The following is a guest post from Gerald Haigh, looking at the way schools can learn from each other when it comes to deploying tablets. As he explores below, while the scale of a rollout may dictate the types of devices that a school opts for, when using Windows tablets the underpinning platform of Office 365 is available to all and allows for a consistent working experience to be enjoyed by all members of staff and students.
There’s little doubt that the arrival of inexpensive Windows tablets (Dell, HP, Linx, Toshiba, for example) is giving schools – especially those needing to update or replace their existing computers – the freedom to think differently about their technology infrastructure. Increasingly, then, the combination of a ‘full fat’ tablet for the teacher – Surface 3 for example – and something more affordable but still adequately functional for the students, seems highly attractive, especially when used in conjunction with Office 365 and the Cloud.
So, for example, I had a conversation this summer with Matt Evans, senior technician, and Giles Mason, Head of ICT Faculty, at Hardenhuish School, a 1,600 pupil secondary in Chippenham, Wiltshire.
Hardenhuish is an ICT Mark school with a strong track record of technological innovation. Recently, though existing provision began to look dated, and, at the same time, budgets were under pressure, so it seemed sensible to find other ways of staying at the cutting edge.
Matt and Giles started by looking at what other schools were doing, particularly with the Cloud, and they were particularly interested in developments at Broadclyst, in Devon, which is a Microsoft Showcase School well known for its innovative deployment of Microsoft technologies in support of learning. While the sizes of the schools weren’t necessary comparable, Matt’s was still able to draw inspiration from Broadclyst’s technology strategy:
‘Broadclyst is a primary school, and as we have many more students we couldn’t follow their policy of a desktop for each student, so this led us down the tablet route.’
There were already some iPads at Hardenhuish, so staff and students were already aware of the convenience of tablets – and also of the limitations of the iPad.
‘They were fine for what they could do, but they don’t have that Office feel built in, so for getting down to work we wanted something Windows based, and the Surface was the obvious choice.’
So, as of September this year (2015) each member of staff at Hardenhuish – 120 in all — will have a Surface 3. With Miracast, teachers will be free to move round their classes, showing examples on the screen. For students, the future plan is to equip them with Linx eight-inch Windows tablets.
The whole transformed infrastructure is designed to provide access and interaction with a brand new Office 365 SharePoint learning management environment currently being designed and installed by Microsoft partners ‘SalamanderSoft’.
It’s still early days for this innovative work at Hardenhuish, but there’ll be more to see and report on as time goes on, especially in terms of impact in the classroom.
Surface 3 is available at a 10% discount for education. For device specification and to find an authorised reseller please visit Surface in education.
Office 365 is available for free to all students and staff at no cost as part of their schools’ existing Microsoft Education subscription. For more information and to check eligibility, please visit Office.com/GetOffice365.