Mobile Devices – Part 1 – Meraki
Tuesday, October 28th, 2014 | Author:

Since posting about our tablet devices, I have received a range of questions about their management so I decided to write two blog posts about how we have set them up and managed them within our school. These are similar steps for our Apple and Android devices. We currently have 10 iPads on our domain, 8 being used for monitoring children via the 2Simple Profile app in our pre-school and Early Years and 2 iPads used for SLT for various monitoring tasks and for observations. We also currently have 108 Android tablets for use by children from Year 1 to Year 6.

To manage the devices, we have used Meraki from Cisco. This is free and is available here: https://account.meraki.com/secure/login/dashboard_login This post will show you some of the things that Meraki can do and what we have set up so far.

Screen Shot 10-28-14 at 05.32 PM

The first thing to do is to visit the website and click Create Account. It will ask you to verify your email address and then you can login and access the dashboard.

Screen Shot 10-28-14 at 05.34 PM 001

Once logged in, it will ask you to create a new network.

Screen Shot 10-28-14 at 05.36 PM 001

We gave it a name and then chose MDM for Mobile Device Management. I’m not sure what the other options do!

Screen Shot 10-28-14 at 05.36 PM 002

You are then given the option to add devices. You can add IOS, Windows, Android or Chromebooks. Our Chromebooks are managed by the Google Apps dashboard and I haven’t tried adding Windows devices.

Screen Shot 10-28-14 at 05.36 PM 004

Screen Shot 10-28-14 at 05.36 PM 003

There are two ways to add an Android device. The first is to download the Meraki Systems Manager app from Google Play. Once open, you click enrol and enter the 10digit code. Alternatively, visit the mobile website and enter the code on there. This will then ask you to install the app anyway. Please note, this isn’t our real code, this is a mock account for the purpose of this blog post.

For IOS devices, this works in a very similar way. There are a few certification steps along the way where you have to verify things with Apple, but it is easy enough to add a device using the steps provided.

Screen Shot 10-28-14 at 05.41 PM

Once some devices have been added, it would be useful to create a profile. For IOS this gives you the ability to lock certain features e.g. turning off Siri or Facetime or blocking apps from installing. It also allows you to set a passcode for all devices.

Screen Shot 10-28-14 at 05.40 PM 001

Screen Shot 10-28-14 at 05.42 PM

For us, the most important part on the profile page is to setup the Wifi. We were able to assign the Wifi name (SSID) and the password and proxy settings. This was then pushed to all devices within our Meraki domain. We set this up and then added all of our devices, once enrolled, they automatically collect the settings. If you have added devices already, simply click the sync option on the app and it will re-download them.

Screen Shot 10-28-14 at 05.37 PM

Once the devices have been added, they will show on the Monitor>Clients page. From here, you can click on each device and rename it. You can also see the serial code, useful for inventory purposes and it also shows other information such as which version of the operating system is running, which apps are installed and which are missing. It also shows a map to give a rough location of the device.

Screen Shot 10-28-14 at 05.38 PMScreen Shot 10-28-14 at 05.38 PM 002Screen Shot 10-28-14 at 05.38 PM 001

From the MDM>Apps page, you can choose which apps to install on the devices.

Screen Shot 10-28-14 at 05.39 PM 001

For Android, you simply click Add New and then search the Google Play store. Pressing add and then save will send a link to this app to all of your devices.

Screen Shot 10-28-14 at 05.40 PM

You can also click on an app you have used previously and re-push it to any devices that haven’t installed it yet.

For IOS devices, the process is similar but you will need to register for VPP (Volume Purchasing Program) so that you can buy the apps at a discounted rate and then install them on multiple devices. This can take a little while to go through as when you register for VPP, Apple will check your identity and that you belong to a real school. Once this has all been done, you can add the information from your VP account into Meraki. Free apps work in a similar way to the Android apps above.

Screen Shot 10-28-14 at 05.43 PM

For Apple devices, the Organization>MDM page will highlight the various certificates and approvals that you will need to get things working. It doesn’t take long, but it is another step in the process.

 

We have only just started using Meraki, but it seems like a fab free tool for managing lots of devices. There are lots of things that it can;t do e.g. setting up each device to look the same or updating the operating system, but for the basics, it does them very well.

