MTS Digital Learning

MTS Tablet Project

At Merchant Taylors' we aim to blend the best of digital and traditional teaching and learning, to develop the most engaging lessons possible. By harnessing the possibilities which digital devices provide, our pupils' learning can extend far beyond the physical classroom. 

When it comes to use of technology, each department will develop different ways to make the most of the opportunities it provides; one size won't fit all. But the Microsoft 365 suite will be central to what we do. Teams, Outlook, OneDrive and OneNote will be at the heart of our practice as will the use of the stylus; most pupils will continue to take notes by hand and only rarely use keyboards in school. 

A tablet is not just digital paper. It allows us to share resources rapidly and in an environmentally-friendly way, to work on interactive resources and to re-imagine what school work looks like. It allows us to move seamlessly between classwork and homework, to collaborate irrespective of location and to produce work in a whole variety of formats beyond just paper. It facilitates instant testing in class, differentiated learning and rapid feedback. And by using Cloud storage, pupils have far less to carry round in their bags, can organise their work more effectively and will be less reliant on physical textbooks. 

Whilst technology is at the heart of what we do, it can never replace the impact of the human teacher. But an innovative teacher with the tools provided by the latest technology can tailor their teaching to get the very best from their pupils and that is our vision.

TEACHING AND LEARNING: FAQs

Not necessarily. Tablets are one of the many tools available for use in all lessons. Teachers will continue to use their professional judgement to choose the most suitable activities, offline or online, to support effective learning of each topic. We continue to value the importance of handwriting, speaking and listening, and offline collaborative and practical work. Sometimes the tablet will be used to record the outcomes of offline work, such as using photos, video or audio recordings. 

Examples where tablets might not be used include:   

  • Where its use might be dangerous, impractical or problematic e.g. in a particular experiment in Chemistry.   

  • Where particular exercises should not be done with computer assistance e.g. maps and diagrams.   

  • Where calculations are required without the assistance of computer functions such as in Mathematics.     

  • Completing the specified schoolwork and/or homework by hand will support the development of handwriting skills or replicate exam conditions. 

Nevertheless students need to ensure they have their tablet with them in each classroom, laboratory or workshop lesson. 

Teachers are increasingly making use of high quality online resources, subscription resources and digital textbooks. However we still see a clear role for some paper-based textbooks in many departments in the future and have no current plans to stop using them altogether. 

Absolutely! Digital literacy is one of the key skills we want to teach our pupils. The core of our digital strategy is the Office 365 suite of software, with particular use of Teams and OneNote. This software is widely used in universities and by employers. The skills developed using the Office 365 suite are also easily transferable to other common software platforms, such as the G-suite or Apple operating systems. 

Our choice of device, focused on a flat device with a stylus enables a very wide range of online learning activities to supplement offline activities. Some of the ways in which it can enhance learning are:

Digital inking:

· Annotation of articles, notes, digital resources such as PowerPoints and worksheets

· Drawing graphs and diagrams to enable dual coding of new information

· Using a stylus instead of typing can reduce cognitive load. This allows students to digest notes more effectively, resulting in more durable learning

· Reinventing what class notes look like, so that they can include photos, video clips and sound recordings, as well as text in different colours to aid revision

Collaboration:

· Pupils working together in real time, from separate devices

· Pupils can divide up note-taking tasks and share their work instantly

· Instant teacher, peer and self-assessment

· Developing knowledge and understanding collaboratively and maintaining a record for revision

Audio and video recording by students and teachers:

· Traditional tasks can be reimagined in a more immersive and collaborative manner, engaging students more directly

· Teachers can give audio or visual feedback, including filming their marking, replaying digital inking and demonstrations, explaining their assessment and leaving detailed voice notes on specific aspects of pupil work

Homework and Assessment:

· Using Microsoft Teams and OneNote, pupils will have a streamlined approach to completing homework, receiving feedback and responding to that feedback

· Summative and formative assessment is automatically recorded, giving students more information on strengths and areas for improvement

· Data analytics allow teachers to see common mistakes from across the class and focus on addressing common misunderstandings

· AI functionality allows for adaptive questioning and computer assessment

· Rapid and easy access to online platforms used for assessment, facilitates and engages pupils with active revision

We are acutely aware that the vast majority of exams remain paper-based for now and that all students need to maintain their handwriting ability. For success in exams (as well as those all-important birthday thank you notes), students need to be ‘handwriting fit’. They need to be able to write clearly and at a reasonable speed. 

Handwriting, therefore, remains a priority. The quantity and frequency of handwriting will vary according to the needs of individual subjects, but we have a clear focus on maintaining handwritten work into the curriculum. Often offline classwork and homework will be photographed and embedded into OneNote which acts as the single central point of reference for each subject. The vast majority of internal exams will continue to be paper-based. In addition, pupils will be expected to use the stylus, rather than a keyboard, in class and this stylus will use the same muscles as normal handwriting when taking notes and drawing on the screen. 

