Guest post: Chris Burton
I work at Twickenham Academy in the London Borough of Richmond, I am programme Lead for ICT and am currently in my 5th year at the school. I have two children, a son aged 11 and a daughter aged 8, they have both attended a local Primary school.
Five years ago Twickenham Academy was called Whitton School and suffered from an ungenerous local perception. When I started working at the school I quickly realised the public perception was incorrect, granted the School’s A-C % wasn’t brilliant, but there were a lot of fantastic students with bags of potential and some very dedicated staff who had a great rapport with the students. I had previously worked for nearly 10 years in an inner City London school, which made huge improvements over those years after originally being in Special measures, I could see the potential that Whitton School had.
In September 2010 Whitton re-opened as an Academy, with a new head, and sponsored by a Swedish company called Kunskapsskolan.
Kunskapsskolan currently operate 33 schools in Sweden with a very distinct ethos, its core purpose is to provide an extremely personalised learning experience for each individual student. Students work at their own pace using an online Portal which contains the Curriculum, some subjects are stepped and some operate as courses or themes. This model allows students 24 hr access to the work the students are doing, lessons which are structured depending on the intended outcome and built-in curriculum time for one to one tutorials with their Tutor.
There are five different styles of lesson: lecture, Workshop, Lab session, Communication session and Seminar. A workshop allows students to continue with their work and receive help from a teacher, a Lecture imparts knowledge etc.
With the school also getting a £20 million new building, which opened in September 2013, my wife and I were more than happy that our son chose it as his 1st choice. My only reservation being that I didn’t necessarily want to teach him which might be a bit too strange for the both of us.
The new building has been designed for purpose, it has 3 colleges within it, making each wing of the school a smaller community, with a greater emphasis on individual students. The rooms have also been designed to be multifunctional, predominantly glass walled so that the whole community is visible.
What was also exciting was the prospect, as both a teacher and parent, of the students being issued with one to one devices. With a curriculum that is online, with resources and set work on there, it makes perfect sense to equip the students with device which will enable them to be a strong independent learner. The design of the school provides students with space to study, freeing them from using traditional computer rooms and static computers is a must.
When deciding upon an appropriate device the Head and staff weighed up all alternatives and waited to see what Windows 8 would bring. The deciding factor was the desire for a split device, tablet / keyboard that would dovetail with current IT and most importantly would be affordable. Enter the Microsoft surface, compact, durable, light and with the Type keyboard, very much a device for work, a content creator as well as content consumer.
Personally I couldn’t wait for my son to get his, since joining the school in September he was constantly asking to borrow his parent’s laptops, with an online curriculum and his own goals to be met, he conscientiously wanted to get his work done. Don’t get me wrong he does need nagging and reminding, but in this digital age he always needed someone’s device to work on.
He was previously an ipad fan, a simple consumer, happy to launch apps, only using a ‘proper laptop / computer’ for serious work. I can honestly say since getting his surface he uses nothing else.
He generally likes to get his work out of the way and most days his Surface comes straight out of his bag and onto the kitchen table and I have to say after he has used it all day it still seems to have battery left.
His device has become as essential as a school book, except everything he has done is backed up on his SkyDrive, he shouldn’t ever lose anything, he decides where he will print, depending on circumstances, he doesn’t need to mess around with memory sticks.
He also relies on windows snap, putting apps side by side to enable him to work fluidly, he will often use this to put the schools portal on one side and his work the other, or a webpage for research next to his piece of work.
All in all it has been a revelation to him, (he is currently completing tonight’s homework on it as I type), I wasn’t sure it would overtake his previous preference / choice, but it has. The school wanted to invest in a product which would fulfil its student’s needs and it has surpassed this.