‘The academy’s use of information and communication technology is exceptional and permeates all of its work. It is used effectively to help improve teaching, communicate with parents and extend pupils’ opportunities to learn at home. Pupils’ information and communication skills are outstanding as a result.’
That was the view of Ofsted earlier this year after an incredibly journey which saw our academy gain ‘Outstanding’ status just 2 years after being told we ‘Required Improvement’.
This article was originally published in the January 2016 Edition of our UKEdMagazine
Reflecting back on what we as school leaders and the children were passionate about was key in driving forward the vision of the academy; not just to meet the requirements of Ofsted, but to make North Ormesby Academy a truly inspiring, fun and exciting place for our children to learn and achieve.
We decided that the implementation of iPads and technology across the academy would be a key driver and steer the direction of travel for future improvements. Our first decisions were how many iPads? Where should we target them? More importantly, why? We decided on a ‘top down, bottom up’ approach to begin with – 6 iPads for a group of children, plus a teacher iPad in Year 6, with the same in reception, as we wanted to see the possible impact at all levels.
Constant review and evaluation of the use of the iPads and their impact by pupils, staff, senior leaders and Governors led to big investment and seeing us soon with a minimum of a set in each class across the academy. This vision was now seeing the positive impact on both teaching and learning and beginning to drive up standards and outcomes.
The removal of the ICT suite and the decision to embrace mobile technology meant ICT could happen at anytime during the school day and in any lesson. The children were now being more independent in their learning. This brought with it engagement like we had never seen before and significant changes in behaviour and attitudes; children were becoming more intrinsically motivated to succeed and focus in on changing their mindsets.
All of our Key Stage 2 children now have access to iPads on a 1:1 basis and our vision of producing ‘21st Century Digital Citizens’ is embedded and very much on display!
Our project-based and S.O.L.E (see Sugata Mitra @Sugatam) approach to learning means the children are always engaged in the analysing, processing and synthesising of information through the use of technology. Content creation is at the heart of all sessions with children now able to produce videos, presentations, animations and graphics across the curriculum, which they can publish, share, store and even display around the academy using QR codes and Aurasma.
They access learning ‘beyond the classroom’ too; online and app-based tools such as Sumdog, Skoolbo, Spag.com, Times Tables Rockstars, Edmodo and Google Classroom are all accessible to the children to ensure that their learning never stops! Time spent learning and progressing beyond the academy day is now the norm.
Computer science is ‘rolled out’ across the curriculum, whether it be discrete lessons on programming and coding using some of the coolest iPad apps and newest equipment (like Sphero, Ollie, Dot & Dash or our Parrot Rolling Spider drone) or producing games and programmes based on the Ancient Greeks, Saltburn beach or being a vet!
The children have also now become competent in building their own websites and applications – Protopage is a superb online starter page set up for building simple websites and ‘Touch App Creator’ works very well for producing information-based apps.
We’ve worked very hard, particularly securing the finance, to provide the children with what we believe are some of the best technological resources available and we are now really seeing the benefits. We have a team of digital ambassadors made up of Y5/6 children that help us with the dissemination of all of this information and training to other academies in our trust and schools in our local authority, and we hope to be certified very soon as an ‘Apple Regional Training Centre’ as well as offering the OCR Entry Level Computing qualification to our Year 6 children.
Craig Nicholson is the current Vice Principal and ICT lead at North Ormesby Primary Academy @N_O_P_A based in Middlesbrough in the north-east of England. All images provided by the author.