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Shireland Academy and Microsoft help pupils to embrace tech

Alan Crawford, Vice Principal at Shireland Collegiate Academy, talks to Academy Today about Microsoft in the classroom

Posted by Lucinda Reid | February 20, 2017 | Secondary

Alan Crawford, Vice Principal at Shireland Collegiate Academy, was at Bett 2017 to discuss his experience working with Microsoft. The academy is part of the Microsoft Training Academies and they offer free workshops to other schools so they can see first-hand the benefits of using Microsoft.

During the event, Academy Today caught up with Alan to find out more about how technology was shaping Shireland Collegiate Academy.

When did the academy start working with technology?

Over the last decade the academy has harnessed technology for learning and two years ago we went one-to-one with devices, which means that every pupil has their own device. Consequently, we have around 800 Surface 3 devices and all the teachers have the Surface Pro 4 so that we can continue to modernise our classrooms.

What benefits have these devices brought to the classroom?

It has been fantastic because we have taken away the dependency of teachers having to stand at the front of the class with a PC. Now, all they need to do is connect their device and then it can be projected onto a screen. There are also no wires so the teachers can walk freely around the classroom.

Did you face any challenges when you first started using this technology?

I think it is about getting the processes right in the first place. If you haven’t got it right, then people quickly lose confidence and then it is difficult to get that confidence back. Initially, we did lots of training with the staff and I have a team of people who find out what difficulties the teachers are having with the technology. They will ask them what’s stopping them from using the technology and then solve the issue. This then helps to highlight challenges and resolve them efficiently. We want to build an environment that means teachers focus on their lessons.

How is technology incorporated into lessons?

As every pupil has their own device, technology is involved in every lesson. However, we also use it in other ways, like our immersive classroom. This is a 60ft screen that goes across three walls to create one image. This allows the students to have a completely immersive experience as we put smell technology in the room so that they can really feel like they are there. We have also introduced Minecraft into the classroom and the students love it. The work that we do offers so many opportunities for them to try new things and broaden their horizons.

Why did you choose Microsoft?

I think their offering is so comprehensive in terms of cost, as you get Microsoft Office 365 for free. We have also been using SharePoint since 2003 and have seen the benefits of teachers storing their lessons on this platform. Being able to customise SharePoint and use all of the other parts of O365 is extremely powerful for learning.

Why would you recommend Microsoft to academies?

Microsoft helps to prepare the students for the next stage of their journey. Some of our students go onto apprenticeships, or maybe university, and if we can prepare them by using the same software that they will find in the workplace, then they already have a head start. We have 56 different languages spoken in the academy and many of them don’t speak English when they arrive. If we are giving them the advantage of being able to use this technology, then I think that is really important in helping to level the playing field for all students.

For more information about Shireland Collegiate Academy and their status as a Microsoft Training Academy, visit their website.

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