the group was then divided into two with the secondary and primary school teachers each receiving different presentations. This was when Mandeep Atwal, our link with Microsoft Education, took Harry and I to one side and told us a little more about the Student Ambassador Program that we both recently joined.

Here's Harry suitably impressed by the Bing Translator app running on a Surface Pro 3!
Here’s Harry suitably impressed by the Bing Translator app running on a Surface Pro 3!

Mandeep explained how there was going to be a Microsoft Innovative Educator YouTube channel that would be managed by one of the Innovative Educators but asked if we could interview each of the educators at the launch event for the channel. She also told us about a possible trip to Microsoft’s HQ in Redmond, Seattle which may be taking place next year or 2016 and also spoke to Harry about presenting with the Surface Pro 3 team at the BETT Show in January 2015 which I will be attending on the Saturday – and she also informed me about how my name was ‘written all over BETT 2016’, which I’m really looking forward to presenting at!

Harry and I spent the afternoon interviewing the Innovative Educators. These are teachers and IT managers from schools all across the UK who have implemented Microsoft technology into their classrooms. Although each interview only lasted around a minute, it was really inspiring talking to different people about how they want to use Office 365 in schools. I think one of the most inspiring Innovative Educators I spoke to was a lady who teaches in a Pupil Referral Unit. For those of who who don’t know, a Pupil Referral Unit is a school where children who cannot cope or behave in a mainstream school go. Typically education is very strict here and the students are supervised all day long. It was great hearing her say that thanks to Office 365 and tablets in the PRU, the students were able to choose how they worked and they could choose the correct tools for the job. Obviously she mentioned that they still have to monitor the students, but using technology allowed them to be a little more independent and creative in their work, which is often something that is omitted from an education in a PRU.

Mandeep was impressed by the beginnings of Harry's Yammer and Office 365 promotional video!
Mandeep was impressed by the beginnings of Harry’s Yammer and Office 365 promotional video!

Other Innovative Educators had only just started out rolling out the technology in their schools but had visions of the technology engaging children and replacing old technology such as interactive whiteboards and desktop computers. Others envisaged 100% of students owning a device, whether it be a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop and others are already well into the game and have successfully rolled out Office 365 and have been affiliated with Microsoft for several years now and had used technology to fully engage students in their lessons. A science teacher we interviewed told us that he had students who never did homework and were never attentive in lessons, but thanks to using technology in the classroom to teach the students about power generation using an online game where users can build their own cities and power stations and buy and sell electricity from one another, those students were now hooked and had been seen playing the game in school at break and lunch times! They were learning in their free time without even knowing it, and this is why technology is such a valuable asset in the world of education.

We interviewed Innovative Educators from all kinds of different schools, from primary schools to further education colleges and all from all corners of the country, from Cornwall to Scotland to London and all! It was really interesting hearing what these teachers thought of technology in the classroom and also to learn how they have been deploying Office 365 and tablets.

Kevin and Russell celebrate with a glass of champagne after having Innovative Educator and Showcase School awards.
Kevin and Russell celebrate with a glass of champagne after having Innovative Educator and Showcase School awards.

At the end of the event the Innovative Educators received their awards from Anthony and Steve and of course celebrated with a glass of champagne. The schools also received their Microsoft International Showcase School 2015 award which Russell Boulton proudly collected from Steve Beswick.

After some talking to Microsoft employees about using technology in education, it was time to get back on the Tube and go home after a long day. Victoria Tube Station at around 16.00 on a Friday evening in December is not really the place you want to be if you’re claustrophobic and nor is a District line Tube train but the day did of course end with a ‘Tube selfie’ of me and Kevin taken on his Nokia whilst on a District line train travelling home.

All of the Innovative Educators and Headteachers in the Microsoft Showcase Classroom at the event.
All of the Innovative Educators and Headteachers in the Microsoft Showcase Classroom at the event.
Kevin and Jason take a selfie on a District line tube on the way home.
Kevin and Jason take a selfie on a District line tube on the way home.

