Tideway School is situated in the town of Newhaven in East Sussex, England. With around 600 students on roll, it is smaller than the average secondary school, but has a higher than average proportion of pupils with special educational needs, or who are entitled to free school meals.
The school occupies new school buildings that were opened in 2009, which gave the school the opportunity to review best use of technologies throughout school and design its facilities accordingly. This is fitting, as it is a specialist technology college.
Tideway describes itself as early networked, ie the staff has normalised the use of the digital in their everyday teaching and are beginning to use the networks to operate outside the school walls and the normal school hours and starting to ‘teach’ more collaboratively with the students and their homes – educationally and/or administratively – and the wider networked community.
In late 2011 the issue of mobile technologies and their use in school began to be discussed at a senior leadership team level. However, the school resisted the temptation to race headlong into improving the infrastructure in order to allow students to use their own devices to access lesson and learning resources, because the benefits of doing so in terms of either pedagogy or learning gains were not self-evident.
As Jim Fanning, Assistant Headteacher, puts it:
Instead, the school has adopted a research-based approach which has included the following:
- Members of the school’s network team visited a number of schools that were investing in the use of mobile devices (mainly iPads);
- Surveys and interviews were carried out to investigate the use of 'non-school technologies' by students and parents (to give one example, it was assumed that 'most' students had use of a Smartphone, but questionnaire data suggested that only 36% did);
- The network team investigated a technical specification for the use of mobile devices in school and have began to implement within the network system a range of upgrades to ensure that when and if students and staff are encouraged to use their own devices the school has the 'technical' base from which to do this while meeting e-safety requirements;
- A small research project has been carried out in school to investigate the use of 'own devices' (the learning and teaching implications, impacts and benefits). The report will be published to governors and staff in February 2013 (in time for the next round of budget and development planning).
A key reason for considering a mobile solution is to be found in the school’s vision, which stresses the development of students as independent, life-long learners, with the knowledge and understanding to learn 'anytime-anywhere'.
Fanning believes that the introduction of mobile technology, possibly BYOT, will take around two years. The three main challenges of introducing the programme are ensuring students and staff have the necessary technical skills; that teachers understand how mobile technologies can support teaching and learning; and that school structures support their use. It’s too early to say what benefits of the programme will be realised, but the careful, research-based approach makes it more likely than not that the school will choose the right path for itself.
For more information about Tideway, which is a Specialist Technology College, please visit the school’s website.