 

Setting up Chromebooks – Part 2
Saturday, October 18th, 2014 | Author:

Following on from Part 1 where I talked about the physical setting up, this post will talk look at the Google Apps Dashboard and the settings that are currently available. Be  aware, this is Google. They change regularly. If it changes a lot, I will update this guide.

First off, you will need to login to your Google Apps Dashboard – www.google.com/a/yourdomainname.co.uk for example.

You will see an icon for Device Management. If this is not there, click More Controls at the bottom to bring it up.

Screen Shot 10-18-14 at 04.18 PM               Screen Shot 10-18-14 at 04.19 PM

 

Then you will see Mobile and Chrome. Next to each, there are links to Devices (takes you to Devices below, Settings (takes you to Device Settings) and Shipments (takes you to Advanced\Shipments).  For this guide I am looking at the Chromebook setup rather than the Mobile one. I haven’t used the Mobile pages on Google Apps yet so I’m not sure how they work.

Screen Shot 10-18-14 at 04.20 PM  Screen Shot 10-18-14 at 04.20 PM 001

Clicking Chrome will show this screen:

Screen Shot 10-18-14 at 04.21 PM

The top number on this page shows the amount of active users within the last 7 days. Below I’ll try to explain each page of the menus is for and what it can do. I will also say which options we have turned on or off and which we have left. Obviously you can choose your own settings, but this is what we have done. If the settings aren’t mentioned below (there are a lot) then we have left them alone. I have tried to just mention the main ones.

 

Screen Shot 10-18-14 at 04.22 PM

This page gives you the choice of various options for the users within your domain. You can choose a default wallpaper for example.

>>>>Pre-installed Apps and Extensions – Chrome has apps. Lots of them in fact. Now there is a way of managing some of these by pre-installing them onto the devices. Simply click Manage and then search for apps to install onto every chromebook.

Screen Shot 10-18-14 at 04.29 PM

>>>>Security – We have chosen to never lock the screen when it is idle and to disallow incognito mode but these are minor things for us. We also don’t save the browser history either. We have prevented users from proceeding to malicious sites and allowed sites to detect users’ geolocation just to prevent sites from asking! I’m not sure if this is the best option, but it stopped a few errant pop-ups.

>>>>Startup – We have added the Home button to all chromebooks. This makes it much easier to get to the school website, especially for younger children. We have also set the Homepage URL. We have a page setup – www.ridersschools.co.uk/children – that has links to various tools that we use so it’s easier to get to that and then navigate to other stuff. We have also set the Chromebooks to load that page and the Google homepage on startup. That covers most things that we the children will use.

>>>>URL Blocking – There is the option to block URLs from being accessed but our filtering does this anyway, so we have left this blank.

>>>>Bookmark Bar – We have enabled this to make it easier for students.

 

Screen Shot 10-18-14 at 04.22 PM 001

We haven’t changed anything on here as every user logs in to access the Chromebook so the settings on the menu above will apply.

 

 

Screen Shot 10-18-14 at 04.22 PM 002

>>>>Guest Mode – We have allowed this just in case there is ever an issue logging on (usually an incorrect username or password but so far no-one has needed it.

>>>>Power Management – We have told the devices to remain on if they are on the sign-in screen. We found that this was easier than trying to figure out if the device was off or asleep.

>>>>Auto Update Settings – We have set the Chromebooks to auto-update and these are scattered over a 14day period. This means, unlike Windows, updates will happen slowly rather than trying to update everything all at once. To be honest, we have yet to notice an update cause a problem. When an update gets downloaded, it is installed the next time the machine is turned off and on again. Easy.

>>>>Time Zone – We have set the time zone. It was confusing the children when it was on US time :-)

 

Screen Shot 10-18-14 at 04.22 PM 003

This is where you can add your wireless settings so that the Chromebooks will automatically join the network. Click Add Wi-Fi, add the name, password, proxy settings etc and then save. The Chromebooks will now find the Wifi automatically. Adding the Wi-Fi here means that if you change the Wi-Fi password for example, you just need to tell the Chromebooks one rather than having to do it manually on every device.

 

Screen Shot 10-18-14 at 04.22 PM 004

This shows you the serial numbers for all of the devices that you have enrolled within your domain. It also shows if the device has been provisioned, when it was enrolled and by which user. There is also a notification of how many licenses you own and have used.

