Students being creative with Yammer

I am a firm believer, if you give a student the right tools, their  creative side will show through.   Recently we have seen this through our schools social network – Yammer in the recent months, proving the value of communication in the school.   Yammer itself was probably a bit of a gamble in the school market, my previous school did not see the value in it, however at Wymondham they took the risk. Russell Boulton was aware of what Enterprise Social meant and how we could manage any risk. So Yammer was born in January 2014.

Initially usage was limited to our Sixth Formers. However word soon got round ‘socially’ and numbers started to pick up. Then our IT teaching staff started to investigate is use and started teaching e-safety through it, things like:

  • how to setup your profile
  • what information do you want to make public
  • what posts are applicable

This has been rolled out to different year groups during the year, with some students ‘getting ahead of the game’ before hand! Some of our Wymondham High O Team leaders interviewed some students about ‘life before and life after’ we moved to Office 365 & Yammer.


What I found interesting is the need to communicate,  we are a big school (well in my eyes we are) and the ability for students to communicate with teachers without having to spend a lunchtime looking for them has been a real plus.  The students in the video talk about being able to communicate with teachers – its important to them.

Of course we have teachers who embrace the idea and are happy to utilise Yammer to its upmost. For example MFL teacher Kay Southgate has been a leading light on using Yammer and OneNote in the classroom with her Year 7 classes.  Kay’s group on Yammer can only post in French (that’s the rules), but there are some superb conversations happening all the time.  Of course the social media term of a ‘Like’ has almost replaced the traditional team point system from the past!

Yammer fanatic Kay Southgate with her Yammy
Yammer fanatic Kay Southgate with her Yammy

So students enjoy using the technology, and it proves a complete benefit in finding out what goes on in a school the size of ours. The next step however surprised me also.    We started seeing students create different groups such as My Poetry, My Drawings, Your Creations and a story-writing group where students began to showcase there work to others in this social showcase that they now had.  This was not run by teachers but by students and have become very popular, remember this isn’t homework its just children being creative and being able to do so by having the right toolset to achieve those goals.


So here is a great example in the Story writing group, taken a few days ago.   This group has been started by a group of Year 7 students and now has a healthy membership and as you can see Yammer has enabled the students to feedback and evaluate others work.  These are fairly early days but shows the potential of an Enterprise Social network in school as a tool for students to self evaluate the work of others !

Yammer initially to me was all about improving communication using mobile devices as the end point, and this has certainly been the case for us, as you can see.  These are our stats from the Yammer dashboard for the past 30 days.  Social, as a form of communication is certainly the chosen method for students.  As a school its dawning that Yammer is the quickest method of communicating to students !


Our Yammer stats

Yammer also fills a great arena of e-safety for Year 7s but also allows us to collaborate effectively with other high schools and feeder schools using this familiar technology.   I would always regard Yammer as Work in Progress as the only limitation on its use as an educational tool will be how creative our students want to be.

Yammer Enterprise is free for Office 365 subscriptions for education. For more information follow me on Twitter @kevin_sait





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.

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

Welcome to the O Team

Welcome to the Wymondham High O Team.   It is these team of students who have helped design build and implement Microsoft’s Office 365 at Wymondham High Academy Trust.   I am at the age of 43 very lucky to work with such a talented and focused bunch of students.

Let me give you a rundown of the team starting left to right.

Will Singleton – Will as a Year 7 as helped mastermind getting Year 7 students into using Office 365 and is a key team player.  Will is a Microsoft Office Specialist and uses his skills to showcase collaboration and sharing documents in his year group.

Paul Harvey – Paul has finally finished is A-levels and is one of our Yammer Social Network Managers in school.  Always available to help both students and staff. Paul also led on deploying Surface RT in the school.  Paul’s analytical mind has meant any challenge we have set him has been completed, well before target.

Me – Head of IT Strategy and Office 365 Ninja.

Harry Traynor – Harry is a senior O team member and all round champion of anything IT related.  A keen eye for design, some of Harry’s internal promotional posters have found fame with companies like Microsoft and Yammer Inc.

Jason Brown – Media man, a keen photographer Jason’s skills are really coming to the front following his successful application to become an O Team member. Jason has made several Office 365 learning videos which populate the O Team YouTube channel.  Again Jason’s videos have found their way onto the world stage and have been used to recently open an education conference in Canada.

Tobias Dunn – Toby is another Year 7 Microsoft Office Specialist, and Office 365  champion in the school.  Toby also codes using Touchdevelop and more recently Project Siena.


The team recently appeared in a live YamJam where they discussed using social media in the classroom with educators from around the world and regularly work with staff from Microsoft using Lync and Yammer.   The next  thing on the list is the launch of Office 365 with our colleagues at Old Buckenham High School, where the O Team will be leading an assembly to over 500 students.     So all I can say is watch this space as news from this extremely talented team will make it way across social media.

To find out more about the O Team’s Youtube channel follow the link

Old Buckenham High School – going about it the right way.

Old Buckenham High School
Old Buckenham High School


A few weeks I made an intial post about the work I am involved in at Old Buckenham High School, to help develop a transformational change in technology use throughout the school. This is an update to that post and I thought I would share this with you, to show how quick things can move forward!

The initial meeting started some 3 months ago to talk about the work Wymondham High have done with Office 365 in the classroom.    The SLT team led by Head Teacher Aron Whiles @aronwhiles looked at IT provision from the ground up, and before buying devices wanted to make sure the infrastructure for the school was correct.

Quotes were sourced and replacement  switches were purchased and installed by Network Development Manager Martin Faulkner over the Easter break.   Meanwhile Business Manager Lorraine Collins had been busy organising a Wi-Fi site survey of the school, with suppliers breaking down  the quote into logical sections, to allow a phased introduction over a period of time.

While this was going on Martin had also configured ‘Cloud Migrator’ and migrated all of the SLT team data into Office 365 from Google Apps.   He now knows that migrating other staff members ‘is just a flick of the IT switch away’.

The school has scheduled a Student Digital Leader program to support students and staff with Office 365, whole school assemblies to launch a new way of learning, and drop in workshops for staff to up skill themselves.

Office for IPad coming to OBHS
Office for IPad coming to OBHS

With all this happening students at the school will be able to soon enjoy and gain skills in todays technology, added to this Student Advantage where students can gain the latest version of Microsoft Office for the home PC and also lets not forget Office IPad for free.

These are exciting times at Old Buckenham High School and I am sure by September ‘transformational change’ in the classroom will be well under way.

For more information on this journey follow Aron Whiles @aronwhiles