A bit of background
Funded by 21st Century Schools, a programme of investment for the future of education in the Vale of Glamorgan, Wales; a new 13 – 19 age Llantwit Learning Community was created which amalgamated two primary schools into a new build 420 place primary school. Ysgol Y Ddraig, or ‘School of the Dragon’, opened in October 2016 as an English medium primary whose motto ‘Achieve, Challenge, Enjoy’ forms the backbone of the school’s culture. As part of the vision for Ysgol y Ddraig, headteacher Ty Golding, strived to create a truly modern classroom environment and partnered with Promethean to implement ActivPanels in all nursery, foundation phase and KS2 classrooms.
Ysgol Y Ddraig aims to provide an innovative and engaging learning environment. Through high expectations of behaviour, learning and challenge, the school provides its children with the very best opportunities and experiences, ensuring everyone works well together to become happy and confident individuals. One of the school’s aims is to enable the children to become literate, numerate and digitally competent learners, so when designs for the new school building were underway – the role of education technology was a key consideration.
With collaboration at the heart of the entire amalgamation process, the children were engaged with every aspect – from helping to plan the building, design the school uniform, give the school a new name – and the choice of technology was no exception.
Led by Ty, the children were able to help choose the layout of the classroom spaces, which had to support flexible learning, small group collaboration as well as traditional front of class instruction.
With previous experience of implementing new technologies into learning environments, Ty was able to draw on this to guide the process at Ysgol Y Ddraig: “The starting point was that we didn’t want any edtech to dominate learning or the learning spaces. We looked at the various pedagogical approaches we would be using, building the learning spaces and technology around these. It’s about learning first, not technology. We knew we needed front of class displays, but as an enabling tool, the technology needed to integrate seamlessly and safely.
“As a Welsh school, it was important that any edtech we introduced would support our use of Hwb – Wales’ bilingual learning platform.”
Why the ActivPanel?
The main driver behind choosing the ActivPanel was the strength of the Promethean brand in education. “The technical specification of an interactive panel doesn’t vary hugely between brands. Our main priority was working with a company that is truly invested in improving education through the use of technology. We felt there was a potential for a long-term partnership with Promethean, so set about bottoming out the technical requirements.
“macOS is our preferred operating system and all of the classrooms, including the nursery, have Macs. Even though the ActivPanel ships with an external Android – we were able to configure the systems to suit our own set-up. This level of flexibility, freedom and control was key.
“Coming back to Hwb, the ActivPanel means we can easily connect to the network to access valuable resources like Read, Write Inc. We do also make use of the ‘instant whiteboarding’ feature, as it’s great for learning in the moment or making notes over existing content.
“The ActivPanels are used every single day in every classroom. Even if it is just to display our ‘five a day’ videos – which are designed to get the children up, moving and energised. Naturally we have varying degrees of confidence throughout the teaching team but we all share the same vision regarding the role of technology and making sure our children can be digitally competitive in 15 years’ time.”
Emphasising that a modern classroom environment is about more than technology, Ty concludes: “We opted for 65” panels in the classrooms as this was large enough to support learning – but discreet enough not to dominate. In the school reception, we installed the much larger 84” as it creates a modern impression when visitors and parents arrive – but also gives them the opportunity to have a play with the technology their children are using on a daily basis.”