Bluetooth-powered tech transforming classroom learning

Mary Immaculate shares international best practice in digital competency with cutting edge Beacon technology

Wenvoe-based Mary Immaculate High School is sharing its experiences of using cutting edge beacon technology within the classroom, with schools across the world who are interested in how the Bluetooth-powered technology is transforming classroom learning.

The school has been working with education technology company Aspire2Be for the past six months to set up beacon technology across the school, to enable pupils to access learning resources and exercises related to their lessons through an application on their phones or tablets. They are one of only a handful of schools in the UK, and the first school in Wales, to use the technology, which will allow students to access a more engaging and personalised learning experience.

Low Energy Bluetooth

Beacons are Low Energy Bluetooth emitting devices which can push out messages and provide information to individuals by connecting with an application on a phone or tablet.  It is a simple and low cost way of sending tailored information to school pupils and is proving successful in enriching the learning experience as teachers are trained to develop lesson plans and resources which can make use of the technology available.

The use of beacon technology makes our pupils’ learning journey far more stimulating and we are already seeing an impact on achievement when these teaching modules are assessed

A bespoke application was developed by Aspire2Be and then built on by the Geography department under teacher Rhys Corcoran within Mary Immaculate High School which enables students to access a range of learning materials to complement their studies across all curriculum subjects. The technology is being used successfully within lessons to deliver core content, to provide visual aids, videos and revision exercises, and to set various tasks to suit different abilities within one classroom. The school’s involvement with the project has been shared as an example of best practice with interested schools as far afield as Dubai in the UAE.

ABOVE: Geography teacher Rhys Corcoran with pupils from Mary Immaculate High School

There are plans to extend the use of beacon technology beyond the classroom to other areas of Mary Immaculate High school, such as the corridors and the playground. The technology could easily be used to enhance events such as open evenings, by offering interactive tours, and there are even discussions around making the school commute more productive by placing beacons on school buses. 

Lesson delivery

Rhys Corcoran, Geography teacher at Mary Immaculate High School was involved in developing the project with Aspire2Be. He said: “For teaching staff, the package created by Aspire 2Be has allowed us to really change the way we deliver lessons here at Mary Immaculate. It allows us to present information in a variety of ways, and therefore enables students to access far more information, in different formats during their lessons. We can bring together websites, videos, interactive quizzes and opportunities for students to record their own audio visual resources, with more traditional methods of learning, to give our young people a fully blended experience. The use of beacon technology makes our pupils’ learning journey far more stimulating and we are already seeing an impact on achievement when these teaching modules are assessed.

“The teaching and learning at Mary Immaculate is outstanding and we are continually looking for ways to use technology as a real teaching tool. The project has been fascinating to be involved with and it has endless possibilities.” 

Education Minister Huw Lewis announced in the summer that a new framework to embed “digital competence” across the curriculum in Wales will be made available to schools next year. Mary Immaculate has fully embraced technology and integrated a wide range of technical tools into lessons to impact on pupil learning over the past few years. The school has already collated evidence which illustrates higher rates of pupil engagement and achievement in the blended multimedia lessons staff have delivered.

Headteacher, Huw Powell said: “Using technology to enhance pupil learning is a top priority for us at Mary Immaculate. We are genuinely interested in how IT can actually drive results, as opposed to just making the learning more interesting. Our project with Aspire2Be is already illustrating to us that technology, when used smartly and embraced with enthusiasm by teaching staff, can have a significant impact on learner outcomes. 

We know that simply adding a digital device to the classroom is not enough to offer significant improvement, but the beacon technology has introduced all sorts of opportunities to engage and empower our students to further their learning in a variety of ways

“Increasingly, the education sector looks to technology to enhance classroom learning and we are keen to be at the forefront of this experimentation. We have re-evaluated the use of ICT across the entire school over the past year or two and have introduced a very effective digital ambassadors programme which sees individual staff members and students using the technology we have available to enhance learning, and share their experiences and successes across the school.

“We use a lot of Ipad technology and a variety of educational apps across all subject areas but it is down to our teaching staff to adapt their lessons and maximise the technology available to them. We know that simply adding a digital device to the classroom is not enough to offer significant improvement, but the beacon technology has introduced all sorts of opportunities to engage and empower our students to further their learning in a variety of ways. Our staff are utilising all sorts of platforms to ensure that they can offer a fully rounded twenty first century classroom. 

ABOVE: Geography teacher Rhys Corcoran and Head Huw Powell getting to grips with the new technology 

“We are training our young people to be a part of the adult world, where smart technology is used naturally and effortlessly in everyday life. If we trust our pupils to use this technology responsibly, we can hugely influence their learning. The digital ambassadors have really driven this project and its success is wholly dependent upon their enthusiasm and buy-in.  It has been fantastic to be involved in this pioneering project and we are very pleased to be sharing our experiences of how it continues to enhance the student learning experience at MIHS.”

Education technology company Aspire2Be works with governments, local authorities, consortia and schools both nationally and internationally in defining and articulating their technology needs. 

Education and Performance Director, Simon Pridham said; “As an ex-head teacher, I am passionate about making learning as engaging as possible for young people. We always have outstanding teaching and learning at the heart of all our work. Our project with Mary Immaculate High School has been, and continues to be a very rewarding and enlightening experience and we look forward to developing our partnership further.”

W: www.maryimmaculate.org.uk