Screen Shot 10-18-14 at 05.00 PM

 

Screen Shot 10-18-14 at 04.22 PM 005

Errr…this page seems to show all of the other menus..but in one place. Not sure why it is there. There might be additional options, but they are not obvious! Ok, so shipments is on there. But that’s it.

 

So that is how we have set-up our Chromebooks. If you have any ideas for improving this, or you think I have missed a setting that is vital or if you have any questions then please add them in the comments below and I will amend this post accordingly.

 

 

Setting up Chromebooks – Part 1
Saturday, October 18th, 2014 | Author:

As mentioned in a previous post, we have just purchased over 100 Chromebooks. These have been a winner so far and the feedback has been fantastic. I have had questions via Twitter asking how we manage them and what you get for the Chrome Management License fee (it costs £19). So I thought I would write a post explaining the chromebook setup process.

Please Note: This post assumes that you are using Google Apps within your school. This is pretty cheap (under £10 a year and a few hours setup time) and will help to organise everything you do with Google and the Chromebooks. There are many posts on the index page about Google Apps or contact me if you want some help.

 

After the chromebooks are unboxed and charged, the first step is to turn them on by lifting the lid. They will look for the WiFi and you can then connect, add proxy settings and choose language etc.

2014-09-29 16.30.37

 

Once connected, the Chromebook will search for the latest version of Chrome and for any updates.

2014-09-29 16.31.17

 

Once that is done, there is the option to sign-in. This is the crucial step. If you sign-in here, the Chromebook will not be attached to your domain meaning that it will act as a standalone device rather than one you can control and manage. So press CTRL ALT E to get to the enterprise login screen instead.

Here’s a bit more info from Google if you need it.

Regular login screen: 2014-09-29 16.34.29

Enterprise enrolment screen:  2014-09-29 16.34.35

 

From here, login as any user within your domain. I always use an admin account, but I don’t think you need to. It’s just that my account is admin, so it makes sense to login as me rather than someone else.

 

The Chromebook will “enrol” on to your domain. This takes around 30seconds, depending on Wifi signal.

2014-09-29 16.34.50

 

Success! It found your domain and when you look on your management dashboard, this device will be there.

2014-09-29 16.34.54

You will now be presented by a login screen and if you look at the bottom, it says that the device is now managed by ridersapps.co.uk (our school domain).

 

2014-09-29 16.35.05

You can now log in as any user within your domain and it will pick up the settings you have assigned. Deciding which settings to assign is all explained in this post here.

Introducing Class Blogs
Monday, October 06th, 2014 | Author:

I received this tweet today.

Screen Shot 10-06-14 at 07.50 PM

I’ve been having a few chats over Twitter with Mr Radburn over recent weeks and I am pleased that he is finally at the point where he is talking to staff about blogs.. But he asks a sensible question, how do you share blogs with staff? How can you enthuse them and not just get them to think that it is yet another job on their never-ending to-do list? What are the benefits?

1) Share learning with parents and the wider community – First off, sharing learning with parents is a great way to start. When I first started blogging, I used to have a daily ten minute chat with my class where we summed up our learning and then blogged it. Sometimes it was me writing, sometimes the children, but it was always their ideas. What were they proud of? What did they want to share with the world?

2) Share a blog post with someone inspiring – We are trying our best to give our children a purpose for writing. This might include writing for a different audience, writing to a specific person or writing so that we can share it with the world. We have tried different approaches but one that happens now and again is that a piece of work gets blogged and a teacher might send a tweet to the author that inspired the work. For example,  just this week Marissa Meyer commented on a display that is all based around her book “Cinder”. Year 5 have been looking at the text, they created a display and with a few tweets, the author wrote back. For children that might find writing difficult, knowing that there is a real audience can have a huge impact!

We have had a range of successes since we introduced blogging at Riders last year:

3) Take photos! – We are in the process of buying tablets for school and the first thing I will be doing is showing everyone how to blog with them. To be honest, it involves taking a photo, pressing a few buttons and you’re done, but still. Blogging with a mobile device is a powerful tool for sharing learning with an audience. My plan is to have six tablets per class, each setup with the WordPress app so that teachers and children can snap a photo, add a caption or description and publish instantly. By Christmas, we will be blogging like mad. I’ve done it in my previous school and parents loved it. Children were also able to talk about why they were proud of their work and the learning that had happened. Yes you can do it with a camera too but a tablet or mobile device just takes out a few steps along the way.

