After last week's post about saving money by printing less, I asked Gerald Haigh if he could have a chat with Ian Stuart at Islay High School, to get an update on their project, first reported in the Guardian a couple of years ago. They too were aiming to reduce their printing costs. Gerald picks up the story:

There are some schools you just long to visit. Islay High School’s one of them. So I typed their postcode and mine into the AA Routefinder.

454.1 miles it said; 12 hours and 30 minutes, including two and a half hours on a ferry. Not this week, then. Maybe in the Spring.

Islay High School, with 222 students aged 11 to 18, serves the islands of Islay and Jura. I’ve talked to Ian Stuart, ICT Coordinator there a couple of times, originally because I was interested in his drive to save paper and printing costs by persuading staff to move their paperwork to the school network. What I hadn’t realised at first though, was the extent to which that project was very much part of an overall plan to transform teaching and learning at the school by giving every student a netbook, and every teacher a tablet PC.

It all started, says Ian in 2006, when Ian had discussions over two days with Mark Adams of Microsoft.

“We talked about everything, including our values, one of which is the confidence to try new things. Mark suggested we should be looking at UMPCs and I began to develop a vision around note-taking.”

It was then that OneNote was mentioned, and Ian took time to renew his knowledge of it.

“I realised that there were so many ways it could be used in learning and teaching.”

In fact, what Ian’s done, with his colleagues is develop an entirely new classroom approach, using students’ netbooks, teachers’ tablet PCs and digital projectors. The lesson builds on the ‘board’ (in fact, says Stuart it’s a complete white wall) while the teacher walks the room with the tablet and students contribute from their netbooks. It’s true collaborative learning, made possible with One Note LiveShare.

For me it brought back a conversation I had maybe ten years ago when I was a chair of governors. Our head, always an ICT pioneer had the idea of classroom where teacher would walk the floor with a tablet wirelessly linked to the interactive whiteboard, from time to time handing the tablet over to a child who wanted to contribute. It was the right idea, but difficult then to put in practice. Ian’s approach, with a device for everyone, a digital projector in every classroom, and the right software, neatly and efficiently achieves what that head was tentatively groping towards.

And the paper-saving? It could almost be called a side-effect of Islay’s classroom revolution, except that of course the cost benefits have significantly contributed to the funding of the hardware. Up to 2006, this school of 220 students was spending £20,000 a year on paper and printing. Rigorous application of a “No printed handouts or memos” rule reduced this by an astonishing 80% in 2007, although later relaxation after cries of pain has evened this out to about 65%. In cash terms it’s added up over four years to £40,000 and the school is now embarking on its second generation of netbooks.

So the conclusion is - there are big savings that can be made - in Ian's case, he has saved his school £40,000 over four years.

Would you make your head happy by saving them £10,000 this year?

Learn MoreRead more about cost saving with ICT, and find related articles