Guest Post by Education Writer Gerald Haigh

A class seating plan is usually some handwritten names and ruled lines on a sheet of A4. Even in that form it’s useful enough to cause extreme annoyance and some irritating mistakes if goes missing from the teacher’s desk.

MSC12_Edward_002Suppose, though, that simple plan became a source of up to date information about the class. How much more valuable would it be then? If you like that idea, here’s a school that’s turning it into reality with the help of SharePoint 2013 and Microsoft Partner Novotronix

Teachers like seating plans. With an up to date seating plan on the desk, and a rule that says children have fixed places in class you can use names, even if the class is unfamiliar. That’s really important for class management especially if you’re new, or in on supply.

‘Thank you James, that’s a great answer.’

‘Julie, just turn round will you, and try paying attention? Thank you.’

But suppose this unfamiliar class has done a bit of surreptitious – and subversive -- swapping around.

‘I’m not Julie, Miss. I’m Darren!’ (Cue raucous laughter and tasteless transgender jokes.)

What could you do to prevent that? Perhaps by sticking photographs to the seating plan. That could work. But it’s a lot of fiddly work for somebody, given the number of classes and teaching groups involved.

Still, maybe you do that. Then a little later you say

‘Marcus! Sit up straight and stop fidgeting!’

And a rather embarrassed child further along the row puts a hand to the side of her mouth and says, ‘Miss, Marcus has a bit of a problem. He has this disability. Most of the teachers know about him. And now he’s crying. I think you’d better talk to him.’

No, a seating plan is fine, but what you want is one that’s easy to create, easy to change, and carries a lot of up to date information. It would be good if you could carry it around, too. Look at those requirements and you can see that the answer lies in technology.

WIN13_Sony_04What you need, in fact, is being developed by Microsoft Partner Novotronix at Kingsdown School in Swindon, using SharePoint 2013. Their application will enable a teacher to create his or her own seating plan by dragging and dropping names from a list into a blank ‘classroom’ in whatever order is required.

The real value of this, however, lies in the way that the names, are drawn from the school’s management information system (Capita’s ‘SIMS’ in this case) and presented as drag-and-drop ‘tiles’. As well as the student’s name, the tile has a photograph and other essential details including special needs. Perhaps most importantly, each tile can be colour coded to show the student’s progress against expected grades, so the whole seating plan shows an immediate picture of the progress of the class. All of this information is automatically updated from the management information system.

So, on the one hand a teacher, perhaps at the start of a year, can ‘build’ a class, studying individual needs, looking at relationships and ensuring that each student is sitting in the best place for their learning.

And on the other hand a new teacher who, at least for the moment, has to take the class as it is, can spend perhaps just five minutes ahead of the lesson reading the basic data about each student, so as to be ahead of the game when the lesson starts. The seating plan is available of course, anytime, anywhere on the teacher’s device.

Kingsdown’s seating plan tool, important though it surely is, forms just part of a whole range of Microsoft technology which the school uses to empower teachers and help children to learn more effectively.

SharePoint 2013, of course, is available with Office 365, making it very affordable for schools.