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Saturday, 23 February 2013

1:1 computing is not enough!

The notion of device provision has been on my mind for a while now ... what is best for the learner? Often we see chest inflation from schools about their provision and the ratio they may have per pupil. It would be easy to think we have moved beyond this discussion but in truth I believe many people are still missing the point. From what I can see, schools are still talking provision statistics. Regularly you hear of the latest school to go 1:1 with the latest device! 1:1 Laptops, 1:1 Netbooks, 1:1 iPads, 1:1 Chromebooks... what next? 1:1 this, 1:1 that? Is this really preparing students for the world they have to live in? After all, as educators, this is our job!

Don’t get me wrong, the idea of 1:1 computing is very appealing to me, especially in my role. Let’s take the iPad for example, 1:1 provision of this device is incredible. You give every student a device and install a load of Apple TV devices and hey... you’re away! Of course it is not as simple as that, but you get the basic idea. You deliver your content through one system (probably iTunes U) and everyone is happy! Does happy equal great learning though? In truth, this model supports some fantastic learning and yes the correct application with sound teaching will lead to improved results and better outcomes for pupils. But... critically, does this model prepare students for the real world and ultimately support them in becoming life-long learners? I would suggest not. After all, when have you ever gone somewhere where everyone is using the same device to create, share, connect and learn? The world is not monotone and we therefore must prepare our students for this clear fact by using a range of devices.

I myself use a MacBook Pro for the majority of my work related tasks, however, sometimes I use a Windows device and I regularly use my SmartPhone which until recently was not an iPhone. My point is, I need to be able to use more than one device on a regular basis, I need to be competent on multiple platforms, operating systems and interfaces. If I need to be able to do this, what will our students need to do? Surely we need to prepare them to be more versatile and adaptive than I will ever be!

With the above in mind, I am currently thinking (and these are thoughts so they are likely to change and develop), that in order for our students to truly succeed, 1:1 provision is not enough. It is becoming my strong held belief that schools should be looking to build systems and most importantly cultures that support B.Y.O.Ds (Bring-Your-Own-Device(s). If a student owns 3 devices (say a SmartPhone, Tablet and Hand-Held Games Console), let them use all three to support their learning whatever their age. Why not? Applying this model would not necessarily mean pupils bringing three or four devices to school everyday (although many of them already do) but instead would serve to highlight how all platforms have their value and can support learning.

Image - Ian Gavan / Getty Images


To mark the launch of an exciting e-mentor project, seven Year 10 students from the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy (IPACA) recently visited the BT Tower in London.

The day was a celebration of the work BT has recently started with IPACA through a world-leading Ambassadors Programme. Gary Spracklen, the Academy’s Director of Digital Learning and Innovation, said:  

“The programme will support and inspire Portland teenagers by providing them with an e-mentor who can offer help with a range of IT & Business curriculum related activities/projects. This may include explaining latest industry practices, supporting students with CV writing, expert analysis of technical or programming tasks and sharing industry know-how. At IPACA we are focussed on preparing all students for a changing world by embedding digital technology in all elements of the way that they learn. The programme with BT is an important element of that.”

 “The day offered the students a real insight into this exciting programme as well as the inner workings of the BT Tower which is seen by many as a national icon. The students had a tour of the Tower and lunch on the thirty-third floor as well as the opportunity to question a young apprentice about their work and experience.”

The seven students were selected for the trip following a ‘prize draw’ amongst eager applicants. Speaking about the experience Year 10 pupil Daniel Cutts, said ‘To be honest, that was the best trip I have ever been on!’. Fellow student, Andrew Higgs described the day as an ‘incredible experience...’ while Year 10 pupil Jack Coleman described his highlight of the day as ‘speaking to Julia (BT Apprentice) because it was useful to speak to someone who actually works in the sort of area I may one day choose to work in’.  

Neve Walker, also a Year 10 pupil described how her favourite part of the day, ‘was having lunch on the thirty-third floor. The meal was delicious and the view was incredible, it was truly a once in a life-time event and I am very grateful to BT for welcoming us there’.  

The IPACA students were invited to the BT Tower by Chris Thompson, BT Account Director for Education. Reflecting on the day Chris said: “We are excited to be working with Gary Spracklen and the IPACA students. Portland clearly has a very bright future ahead of it.”  

For more pictures from the trip, please click the below link:

Sunday, 17 February 2013

@BETT_Show 2013 - The Final Day

Sorry it has take so long to post but here we go...

So, still not feeling myself I headed to BETT for my final day at the show this year. I went on a last ditch trawl of the stands, looking for any gems of Edtech gold! Although I didn’t see any ‘game changing’ products or services, I did spot these diamonds along the way -

Timocco (

The Timocco experience provides a safe, educational and empowering gaming environment for children, and a platform that encourages the coping of everyday difficulties like physical or cognitive dysfunctions. The company say that their vision is to provide those children in need with a friendly gaming environment, which allows them to become active and engaged in a fun and challenging activity, just like other children surrounding them.

See the below video for more information:

AHA Screen - 84’ (
I mentioned my shock in an earlier post that so many companies were still pushing projector-based technology at BETT, however, there were also equally as many showcasing the latest in touch-screen LED technology. The stand out of these screens for me at BETT had to be the AHA 84' Penta Board screen, the screen from this South Korean manufacturer was sporting the latest in dual sensing technology.

See below for more information:

Clicker Apps (

I have always been a big fan of Clicker applications and was pleased to see a new range of Clicker Apps for iOS at BETT. These new apps combine classic Clicker features with the latest classroom technology and give pupils access to proven literacy support tools developed specifically for the iPad.
Each app focuses on one key aspect of Clicker 6 and has a child-friendly, designed-for-touch interface perfectly suited to learners across the primary age range.

