A freedom to teach

Peter Hannah, Regional Director, NETGEAR explains how technology is moving teaching out of the classroom

The new generation of students

Recent research from YouGov shows that some 81% of tech savvy UK 13-18 year olds own their own smartphone, with 34% also owning a tablet[1]. The learning curve is steep too, with the research uncovering that almost three quarters (70%) of children are confident in using mobile devices by the time they begin primary school.

The proliferation of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) in schools has led to a debate about how much BYOD use should be encouraged. In my view, as the old adage says, if you can’t beat them, join them. Trying to control smartphone and tablet use in the classroom is tantamount to swimming against the tide.

The days of the teacher standing up at the front of the class and dictating notes for students to take without a modicum of interaction has long gone. The recent experiment at Bohunt School in Hampshire that was turned into a hit BBC TV series[2] bore that out. Now, teachers have far more flexibility of how they present the national curriculum to students. In fact, why even stay within the confines of the classroom?

The argument for a flexible BYOD policy

One such forward thinking school that we work with is Ballard School on the edge of the New Forest national park. It implemented a relatively flexible BYOD policy as felt it was important that staff and pupils could work with the tools they need and prefer. It firmly believes that pupils are more likely to be creative with their own familiar, cared-for tablet or laptop. In an environment where innovation and creativity are actively encouraged this is vital. As David Horton, ICT manager at the school so eloquently puts it: “You wouldn’t expect to prescribe which brush an artist uses to paint or which instrument a musician uses to compose, so why wouldn’t it be better to allow students to learn on a device of their choice?”

‘Trying to control smartphone and tablet use in the classroom is tantamount to swimming against the tide’

With an open BYOD policy in place, Horton and his team at Ballard School understood that to facilitate this new breed of learning it needed an infrastructure that could fully support BYOD, as any sudden rise in people logging on to the WiFi with multiple devices would have a knock-on effect across the IT network. It spent time to research the number of devices likely to be used and in what part of the school, and then designed its infrastructure around it.

The watchword for modern learning is accessibility. This translates as ensuring staff and pupils alike are able to access the content that will assist in their learning whether they are in the classroom or even the playing fields. At Ballard School it is not uncommon for PE teachers to film the student’s tennis strokes or dance routines in one part of the school then instantly review the footage during the continuation of the lesson in the comfort of the classroom.

Being an inspiration

The prevalence of BYOD and the increasing robustness of WiFi technologies have enabled teachers to engage with students on a level that inspires them the most, how the classroom of the future will truly look may remain open to conjecture but what can’t be argued is that technology will remain at the core.

NETGEAR is offering Education Technology readers a FREE, no obligation on-site networking survey, assessing wireless and storage needs, aiming to solve network issues or improve your infrastructure.

If you are interested in having a free networking survey at your site, please contact us at sitesurveys-uk@netgear.com, visit www.netgear.co.uk/networksurvey or give us a call on 01344 458200.

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