The following is a guest post from Core ECS – specialists in integrated SharePoint solutions for education. The Team at CORE ECS designs, develops and maintains teaching and learning environments including intranets, VLEs, collaborative learning workspaces and public websites. Their flexible solutions for schools, academies and colleges are SharePoint-based and can be hosted on your site, at a data centre or in the cloud.
Technology in schools: Microsoft’s Showcase Classroom
In February 2015, employees of Core ECS spent the day at Microsoft’s Showcase Classroom in the heart of London. Core ECS design, develop and maintain SharePoint-based teaching and learning environments for schools, academies and colleges. They organised for seventeen Year 10 students and members of the leadership team from The Nobel School in Stevenage to attend the immersive, interactive, technology session.
The workshop held in the modern, brightly decorated classroom was designed to give students and teachers an insight into and a full appreciation of what the Windows 8.1 tablet offers the education sector. Led by Phil Burney, who has 10 years’ experience as an ICT teacher and has worked as a consultant in Australia and the UK, the session gave everyone the opportunity to explore technologies in a hands-on environment.
The 21st century lesson began with everyone being given their own tablet to log on to for the day. An icebreaker saw all the delegates introducing themselves and naming their favourite piece of technology. The list included an iPad, Windows phone, Sky Go, Go-Pro, lawnmower and even a coffee machine! Phil explained that over the course of the day, the students and their teachers would learn how six different Microsoft technologies – Windows 8.1, Yammer, Office 365, OneNote, OneDrive and Lync – can assist in engagement and attainment at their school.
A series of activities gave everyone the opportunity to experience how Windows 8.1 tablets can transform the classroom. The morning session began with an introduction to the devices, with the delegates receiving instructions and then completing tasks for themselves. They learnt how to customise the start screen, group apps, use smart search, understand how ‘gestures’ operate features, split the screen and write notes using a keyboard, stylus and their finger. The group was introduced to a number of Apps which along with the information they had received, had to be put to use to complete several activities including translating instructions from Russian into English, taking a panoramic photo and finding a recipe for lasagne.
The attendees learnt how the ‘cloud’ or the centralised, online data storage area supports anytime, anywhere learning. To illustrate how OneDrive can link people and their data wherever they are, Phil requested volunteers to act the parts of ‘student on the bus’, ‘X-box player at home’, ‘teacher in the staffroom’ and ‘student in the library’. He demonstrated how through the programmes on their devices they were able to communicate and share information about a homework task, no matter where they were. The session illustrated how Microsoft 365 can be used to create and edit documents on the go, with SharePoint providing a collaborative space where they can be hosted and shared with a particular group of people.
“Office 365 is excellent and really delivers a suite of programs that could really support
teaching and learning, particularly on mobile devices.” – Barry Burningham, Deputy Head Teacher
The workshop aimed to show teachers how they can combine the use of tablets with their current teaching and learning strategies as well as offering guidance on exploring new ones. They were also able to secure immediate feedback from their students. With everyone having access to their own tablet, not only were they empowered with the knowledge and the confidence to use it, the activities were specifically designed to show how the tablets would work in a classroom setting, rather than just in a general technological sense.
We were also introduced to Yammer – the social networking service that can be used for private communication within schools. Its demonstration revealed how teachers can use a controlled environment as a means of communicating the importance of e-safety. Another activity revealed that students are much more confident at writing posts in answer to questions than they are voicing their thoughts out loud. The posts on Yammer provide teachers with a documented record of how students are working together in a safe environment where they can share and discuss ideas. The teachers also saw how Yammer can be used as a tool through which a group of parents can communicate with the school.
“The students were engaged in what they were doing and the presenter was very good. It was great to get an understanding of how the
technology could be used in the classroom.” – Christine Crawley, School Business Manager
Every practical exercise focussed on how staff and students can use Microsoft technology in school to support teaching and learning outcomes. The workshop looked at how schools with Skype and Microsoft Lync can use instant messaging, conferencing and video and audio calls to link up with students across the world and to contact experts who will help engage them in their studies. Students and teachers were able to try out OneNote, collating content in text, audio and video form in their digital notebooks, as well as using PowerPoint to devise quizzes and record and add video content to presentation slides.
Not since the emergence of the printed book has the education sector experienced such an opportunity to revolutionise learning. Whilst the introduction of mobile personal technology is a great opportunity, it comes with many challenges as its development leads to unique changes in the way we interact. It is often difficult for school leaders to see the scope of this innovation and teachers can be reluctant to incorporate new ICT ideas and utilise new equipment in their lessons. The Microsoft workshop with its step-by-step guide to some of the programmes out there, demonstrated how technology in the hands of teachers and students alike can create a force that will truly transform education across the UK.
“I chose to partner with Core ECS because they were able to demonstrate a strong pedigree. I have worked with ‘365’ in its earlier incarnations and I was impressed how Core ECS have developed easy integration services of Office 365
into our current infrastructure so that I can offer flexible and robust solutions internally.” – Simon Evans, School Network Manager