 See the below video for more information:

Saturday, 16 February 2013

My Speech - Osprey Quay Opening

On Tuesday 12th February, 2013, Dorset County Council, Co-Sponsors of the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy (IPACA), handed over the new Osprey Quay Campus to the Academy at an official ceremony at the new site. The event was attended by the High Sheriff of Dorset, Jeremy Pope, Weymouth and Portland Town Councillors for Underhill Ward, County Councillor for Portland Harbour Tim Munro, the Chair of the Portland Community Partnership, Andy Matthews, local business leaders, students and teachers.
As part of the event I spoke about the importance of Digital Learning here at IPACA, a clip from this speech is included below:

For a full copy of my speech, please read below:
Good afternoon, my name is Gary Spracklen and I am Director of Digital Learning and Innovation here at the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy. It is a great honour to stand before you all today and share the importance of Digital Learning here at IPACA.

Technology is now an essential part of our everyday lives and has changed the way we behave, learn, communicate and fundamentally live. The rate and speed of change in technology is phenomenal and shows no signs of slowing down. This is replicated in the jobs market where the top ten jobs in 2012 did not even exist in 2004! The future for many of our students is therefore likely to be a job that does not even exist yet, using technology that hasn’t even been invented!

To prepare our students for this changing world, we are embedding digital technology in all we do at IPACA. Most powerfully we are doing this through the students themselves through a project called Digital Leaders.

Digital Leaders provides students with a real voice on the issues that matter to them. The project although still in infancy has proved incredibly popular with over 100 students involved across IPACA. Digital Leaders range in age from 3-16 and each bring something unique to our Online Discussion area which is proving a great hit.

Digital Leaders have already been involved in some excellent projects including working with Mozilla (the company behind the Firefox web-browser) to develop an online accreditation scheme. This project involved six IPACA students visiting the Mozilla head office in London to meet with peers and industry experts. The students aged between 6 and 14 each worked collaboratively and effectively to present their thoughts in a clear and concise way. My personal highlight of this project was seeing Finlay Short, who is running the Skype station today, speak completely independently in a room of about 50 people about his passion for Computer Science coding. This was a skill he had discovered only hours earlier while working with an older IPACA pupil.

Last Tuesday, I took a further 7 students to London for a meeting at the BT Tower. This was not a sight seeing visit but a further  opportunity for the students to talk about their vision for their Academy.

The journey forward is an exciting one for our whole community and what technology we will be using in even three years time is hard to say. However, what is clear is that whatever technology we use it will be for the inspiration, engagement and enjoyment of our students to deliver outstanding outcomes and a very bright future!

I encourage you all to visit the three areas in the hall today showcasing the technology we are already using here at IPACA to support learning.

The Skype station is currently taking a call from St. Mary’s First School in Charminster and I believe one of our Digital Leaders is hoping to speak to a relative there.

Our 65” plasma is also looking for testers to explore this touch-screen technology that will support our agile learning spaces.

Finally, if you haven’t seen our Augmented Reality display yet, please do not leave without having a student show you the power of blending virtual reality and actual reality. The results are magical!

Thank-you very much.


Tuesday, 12 February 2013


Thanks goes to Lisa Kelly who stumbled across the following article and shared it with me, I thought it was worth sharing with you all too. The original article can be read at:
We’ve already seen jeans that can make status updates on social networks easier, as well as continuous recording from Looxcie, an ear-mounted camcorder that has provided a way for people to film everything they see. Combining elements of both of these, the MeCam device is a camera that hovers continuously around the user, enabling them to stream live video of their life.

Unveiled earlier in the year at CES 2013, the MeCam consists of a miniature video recorder and chip mounted on a platform surrounded by four rotor blades that keep it in the air. The device does not require a remote control and instead relies on voice command technology. Users can tell it to move up or down, or select the ‘Follow Me’ function – which uses 14 sensors and three stabilization algorithms to ensure the camera is always at close proximity. A sound filter strips any recordings of motor noise. Video can then be streamed through iOS and Android smartphones and uploaded onto social networks. The following video explains more about how the device works

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Guest Post - Helen Collings

Review of Samsung Google Chromebook
I was really impressed by the Chromebook, it delivers a lot of positive features for such a reasonably priced machine. I loved the battery life and the web browsing facilities, obviously there are many things it can't do due to it's size and it doesn't compare to the bigger beefier laptops. But it beats any netbook I've used, and I would certainly consider buying it as a machine both for home and work. 
I thought I'd put some thoughts into bullet points for ease of reading:
  • Turns on really quickly - once signed in it takes seconds for it to be up and running.
  • It has a good battery life for its size (especially when you've been using your iPhone a lot!), which it conserves by sleeping whenever it's unused, and it wakes up really quickly.
  • It has a decent keyboard which has a good 'click' to the keys if you know what I mean. Long word processing is quite comfortable.
  • It has USB and USB3 sockets, an HDMI output, SD card slot and 3.5 mm headphone jack.
  • You can easily jump between search/email etc using the browser bar at the bottom.
  • It has a good screen size, even if you're quite old and often have to squint at things!
  • There are a variety of apps that can be pinne.
  • Google docs is great!
  • It has some offline functionality for docs and drive, and it will upload changes when you log back on.
  • It is small and incredibly light, fits in most bags!
  • It is silent when running.
  • Although there is an app store, and there is a good choice of apps, if you're used to Apple it's not quite so impressive.
  • It has an odd right click function involving tapping with two fingers which takes a bit of getting used to.
  • It doesn't cope too well with lots of browser tabs open, and sometimes video and photos are slow loading or viewing and long documents don't scroll too well.
Guest post written by: Helen Collings (IPACA, Southwell Campus)