When is an O Team outing not an O Team outing? When there isn’t a McDonald’s! We stopped off a McDonald’s just outside Epping on the way home and each had a delicious Winter Warmer burger. We discovered that our Principal, Russell Boulton, knew rather a lot about McDonald’s and even introduced us to the innovative game of ‘the chip challenge’.

To round the day off we played with some of the technology in the Toyota RAV 4 hire care that we were using for the day. We paired Harry’s phone up to the Bluetooth and streamed Christmas songs from Spotify that we listened to going up the M11 back to Norfolk, but thank goodness 3G reception in Thetford Forest proved to be rubbish because it meant we (unfortunately) couldn’t listen to the Christmas cats ‘singing’, or should I say ‘meowing’, Jingle Bells.

To conclude, we had a great day and felt it was a really helpful, inspiring and exciting event to go to. We are looking forward to returning to Microsoft again soon, hopefully in Seattle and the next trip we are preparing for is the BETT Show 2015 in the ExCel Arena in London.

The photo that sums up the day! Harry and Jason give the thumbs up after interviewing 30 Innovative Educators!
The photo that sums up the day! Harry and Jason give the thumbs up after interviewing 30 Innovative Educators!

Be sure to follow the Wymondham High O Team on Twitter for regular Wymondham High IT updates: @WyHighOTeam

The O Team also has a YouTube Channel with several Office 365 tutorial videos for students at Wymondham High Academy.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter so you can read all about my amazing life(!):@JasonBrown2K13

Also be sure to follow Kevin Sait’s Twitter for Microsoft Educational updates and updates on IT in the classroom at Wymondham High: @kevin_sait

Last updated: Sunday December 7th 2014, 22:08 PM

Student Digital Leaders: The two ends of the school working together

By JASON BROWN, Friday November 28th 2014, 19:10 PM

As regular readers of this blog will be aware, we are very much into ‘student lead IT’ at Wymondham High Academy. Recently, myself, a 17 year old O Team member and 15 year old Student Digital Leader Jenny Andrews have been recruiting new Year 7 Student Digital Leaders to inspire the younger generation and also get them to work with the older students in the school on IT projects and help promote what we do as a school from an IT perspective. This means that the youngest students in the school, some of whom are still only 11 years old, will be working some of the oldest. More than anything else, this represents great unification between the oldest and youngest students in the school and it’s all about supporting one another and getting them inspired to go far in their ‘IT careers’ at school.

We began recruiting in early October on the school’s Yammer network and were overwhelmed with responses from Year 7 and 8 students whom showed an interest. Jenny and I came up with some application questions to ask them and I put them together into an online Excel Survey to make completing the application form easy. We received 9 applications and 7 of these 9 were interviewed by Jenny and I between November 3rd and November 19th.

Savina was recommended personally to me by her IT teacher, Mr Howard (centre), for the Student Digital Leader programme.
Savina was recommended personally to me by her IT teacher, Mr Howard (centre), for the Student Digital Leader programme.

In addition to the 7 who completed an application and were interviewed, we also interviewed an extra candidate, 11 year old Year 7 student Savina Ghunowa who was recommended personally to me by her IT teacher Mr Howard. I gave Savina a few days to complete her application and was impressed by how quickly she completed it which meant that Jenny and I could interview her on the next day at school.

Yesterday we also offered Year 9 student Nia Preston a place as a Student Digital Leader for her dedication and keen interest in IT, specifically in programming.

Over the past few weeks I have been building a great relationship with the new Student Digital Leaders, frequently talking to them on Yammer and bumping into them at school. On Friday 12th December will be holding our first ‘inaugural’ meeting in the Training Centre we will be introducing ourselves to one another, talking about what the year has ahead for them and of course taking some group photos with the ‘O Team swagger’. Stay tuned for an article about that!

Jason and Year 7 Student Digital Leader Savina Ghunowa take a selfie with Yammy next to the Microsoft IT Academy plaque on November 28th 2014.
Jason and Year 7 Student Digital Leader Savina Ghunowa take a selfie with Yammy next to the Microsoft IT Academy plaque on November 28th 2014.