4) Make it easy – I use WordPress. I have tried other tools, but I love WordPress. I have a self-hosted blog which means that I can install apps and add-ons as I need to rather than using the “out-of-the-box” WordPress software. (Bit more info on that here). One of my favourite plugins to install is Easy Blogging. I use this in collaboration with a tool that allows me to set different levels of access. So children all have the ability to login to the blog, write a new post and then send it to me to review before it goes live. I have set the blog up so that all children are forced to use Easy Blogging, but they also have the option to deactivate it if they need more power.

Screen Shot 10-06-14 at 08.24 PM

This is a normal WordPress dashboard. It has everything that I need on there including updates, announcements, comments etc but there is a bit too much for some people.

 

Screen Shot 10-06-14 at 08.24 PM 001

So Easy Blogging can cut this right down to just the essentials. Much less cluttered and easier for the less-techy staff and younger children to manage.

5) Join in with a challenge – I have written before about the 100 Word Challenge – www.100wc.net - and although my approach has changed slightly (we use Google Docs to write it and for peer assessment) we still enjoy writing and entering this weekly challenge. We have also managed to have a few pieces of work on the weekly showcase too.

6) Get a buddy – This could be through quad blogging, it might just be by befriending someone else in school but having a blogging buddy helps. This is another class or school that will leave you comments regularly in return for your class doing the same. This can help to inspire children as they know people will actually be responding to their work.

 

Those are some of the things that I could think of that might help when introducing blogs to new staff. How have you shared blogs with other teachers? What worked? What didn’t?

 

Category: Blogging  | 2 Comments
ICT in my school Part 2
Tuesday, September 30th, 2014 | Author:

Following on from my last post where I talked about our ICT journey and where we had come from, this post will discuss our approach to Chromebooks.

I have had a Chromebook at home, as well as desktop PCs, for about 3 years. I must say that it was a freebie for doing some stuff for Google, I’m not sure if I’d have bought it myself. Over the past few years it has lived under the living room coffee table and is always there should we need to do something quickly. It turns on in seconds and the internet is there.

For those that haven’t seen them, Chromebooks are devices that look like “normal” laptops, but rely very much on the internet to access anything and to work properly. Yes, you can do some things offline, but you wouldn’t. I tried to do some work on the train once and ended up opening a glorified post-it note app and then copying the text out later when I had WiFi.  If you can guarantee internet signal, then you’re onto a winner. I’m sure the offline side has got better recently, I’ve just not needed it since.

The devices run the Chrome operating system, turn on in around 10 seconds and then to log-in, you simply enter your Google login. They generally last 6-7 hours and can be charged in around an hour too.

In school, we have 60 Toshiba touchscreen laptops and I am not a fan of them. The pad for the mouse is sooooo sensitive it ends up getting turned off so that the children use the touchscreen instead. This provides issues now and again, but some teachers seem to like them. My issue was that I wanted lots of devices across the school so that we could really ramp up the opportunities for the children. I had used Chromebooks before, I’d borrowed some from C-Learning in my previous school and seen how easy they were to manage. If they ever go wrong, you wipe them and factory reset them within 10minutes. I’ve only ever had 1 device get that bad. So after all the positives, I took the plunge and ordered 60 Chromebooks and 3 trolleys to put them in.

As I said earlier, when logging in to the Chromebooks, there is the question of signing in with a Google Apps account. We now all have those through Google Apps so the pupils can be switched on and logged in within a minute. One thing to be aware of is that there is the option of paying £19 per Chromebook to purchase a Chrome management license. This adds your Chromebook to your Google Apps domain and gives you control. Think of it like a regular server managing your laptops. I can control the WiFi, proxy, power settings, default homepage and much more from one control panel rather than from each device. The console also manages updates. Ours are set to update over the course of a week so all devices don’t update at the same time and slow own the bandwidth. I wouldn’t consider buying Chromebooks for school without the £19 license!

In school, we have started to dabble with Google Apps. I mean I have used it in previous schools and I am a Google Certified Trainer, but with so many other things happening at school, this is a slow, measured approach. We started with giving everyone access to the calendar which despite being in place for almost a year, has only taken off this term. We have now given all pupils a Google email and will start using other tools soon. A few classes have been using Google Docs and children are excited by the collaboration opportunities that it provides.

