Broadclyst Community Primary School, in Devon, are well known locally for the way that they use ICT to enhance learning. Knowing that they tend to be at the leading edge of new technologies, we went to look at how they are using Windows Vista to support teaching and learning in their school
Broadclyst Primary School is a larger than average primary school in Exeter, Devon with 400 pupils and 16 teachers. Built out of Devonshire stone in 1810, the school is a grade II listed building and is one of the oldest primary schools in the country. It is also one of the most technologically advanced, with a ratio of virtually one PC to every pupil and an educational vision for ICT that is innovative, creative and highly successful.
Over the last 15 years, Broadclyst Primary School has been pushing the boundaries of ICT to bring educational benefits to its pupils. Always looking to adopt the latest technology, the school was one of the first to develop a home access system over 8 years ago, loaning PCs to parents and tapping into the idea of e-learning portals. Since then the school has continued to develop its focus on a collaborative and creative online learning space, initially partnering with Microsoft to use its first Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), Microsoft ClassServer. Now, several years and technological advances later, Broadclyst Primary School has taken ICT to new levels, developing an environment in which the latest technology is standard, in which every pupil’s desire to learn translates into high attainment and in which every teacher is supported.
Delivering such a curriculum and offering such a rich, dynamic and multimedia learning experience needs support at base level. Having successfully used Windows XP for the past few years, moving to the latest operating system Windows Vista seemed a natural progression for Broadclyst Primary School. For the school, successful learning is all about communication and collaboration, and the senior management team felt that Windows Vista was the perfect platform upon which this could take place. 12 months ago Broadclyst rolled out Windows Vista across its 350 networked PCs. The school has never looked back.
Jonathan Bishop, Deputy Head at Broadclyst Primary School commented: “We were one of the first schools to roll out Windows Vista soon after it was launched. With over 350 networked PCs, our roll out was not on a small scale and we obviously had a steep learning curve. As with any new technology, it required an investment of time and effort but once we had the first processes in place, the adoption and implementation was straightforward. Having a strategic plan that involved looking at the compatibility of all the existing hardware and software and analysing the upgrade requirements was fundamental. We worked very closely with Microsoft throughout the project and found the company to be extremely supportive, not only in helping us set up the system but also in understanding what we wanted to achieve educationally once Windows Vista was in place.”
As well as partnering with Microsoft to implement Windows Vista, Broadclyst Primary School operates in a SharePoint world, using all the tools within Microsoft Live Communications Server, Microsoft Exchange 2007 and Microsoft Office 2007 to encourage its pupils to work collaboratively. Sharing work and ideas through a portal site, pupils are involved in many kinds of innovative initiatives, including using video conferencing to work on projects with pupils from a school in Holland.
For Broadclyst Primary School, ICT in education is not about children learning discretely on a PC but about providing an innovative and competent skill based curriculum matched to individual pupils’ needs. For example, the school uses The Educator Online Assessments, a web-based system which offers individual learning plans and can be used within the school’s VLE to assign activities that are matched to indidual children’s needs. Finding that pupils were neither motivated by, nor engaged in, subject-based teaching, Broadclyst focuses on developing pupils’ skills to advance their knowledge rather than simply developing their subject knowledge. Over the past year Windows Vista has played a key role in generating a rich, PC based environment which the school can then build on and create many different learning opportunities for its pupils.
Jonathan commented: “We have adopted each stage of Windows operating system over the years. Every stage has been a big leap forward but Windows Vista truly succeeds in offering a much richer end-user environment. It is important to place an operating system within the context of what we want to achieve as a school and the extra functionality and media focused environment offer us an all round better experience and more opportunities for learning, especially when combined with Microsoft Office 2007 and our network.”
With the Government investing large amounts of money into educational ICT, it is easy to see how schools have become fixated on PCs and technology. However, as Broadclyst Primary School has found, it is the adults, not the pupils who have hang ups about advancements. Most pupils see PCs as a tool, one that is motivating and engaging when used for learning. The new Windows Vista system has been quickly embraced and adopted by the pupils. As with most things, children want the latest version and they want that version to be cosmetically appealing. Graphically, Windows Vista offers pupils a much enhanced feel; open windows can be scrolled through in a 3D way and pupils respond positively to its transparency and ‘cool interface’. However, this ‘cool interface’ is not just about aesthetics but also about immersing pupils in a rich learning environment.
Jonathan commented: “There are many new aspects to Windows Vista that provide an all round better experience for learners. The SideBar tool is excellent, enabling live information such as news and weather reports to be streamed onto desktops, offering pupils immediate and interactive access to knowledge and resources. Desktop backgrounds can be personalised which is more stimulating for pupils, and logging on is now much easier – PCs can now easily and quickly flick between users on the network. Overall the usability experience of Windows Vista is far easier and much more logical, suiting the way schools work.”
However, Jonathan is keen to stress that Broadclyst did not invest time and money into Windows Vista just to benefit from new bells and whistles. The school chose it because it represented the latest development in technology – a development that would ultimately provide greater stability and support for the school’s focus on pupil attainment and curriculum outcomes.
Jonathan explained: “If we look at an analogy of a car purchase, you might buy the same car three years later because yours is slightly outdated and you want the latest model. Whilst the immediate aesthetic benefits are clear – heated seats or automated windscreen wipers for example – what you are actually purchasing is a new engine management system, one that is more reliable, more stable, more powerful and overall a much better product. With Windows Vista we are getting a much enhanced overall experience, a product that enables us to create an environment to support children’s learning.”
He continued: “Ultimately Windows Vista is the next generation of operating system, offering more stability, security and functionality than previous systems. With Windows Vista now successfully integrated into our learning environment alongside all the communications and collaboration tools that our school has both sourced and created, we have a complete, networked ICT resource that has brought us real educational benefits. Having seen the difference that Windows Vista makes, I would never go back to Windows XP.”
You can read more about Broadclyst school on their website. The “News Room” section shares some of the success stories published about Broadclyst in local and national press, and the BBC News website.