Last updated: Friday November 28th 2014, 20:20 PM

‘O’ Team Ventures is here !

Building on the Wymondham High ‘O’ Team’s first year of activity, we are about to launch our first commercial venture.   Using the schools Microsoft IT Academy status the team are putting the finishing touches to creating our own IT training business.

Wytraining  (the Wy comes from the Wymondham part) has been created by working with students to create a viable business plan, students have been involved in all aspects including the design of marketing materials for the new business.    We have been working hard to create a pleasant training venue within the school, with the aims of delivering top quality  IT  training for students, staff, local community, schools and business throughout East Anglia.

‘O’ Team members have been practising presenting skills on some of our in house training courses such as OneNote, OneNote ClassNotebook, Office Mix, and even building Minecraft servers!.  This has proved invaluable to teach the training team different skills such as presentation techniques, and communication skills.   ‘O’ Team ventures training will launch in January 2015, and will offer training during the day, after school and occasional Saturday’s.   However we also cater for remote learners by delivering online training through our training portal.

Shakespeare and OneNote  it happens here at Wymondham High Academy
Technology and the curriculum is a great mix

 

The ‘O’ Team Office posters made a welcome return in our new corporate training venue.    These posters were designed by @harrytraynor who was the founder member of the ‘O’ Team.  The posters have been used in different locations around the world, a testament to our students work and  using tools like Yammer to communicate with global partners, really “working  like a network.”

By putting the opportunities in front of our students, it really shows the potential that students have, including skills that may not come to the forefront naturally in traditional lesson, but are equally important to foster.   I am a believer in that everyone has a natural ability – we only have to give them a chance to access it.

 

What has also been interesting in this project, has been the reaction of students who have now taken the teacher role.  I suppose we can call it the ultimate in Flipped Learning!. I have had comments that “its rewarding and enjoyable – but very tiring also!”    Students understanding what is like to sample the teacher life, and see it from another angle, can only be beneficial to learning and classroom behaviour.  Perhaps next we should be getting teachers to be taught by students – who knows!

Nick McGee  teaching
O Team Member Nick McGee teaching students the fundamentals of making a MineCraft server

As you can see in the next photo – Nicholas McGee ( who is indeed a Raspberry PI and MineCraft specialist)  was quite at home running a training session for 20 students in the training venue.   Nick has certainly learnt skills in presenting to peers, communicating and assessing work from other students.   The session being run was developing your own MineCraft server.  These students have already passed the fundamentals of networking computers, and understanding TCP/IP, so the next step was to connect them with something they relate to and that was MineCraft.     The next session Nick will deliver will be talking about external IP addresses and port forwarding, students will then have the opportunity to setup there own infrastructure in the venue.

It is these life skills that will shape people like Nick in the outside world,  as the recent IDC survey mentioned yet again how important presentation and communication skills are valued by employers.

 

None of this idea would have happened if it wasn’t for the school being a Microsoft IT Academy.  IT Academy gives school unprecedented access to a range of online and  training resources on a wide range of subjects. This can be used with programs like the Microsoft Office Specialist and Microsoft Technology Associate for both staff CPD and student development.  It almost like a training opportunity in a box – ready to go.  It has also allowed our student trainers to become certified in the topics they teach, giving them more confidence in what they teach.

WP_20141126_08_58_45_ProRemember being an IT Academy is a benefit to you, your students but can also start to generate important revenues which you can put back into the technology in your school.   IT Academy can simply be added to your existing Microsoft Licensing for your school.     Add to this the ability to host exams, it means as a school you simply get the best of both worlds.   An un-rivalled source of CPD for teachers, learning for students and an income generator to.

The IT Academy is packed with online manuals to cover the main topics, such as Microsoft Office, but also comes with lessons plans, hand-outs, marketing information – its all there.

You can find out more about the IT Academy program from http://microsoftitacademy.com   or speak to the good people at Prodigy Learning who will help you out to offer MOS / MTA Certifications at your school, there website is http://prodigylearning.com

So as we get ready to launch our first commercial venture, we have all the right ingredients,   IT Academy,  and enthusiastic business partners who are willing to take a risk!     Its that ability to take a risk which may well see the entrepreneurial skills show ! – if we could teach that in school then the sky would really be the limit.

