Progress Update & Reflections on 1:1 Computing at St Andrew’s College Part 1 of 2

One of the motivating factors behind starting this blog was the imminent launch of St Andrew’s College inaugural BYOD or 1:1 Computing Programme for our 2014 Yr9 Cohort. The first term of schooling for 2014 has now finished and I took this opportunity to get some early feedback from the students of Yr9, their teachers and also their parents – a “360 survey” of sorts, to find out how the introduction of laptops as a mandatory tool in the classroom has gone.

As you can see from the video above, Mr David Bevin (our Head of Teaching and Learning) interviewed a number of Yr9 students to hear their experiences so far and they were overwhelmingly positive. The sentiments expressed in the interviews closely reflected those from the surveys and I will share some of this information below.

The Parent Voice – by the numbers:

  • 71% said their child was not previously allowed to bring a laptop/tablet to class in Yr8
  • 78% said this was the first time their child had ‘owned’ a laptop or been solely responsible for it.
  • The type of device brought by their children:
    • 47% an Apple Macbook Air or MacBook Pro
    • 51% a Windows 7 or Windows 8 laptop
    • 2% a Tablet

These answers all indicated that for most of our Yr9 students, owning / managing a laptop was a pretty new experience, especially in terms of being allowed to bring it to school. This is valuable information for us as a school as it is a timely reminder that there should be no assumptions that the students will be ‘experts’ with the devices. Whilst a number have clearly demonstrated advanced skills, many others have required support and guidance along the way.

The decision to require a “full operating system” (i.e. OS X or Windows 7 or 8) was validated when Microsoft changed their licensing to provide free MS Office to all students. This has allowed the teachers to plan and teach with confidence that all students can create documents in the common Office formats.

  • 94% of parents agreed or strongly agreed that their child is enjoying using their laptops in class
  • Class and homework usage:
    • 62% said their child used their laptop most classes each day
    • 38% said their child used their laptop at least 1-2 classes each day
    • 57% said their child used their laptop for homework related to most classes each day
    • 30% said their child used their laptop for homework related to 1-2 classes each day
  • 90% of parents agreed or strongly agreed that through conversations with their child they were feeling positive about taking their laptop to school each day

It is very pleasing that the parents are seeing the devices used regularly by their students in class, as in 2013 one of the concerns expressed in the lead up to the launch was whether the laptop would be actively used by teachers as part of the learning. Through the combination of the  use of Moodle as our Learning Management System and our professional development of teachers these devices are being used authentically in the learning both in, and out, of the classrooms.

The biggest shared concern from parents resulting from this survey was the handwriting skills their students would have in Yr11 when NCEA exams kicked in for them. There is so much talk in the media about this at the moment that the requirements for students may be quite different in a few years time, but nevertheless this is an area where teachers will need to still be working in opportunities for handwriting practice for their students (in fact, many of our NCEA teachers are already doing this – requiring students to hand write practice assessments before the preliminary internal exams).

UPDATE: Thanks to Mr G MacManus for linking me to the transcript of the address from Karen Poutasi, Chief Executive of NZQA, addressing how exams will change in the very near future.

Here is a great quote from a parent who completed the survey:

I was very concerned about giving our son a laptop for his own use. However my observation is that he is using it as the tool it is supposed to be … He only uses the device in the family area as is the rule … and we have been very impressed with the way it has been implemented across the school. It is clear to me how teachers are making use of this in the home learning environment … Overall though we are thrilled with how it is working. Our son is dilligently completing his home learning and project work on his own device and there have been very few issues so far.

In a followup post I will break down the feedback from staff and students on how Term 1, 2014 has gone in our Yr9 1:1 Computing Programme.

St Andrew’s Thistle – Student Led Learning

In 2013 a number of students organised a school-wide activity that resulted in the “This is Us” lip-dub video that I blogged about here.

This year, the 2014 Prefects team, led by Wil Undy, wanted to make a different contribution to the school – a giant sized St Andrew’s Thistle, made up of students from Yr4 to Yr13. Here’s a time lapse video of it:

These photos were all captured using a drone helicopter that flew high over the students capturing the action.  As the Rector said in her weekly comment,

It was a real example of innovation and collaboration.

Here are some additional pictures:


Creating Student ePortfolios with MS OneNote and Office365

One of the things I love about St Andrew’s College is the fact that we are a school from Yr1 to Yr13 and in my role as Director of ICT I get the chance to see learning in action in classes across this age range. Today I met with one of our new teachers, Mr Wilj Dekkers, who teaches a Yr6 class and together we chatted about his use of Microsoft OneNote for creating ePortfolios for his students.

For the uninitiated, ePortfolios are essentially a way for students to create a record of their learning, some of their work (either in progress or ‘published’), and being able to share it with others (usually the teacher, parents or other students in the class). Historically, this type of work has been put into a scrapbook or clear file and one of the great things about an ePortfolio is the ability to add audio and video, alongside the photos and written work of students.

After giving his students some basic guidance around logging into Office365 and creating documents in OneDrive, they were then asked to share their ePortfolio OneNote Notebook with Mr Dekkers. Here is a good example of one page of an ePortfolio:

Titles in red have been added to highlight different features of the ePortfolio

Titles in red have been added to highlight different features of the ePortfolio (Student names have been blocked out in black)

The convenient aspect for Wilj is that he can see the work of any student anytime, anywhere at the click of a button. Additionally he can comment directly into the ePortfolio to provide encouragement, feedback and feedforward. This feedback, along with the electronic format of these ePortfolios which can double as traditional homework workbooks, resulted in a parent emailing Wilj the following about her son:

[he] has worked harder at his homework than ever before and whilst he still needs a bit of a nudge to get into it, he is certainly putting in more effort than he has in the past. Thank you for your efforts to make the work relevant and interesting.