So, what are the downsides so far?

  • Publisher – People always want an alternative to Publisher
  • Printing – Our Sharp printers don’t like the Chromebooks – For the few times we will print, the children can share the document with teachers who have a Windows desktop and we can print from there
  • Everything is online. Our laptops have links on the desktop so that pupils can access certain tools and websites. We have had to be more creative with how we do that. I have a solution and that’s for another blog post!
  • It takes longer to  type the login e.g. iaddison@ridersapps.co.uk than it does to type iaddison to logon to the Windows machines. But the extra 30seconds here is saved as the machine is on in 10 seconds.

We have had them in school since the start of September and so far it is all going well. They are used for simple thing so far, but that will change as we begin to show staff the possibilities.

Oh, did I mention the price? The Samsung Chromebooks we bought were £168 including the license. Bargain. (We actually just managed to buy 45 more Chromebooks that were on offer at £134 each)

If you are looking to purchase Chromebooks, I would suggest talking to C-Learning. As far as I am aware, they are the only company that will lend out Chromebooks for users to test for free (although I must also point out that I run training courses for them too from time to time)

The next step after chromebooks involved looking for tablet devices. That blog post is here.

ICT in my school – Choosing a Tablet
Sunday, September 28th, 2014 | Author:

In my earlier posts, I discussed the ICT provision in my school, I charted where we were, buying chromebooks and now this is about the next step.

We have a new Executive headteacher and in her previous school, she used Android tablets. I love Android as I have used it personally for about 5 years, I have a Google Nexus too, but I was worried about how they would compare with Apple. I’ve never used Apple devices, I mean I did once “play” the piano on one during a conference and I have taken a photo on an iPod touch, but I am definitely no expert. As an ICT leader, everyone expects me to know all about them but honestly, not a clue. I can fiddle and find the answer but I’ve not used them in school or for personal use. I’ve always found Android phones to do what I want and have never needed to look elsewhere.

My first dabble with Apple devices was setting up my wife’s iPod touches to sync with each other. She has 40 and they were setup initially so that only a couple could sync at once due to the bandwidth but soon she had 40 devices that didn’t sync with anything and were all different. I spent a few days over the summer holiday trying to wipe them and start again. They had apps that were purchased pre-Volume Purchasing so these wouldn’t work either. We set about deciding whether to use Apple Configurator or not and after many, many hours, we had a device that looked like it might work. We have now shared this with the others, but I still don’t think it’s perfect. Just four weeks later and apparently they’re not all synced. We just wanted an option to wipe and start again (to remove children’s photos for example) every few weeks. I know many schools have got the sync issue sorted, but I got bored with it if I’m honest. Compared to managing say, a set of chromebooks, it was far too complicated. Maybe I need to take another look.

In my school, we have just bought 10 iPads and for these, I decided to use Meraki to manage them. 8 of the 10 would purely be used by teachers in Early Years and the pre-school to observe young children using 2Simple’s 2Build a Profile so I didn’t need to worry about managing them. It was a case of plonking a profile on them with the wifi settings, adding them to the dashboard so I could push apps out and installing 1 app. It seemed so simple, it might be the way to go for my wife’s ones too… The other 2 iPads are for SLT so these are almost personal devices and they can sort these out themselves. One of these is being used brilliantly to take photos and share learning with pupils amongst many other things.

So, I knew I wanted devices for the children to use. But what for? Rather than starting with the tool or device, it is always a good idea to think about your main needs and then identify the correct tool/device. So what were our needs?

  • It had to have a front-facing camera – We have only got a few digital cameras in school so having devices for taking photos would be ideal
  • It had to be able to run the sites that we use the most – Purple Mash, Accelrated Reader, Education City, Busy Things, BrainPOP, Sumdog – Some of these would be possible via an app, others need a Flash-enabled browser
  • It had to be cheap(ish) – We had a budget. DO we go for lots of cheap ones or a few more expensive ones?

After a bit of browsing, I found the Gigaset QV830 (nope, me neither). It was on the PC World website for £70 inc vat. I read a few reviews and they all seemed decent. So after a brief chat with the head, we ordered one to play with.