 

Catch the latest information on our website http://wytraining.net

 

business cards

 

 

 

Welcome to Wymondham High Academy: An International Microsoft Showcase School

By JASON BROWN, Saturday 15th November 2014, 23:04 PM

On November 6th 2014 Wymondham High Academy gained Microsoft International Showcase School status, joining five others in the UK and 104 in the world after having been a Microsoft IT Academy for little over a year.

Wymondham High Academy is a Microsoft International Showcase School in Norfolk, UK.
Wymondham High Academy is a Microsoft International Showcase School in Norfolk, UK.

What does this mean for Wymondham High Academy and the staff and students?

Essentially it means that we represent the cutting-edge of using Microsoft technology in an educational institution. This goes right the way from running Windows Server 2012 R2 on our servers and Windows 8.1 Enterprise N on our 700 desktops and 250 laptops to using 250 Surface RT tablets in the classroom, purchasing Surface Pro 3s for the senior leadership team and offering students at Wymondham High IT opportunities a little ‘outside of the ordinary’ such as experiences of using enterprise social networks in-school such as Yammer and even giving students the opportunity to download 5 free copies of Office 365 Pro Plus and £50,000 worth of other Microsoft software. We are now internationally recognised as worldwide leaders in using Microsoft technology in the classroom to deliver fun, interactive and inspiring lessons and to inspire technological innovation in other educational institutions.

Devices such as Surface tablets in the classroom can help students of different ages to learn together and open doors to further knowledge.
Devices such as Surface tablets in the classroom can help students of different ages to learn together and open doors to further knowledge.

Part of being a Microsoft International Showcase School is having the ability to recognise that technology isn’t something that should be shunned in the classroom for fear of students being distracted by it. Instead, it is about recognising that technology in the classroom can maximise the potential of students and can provide great learning possibilities and access the wider reading and information to help education. In a world where technology is moving along faster and faster and children are adapting faster and faster to new technology, whether it be smartphones, smartwatches, social media or even virtual reality, technology is something cannot simply be ignored and brushed under the carpet from education. The education system must adapt to using technology in the classroom.

Children who began Year 7 (the youngest children at Wymondham High) this year were born in 2002 or 2003, meaning that many of them have never known life without technology around them – most notably a life without the internet and touch-enabled smart devices such as smartphones and tablets is completely alien to them. Children in Year 7 and Year 8 are younger than Windows XP and Office 2003. Although these products are no longer supported by Microsoft, Windows XP still holds a market share of approximately 17% over a variety of devices, such as desktops, laptops and even ATMs, on a global scale. There is a very strong likelihood that there are some schools who are still using Windows XP and Office 2003 to deliver their students an education.

Student Ambassador and A level student, Jason Brown (left), Head of IT Strategy, Kevin Sait (centre) and Student Ambassador and IT Apparentice, Harry Traynor (right).
Student Ambassador and A level student, Jason Brown (left), Head of IT Strategy, Kevin Sait (centre) and Student Ambassador and IT Apparentice, Harry Traynor (right).

How can you expect students to use software in schools that is older than they are? Especially when what they are used to using at home is in a completely different world. In a Year 7 assembly I presented at Old Buckenham High in October, I asked the audience if they owned a smartphone or a tablet. Whilst a number of them owned a smartphone, the overwhelming majority of them owned a tablet. This is what being a Microsoft International Showcase School is all about. It’s all about adapting to using new technology to teach students to meet the needs of what they are probably used to using already. There will come a point where a child will not know what a desktop is, or know how to type on a keyboard or navigate using a mouse. Instead they’ll be using touch devices all the time. How does using outdated hardware and software in a school support this?