Because these ePortfolios are all stored online in OneDrive (part of Microsoft’s Office365 which St Andrew’s College subscribes to), the content is always “real time” and accessible anywhere, whether at home or in the class. An additional benefit of this is that students can work collaboratively on work together. Inevitably, this resulted in a large novelty factor for students as they saw their peer’s work ‘magically’ appear in their OneNote notebook as they worked together on something. However, this also has real, tangible, benefits as Wilj explained:

I had a student home sick vomiting. As he started to feel better, he got out his computer, logged into Office365 and started planning the board game he and his friend at school were working on. He emailed an invitation to work collaboratively on the document to his friend and together they continued the planning, meaning they were not behind the others simply because one was not physically at school.

ePortfolio in OneNoteAccording to Wilj, this was the first occurrence of students in his class independently using OneNote to enhance their learning and at the same time making the physical confines of the classroom irrelevant. It was no longer a requirement to be physically present beside each other for this learning to take place. To this end, he suggested that the current focus in education on Modern Learning Environments (MLE) is incomplete if the thinking is only around the physical layout of classrooms and the furniture contained within it. The electronic tools that students use, such as Office365, OneNote and Moodle, are equally vital components to consider when discussing what impact a MLE will have on a child’s education.

One of the limitations that Wilj has struck is the difference in feature sets from the full desktop application of OneNote compared to the web based browser version of OneNote in Office365. On the desktop, students can easily record and embed video and audio directly into their ePortfolios which adds a new dimension to their work. Now students can not only type in their poem, but record themselves reading it aloud as well, or describing the process of composition and editing. Unfortunately, at this point, there is no easy way to view or listen to these recordings in the browser based version of OneNote. Here is a screenshot of a student’s ePortfolio as seen through the browser:

An ePortfolio seen through the browser view of Office365

An ePortfolio seen through the browser view of Office365

Despite some of these limitations, which may well be overcome in future enhancements, the upsides remain. Students and parents are now able to see work being done in the classroom with increased regularity through these ePortfolios, contributing to the further erosion in the distinction between classwork and homework.

Early Reflections on 1:1 Computing Launch


Mr David Bevin (Head of Teaching & Learning) and Mr Sam McNeill (Director of ICT) discuss the launch of St Andrew’s College inaugural 1:1 Computing Programme with the Yr9 2014 Cohort.

A more detailed breakdown of feedback from students, staff and parents will follow, along with a recording of students discussing their thoughts on how Term 1 has started for them.

Staff Professional Development: Office365 with Cyclone


During the 2014 start of year Teachers’ Only Days, Arnika Brown from Cyclone ran a session with teachers from the Preparatory School at St Andrew’s College, focusing on some of the features of 21st Century Learning. The purpose of this was building on the existing knowledge of Microsoft Office365 that they already possessed and to provide some new and interesting ways to integrate technology into their classrooms.

Arnika Brown from Cyclone Computers instructing teachers in the Preparatory School at St Andrew's College

Arnika Brown from Cyclone instructing teachers in the Preparatory School at St Andrew’s College

Part of this was showing the teachers how they could create a OneNote Notebook in Office365 and share this amongst themselves. This was intended as  a quick-fire lesson in online collaboration, and being a very hands on session it was well received by the staff in attendance. The outcome from this day was a decision to bring Arnika back in 2014 and work with the teachers individually in their classrooms to help with the integration of Office365 with their students.

This started primarily with the Middle School Syndicate, helping the students navigate their way around their account and perform actions such as:

  • Checking their email
  • Creating and sharing documents with each other using the Office 365 Web Apps
  • Updating their profile information and picture
Different Facets of Digital Citizenship at St Andrew's College

Different Facets of Digital Citizenship at St Andrew’s College

It was pleasing to learn how these sessions extended to conversations around Digital Citizenship and ways that the students could be responsible and remain safe using these tools, particularly an email address. The students benefited from this instruction and guidance, but with a need for more dedicated time with the teachers a decision was made between Arnika and Mrs Vicki Pettit (Head of Education) to change the focus of future sessions.

This resulted in the following sessions occurring one-on-one with the teachers, as they were given release time for their classes as they up-skilled and planned strategically how to authentically integrate the technology into their pedagogy.

Most of these teachers set their goal for this time to explore the use of ePortfolios – a way for the students in the class to share their work and learning both with the teacher and their parents (for more on OneNote see earlier posts here and here).  Ms Brown noted:

Because St Andrew’s uses SSO (Single Sign On) for all teachers and staff, it is easy for the students to use both the browser version of OneNote and the full client Application which is more feature-rich. This means the students can take advantage of the ease of inserting video and audio recordings of their work and it will automatically synchronise online so they, or their parents, can view it at home.

As other Syndicates heard about the work being done by the Middle School teachers, Arnika’s assistance was made available to them as well. A good example is the Junior Department where some of the more powerful features of Office365 were less relevant for the Yr1-3 students. Consequently, the goals set by these teachers was to explore how they could use OneNote to collaboratively plan their units of work and increase the ease of sharing this content.

Despite being the Director of ICT, I was particularly pleased to hear Arnika talking about some of the non-ICT focus of these sessions as well. I am a big believer in not simply using technology in the classroom for the sake of it, and it is important to not just “shoe-horn” the technology in where it may actually impede the learning. Consequently, when Arnika talked about how the focus on correct spelling and punctuation was stressed to students, it was very pleasing. Additionally, there remained an emphasis during these sessions on students producing “professional” quality work – the best they could do. Continue reading