It is surprisingly well made and feels solid. I have held £50 tablets before and they always seem plastic-y but this doesn’t. It feels similar to my 2012 Nexus if I’m honest! The camera is ok, 5MP is good enough and being Android, it works works well with all Google Apps stuff too. I gave it to a few children and we were able to play most Sumdog games, the dragging ones were a bit unresponsive, we played Education City and we could run an Accelerated Reader test. All good so far. I spent hours trying to find a flaw and all I can find is that sometimes the Wifi drops out. So you press the Wifi button to turn it off and on again, that’s it.

Some people on Twitter mentions the lack of quality apps when compared to Apple but we are not buying them for apps. We have a huge lack of ICT equipment in the infant school and I need to get devices to the children as easily as possible. I am using these primarily as a web browser and then eventually we will look at apps and if we find good ones, it will be a bonus.

I’ll blog about the setup and some settings later, but I gave the tablet to two teachers to share and by lunchtime they had both taken photos and taken a video recording of their classes during Literacy sessions. I had set it up so that when the photos or videos were shared with Google Drive, there was a folder waiting for them. Every class had a folder available and every teacher had a logon to then show this on the whiteboard. All of the folders are linked so that I can access them all. I can then print pictures from my desktop if needed. We will get printing from tablets sorted, but that can wait til next week.

Seeing how quickly these devices could be used by children and staff has prompted us to buy more. We spoke to PC World Business and including delivery, will be paying £54(!!!!!) per tablet. You’d be spending nearly that on a camera alone. Within a week we should have around 6 per class throughout both schools. Managing them will be a challenge, but I don’t think every device needs to be identical. Would Year 1 want the same thing Year 6 do? Probably not. I am hoping that I can use Meraki for the main configuration and then train some Digital Leaders to help with any firefighting. But hey, it’s an Android tablet so it’s easy enough to use. It’s a very exciting time, but it will bring up a whole load of new challenges I’m sure!

Category: Hardware  | Tags: ,  | 5 Comments
ICT in my school Part 1
Sunday, September 28th, 2014 | Author:

I have been at my school for just over a year and have been responsible for the ICT since February. I have had a number of schools and teachers ask questions about our approach with chromebooks and tablets so I thought it best to document what we have been doing so that I had something I could point them towards.

I think the best way to begin is for me to think of an ICT past, present and future approach. What did we have when I started? What have we got to now? and what are we about to do? This post is the past and present (well, the summer holidays) post. Over the next few days I will write the others and link them all too.  Oh, why ICT and not Computing? I think Computing is the stuff that is in the curriculum, ICT encompasses everything such as laptops for staff to work on, office computers, tablets for browsing and so on.

So, some context.

We are a federation of infant and junior schools. We have two-form in most year groups but we do have three-form in year 1 and will be three-form from Reception next year onwards. We are currently in two buildings but the small gap between us will be filled in over the next year with a new library, music room and offices. We will then shift a few rooms around, make a new staffroom and suchlike to have one building for the two schools. We also have a pre-school which sends children to us, but is not part of the school.

I started at the school in September 2013 as a Year 4 teacher. At the time, there were 60 Toshiba touch-screen laptops between Year 5 and 6. These classes had Netgear Wifi and the signal barely made it downstairs to Year 4, so we never used the laptops. I found out recently that there was also a Wifi router in Year 3 behind a desk that gave some signal to Year 3 too, but they didn’t use the laptops either. For Year 3 and Year 4, we had access to an ICT suite of 22 computers, in which usually 19 or so worked, so we had the issue of sharing computers to get anything done. The suite was perfect for Year 3 as it was next door for them so they tended to use it regularly as they could see children, whereas I was the other end of the school so we had to go whole-class or nothing. I think last year I used it five times. Every time for research purposes although maybe once we split the class in half to make a poster. Not good. There were also three computers in the library and three on the Year 3 and Year 5 landings. These tended to be used by staff or by children that were working with LSAs for example.

In the infant school, in addition to one computer per class for the teachers, there was 1 computer between two reception classrooms, 2 computers in Year 1 classrooms and 3 computers for each Year 2 classroom. There was also a Netgear Wifi router in both Year 1 and both Year 2 classrooms. The Year 2s also had 8 Toshiba netbooks. One teacher told me that the netbooks took 15 minutes to logon so he never used them.

