With almost ten years’ prior experience as a teacher in primary and secondary schools both the UK and overseas, before becoming a specialist in Digital Learning, Cognita’s Digital Learning Adviser, Andy Perryer brings an innate sense of understanding to educational technology.
Andy explains the vision for digital learning across Cognita’s UK schools:
“Of course there is always an initial drive to ensure that as a schools’ group we are upgrading our kit: ensuring we have the fastest computers, the brightest projectors and so on. But that is staying in the present. That is keeping up. What we really want to achieve is to be in the future.
Many people will be aware of interactive boards, which often get used as a pure, technological, substitution of the traditional blackboard. Whilst they allow for greater technology, the teacher remains tied to the front of the class. What we are doing, and we believe we are actually the first schools’ group in the world to do this and on such a scale, is to launch ‘wireless mirroring’ as standard in the classroom. This enables teachers, via their Windows tablets, to access the digital screens at the front of the classroom. The interactivity is democratised as it now sits on the tablet in the hands of the teacher.”
Andy goes on to explain how teachers are no longer “tethered” to a board at the front of a classroom. As the Head of Prep at of one of Cognita’s project pilot schools’, Huddersfield Grammar School, Samantha Nash said
“From my perspective, our classroom is becoming a ‘learning community’ through the immediacy of being able to share work for pupil/ self/peer/ group analysis/feedback/evaluation, thus more pupil engagement in their own learning, and crucially, I am completely mobile and able to teach from anywhere. As a result, my aim is to dispose of my desk forever!”
This wireless system allows the teacher to walk around the classroom, to take a photo of a student’s workbook and instantly show it on screen – perhaps to praise or to discuss amongst the class. Whilst lessons continue to be planned in great detail, teachers are given the flexibility to act intuitively. In terms of metacognition, or ‘learning to learn’, this impacts everything from assessment: constructive criticism and praise; peer-to-peer involvement; to revision strategies.”
"Technology is only as good as the teacher using it. We are using this innovative technology to augment and strengthen the already excellent teaching we see every day in our schools"
However, for Andy, one of the most important elements, as an experienced teacher himself, is that the teacher no longer has their back to the class. “The movie-like image of a classroom with the teacher’s back to the class, children misbehaving and throwing scrunched up balls of paper at their back is long gone. Wireless mirroring not only enables greater learning but also allows for better classroom management: teachers can even sit with children who may require more support or move around depending on the needs of the class and still deliver an incredible lesson.”
Andy is more than aware of the need to ensure teachers are well-prepared for such a shift. “A phrase springs to mind – ‘we have always done it that way’. Our teachers are highly experienced subject specialists and we are mindful that we are asking them to completely change their approach to teaching. We have held several sessions in our schools supporting our teaching staff and we are also partnering with Tablet Academy to deliver further and more in-depth training for staff, as this is a long term project to ensure our teachers are fully equipped to utilise the technology in the classroom. This project is not just about new kit, it is about changing the way we deliver our learning, for the better.”
After the initial pilot, it was launched across four of Cognita’s UK schools: Huddersfield Grammar School, Clifton Lodge, Breaside Prep and Duncombe Prep, North Bridge House in London has been the first to receive the new technology.
Director of Education, David Baldwin, explains the effect on teaching staff and students at North Bridge: “The notion that our teachers can teach among the pupils, that they can be learning with them, rather than talking at them, is where our educational offering needs to be. In terms of metacognition, it is a real step forward as it enables our teachers, through technology, to engage our students in thinking about what they are doing and why they are doing it – reacting and responding to the students and the lesson itself in a far more dynamic way.”
Ultimately Andy points out that “our technology is only as good as the teacher using it. We are using this innovative technology to augment and strengthen the already excellent teaching we see every day in our schools.”