Cramlington school goes mobile

Cramlington strives to enable students to take full advantage of the added educational benefits that mobile devices provides

Art of teaching meets science

“To launch our mobility initiative, we evaluated a number of tablet devices for functionalities compatible with education, and decided the Android tablet was best suited for our educational needs,” said David Anderson, network manager, ICT Support Department, Cramlington Learning Village.

Cramlington Learning Village (Cramlington) is one of the largest secondary schools in the UK, with a reputation for innovation in teaching and learning. The school has been a case study in several books and publications including The Learning Revolution by Gordon Dryden and the Deep pamphlets by Professor David Hargreaves.

How it all started

Cramlington first started experimenting with mobile devices in learning in 2011. The school bought a number of tablet devices and distributed them to a number of students and teachers to experiment with. The devices were used in a broad spectrum of activities ranging from taking pictures and filming school performances, to accessing the school’s educational resources on the intranet and collaborating on Google documents. “As the experiment proved popular amongst students, Cramlington introduced a parental contribution scheme, and students were encouraged to use their tablet devices as additional learning tools to complement traditional learning methods,” confirmed Anderson.

‘Lessons learnt’ the mobile way

By the second half of 2012, around 600 student-owned mobile devices were connected to Cramlington’s IT network to access educational resources. Once the novelty factor had worn off, faculty members gradually realised that ‘year seven’ pupils started losing their devices around campus or forgetting them at home on a regular basis. “The ICT department found out it was not able to trace the lost devices or to control the type of content students could download on them,” admitted Anderson. “This persuaded us to consider mobile device management (MDM) software to manage things like device location, content management, usage policies and Wi-Fi settings.”

Choosing the mobility provider

Having identified device and content management as the most pressing ICT challenges, Cramlington considered the wider benefits of using enterprise mobility management (EMM) software to manage students’ devices and configure usage policies. “We evaluated a number of EMM providers across a variety of categories and found out that the enterprise mobility solution from AirWatch ranked in the top three in every key category for us,” revealed Anderson. “Once students enrol their devices, all the required settings and apps are silently implemented in the background, making the roll out of devices on induction days as practical and easy for the ICT department as possible.”

Parental mobile adoption

“To launch our mobility project, we introduced an Android tablet parental contribution scheme which was well received by students, and achieved a 95% adoption rate by parents,” asserted Anderson.

“School admin staff were also allowed to contribute into the scheme as an alternative to a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy.” The scheme has allowed staff members to be familiar with students’ devices. It has also made it easy for the teaching staff to use the devices in the classroom without worrying about the variety of brands and platforms in the pupils’ possession.

“If you had a situation where each student brought their own device to the classroom, teachers would struggle to instruct pupils on how to use features such as the camera, for example, to photograph or film an activity, as different devices have different operating features,” explained Anderson.

Educational apps

By using mobility in learning, Cramlington strives to enable students to take full advantage of the added educational benefits that mobile devices provide. After surveying the teaching staff about the type of educational apps deemed essential on the learning devices, the ICT department used AirWatch to install them on the tablets for the pupils to use. “We use the learning devices for a wide range of educational activities across all subject areas,” stressed Anderson.

“For instance, one of our apps creates educational games where the teacher receives specific information on how much a student knows about a given subject. This helps our educators tackle students’ weak learning areas and precisely target misconceptions or knowledge gaps in their learning.”

In the long term, the school plans to encourage students to develop their own apps and share them with their fellow students and friends during Cramlington’s internal ‘experience week’ events. Pupils will have the opportunity to download the apps from the app catalogue, play with them and give peer feedback.

Device security

While students are within Cramlington’s school perimeter, the devices are subject to time-based, geofencing policies that deploy students’ devices into a single app mode. The app only allows students to have access to the educational programs deemed permissible by the school. “As soon as students leave the school premises, the tablet devices unlock automatically, allowing pupils to use the devices for research and recreational purposes,” clarified Anderson.

The way forward

Because this deployment has been successful in managing applications and device location, Cramlington is considering deploying more devices to years eight and nine in 2015. To safeguard its IT network systems and educational resources, the school is also planning to use AirWatch to manage school and staff-owned tablets and phones in order to restrict access to corporate email to managed devices only.