The subject of a recent BBC feature, Ysgol Bae Baglan in Port Talbot is a brand new Microsoft Showcase School, and a shining example of how technology can be used to empower educators and transform learning outcomes for students.
Watch the BBC report here: £40m Ysgol Bae Baglan 'superschool' in Port Talbot to open
Replacing a total of four schools in the area (three secondary and one primary), the new site at Ysgol Bae Baglan is one of only seven schools in Wales that will offer education to pupils from the ages of three to 16, and will open its doors to 1,500 pupils and 200 staff.
— Ysgol Bae Baglan (@BaeBaglan) August 31, 2016
Catering for such a broad range of educational styles and student requirements needs a certain flexibility of technology and working environment. Portability of devices and access to shared materials and coursework are vital to ensuring that students have the best possible opportunities to work in a way that best suits their own learning styles, and that teachers are able to connect with their students and offer timely and informative feedback.
Anytime Anywhere Learning
Surfaces are prevalent throughout the school, with every Year 9 pupil being provided with their own individual device. The versatility of the device makes it perfect for any learning scenario - in the class as a PC, in the sports hall recording activities, on the bus as a tablet, or as a pen and paper.
With all of this cutting edge technology available, it's also important not to lose sight of traditional learning practices that still have a significant part to play in student development. The cognitive benefits of writing notes by hand are well documented, and this is another area where the choice of Surface devices is a perfect blend of tradition and innovation, as Year 5 teacher Joe Westermark (MIEE) explains about the 9-10 year olds in his class:
"They do have a pen, and you can write on the Surface as you would a book…"
The connectivity of the classrooms, and the use of Office 365 applications such as OneNote means that students are also easily able to collaborate and learn from each other, as Mr Westermark continues:
"When students finish a piece of work they can throw it up onto the projector and share it with the rest of the class."
The use of Office 365 and the Microsoft Cloud by Ysgol Bae Baglan enables students, teachers and staff to access homework and assignments stored online from anywhere, empowering true anytime anywhere learning. For example with OneNote Class Notebooks, students will be able to receive feedback directly from their teachers as they are doing their homework, and teachers have the ability to view and mark all of the class' work ahead of the next lesson, allowing more time to be spent covering the areas that need the most focus.
More than technology
But technology is only part of the story. It needs to be used effectively by the academic staff in order for its full potential to be realised. Ysgol Bae Baglan is also home to five MIEEs (Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts), including Paul 'Lanny' Watkins who often contributes content to this blog about his experiences of CPD using the Microsoft Educator Community.
We look forward to hearing more about the fortunes of the staff and students at Ysgol Bae Baglan, and we'll be sure to share many of the stories coming out of this, and all of our other Showcase Schools over the course of the next academic year.