Teaching takes you in many directions and provides you with unique experiences. From toxic chemical cloud drills to games of Bunny Bunny, the old cliche that no two days are the same really does carry weight in our exhilarating profession. Thursday 28th November was no exception.
A party of six left King’s Rochester at 7am to visit three Sussex schools; Hove Park, Roedean and Hurspierpoint. All three schools had been recommended by Solutions Inc; an Apple re-seller in Hove with whom we are building links. Solutions have already visited King’s to complete a WiFi survey and kindly invited us to speak to, and learn from, a selection of schools that were on different stages of their tech adoption. The M25 insisted that we took the scenic route to The South Coast and after an enjoyable journey through the countryside, we arrived at our first destination…
Hove Park is a school on the up. In August 2012, they were placed first in Brighton and Hove for most improved schools, being 2nd in the South East and 12th Nationally. Their results have also coincided with a innovative approach to learning by introducing iPads in the day-to-day life of the school. Our meeting was led by Deputy Head and Business Manager, Niel McLeod, and he walked us through the journey Hove Park had been on thus far. Niel confirmed that any tech adoption scheme must be driven from the SLT. Without support from the top, any initiative will be unlikely to succeed. He also talked of the importance of not forcing change; allowing teachers the freedom to develop their own pedagogy around devices is crucial. Teachers who had been happily and successfully teaching for 25 years sometimes did not see the need to incorporate iPads into their lessons and were often afraid to do so. However, putting the devices in their hands long before the students got hold of them, alleviated some of this pressure. Furthermore, the use of drop-in workshops and Digital Leaders had also helped with the transition, and had the dual effect of empowering students. Indeed, it was the evidence collected form the students that demonstrated why their iPad adoption scheme was working – and why the effort that teachers had made to was so worth it – enjoyment of lessons had increased by over 60% whilst remarkably, negative behaviour had actually reduced by 56%.
Next on the hit-list was historic Roedean. Perched elegently on the chalk cliffs, East of Brighton, Roedean has also recently rolled out iPads and we heard their story via their incredibly knowledgeable network manager, Shayne Parker. Shayne stated that before considering a tech roll out of any kind, it was essential to have future-proofed and reliable WiFi infrastructure underpinning the operation. It was interesting to hear how Roedean had overcome issues such as the thickness of the historic walls; this is something that needs to be considered in many of the buildings at King’s. The majority of Roedean’s students are boarders, and this was another factor in their decision to get a high quality infrastructure and device management system. Many of the girls at Roedean come from overseas so access to tools such as Skype and Facebook is imperative, but of course there are e-safety concerns that needed to be addressed. Roedean used Smoothwall as their content filtering solution and Shayne could not have been more complimentary. Regarding the iPads themselves, Roedean’s workflow solution used Apple TV and Office 365; a tech ecosystem I had not come across before, but one that clearly worked very well and one that could also work at King’s with our Windows-based network.
Our last stop was Hurstpeirpoint College. Orginally founded in 1849, Hurst boasts the oldest Shakespeare society in existence but fuses tradition with cutting edge technology deployment and the inspirational Deputy Head, Vickie Bacon, filled us in on the schools iPad story. Their 1:2:1 scheme was in its third year and was clearly deeply entrenched in everyday school life and the curriculum. Like the other two schools, Hurst was becoming increasingly involved with iTunesU and has also introduced iPod touches in the Pre-Prep. Technology was clearly a huge part of the school’s vision and after seeing a stunning impromptu Keynote presentation from a Y8 pupil, the positive effect it was having on learning was obvious. Indeed, as soon as the presentation had finished the pupil smiled and said “I had a lot of fun making that”. The fact that the subject was ‘corresponding angles’ says a lot about how, when facilitated correctly, technology can make learning about even the most mundane of subjects, engaging and exciting.
The drive home was filled with much excitement; we had learned so much and were enthused about the adventures ahead. Each school was at a different stage of their respective journeys, and each school was carving a path that was unique and personalised to best enhance the experience of their learners. Nevertheless, each school shared a vision to ensure their students were benefitting from the remarkable technology that is now increasingly a part of everyday life. It is now our job up to use this valuable experience and formulate our own plans for the future at King’s.