The students pick up the new technology extremely quickly. They’re used to using tablets and Windows 8.1 at home so for them it is second nature. The younger students are always the fastest to pick it up, but even the older A level students pick it up considerably quicker than most teachers. Being a Microsoft International Showcase School isn’t just about getting students using this technology – it is also about getting teachers using this technology to teach. In fact, getting the teachers to use it is the most important bit! Without the teacher support, none of this can happen because at the end of the day, who are the ones planning lessons? Not the students! Teachers at Wymondham High have been increasingly enthusiastic about using technology in the classroom. Many of them have created groups for their classes on Yammer where they can post lesson resources and answer any questions that students may have. ‘The learning doesn’t end at 3 o’clock’, and it certainly doesn’t on Yammer! In fact the quietest times on Yammer are during the school day. After 3 o’clock the network is thriving with both students and teachers posting to take the learning outside of the classroom in a fun and modern way. The students enjoy using Yammer so much that teachers have been setting them homework to do on Yammer and the students aren’t even aware that they are doing the homework. The students love Yammer because it is just like Facebook. ‘Finally!’ they all thought as we unveiled Yammer in IT lessons, ‘we can use something like Facebook in school!’ It must’ve been a dream come true for many!

Yammer teaches students the skills of the future: etiquette on social networks is one thing and collaboration is another.
Yammer teaches students the skills of the future: collaboration and etiquette on social networks in the safety of Wymondham High are two key things it teaches.

Yammer works on a two-way basis however. We have well over 1,000 members on our Yammer network and this time next year we will definitely have all 1,800 members of the school on there. I can almost guarantee it. In fact, I can almost guarantee that we’ll have all 1,800 members on Yammer by April next year. Having such a vast network means that there is scope for the odd person to misbehave: whether that be posting inflammatory remarks, creating inappropriate groups or just downright spamming the network, we need a team of admins to monitor the network and ensure it all runs smoothly. Student involvement is a key component of the International Showcase School programme and so we have several students, including myself, who are admins on Yammer. This gives us power to delete posts, groups and also to remove users (among many other things). This has given those students who show maturity and responsibility an opportunity in learning how to moderate social networks and dealing with those who ‘break the rules’ online. Which leads to key life skills such as taking responsibility and action where needed.

But do you know what? We currently have 1,100 users on our Yammer network and in the past year that it has been open for members of Wymondham High to use, we have flat-out banned very few people. Less than ten people have received any kind of ban, whether it be a permanent ban or a temporary suspension and only a couple of people have been permanently banned from the network. Those who do get banned usually own up to what they did and are allowed back on and act more maturely. Above all, this shows that the students are using the network correctly and in the right manner. Yammer teaches all the students etiquette on the internet (‘netiquette’) and teaches them about using social networks safely and responsibility in the safety of school.

Principal of Wymondham High Academy, Russell Boulton, is also passionate about using Microsoft products such as Yammer, OneNote and Surface tablets in his lessons.
Principal of Wymondham High Academy, Russell Boulton, is also passionate about using Microsoft products such as Yammer, OneNote and Surface tablets in his lessons.

At first many teachers were unsure about Yammer and hesitant to use it, presumably because they were unsure what it was useful for and because of all of the cyber-bullying stories you hear in the press, but once it had been explained how it could help student learning, popularity exploded and once some teachers started using it, like a set of dominoes, the others followed suit. Principal Russell Boulton has been a keen user of Yammer and OneNote for his science classes who love using the technology to learn. Over the past few months he in particular has been a teacher who has lead the way forward in using Microsoft technology in the classroom. It is also great that he is the Principal and so is the teacher whom the other teachers look up to. Teachers have also been talking to each other on Yammer about lesson planning and asking each other for lesson ideas in their ‘Teaching & Learning’ group on the network which now has 160 members. This means that the domino effect has further been enhanced.

I think one thing that teachers feel Yammer is great for is security. On a social network like Facebook or Twitter or even on internet forums, anybody can join and start talking to you. This means that you don’t always know who are you talking to. The beauty of Yammer is that only members of Wymondham High can join our network – the requirement to join is a valid WH-AT.net email address (which is our school domain). This means if any cyber-bullying does go on, we know that is from somebody in school and not an outsider. Security is further enhanced with a very, very long ‘monitor keyword list’ which flags any inappropriate words in messages and reports back to Kevin Sait. This kind of security is what has helped Yammer take off in our school and helps to make it to a safe network to communicate on.

