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Thursday, 10 October 2013

1:1 Chromebook Press Release

Please see press release below, this release was recently send out to editors to showcase the developments I have been leading on the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy. Big thanks to everyone involved.
UK First in Digital Learning


The Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy (IPACA) has become one of the first schools in the UK to give 1:1 Google Chromebook provision. Students at the Dorset Academy are each given a Samsung Chromebook at no charge to support their learning both at school and at home.

Principal Mrs. Alison Appleyard explains how the programme is all about “what is best for the learner”, and adds that “this environment supports students and teachers to implement transformative uses of technology”. She believes that the use of Chromebooks “will enhance students’ engagement with content and promote the development of self-directed, responsible lifelong learners”. The 1:1 programme builds on existing trials of the devices which have happened throughout the Academy catering for learners from ages three to sixteen.

A Chromebook is Google’s version of a portable computer, smaller and slimmer than a laptop. It has built-in virus protection and use a ‘cloud’ network over the Internet to access its programs and save files. Assignments done on Chromebooks can be accessed from any other computer with Internet access. A Chromebook is also  less expensive than the average laptop, at about £200 to £300 per device. At IPACA, over 800 devices have been purchased to support an engaging, innovative and successful approach to teaching and learning. Already the Academy, which has only been open for one year, is gaining a reputation for applying the best educational practice from around the world, embedding cutting edge digital technologies, innovation, entrepreneurial attitudes and their own new thinking. It is because of this that IPACA has become the fastest improving school in Dorset. This was reflected in the stunning GCSE results, Portland’s best ever and more is promised to come with a new state-of-the-art campus being sought at Maritime House.

Speaking about the groundbreaking initiative, the Academy's Director of Digital Learning and Innovation, Mr Gary Spracklen, told us that “Getting a 1:1 computer initiative started means so much more than just handing out a device for students to type their homework on.” He explains “It is about encouraging a whole-organisation to re-think learning and to develop pedagogy that reflects the 21st Century skills that successful learners require. He adds “it is not the type of device that is important, although we are very happy we have chosen Samsung Chromebooks, it is the way we are using them alongside other developments.” Examples of the ’other developments’ Mr. Spracklen refers to include the use of one-hundred minute lessons in the secondary phase  to extend learning opportunities; shoeless learning in the new Osprey Quay Campus, to foster a homely and comfortable feel in learning environments; the use of vertical tutor groups  maintains the strong sense of family that is so important at the Academy. Mr. Spracklen believes that it is “because of an Academy-wide holistic approach  IPACA is seeing the difference being made even after one year.” He believes that “what the Academy needs now is our Maritime House Campus to ensure every Portland child has the opportunity to fulfil their potential.”

As well as investing in the Chromebook devices, IPACA has also made large-scale investment in the infrastructure and systems that lead to the successful use of technology in learning. Mr. Spracklen explains further, “As well as Chromebooks, this summer we have undertaken a range of works to further support the engagement with and enrichment of learning. This has included moving each of IPACA’s five sites away from slow local authority procured connectivity to super-fast fibre optic broadband. This builds on the Olympic-legacy data connections that connect Portland to the wider-world, something that until now was under utilised on the Island. We have worked very closely with our preferred supplier BT to make this happen and already we are seeing the benefits. On top of this, we have added world-class Cisco Meraki WiFi at both our Osprey Quay and Royal Manor Campus sites, this allows for hundreds of devices to connect at once without any delay or downtime. New phone systems, managed print services, new information systems and a bespoke virtual learning environment mean the Chromebook devices are well supported to make the difference in the classroom.”

Speaking about the successful use of Chromebooks in the classroom, IPACA’s Head of Faculty for Communication Studies, Mr. Chris Wadley said, “It is very powerful when students can be automatically connected to the Internet without any delay. Chromebooks always turn on in less than seven seconds and this is unheard of for traditional desktop or laptop devices in schools. In English we are using this new technology to bring about better collaboration and feedback. Students can now easily collaborate on documents through Google Docs, whether that be in lessons or at home for homework. Teachers can also provide immediate feedback and thoughts or critiques on students’ writing, this all leads to better outcomes for our students. This feedback now doesn’t haven’t to be written with built in functionality for multimedia recording - you can get so much more of a message across with an audio recording. This is quick and simple with Chromebooks and makes home learning fun for our learners.”

Mr. Wadley explains how, “IPACA sees home learning as a really important skill for students to develop and refine.” He add that, “this is why Chromebooks are taken home each night so students are not confined to accessing learning materials just within school hours. If a student is inspired in a lesson they now have the individual technology to foster this inspiration at home and turn it into meaningful learning.” Building on this, Mr. Spracklen explains how, ”the use of Chromebooks at home means that IPACA has become one of  the first schools in Europe to offer ‘take home filtering’. Normally schools  tell families that they are 100% responsible for filtering adult content on school devices at home. We wanted to be different though and provide help to parents with this new technology. This is why we opted to work with a small startup in California ‘Securly’ who build ‘Web Filtering 2.0’ for schools. Working with Securly couldn’t be simpler and now means that we have a filter system that reflect the 21st Century demands in a classroom. Teachers can ‘whitelist sites on the fly’ meaning that content that is needed to support learning is always available.” Principal Mrs. Appleyard adds “Securly are working closely with us to solve the “over blocking” problem that many schools face. We want our teachers to safely use Google, YouTube and Wikipedia in the classroom without subjecting students to inappropriate content, videos, search results, and so on - with Securly’s help this is now possible both at school and at home. This is transforming learning and leading to better outcomes for all our students.”

Speaking about the use of Chromebooks at school, Year 9 student Jack Pollard commented, “this week in Geography we have been using the Chromebooks to record the results of our field work. We have been able to incorporate photographs, make graphs and embed maps. Before we had the Chromebooks most students would struggle to get access to IT when they needed it. We also use to get really frustrated waiting for sites like Google maps to load”. Fellow Year 9 student Kyle Creasy adds, “I love using my Samsung Chromebook because it’s so simple to use, good for our learning and doesn't take long to load. Everything is on the device, so we can check emails, research our subjects, collaborate with our friends and other people from around the world and hear instantly from our teachers about how we are getting on with our learning”.  Year 7 pupil Jamie Davis adds, “now that we have the Chromebooks, I cannot imagine school without them. They are helping us learn in every lesson and providing us with the tools we need to do the best we can at home.”

Mr. Spracklen explains how the use of Chromebooks is only the beginning for IPACA which he believe is an organsation that, “embraces innovation for the sake of it’s learners.” He promises that, “Chromebooks will come and go” and says IPACA is,  “agnostic with hardware. This is why we are building a third-millenium learning environment for our learners in the cloud with the help of our preferred IT supplier, European Electronique. This is all about providing students and teachers with the files, resources and applications they need when they need them. By approaching things differently, it means that it doesn’t matter what device you as user are using, as long as you have a web-browser you have access. For now, many will use the Chromebooks web-browser, but in three, five or,ten years time, is it is impossible to say what browser they will use. The important thing is that learning will always be central, we are really passionate about ensuring that".