As an insider of both technology and education sectors, I often wonder if traditional schooling stifles learning in the wider sense. The focus is on grades, recall and exam technique, all necessary (if archaic) markers of understanding and intelligence but what about deeper enquiry that potentially throws the teacher an in-classroom curve ball? A genuine desire for knowledge that goes beyond the prescribed syllabus. I can still recall my teachers’ authoritatively halting my curiosity “You don’t need to worry about that… it won’t come up in the exam”. In the mid 80’s, I reluctantly accepted that response until visiting the town library – how times have changed!

Our children’s relationship with technology is more symbiotic than ever.

Here at Bradfield I regularly observe first-hand how pupils are encouraged to feed their curiosity for tangential information outside of the prescribed subject matter. Technology plays a huge role, as time and resource boundaries are negated, with Google retrieving multiple detailed answers in seconds. The curious mind is fueled not fobbed off, as the spark of interest ignites. Pupils frequently race each other in their online searches then share links and add comments – an activity that takes place inside and outside of formal lessons.

Teachers are vital here in providing a sensible steer and nurturing inquiry, so too are Housemasters and Housemistresses, Matrons and peers, verifying resource reliability and educating the learner how to curate effectively, differentiating reliable sources from ‘fake news’.

Cultivation of the individual is nurtured holistically, broad discussion is encouraged and the pangs of the intellectual appetite are nourished. It is always satisfying for me to hear pupils instructing each other on how to improve their search terms by incorporating ‘Boolean search operators’.

A ‘Bring Your Own Device’ environment

From an IT perspective, it is imperative that we offer an unshackled yet safe online experience where an eager mind can burrow deep into a rabbit-hole of bespoke information outside the scope of rigid subject material, confident that sources can be found and are appropriate. Ultimately, this reinforces collective ambition: to allow pupils to grow and follow their passions and provide a depth of knowledge beyond the superficial requirements of an exam. There is nothing quite like self-inspired rapid and expansive assimilation – a spontaneous symptom of ‘falling in love’ with a subject.

We want to provide our pupils with confidence to practise and perfect their IT skills and pursue their passions.

For such behaviours to succeed, the classroom and wider environment must be conducive to the endeavour. We have invested heavily in wireless infrastructure, making the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) experience as fluid as possible. This approach is fundamental, our motto being – you bring it and we’ll support it. Network connectivity is no longer a luxury but a necessity and it is my job to ensure bandwidth is sufficient and uninterrupted. It can be a fine balancing act, we strive to provide high bandwidth blanket coverage across the campus while ensuring security, firewall and filtering policies operate silently in the background.

On that note we have worked hard to bolster bandwidth (with an additional 1GB of dedicated throughput), a task that keeps us on our toes as devices per pupil continue to increase – from wearable tech (smart-watches) to tablets, our children’s relationship with technology is more symbiotic than ever.

Kitting out the classrooms of the future, now

Classroom technology is always being refreshed as we are very aware that this equipment sets the tone. Following a virtual reality (VR) demonstration, some pupils built their own headset and were so eager to continue the experience they pleaded to work through break and return at the end of the school day.

Inspirational audio/visual solutions are also key, as they provide pupils with bold, vivid resolutions that captivate. A number of Ultra HD projectors and 80” to 90” UHD SMART boards occupy more teaching areas than ever before with presentation devices backed by multiple watts of bass-bolstered amplification. These devices fill young presenters and entrepreneurs with confidence, selling their sentiment.

If the environment is inspirational, then those that use it are more easily inspired.

Our goal is to always be halfway through a refresh cycle. The nature of this industry is that it evolves constantly and at a rapid pace – any prolonged stagnation should be questioned. Pupils want to pull on relevant resources with conviction and we do not want to be an unnecessary barrier. Most importantly, we want to provide our pupils with confidence to practise and perfect their IT skills and pursue their passions.

If the environment is inspirational, then those that use it are more easily inspired.