Moving to Cloud Computing at Campsmount
Campsmount - A Co-operative Academy, is a newly re-built school, North of Doncaster. It sits on the site of the original school, which was completely destroyed by fire in December 2009. The new campus opened to staff and students in April 2012 and converted to Academy status in May that year.
Built to a semi open-plan design on 2 levels, the school is located in a rural situation serving the three nearby villages of Campsall, Norton and Askern. The area has a strong mining heritage and most pupils are white, of British ethnic origin, whilst 6 are described as: non-English. There are currently 709 pupils on roll and 14.76% of pupils receive free meals. Pupils are set according to ability in every subject except for PE. The school has a large and varied programme of STEM and extra curricular activities, including some very popular international exchange trips for students.
ICT infrastructure and resources
After the fire the school was re-equipped with new ICT equipment and is fully networked with a one gigabit Ethernet fully switched network. Staff can access WiFi and there is also a “BYOD” WiFi network available throughout the school, this is currently not accessible for technical and security reasons, but is due to be implemented shortly. Campsmount has 400 PC desktop computers (HP) running Windows 7, 300 are available for student use in 4 suites. There are also 22 - 21.5” iMac computers available as a bookable resource for students with 25 for staff use. 6 iMac computers are available for the use in the 6th form area.
There are also a number of portable devices, which include 12 iPodtouches and 30 Toshiba and 10 Mac OS laptops available as a bookable resourcefor students. Teachers have access to 8 MacBooks and 30 Toshiba laptops, that they use as classroom PCs, usually connected to an Interactive Whiteboard. Campsmount uses the Frog Learning Platform – and students have access, through a school agreement, to I Am Learning, an online, cloud based, service that offers games based revision and learning.
Acceptable Use Polices are in place for both staff and students, covering the use of mobile devices and social networking. These cover address, data protection, privacy and include guidelines for the use of BYOD/T in school
Students and staff access school resources and information using a Learning Platform and although,not the focus of this study, there is a regular exchange of data between the Learning Platform and the Cloud services. The Cloud services are primarily accessed by students ondesktop computers in the ICT suites, teachers also access them on their laptops and display them using the interactive whiteboards.
Campsmount has direct control over the Web, setting its own filtering policy, and whilst some Cloud services such as Google Drive, Flickr, Cover It Live and Vimeo are available to students, others including as Facebook and other social networking sites are blocked, even though school has previously hosted a Facebook page. Other services including YouTube and Twitter are only available to staff. Mobile phones are allowed in school and can be used at a teacher’s discretion. Some students use them in school to access I am Learning a Cloud based software revision app. School also uses RealSmart http://www.realsmart.co.uk/ A Cloud hosted learning environment, e-portfolio plus self assessment tools with direct access to Google Apps Apps and Wordpress
One of the key uses of Google Drive, sometimes referred to in school as; apps or docs, is for staff communication, and tracking student progress across subjects and departments through a combination of documents and spreadsheets. It is also used for student portfolios, reports and surveys in a number of departments.
Campsmount uses Vimeo to upload and host a number of videos, many of these showcase the school’s STEM initiatives and achievements including: ‘A balloon Flight to Outer Space.” Some members of staff use YouTube to upload or curate videos for use in lessons or to create CPD tutorials, and resources as screencasts, using Screenr: 7 or YouTube such as in this exam discussion resource. Some teachers are creating Podcasts and uploading them to Soundcloud whilst the Flickr photosharing service is used in ICT and photography .
Campsmount also makes use of Cloud publishing and presentation services including CoverItLive and Issuu to communicate with parents. The school prospectus and newsletter are published online using Issuu, parents andother interested parties can download them for reading offline. http://www.campsmount.com/category/parents/newsletters/
Case Study Overview
Campsmount was selected to provide a case study for the “Moving to the Cloud” strand, because the narrative of a school employing web based Cloud technologies and services to help it adapt to, and manage, a unique or challenging circumstances, might provide valuable information and insights for schools considering implementing Cloud computing.
Campsmount’s move to using Cloud based services was driven by the critical need for the school to be able to communicate with staff, parents and students, following a major fire in 2009. The fire destroyed all data and records, including student contact details, and teaching and learning resources; lessons took place in a temporary portakabins until the new building opened in April 2012.
By researching the Web, and using their Personal Learning Networks on Twitter and informal discussions with other schools; the SLT quickly identified a range of tools and Cloud services that would enable them to be up and running more or less immediately. These Cloud based services included Twitter, Facebook, Wordpress and Google Drive. There it was a small step to integrate Cloud based apps such as Google Drive into teaching and learning. This was also helped by current student skills being easily transferable to the Google Drive apps.
As noted by the Head of ICT:
:“the work they are producing - is in essence - what we would normally do using Microsoft software - so there is nothing …that Google Docs could not handle”
Cloud in School
Cloud based applications and services are now employed on a regular basis throughout the school to share pupil data, including progress, attainment, and behaviour. This ensures, pupils are unlikely to fall through the net, and can be supported, in time, as appropriate. The benefits of this approach were clearly demonstrated in a technology lesson where the Design & Technology teacher shared the student’s progress data with the class, based on this feedback individual students were able to work on the appropriate sections in their electronic design portfolios using Google Presentations, and this work was immediately available for feedback, online, by the teacher.
