In 2009, Bishop Thomas Grant School bought for the 6th Form 110 student-issued devices (Laptops) and technical support which was delivered directly to students by RM Education. This was considered a successful trial and the school extended the programme in 2010 to the next intake of sixth formers.
This case study of the Laptop Scheme discusses the benefits, the lessons learnt and the future sustainability of the project.
Students voice was very much part of measuring the success and all students who benefited from having a laptop reported that it helped their learning. Other benefits captured include, that students:
- liked that they had access to school software on their device and teachers often set computer based work
- reported that teachers have adapted to the changing pedagogical requirements and often give prior notification to students when laptops are required in lessons.
- were able to access their own folders and email both at home and in school and connect wirelessly to the school network.
- reported that the support from the RM managed service was excellent.
It was also noted that the laptops became essential to the A level computing students as they had greater access to specialist software. Overall, students were unanimous in their view, that that the scheme should continue.
Typical to any new program; the pilot identified a number of challenges and all were reviewed and designed out of the scheme in the second year. So what were these challenges?
Technical support improved when RM Education added an online support helpdesk; originally it was just a telephone line. While this benefited the students it also helped resolve some of the administrative and software issues such as students installing their own software. It was also noted that the school blocked access to social networking sites in order to limit the potential of distractions.
The second scheme proved that more robust laptops are advantageous as it gives the machines better protection, this helps with connectivity, longer more sustainable battery life also seemed to improve. With regard to safety, while some schools are concerned about students carrying laptops to and from school, the students from Bishop Thomas Grant were happy to carry their computers and there were no incidents reported.
The scheme was successfully supported through a Family Learning Programme delivered by the City Learning Centre. It was a 6 week course. Involving 3 hours a week of computer training. 12 parents participated which gave them skills to support their children's school work.
The school worked with the E-Learning Foundation which stipulates that schools can ask for voluntary contributions from parents. Contributions to the scheme at Bishop Thomas Grant were not as high as the school expected, and a considerable amount of administration was involved.
While the scheme was not a financial success and therefore the 6th Form Laptop Scheme has not continued, it was regarded as an educational success. Bishop Thomas Grant have also extended the scheme for two years as part of their gifted and talented programme for 20 students.
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