1 to 1 Computing - iPads at Longfield Academy

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Overview of the school[edit]

Longfield Academy is part of Leigh Academies Trust and is situated in Longfield in rural Kent, just outside the M25. It reopened as a rebuild on the same site in September 2011. The school has a capacity for 1200 pupils and is gaining popularity with lower forms now oversubscribed. Currently it has 1020 pupils in yrs 7 to 14 of whom 177 are in the 6th form. The majority of students are of white British background with 13% FSM and 18% SEN. There are 82 teaching staff and 30 teaching assistants. Longfield is structured to embrace the ‘small schools’ model of learning and is based on 3 colleges of up to 385 students. The college structure seeks to foster the strong links that exist within a small community. Excellent communication between the Colleges and home is a central part of this process.

Description of ICT infrastructure and resources[edit]

The school has an extensive network providing both wired and wireless device connectivity. The main school connectivity is via a 100Mbs feed, with server, VLE and filtering services provided at Trust level. Technical support is provided by the Trust. The wireless network is 4th generation and specifically designed and capable of handling the hundreds of simultaneous device connections that are required for 1:1 computing.

Specific technologies[edit]

As part of the rebuild project the school focussed particularly on implementing a strategy whereby each student might have their own individual learning device. Following device trials by about 60 students involving laptop, netbook and iPad computers, the iPad was chosen as the preferred device. This resulted in the introduction of a parental lease scheme which currently provides for more than 750 iPads. In addition there are some 100 iPads owned by pupils and some 90 or more owned by the school but not specifically allocated. These are supported within school by some 400 iMac desktop computers in open work areas and spread among teaching spaces which pupils are free to use as and when appropriate.

Case Study Methodology[edit]

The methodology used for this particular case study followed the Vital Case Study Methodology process as described here:Research_Strategy

Case study overview[edit]

This project started as part of the school’s new build planning process, where the opportunity was taken to re-think the whole school philosophy about methods and infrastructure which would significantly enhance learning. This led to exploring ways to give students their own device (1:1 computing) and enabling anytime, anywhere learning. A trial by students was undertaken and the iPad was a resounding success as the device of choice based on weight and size, fast turn on time and useful quality camera. The objective from the outset was to find a way to exploit technology in order to change the pedagogy and deliver 21st century learning. Following some extensive planning and risk assessment a donor scheme was developed in order to harness parental support. This scheme has had a high, but not 100% take-up and covers the device, necessary software and apps, configuration, technical support and insurance. Financial viability was always seen as one of the major potential risks, and overall the scheme is costing the school some £30,000 pa. However, the feedback from senior management is that a risk had to be taken, and in view of the successes of the project was undoubtedly the right decision. Staff were given devices and training, together with the opportunity to explore and familiarise with these devices well ahead of the roll out to students. This was seen as essential in supporting staff and their credibility. The procurement of necessary software and apps from Apple proved to be a major hurdle, since bulk procurement was not available outside the US and each app for each machine had to be procured individually by the school and gifted to the student. At the time the Apple business model was not set up to cater for bulk procurement – the iPad was seen as an individual device rather than an institution network device. This is still the case but Apple have since changed their business model in Europe to cater for school procurement.

Project Impact[edit]

Having a positive impact is unanimous across staff and students. Examples of impacts are:

  • Each student carries their own device – students don’t go to the technology
  • They have anytime, anywhere access to their learning
  • Teachers know that each student has a consistent device within the peer group
  • Behaviour has improved and students demonstrate more respect for the school, devices and others
  • Staff exploit online materials and develop their own iBooks for subject material support
  • Staff and students communicate more regularly, within and outside school
  • Teachers are moving to the role of facilitators, and use challenge based learning strategies
  • There is a culture change for staff and students that is positively supporting the evolution of pedagogy and pupils starting to lead learning
  • Pupils use the devices as fundamental in supporting collaboration, creativity, enquiry based learning, problem solving, analysis and synthesis
  • The school uses a designated group of student iLeaders to support other students and some staff as necessary
  • Learning activities and processes are spread across teacher led, and student led, both inside the classroom and outside the school
  • Observations showed the impact of using Twitter live in a creative writing class, or iPads supporting group music composition
  • Teachers are positive about the transformation of their efficiency and work role, and impact on planning, organisation and research
  • In music the iPads are viewed extremely positively and used to support all aspects of theory and practice, from source of sheet music, practical instrument skill video coaching, iBooks for lesson guidance, and to tools supporting individual composition and group composition
  • Attainment and results have been steadily increasing

Key lessons learnt[edit]

  • Have a clear vision for learning and teaching that the technology will support and enable
  • Careful but speedy planning and risk assessment as the project is developing
  • Use a focus group to test alternatives when practical
  • Have a clear financial model and keep updated
  • Be prepared to take risk

Roll out to staff first, and make sure they have suitable training and opportunities to explore the technology before launching with students. Expect to have basic level users, fast followers who deliver, and real innovators to encourage and exploit. Try to have as few technophobes as possible. Be prepared to work with suppliers, either to help evolve business processes, or to evolve software for a particular platform. You will encounter hurdles which will need to be overcome rather than accepted as barriers. There are software compatibility issues across platforms between Apple and Microsoft Damage is an issue and accidents do happen. With iPads the most common problems are a cracked screen, or failure of the side button. The school strongly recommends having one technician who is trained to make such repairs. This reduces costs and turnaround time. Students suggest that the right choice of tablet cover makes a big difference to ease of damage in schoolbags or when dropped. Introduction of personal iPads is only part of an evolution in learning and teaching, and that evolution is expected to continue to deliver benefits, efficiencies, new collaborations and improved outcomes.