In an A level photography class, the teacher encouraged students to comment and critique each others work, that they had posted online on Flickr, in the week prior to the class. During the class they discussed the individual comments as a group. The Students felt this to be of great value:
- “I find Flickr helpful as it allows me to look at other people’s work and get inspiration from it, it also allows me to get feedback on my own work…. and my intention is to share work, thoughts and ideas on a regular basis.”
Although, during the researcher visit, this initiative was in its early stages, the students were already comfortable and engaged with the tasks. Building on this the teacher has now launched a regular photography challenge: http://www.campsmount.com/photo-challenge-1 There are many other excellent parallel initiatives taking place in school, including: video CPD and lesson tutorials. It might be argued that all the positive outcomes of using the Cloud need promoting more widely amongst the school stakeholders, and beyond.
The, understandable, concerns of security and e-safety have restricted the use of some Cloud services and possibly delayed opening of the school WiFi to students, but there is now a growing demand from both staff and students:
- “WiFi in school would be great - with the school system having the safety system up - so students can’t go on any restricted sites - and that will also work on my phone”
- Yr 13 Student
The SLT feel that Campsmount is now at a point where it is ideally positioned to take the next steps in further investigating and developing the use of Cloud based technologies. To facilitate this Campsmount is embarking on a whole school review of ICT and the Cloud and launching a new programme of CPD, including TeachMeets
Since the initial take-up of Cloud-based services following the fire, approximately 50% of the staff are now using Cloud based applications and services on a regular basis to share pupil data. SLT see this as significant step forward.
This means, pupils are supported at all times time resulting in an observable increase in student motivation. There is also evidence that attainment has been raised by the Cloud’s potential for sharing students progress and attainment, resulting in a significant gain in exam results. The Assistant Head believes the evidence here is clear:
- “students engage via …the Cloud …they … use it for revision purposes and engaging with learning – and that’s been one of the strategies that’s enabled us to move from 36% to 58% A - C including Maths and English”
Productivity has also improved. With the Cloud offering some clear advantages over using the Learning Platform as explained the Technology teacher:
- :“ I know it is only seconds … but.. using the Learning Platform, I have to click through several folders, the fact that you need PowerPoint installed, or otherwise it's going to alter the formatting… but on Google Docs you can quite simply - edit it online and it saves it automatically, … on my phone,”
Accessing Cloud based services in the classroom meant students were not kept waiting and the teacher did not need to “shout across the room” - This has had a noticeable effect on progress in lessons. Another positive outcome has been a calmer atmosphere and better behaviour in class with pupils ‘on-task.’ Indeed on all (6) visits by the researcher, the atmosphere in school was calm, both within the general school environment, and in the classes observed, behaviour was good, and the pupils were friendly and polite.
These benefits allowed teachers more time to reflect, it increased their confidence and willingness to develop their use of ICT. Students felt empowered by the degree of control available when collaborating or sharing their work:
- “you can change the setting to whether you want people to change your work - or just add comments to it - or even if they can’t touch it all so it - so it is completely up to you. I like the fact that it gives you that decision and that you can still get that constructive criticism”
Yr 13 student
- Significant and increasing staff uptake of Cloud services,which are now embedded in school practice.
- All pupil data is shared seamlessly in and betweendepartments and with SLT real time.
- An emerging culture of collaboration, which hasclearly proven to be effective in streamlining communication, productivity andstudent motivation and attainment
- Improved productivity in lessons
- Improved results in GCSE examinations.
- Improved student engagement and behaviour.
- Anytime/anywhere access to learning
- ICT skills have been transferable to Cloud applications
- A personalised approach to teaching and learning.
Key Lessons Learnt
The Cloud was able to provide immediate support for the school at a time of crisis. By harnessing Cloud based services including Social Networking tools and a Wordpress website, the school was able, within a very short space of time, to re-establish communication with its staff and parents and to some extent pupils. The speed with which Cloud based services could be deployed was an important factor for their adoption. It seems unlikely it could have been done in any other way.
Since then, Campsmount has found that the Cloud can:
- Remove repetitive and time-consuming tasks for both staff and pupils, enabling them to focus on learning.
- Improve student engagement, motivation and behaviour.
- Ensure students are not kept waiting – for the teacher - and can progress at his or her own pace.
- Lead to an improvement in attainment.
- Enable teachers to develop and share high quality video resources for lessons and CPD using online video tools and services.
- Encourage greater dialogue and engagement withparents and facilitated a professional way of delivering school newsletters and the School Prospectus.
- Act as a driver for a whole school review of ICT andCPD, by the SLT.
- Create an on going demand for further developments in Cloud computing
- Leverage a consensus for the school to move towards a BYOD strategy.
Although Campsmount is still in the early stage of ‘Moving to the Cloud', staff are now exploring the potential of new tools and services, supported with an ongoing review and CPD initiatives. SLT are aware that using the Cloud requires a continuous review of ICT provision and the need for collaborative CPD in school and with partners. Teachers and students interviewed were in full agreement with this strategy and keen to support and participate in future developments.
The methodology used for this case study followed the Vital Case Study Methodology process described here: Research_Strategy