The same story applies to the Surface RT tablets. At first, they were hardly used, but once it was apparent how handy they could be for writing essays in class, researching information in class and generally how portable and convenient they were, popularity exploded and now it’s difficult to find a time when the tablets are not being used!

Surface tablets are extremely popular in lessons at Wymondham High, whether it be maths, geography or science.
Surface tablets are extremely popular in lessons at Wymondham High, whether it be maths, geography or science.

Increasing numbers of students in the school also leads to a shortage of IT rooms, so the Surfaces make a great and convenient alternative.

We also encourage students to bring their own devices to school to work on, whether that be a tablet, smartphone or laptop of their choice. They can of course install Office 365 on this device thanks to Student Avantage, save work on OneDrive, and access it on school computers and on any other device.

These are just a few of the ways in which teachers and students are using Microsoft technology at Wymondham High to inspire innovative learning.

Another part of the programme is to assign two Global Student Ambassadors. These are students who are passionate about Microsoft technology and will promote it in the classroom and school, but also at large Microsoft Educational events. I am very proud to announce that I am one of Wymondham High’s Microsoft Global Student Ambassadors, and Harry Traynor, an 18 year old IT apprentice at Wymondham High who has been involved with the Microsoft IT Academy project at Wymondham High since day one, is the other. I am a 17 year old student currently studying A levels at Wymondham High, but have been attending the school since I was 11 in Year 9 (and Harry has been attending since he was 11 in 2007) and we have both seen massive, massive changes to the IT systems in school over the years that we have been here.

Worldwide Microsoft Student Ambassadors for Wymondham High, Jason Brown (17, left) and Harry Traynor (18, right) are of course passionate about technology in the classroom.
Worldwide Microsoft Student Ambassadors for Wymondham High, Jason Brown (17, left) and Harry Traynor (18, right) are of course passionate about technology in the classroom.

We are extremely proud and privileged to have worked with people like Kevin Sait who are real inspirations to us to have reached where we are standing now. To have a Worldwide title at the age of 17 or 18 and be personally known to without a doubt, the largest software vendor and technology company on the planet is absolutely incredible. And there will be without a doubt students at Wymondham High who in the future will hold this title at a much younger age than Harry or I.

The ultimate aim is to provide a learning environment in which technology is used by students and staff to its absolute potential and creates successful learning and engaging teaching. We are preparing children for jobs that don’t exist in our economy yet. Most of the jobs in IT that these children will eventually end up doing do not exist yet – so we need to teach them the skills that they will need. Microsoft Office skills rank in the top 3 of 20 skills desired by employers, and skills such as entrepreneurship and collaboration are often thrown around as being ‘future life skills’ required to work in a connected and digital place of work.

I am absolutely passionate about Wymondham High Academy and cannot say enough good things about it and the staff and

students who are there. ‘I live and breathe this school’ is how I put it to an IT teacher the other day, which is why I am so proud to represent my school’s technological achievements on a worldwide scale.

Using technology in the classroom makes for successful learning and engaging teaching. Pictured here is IT teacher, Mr Howard, teaching coding.
Using technology in the classroom makes for successful learning and engaging teaching. Pictured here is IT teacher, Mr Howard, teaching coding.

We lead, we inspire, we innovative, we educate. We are Wymondham High Academy: An International Microsoft Showcase School.

Be sure to follow the Wymondham High O Team on Twitter for regular Wymondham High IT updates: @WyHighOTeam

The O Team also has a YouTube Channel with several Office 365 tutorial videos for students at Wymondham High Academy.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter so you can read all about my amazing life(!): @JasonBrown2K13

Also be sure to follow Kevin Sait’s Twitter for Microsoft Educational updates and updates on IT in the classroom at Wymondham High: @kevin_sait

Last updated: Sunday 16th November 2014, 16:12 PM