Kensington Prep recently unveiled its ground-breaking new learning facilities as part of its £2.7 million ‘Creating Spaces for Growing Minds’ building project.
The Explore Floor – an interactive, multipurpose learning space, designed to support and encourage independent exploration, self-directed learning and collaborative work – will be a key part of the facilities. Ken Prep called in CDEC to advise on this innovative space, the type of which had never been created before.
We didn’t want a fixed space, we wanted a space where we could use lots of different technology and have the flexibility to use it for multiple types of events and activities – Alana Keys, head of eLearning, Kensington Prep
The team at Kensington Prep wanted to utilise a variety of technology to create a flexible, future proofed space that was simple enough to be used by everyone, across all age groups and subjects. As Alana Keys, head of eLearning at the school, explains: “With the Explore Floor, we were trying to find a space that could be used by everyone in the school and for lots of different things. We didn’t want a fixed space, we wanted a space where we could use lots of different technology and have the flexibility to use it for multiple types of events and activities.”
Gareth Atkinson, director of finance and operations, says: “We put together a specification based on what we wanted to achieve. This was quite a challenge as it hadn’t been done before so we didn’t have any examples of where we could use this technology. We looked at a few companies and asked, ‘can this be done?’ and CDEC were one of those companies we approached. From the outset CDEC said yes, this is possible and they came back to us with suggestions about how we could implement the ideas we put to them.”
Key features essential to the design included the need for multi-screen, multi-touch technology to allow students to collaborate and work in small groups; the ability to utilise projection in a number of ways including on to the floor so classes could sit down and use the technology in a three-dimensional way; and the need for radio and television facilities in a separate multimedia studio featuring professional mixers, microphones, headphones and more.
A whole host of technology was integrated into the room including 55in and 70in Promethean ActivPanels – fully connected interactive displays that provide tablet-like functionality for the classroom – and an NEC PA522U Full HD projector for floor projection.
Keys adds: “We were looking for technology in our Explore Floor that was familiar to us so we decided to go with Promethean and use their ActivPanels as we have their screens elsewhere in the school. We wanted to go with ActivPanels because they are so much more of a high-definition screen than what we were using.”
From the moment students walk into the room, they interact with technology, scanning a QR code by the door which allows them to access the information they need for the lesson on their iPads. Touch is also a key feature of the room and the 4 55in and 2 70in ActivPanel screens are all multi-touch allowing students to research and share ideas easily. To assist with this, CDEC enabled multiplexing across the screens, so if a student is working on one screen it can be shared with all. Similarly, in group working, the project can come to the student rather than people having to move around, reducing disruption in the class and saving time.
One of the exciting things about it is that we still feel we’re only scratching the surface of what we can do with the space. The technology here is something that is undoubtedly future proofed and will be stand out technology for a long time into the future – Gareth Atkinson, director of finance and operations, Kensington Prep
All technology in the room, including blinds and lighting, is controlled via iPad, ensuring teachers have an easy-to-use and recognisable control interface. This was central to the brief to ensure strong take up of the room. Since completion a room booking system has been introduced for the Explore Floor as it has proved so popular with teachers.
The floor projection, along with the ability to control windows, blinds and lighting at the touch of a button, means it is incredibly easy to create an immersive, atmospheric learning experience for students focused around the central projection. They can be introduced to the theme of the lesson here before moving into groups to research topics further independently.
Keys explains: “The projector has been fantastic in terms of helping to create an atmosphere. It really immerses the girls, whether it be a camp fire situation or the time we did a project on the Fire of London with Year 2 and we had an actual video of fire on the floor; that combined with the lighting and technology really helped to create the right atmosphere. I think that engages the girls to a point where it isn’t a classroom anymore as they are so immersed in the experience.”
Although it is integrated within the Explore Floor, the studio is still its own identifiable isolated space where students can carry out independent work while being observed by the teacher through the glass. The technology in the studio creates something that many other schools don’t have and the opportunities it affords have been integrated within lesson plans. For example, when students carry out independent research in the Explore Floor, they can take this further to investigate a topic and present it on air, rather than just in front of their class, giving them the professional experiences of being a journalist or a news presenter.
Atkinson concludes: “We’re delighted with the outcome of the project and we’ve also been very, very pleased that CDEC have been part of that journey. From the outset CDEC helped us with our designs and helped find the technology to ensure it suits our vision and is a perfect complement for the school’s teaching. We feel that CDEC worked hard to overcome many of the challenges that we faced, particularly with the integration of all the various types of technology.’