Southborough High School is based in Surbiton, Surrey, and currently teaches approximately 700 students. The school places a priority on metacognition as a key learning goal for its pupils. Metacognition is learners’ automatic awareness of their own knowledge and their ability to understand, control, and manipulate their own cognitive processes. Metacognitive skills are important not only in school, but throughout life.
So in 2012, Southborough decided to re-evaluate its ICT needs to align with its desire to create a flexible and mobile learning environment to encourage metacognition.
The objective was to enable students to decide when and how to use ICT to enhance their own learning in subjects across the curriculum. For example, in PE and Drama, students can now film their performance and use this to critique and improve their own work. In languages, ICT is used as a mobile language lab, and students can connect over Skype with others students at a partner school in Madrid. For English students, e-readers allow free access to out of copyright texts.
Other examples of the practical use of technology includes Maths students having easy access to web based software such as MyMaths, an interactive online learning solution which tracks progress and teaches in a fun and interactive way. In Design and Technology, teachers film practical techniques, which students can store on their device and reference as and when they need to.
The school had several ICT suites across the campus, with access to approximately 300 PCs. However, the technology estate was dated and the formal seating arrangement did not fit with the school’s notion of flexible learning.
Teachers and pupils were finding that the outdated technology was limiting the potential of metacognition learning, so switching from fixed classroom access and ageing desktop PCs to a flexible, anytime, anywhere approach to curriculum delivery became the goal.
Craig Wicking, Deputy Head, explains: “Southborough High School is an improving school and the work we are doing around student independent learning and metacognition will create a learning environment in which students are less reliant on input from the teachers. To facilitate this work we looked at various Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) options so students and teachers can bring in their own personal electronic devices at a lower cost to the school. We wanted to consider an option where students can have ownership of the device to encourage responsible and consistent use of the technology.”
Southborough was looking for an agnostic approach to device choice, where students and staff could use the device they are most comfortable with, be it a laptop, tablet or hybrid.
Southborough High School approached Stone Group, after a recommendation from a colleague in the IT department. Stone Group recommended deploying a Citrix Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), which utilises server hardware to run desktop operating systems and application software inside a virtual machine. Users access these virtual desktops using their own devices. This not only eliminates the need for workstation hardware upgrades, but also enables the user to switch between operating environments, saving valuable physical space and considerable costs.
With the VDI in place, Southborough now had the flexibility to roll out Stone’s @ccessAbility scheme which aims to provide 1:1 device access for students at school and at home.
1:1 learning enables teachers to plan lessons based around one pupil per device. Because @ccessAbility is vendor independent, Southborough could choose between a range of devices and operating platforms, whether it be Android, iOS, or Windows.
“After speaking extensively with the Stone Payment Solutions Team about our options, we took a flexible approach, which allowed students to choose from devices such as iPad 2, iPad Mini, Google Chromebook, and Macbook Air – in two phased roll outs”, commented Craig Wicking. “By enabling 1:1 access to laptops and tablets, we felt we could implement mobile learning solutions and give students access to broader, more interactive learning resources as and when needed at their own pace. Students would also be able to take advantage of the freedom and mobility of using the same devices at school as the one’s they’re used to at home transforming any space into a learning environment.”
Stone Group’s @ccessAbility scheme runs for two or three years and the school signs the master lease agreement on behalf of all parents. Parents then make a monthly donation based on what they can afford and at the end of that period Southborough’s students can either make a final contribution and keep the device or return it to the school. This allows pupils access to high performance technology that might normally be too expensive for families to pay for outright, and provides continual access to the technology for their educational needs.
Almost 30 per cent of Southborough’s teaching staff have also signed up to a similar scheme and pay for a device through salary sacrifice. This gives staff access to the latest technology and provides a consistent single device to better personalise the teaching and learning experience. Staff are able to teach using the same devices that students are learning with, providing a harmonious foundation for the school to build pedagogies based on metacognition.
Craig Wicking comments: “These schemes allow students and staff to access the school desktop wherever they can get an internet connection and whatever device they are using, rather than restricting access to specific times in IT labs across the school. The VDI has empowered our students to become more independent, and for technology to play a more active role in their studies through an enhanced teaching and learning experience.”
“We have about 75 per cent of the school’s population logging into our school Wi-Fi every day, and about 25 per cent logging into the VDI. It’s working really well with younger pupils in particular because they have been empowered by this new way of working since the start of their school career. In Years 7 and 8, we have achieved almost true 1:1 learning and this is having a real impact on how teachers can structure lessons and how students access information and take responsibility for their own learning.”
As part of the overall package, Stone Group has taken an active role in promoting the roll out of the @ccessAbility scheme through Southborough’s Friendship Days – the first meeting with the school for new Year 6 pupils and their parents. Stone Group also attends parent evenings to introduce the programme, and enable parents to have a look at the devices available. The scheme is outlined so that parents understand what is covered in terms of insurance and warranty, and how the device will be used in school to help their child’s studies.
Craig Wicking said: “Having Stone Group attend these events is important for us because it adds technical expertise, and parents can get the right information they need face-to-face. It also helps us because they take on the administrative role for the scheme, and own that relationship with the parent if they ever need to chase a contribution or a replace a device.”
Stone Group has provided us with a bespoke solution which is right for us. The technology we have deployed has succeeded in engaging our students in new ways, and enabled us to work towards empowering independent student learning. We want our students to carry around their school IT experience in their pocket.
Not only this, the solution makes financial sense for the school, students and staff alike. We expect to save significant sums of money on our IT expenditure over the next couple of years, and students and staff get access to the latest technology to help them work.