I’m fortunate enough to be a governor at a great school, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to briefly share how they are addressing the issue of individual student devices.
The first step was the development of an industrial strength wi-fi network to cover the multiple buildings across the campus. This was done over the last couple of years and went live last year for testing. The basic approach is a simple one. There is a guest wi-fi logon, which sends users out of the school on the filtered broadband link. Any in school services have to be reachable from outside. This approach allows filtered protection for the user and ensures that any user has to be able to get past the school firewall to access internal services. With the inexorable movement of these services to the cloud this is the sensible approach.
So a student with a device can access services. How is that being managed?
Firstly, the context. The school is, by any measure, in an affluent area. However, that is not to say all the student families are affluent. Having said that, there is a high likelihood that students would have their own devices (and as a parent at the school, that is certainly my experience based on my daughters friendship group). The school has been able to rely upon this and is not (at the moment at least) intending to go down a 1-to-1 device purchasing route.
This year, sixth form student have, if they wish, been able to bring their own devices into the school. A group of around fifteen teachers (from the wonderful Beaumont T&L group) have been looking at how the use of such devices can enhance any aspects of their own lessons. This has been on the basis of “I’m doing this lesson, this way. Given that many of the students will have a device, could that be useful for this lesson?” This gives the opportunity to try ideas, getting feedback from each other and from our very switched on sixth form students about what works best. This is a very natural approach helping to ensure that technology is only integrated when useful.
At the end of this year this group of teachers will be running sessions for the other teachers in the school, sharing their findings of what works well in what circumstances. Following this the process will, assuming that the feedback is positive, eventually be rolled down to other year groups. Some teachers in the group are already extending the idea into the lower school in some lessons.
At some time there will be a tipping point where in sufficient numbers of lessons access to a personal device will be helpful. Then it will make sense for all students to have a device with them. At this time there will have to be some consideration of how it is possible to ensure all students have appropriate access. That’s probably a couple of years away.
To be clear, there has been no consultant involvement, no pressure from SLT, and no insistence on a particular brand. This is teacher-led and pedagogy-led and will succeed because of that.
I think that this is a good model.