This all meant that there is a huge lack of actual devices in the hands of children in either school with the vast majority only seeing a computer as a normal aid to learning when they reached Year 5 or 6 and even then, only a few could log on at once due to the Wifi signal. So, changes needed to be made.

I took over ICT in February 2014 and began to think of how we could approach the challenge of improving the quality and quantity of the ICt experience across the schools but also being very mindful that we needed to make an impact too. We can’t just buy things for the sake of it! I wrote about the tendering process before, but the gist is that we knew we were going to be spending a lot of money. What did we buy?

Infrastructure: First we upgraded all cabling and switches across both schools so that they were gigabit-enabled. This meant that any traffic flowing through our network would be able to flow quickly. We had quite a few mini-switches which were used to allow multiple devices to access one network point but this just caused bottlenecks. We removed all of these and added more points on the walls. This sped up logging on time for all staff instantly. We also added a fibre-optic cable to connect the two schools. We knew that we wanted one network so we needed a way for the two schools to talk to each other quickly.

Wifi: Despite not having a huge amount of wifi devices (yet), we knew that we needed to install a proper managed Wifi solution. I have used Meru in my previous two schools and never had any issues so we opted for Meru again at Riders. We also chose to go for the “ac” level rather than “n” to futureproof the system. We have added an access point in every classroom and also in both halls.

Server: Next came the server to power it all. We did have two servers but we wanted one so that we could easily manage and share files across both schools.

After some initial teething problems, mainly with whiteboards and pens not working as they should, we now have a system that we can build on. Also in the summer we ordered 60 chromebooks. To find out more about those, click here**blog post due in a few days**.

I’m hoping that now we have the tools available to us, we can start to look at using them to enhance the learning across both schools.

Online Field Trips
Tuesday, September 09th, 2014 | Author:

I have been approached by the Eat Happy Project to spread the word of their good work. So this is a guest post, I hope you find it useful.

 

As part of my role as Social Enterprise coordinator, it is my job to find new and exciting projects; linking new and existing local businesses. We’ve been working with Tesco’s Eat Happy Project  and in the first instance, their Farm to Fork Trails; visiting the store with children to look at produce, services and taste new foods. There therefore seemed an obvious link with their Online Field Trips and we couldn’t wait to get involved so that our children could find out more about the origin of everyday food. Our group chose Cracking Cheese from the Wensleydale Creamery in Yorkshire. The class couldn’t wait to participate in such an exciting and interactive lesson.

We have used Skype in the past to connect with other schools and businesses. We therefore looked forward to the opportunity to connect with schools and farms in real-time. The question and answer session was particularly fruitful and the children gained a lot from sharing their ideas and insights. It also gave the staff the opportunity to develop their understanding of Google Hangouts and this is something we have since used.

 

The children were able to see the food producers at the Wensleydale Creamery, ask questions and talk to a wide range of people whose knowledge of different cheese was wide-ranging. The children had the opportunity to taste the different cheeses, as the Eat Happy Project sent over samples for every child to try during the Online Field Trip. This added a different dimension to the learning experience and gave the children an opportunity to try new food.

 

 

The Eat Happy Project also provided the teacher with a variety of lesson plans, activities and worksheets to support the learning before, during and after the lesson. All this was free for the school and ensured the teacher was ready and prepared for the Online Field Trip with minimal extra work.

Overall, the ‘trip’ was highly positive and one we look forward to continuing to develop in the future.

Tricia Harding, Robinswood Primary School, Gloucester

 

Here is the calendar for Online Field Trips in the autumn term:

 

Honey – 11 September 1.30pm

Sweetcorn – 18 September 1.30pm

Rice – 25 September (time TBC)

Broccoli – 2 October 1.30pm

Pumpkin & squash – 9 October 1.30pm

Baked beans – 6 November 1.30pm

Bread – 13 November 1.30pm

Potatoes – 20 November 1.30pm

Tea – 27 November (time TBC)

Clementines – 4 December 1.30pm

Cranberries – 11 December 1.30pm

 

If you and your class would like to join a live Online Field Trip please contact the Eat Happy Project at team@eathappyproject.com

 

If you’d like to watch the live Online Field Trip with your class (but not participate), visit the Eat Happy Project website: http://www.eathappyproject.com/farm-to-fork/online-field-trips/

 

Or find them on Google+: Eat Happy Project

Twitter: @EatHappyProject