We have decided to make a significant investment in classroom technology hardware this summer, and I am grateful for the opportunity to tell you a bit more about it. One of the many pleasures of teaching at BHHS are the beautiful classrooms. Airy, bright and elegant, a large number of our main teaching rooms would elicit hyperbole from local estate agents. However, while delightful to be in (especially during these summer months), many of these rooms can present logistical problems when it comes to sharing information with, and arranging groups of, students. Blackout blinds are common in our school as light pours in from many directions (especially in Modern Foreign Language and English teaching rooms). Well-intended incremental improvements and repairs over the years have led to a wide variety of displays and quality of sound systems. These are some of the reasons we have decided to equip almost every classroom in the senior school with high resolution (4k), multi-touch, display screens. These screens (connected to powerful new computers) offer teachers the opportunity to use extremely high quality content in their everyday teaching. Long gone are the days of a fuzzy VHS video being wheeled into the classroom on a special occasion. Instantly accessible digital media is at the heart of many good lessons now.

However, quality of display is not the only factor in purchasing these new pieces of technology. If you have been in a senior school classroom, especially a KS4 or KS5 one, at any point in the past five years, you may well have heard a common question from a pupil at the end of the lesson – “Can I take a picture of the board?”. Students often feel the need to digitally capture the “conversation” of the lesson. In other words, it’s the guided discovery facilitated by their teacher that is important, not the access to the information itself. Access to facts is commonplace and ubiquitous now. To quote Mitch Kapor, “getting information from the internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant”. Dissemination of syllabus content is no longer what teaching and learning is about, the value of teachers, especially in schools like ours, is their expertise in guiding pupils through the content and matching it up carefully with their prior learning. These boards have a feature that instantly beams the content of a lesson to a pupil’s phone for permanent storage (along with any annotations) should the teacher activate it. Similarly, when activated, another feature allows any pupil to contribute to content on the board using a device, or simply get a better look at one part of what is being discussed or drawn by a teacher on a board. At a time when there is much debate about whether phones should be banned in schools it is worth considering their benefits as well as their capability for distraction. Every successful, professional adult I know uses their phone for myriad purposes including as a personal learning tool. Shouldn’t we be training our teenagers to do the same? 

By Jamie Whiteside | Assistant Head