Guest post from Nexus Associates.

Like it or not, ICT is now an essential part of every-day life and it is incumbent upon every school to prepare their students for their eventual transition to on-going learning environments or for real life expectations within the work place. It is therefore vitally important, that when a school is faced with an opportunity to invest in their ICT infrastructure, however large or small, that correct decisions are made, especially with regard to the core infrastructure and with equal importance student and teacher devices. In a situation where a school has a large capital investment opportunity, it is therefore essential that the investment is made wisely, however, the size of the investment does not detract from the need to take a step back and consider the longer term school ICT strategy, equipment refresh program and on-going sustainability of the ICT budget.

The Bishop of Rochester Academy (BORA) were fortunate enough to have to make this type of “large scale” decision for their new build project, which was completed and opened during Easter 2013. Nexus Associates (NAEC) were the selected ICT consultants for this project and helped and guided the school to evaluate a variety of solutions which could potentially support the school’s educational vision, as well as provide a reliable, manageable platform, flexible enough to enable the school to achieve other long term aspirations.

Together we selected the new Windows 8 platform, due to its ability to be an enabler for a wide range of educational and industry based applications, ensuring that the Academy’s students were thoroughly prepared for their lives ahead. We also agreed that the Windows 8 platform is versatile enough to provide an IT experience closely emulating today’s and tomorrow’s future environments, by providing touch screen tablet as well as more formal input/output experiences, on devices that are prevalent in today’s consumer and commercial environments.

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The Academy also recognized that when the two predecessor schools amalgamated within the new building, together with their chosen innovative technology, they would need to support their teaching and management teams through this mammoth transition. This would be achieved by harnessing their enthusiasm and building their personal confidence, to leverage the optimum benefits offered through the new building and ICT environments and to transform their students’ education experience.

Nexus assisted BoRA to develop a supporting on-going ICT vision and worked with their selected ICT partner, together with the Academy’s team, to design a change program which would provide the necessary support to achieve it. Nexus provided skills development to the teaching faculty, using their team of consultants (all qualified teachers) to embed the full spectrum of new technologies within their pedagogical practices, helping BoRA to achieve their goal of totally engaging students, whilst raising the standards of teaching and learning across the entire school. Nexus are also providing on-going thought leadership to develop the innovative use of student allocated Windows 8 devices, to maximize the impact they have upon all learning outcomes.

The installation of a front of class Windows 8 desktop touch screen, extends the teaching image to an Interactive White Board. This allows the teacher to combine the power of the Windows 8 platform with interactive teaching materials.

Their teaching teams can now annotate over PowerPoint images due to the introduction of a pen and highlighter built into the PowerPoint software, making it much easier to actively engage students and emphasize important teaching messages. The teachers particularly liked the way in which their software now integrates throughout all of their applications, with direct email, video and communication capabilities, however, whilst teaching, the teacher’s desktop can remain private to the teacher at all times. Email and registration are hidden from the whole class, yet staff are able to control at the swipe of a hand the image on the board, as well as that on the desktop screen. The inclusion of Lync (internal communication provider) provides immediate contact with all staff, yet also remains private to the teacher and no more annoying pop ups appear on the displayed screen from email or other message mediums.

As schools continue to look for more efficient and technically effective ways of engaging students, they should think very carefully about how the changes they instigate will not just affect learning, but also about the skill sets of the teachers who are expected to use them. By providing seamless integration of work flows, building upon existing skills and combining this with the ability to utilize the more powerful software that Windows 8 provides, they can provide the ultimate learning experience for students, without the need to totally re-train and develop a whole new series of skill sets, which is definitely the case with alternative operating systems. A combination of Windows 8 and Nexus coaching methodology, will simply enable you to leverage your previous investment in existing skills, provide your teachers with the confidence to use the enhanced ICT functionality and enable them to be more experimental and innovative, enabling the delivery of “outstanding” lessons and “outstanding” education outcomes.

To learn more about the BoRA Windows 8 project, the short video below gives an overview of the goals and outcomes of the project.