Guest post from Rick Wang – Microsoft Education Business, Greater China Republic.
I really appreciated the opportunity to join Mark Stewart (UK Education Partnerships Lead) on a volunteering day visit to Kew House School on Sep 18th 2014. As a result, I wrote this blog to share what I saw, in the hope that this may help other schools who are looking at technology to enable and advance their teaching and learning.
Kew House School is a co-educational independent senior school for pupils aged 11-18 years. The school opened its doors for the first time last September with 80 students enrolled. Now, there are 190 students in the school and the number will be doubled next year.
We were warmly welcomed by Mr. Mark Hudson (Head Teacher) and Mr Umar Qureshi (ICT & Computing Teacher) who showed us around. As a newly designed school, it has modern classrooms and teaching facilities, with bright coloured classrooms, open spaces, round tables suitable for collaborative, interactive teaching, as well as facilitated labs. Mr. Hudson, who has ample professional engineering experience, was very much involved in shaping the classroom experience and design.
The school also has a modern view on technology in classroom. Besides advanced IT infrastructure such as high speed broadband, latest interactive Smart white boards, and 3D printers, what impressed me most is how the teachers are effectively using technology in their teaching methodology. The school has adopted the Frog Learning platform and teaching framework to manage teaching resources online. Teachers will use Frog content for their curriculum and home work. All students have Frog accounts and Microsoft Office 365 for collaboration with peers and teachers, which is highly relevant and aligned to 21st century teaching guidelines.
The best part of the day was when Mark Stewart presented during Assembly about Microsoft; what is our vision in Education, the technologies we are developing and some computing education related projects, such as Spark, KODU and Touch Development.
I shared my story and experience of what it is like to work at Microsoft and how I came to Microsoft as part of the MACH program.
I have to say that these young students really impressed me a lot with their knowledge and understanding of technology.
During the presentation, Mark asked the audience a number of questions, such as, which year was Microsoft founded; A young man about 12 years old answered 1975 confidently! There were several questions regarding the Mojang MineCraft acquisition, which was only announced a day or so earlier. The questions were not limited to availability on the Xbox One! The Students asked lots of questions with business insights; such as whether 2 billion dollars plus was justified, what are the plans for MineCraft after the acquisition, and how is Microsoft going to leverage this product for other projects. The students were so informed and asking really interesting and insightful questions, quite amazing!
The surprises just keep coming throughout day and most notably, the Q&A session in the afternoon. Mark introduced Microsoft Touch Develop to the group and I witnessed a 12 year old student build an interesting app using Touch Develop for the first time in 10 minutes. This was amazing to see. Some students asked wide ranging questions such as, what’s the difference between Apple iCloud and Microsoft Azure, what will be the breakthrough in next the generation of Microsoft Windows, at times it was like meeting an enterprise customer, given the nature of the inquiries. Finally we provided a set of Microsoft devices for the teachers and students to play with. There was a strong interest in the new 8 inch windows devices that Mark brought with him, where students delighted their teachers by discovering nice little features, such as hand writing recognition and inking, as well as a collection of apps too. It almost looked like we weren’t going to get them back!
We received many interesting and intriguing questions from both a business and personal perspective. Such as, how is Microsoft working with Apple, and how is technology changing people’s life style. One student made a comment that smart devices make life easier, but we should not be obsessed by them, he made an analogy to the bicycle, where this is more convenient than walking, but you wouldn’t spend your life, 24x7 on a bicycle! That was definitely something I didn’t expect from a 13 year old boy.
This experience certainly made me realise that understanding and empowering the students is critical to evaluating and deciding the role of technology in your school. The students figure things out, they approach things in amazing ways and are eager to share that learning with the teachers. This was great to see and I think the teachers got a lot from the day too. The students are clearly the future.
It was a great opportunity for me during this visit to experience an advanced 21st century teaching and learning school. Kew House School is a very progressive school, with innovative ideas both in terms of building, facilities design and how it sees the role of technology in education. This was so evident in the way the students engaged, the type of questions being asked and the energy and enthusiasm shown.
I would like to thank Mr. Hudson and Mr. Qureshi for a great day and their kind hospitality in showing me around and allowing me to learn a great deal from my visit to a UK school.