ESSA Academy Case study

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Overview of the school[edit]

Situated in Bolton, Lancashire, Essa Academy is a secondary school with 845 students aged 11-16 years old, mostly from minority ethnic backgrounds. Since 2011 it has been located in a new modern building. The school has designed its own curriculum based on its own vision of learning.

ESSA Academy.

Description of ICT infrastructure and resources[edit]

120 Macbook Air for staff and 900 iPad 4 for students and staff. 100 Mb fibre optic BT broadband with full coverage wireless access, 2 Mac-pro and 1 Windows servers, Dropbox and Google Drive as Cloud servers. Guest devices can get access on a separate service set identifier (SSID).Most of the classrooms are equipped with large flat screens (Sony) and Apple TV digital media receivers. They also have a 3D projection system in a theatre.

Specific technologies[edit]

Since September 2012 all students have upgraded from iPod Touch to an iPad that they continue to use as their own.

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 initiative is being undertaken as part of a whole school approach to transform the learning environment and thus becomes a “21st century academy”. The newapproach focuses on transforming the school-student relationship, and also the relationships between students, teachers and parents. Increasing students’ engagement in their own learning and self-regulation is a priority in order to improve the learning experience and students’ attainment.

The school decided to undertake the 1:1 initiative with iPads as a way to personalise learning, stimulate the creation of independent learners and generate a wider scope of opportunities with the aim of preparing them for the modern workplace. For the students the use of iPads in the school is a way of “enjoying learning and to use computers not just for games”. This initiative also attempts to have an impact on the teaching, inspiring new ways of understanding planning, classroom activities, and the learning process.

Inspired by the headteacher’s vision of a modern school that challenges the conventional use of ICT technologies in educational settings, the school uses consumer level technology rather than other educational solutions. The initiative builds on their previous experience with the use of iPod Touch as 1:1 technology to bring about the changes they envisioned. Much of the background research was done by the ICT co-ordinator, who worked towards making the school’s vision a possibility. The launch of the initiative involved the parents from the start, as the school sees the iPad as the “family iPad” through which parents can share the learning experiences with their children “anytime, everywhere”. Teachers develop material for lessons which they make accessible through iTunesU, and combine this with use of apps and digital tools available on the iPad.

iPads in the classroom.

Project Impact[edit]

The teaching staff felt that the iPad was a significant departure as it allowed the device to become more of shared experience for learning, mainly due the increased screen size, and this expanded possibilities for 1:1 beyond short simple tasks. The use of iTunesU to plan and develop resources means that children can have access to lesson material in advance and departments can plan collaboratively using Cloud servers, and to see their resources as being in constant development. Contact with individual students through email beyond lesson times has also transformed possibilities for assessment and feedback providing a“constant learning environment”. It is pointed out that “90% of [the school] infrastructure goes home in the evening”. The move towards 1:1 and Cloud technology has meant that most of the resources and communications are digital. The availability of digital resources means that there is time and cost savings for most departments, as well as a feeling of liberation from physical constraints. For the students the key impact is on levels of motivation and engagement. There is sense of enjoyment in learning using their own technology, and crucially the children are involved in the development of the initiative, such as finding andsuggesting new apps to use in different subjects, which teachers value highly. Collaboration has become a very normal way of working in lessons, and children are able to share tasks using different digital tools. “When you are using your iPad, it makes you want to learn more” (Year 9 student)

Students work.

Key lessons learnt[edit]

The full preparation of the staff is essential. Teachers should be able to embrace the technology with confidence and strategies should be considered to support the staff who might fear technology. For example setting an afternoon each week for professional development training in which different departments and sometimes students lead the development activity. Students and parents should be involved as much as possible in the planning and preparation of the initiative at all stages. This makes it easier for the whole school community to understand the idea that the initiative is about more than just technology,it is a vision for changing learning. The implementation of the initiative should be done at the beginning of the school year rather than midyear, as plans and approaches do not have to be changed part way through the year. Learning resources on Cloud servers would be ready in advance and work would mainly involve developing them further. An important factor in involving children is the levels of trust that have developed around the use of the iPad. Children have been allowed to download their own apps, both educational and others, and the balance is maintained by them. Whilst some rules need to be provided, the priority should be towards self-regulation.