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Fuelling collaborative learning in a connected school

Scott Langshaw explains how The East Manchester Academy became part of the mobile technology revolution

Posted by Stephanie Broad | September 12, 2016 | Technology

With a flurry of new educational apps being launched every day, it is no surprise that mobile technology is taking the classroom by storm. The phenomenal growth in online learning tools has opened up new horizons in teaching and learning, and our digital generation of students are only too keen to embrace technology at school.

But to benefit fully from mobile technology, a school needs reliable IT to support it.

Outgrowing our technology

You can imagine how disappointed our year nine science class were when they tried to complete an interactive quiz on their devices, only to find that the wireless connection dropped out and their answers were all lost.

Or the tutor group preparing an assembly on space travel who were unable to download the superb images of Mars that they planned to use in their presentation.

Rather than engaging our students’ learning with technology, our school’s IT was holding us back.

The difficulty was that our ageing Wi-Fi network was struggling to keep pace with the school’s rapid growth. The East Manchester Academy had grown from a brand new school with a single group of year seven students in 2010, to a thriving academy with 900 pupils and 160 staff, and it was becoming clear that the technology we had started with six years ago was unable to support the great work that was happening in our classrooms today.

Sticking to the budget

Recognising that it was time to upgrade our IT was the easy part. We are ambitious for our students and we wanted technology that would provide a firm foundation for learning now and in the future.

The challenge for any school is to find a solution that fits the budget. We achieved this by finding an IT partner, Capita Managed IT Solutions, that understood our needs and respected the level of funding available. With our new solution in place, the entire school is now connected and teachers can plan lessons using tablets, laptops or both without fear of a lost connection.

New opportunities

Collaborative working is the new buzzword in schools and rightly so. Working together is the best way for students to learn from one another and share ideas, and being able to use mobile technology has helped to make this a reality.

Students working on a history project can access the content they need straight onto their tablets, so they can share their sources, edit their work and produce high quality documents to discuss with their classmates.

Using their tablets, teachers can connect to the classroom whiteboard and show the projects to the class, getting the students to bounce ideas off one another – something that would have been difficult to achieve with a slower or less reliable connection.

Providing students with feedback on their work has also become a speedier task too as teachers can upload a student’s work, give it a mark and return it in a few taps and swipes of their tablet screen.

Making day-to-day life easier

On a practical level, our wireless network is making a difference too. In a lesson, every minute counts. And when students are able to log in to their laptop or device instantly and be ready to learn, as they can with a fast broadband connection, the rest of the lesson is much more likely to be productive.

Our busy teaching staff now have the confidence to incorporate technology into their lessons knowing that they can download a large file or access online content without fear of losing the connection.

Mobile technology is an integral part of life at The East Manchester Academy, and with the infrastructure to support it, our lessons have become more creative, adventurous and fun. With a tailored solution which suits our budget, we are ready to make the most of the tablet revolution.

Scott Langshaw is IT Manager at The East Manchester Academy.

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