🎧 Listen to an audio version of this post:
Holton, Oxfordshire, UK
# OF LEARNERS
“Our teachers are learning to be ever better teachers, who challenge and inspire in the classroom, via our cutting-edge use of technology and through our rich extra-curricular programme” says Tim Martin, Headteacher at Wheatley Park School. Wheatley Park is a secondary school in Holton, Oxfordshire with approximately 1050 students aged 11-18 years old. School leaders recently rolled out a 1:1 learning initiative for students throughout the school with Hapara equipped Acer Chromebooks purchased through C-learning. In recent years, the school has gone through a technological and pedagogical transformation in order to allow learners greater access to resources, whenever and wherever they need them.
Wheatley Park’s current edtech journey began seven years ago. While undertaking a school-wide network upgrade, the school’s Director of ICT, Roger Nixon, first learned about Google Apps (as it was called then) and decided to set it up on the school domain. There were two challenges that emerged at the beginning of their edtech journey:
#1 Everyone learning everywhere
Wheatley Park School is committed to providing the best education possible, and as it made the transition to digital learning, educators set a goal of “Everyone learning everywhere”. To accomplish this, the school needed to find the right platforms, devices and services to create a safe, flexible environment in which students could access resources and learning tools from anywhere. Implementing G Suite was a start, but it was only the first step in the transition to digital learning.
#2 Scaling for success
Not only did Wheatley Park need to find tools that positively impact learning, the tools also needed to work together to create a learning programme that was scalable. They needed to find a solution that worked for everyone – learners, educators, administrators and parents. This meant Nixon needed to continue making network upgrades to meet new demands while finding a way to keep a school full of learners working online safe, organized and engaged. Educators also needed feedback and efficiency tools that would enable them to focus on what’s important, teaching.
“feedback [can now] be quicker, student work can be logged more easily and efficiently, and data can be shared, so students can access it and use it for interpretation tasks, for example.”
Ellie Chanarin, Science teacher at Wheatley Park
Before implementing a 1:1 program for such a large group of learners, Nixon worked to further improve the network speed and reliability, ensuring that everyone had access. According to Nixon, this was and continues to be “a process of learning and experimenting over several years and gradually making things better”. Educators at Wheatley Park set a goal of every student having a device by Fall 2017. The school’s quick adoption of G Suite and designation as a Google Reference School made choosing Chromebooks as their 1:1 device an easy decision. Chromebooks are built specifically for the use of Google Suite (Gmail, Drive, Docs, and Sites are the foundational tools Wheatley Park uses), and are generally more affordable than alternative laptops or tablets. In their Parent Launch Guide for the 1:1 initiative, it explains, “Learning and collaboration do not start and stop at the school gates and the next stage in our development is to ensure students and teachers have access to a Chromebook and all of the associated resources at any time during or beyond the school day.” Chromebooks allow for new levels of collaboration, differentiation and access to educational tools than the school could achieve previously. Nixon and the staff at Wheatley Park worked with C-Learning to determine which Chromebooks were the right choice for their students. The Acer Chromebooks that Wheatley Park chose are easy to manage, with a robust design to handle excessive use. The Chromebooks’ quick startup time means they are ready to use almost immediately during lessons, without a loss of learning time. The school also has the added security of being able to locate any device that is turned on and lock it if needed. With a new, reliable network and the 1:1 learning initiative rolling out, the next step was to find a way to manage learners’ work in the cloud and ensure that learners were safe when they worked online. Wheatley Park chose to use Hapara, combined with Securly, a cloud-based filtering tool, to accomplish this. Hapara is the bridge that brings it all together. Nixon notes that “Hapara brought integration between our MIS and G Suite”. Hapara Highlights adds another layer of security that goes beyond filtering and allows teachers to monitor learners as they work online and send feedback in the moment. Hapara Dashboard helps teachers manage learners’ work in G Suite and keeps them organized. Hapara Highlights and the easy “creation, updating and management of class groups [in Dashboard] has been key”, says Nixon, allowing educators to easily send out and access learners’ documents, and offer more individualized learning experiences.
After upgrading the school’s infrastructure and rolling out new devices, learners and educators at Wheatley Park School are supported with tools that seamlessly incorporate technology and facilitate learning in their classrooms and beyond. According to Nixon, “devices are now just a natural part of the classroom…that broaden the range of learning opportunities in lessons”. Nixon has worked closely with educators to ensure there is a positive pedagogical impact from going 1:1 and offers continuous training for Wheatley Park’s educators in order to promote and demonstrate all of the possibilities this new technology has to offer. As of September 2017, every student in Years 7-13 carries their own personal Chromebook. Saving time and improving the available resources in the classroom has been one of the biggest benefits of Wheatley Park’s adoption of Hapara enabled Chromebooks. Educators are able to focus the learning outcomes, without getting caught up in the technology. According to Ellie Chanarin, a science teacher at Wheatley Park, “feedback [can now] be quicker, student work can be logged more easily and efficiently, and data can be shared, so students can access it and use it for interpretation tasks, for example”. Smart Share is one of the Hapara tools that educators such as Chanarin use most often to ensure they are reaching out to the right students at the right time. Nixon says that “Smart Share is used extensively” by Wheatley Park educators. “G Suite [has] had a real impact on the whole school” says Nixon. In the classroom, Wheatley Park educators have found that “Hapara Dashboard allows teachers to share files with students easily and quickly to build up a bank of resources which can be used to further enhance learning”. According to Nixon, “people comment on how reliable things are and how it all just works”. “Everyone now works on a common platform,” Nixon shared, making achieving the goal of everyone learning everywhere possible.