Unless a student has a recognised Learning Support entitlement to the use of word processing in tests and exams we expect students to undertake test and assignments by handwriting them. The requirement of the use of a stylus is in class is intended to allow students to keep up to speed with handwriting. Details that outline  the procedures which permit use of a word processor in  tests and exams are the in the school’s Examinations Policy on Laptops and Word Processing.  

Many homework tasks will involve the pupils typing answer to questions, even if classwork will generally be handwritten. Developing accurate typing at a reasonable speed is an important life skill too which we want to encourage. Whilst we don’t have time in the school day for typing lessons, we highly recommend that pupils develop their skills. Working through an online typing tutor to practice this skill over time, much like learning to play a musical instrument will be really helpful for them. One free resource to consider trying is here: Learn to Type | Free Typing Tutor - Typing.com  

WELLBEING

No. Teaching methods always vary from subject to subject and lesson by lesson. Whilst your son will no doubt use his device every day, he will not be using it for 5 hours straight.  

The School will continue to explore the best ergonomic positioning and use of devices in terms of eye strain and fatigue in relation to our pupils’ short and long-term wellbeing. The variety offered by the tablet functionality supports greater movement and thus associated benefits for posture, as opposed to the use of a laptop. In general, tablets will be flat on the desk and the use of the stylus means it will most commonly share the same ergonomics as paper and pen. 

During the school day, monitoring software on the device and via the school’s WIFI will restrict access to social media or inappropriate websites, as it does currently if a pupil uses their mobile phone. In the evenings, those restrictions will not apply and parents will want to implement the same access controls on these tablets as they do with their son’s mobile phone, via the home WIFI. 

Having a tablet will not change our high expectations of online or offline behaviour. To support classroom supervision, we have a sector-leading platform for teachers to remotely monitor and manage student devices, allowing screen locking and screen monitoring during lessons. MTS also has a fine-tuned content filtering system which prevents inappropriate use. 

THE DEVICE FAQs

We have chosen the Surface Go 3 for Business with a stylus and keyboard. This decision comes after extensive research over several years in other successful schools who are excelling with the use of tablet technology, as well as trials of a variety of devices by our own staff and pupils. We have considered a full range of devices, and are convinced that this one offers the flexibility of use that will give the richness in the classroom that we need to offer, for the best possible learning experience, and at a reasonable price. 

A standard laptop does not provide the flexibility in the classroom that we require to give our pupils the best possible learning experience. Adopting a standard laptop would result in pupils spending time ‘staring at a screen’ rather than actively engaging in a wide variety of learning activities, using their stylus. A device flat on the desk also makes it easier for the teacher to monitor how it is being used, as well as removing the ‘barrier effect’ of hiding behind a vertical screen.  

If he already owns a Microsoft Surface Pro 7 or later, subject to the school’s terms of use agreement, they can use their own Surface provided that MTS is able to control the software. This means that the School can install apps onto the device to support teaching, learning and appropriate use. Our filtering software will continue to restrict content to that which we consider suitable. This will prevent your son from using messaging or social media platforms on the device or accessing inappropriate content.  

In order to ensure that the functionality required by staff for their lessons can be found, we do require pupils to have a Microsoft Surface device. iPads, laptops or other makes of tablet won’t be permitted in the Middle School. In the Sixth Form, where pupils are working more independently, we do permit pupils to bring in a flat device of their choosing, although we very much hope and expect that they will continue to use these school issued devices when they get to the Sixth Form. 

There may be occasional exceptions made for those with Learning Support needs, as already happens, in consultation with the Head of Learning Support. 

PRACTICALITIES

From May 2022, every student in the Fourth Form be supplied with their own tablet, which will become an essential part of their learning. It is anticipated that the pupils will keep the same device throughout their time at the school, although we will allow other inkable devices to be brought in once they reach the Sixth Form, should they wish.  

Pupils in the current Divisions will be given their devices by the start of the Fifth Form and current Fifth Form should join the Bring Your Own Device programme we run in the Sixth Form, when they start their A Levels. 

The ownership of the device will sit with the School until it is paid for in full, at which point, the device will become the property of the parents. However, in order to make use of the device at school, pupils will need to adhere to the terms of use and allow MTS to install software and remotely manage the device. It can be used at school and off-site. 

The device can be bought outright or paid for in instalments. The Bursar’s office will write to parents before their son gets their device, to ask which option they would like to take. Bursary funding is also available to support those who need it. The school has negotiated a bulk buy discount from its supplier, and will supply the device with a rugged case, protective sleeve and screen cover, and pay for insurance and essential software.  

We would encourage boys to personalise their devices with stickers on their shock resistant cases, the tablet itself and the stylus to make it easy to identify their own. Both tablet and stylus will be labelled with a product device ID which the School will record.

The devices will be covered for accidental damage under an Insurance policy paid for by School, which has no excess and allows for up to two claims in a 12 month period. Spare, but not necessarily identical devices will be available for a student whilst their device is repaired or replaced under the policy should that be necessary. A stock of styluses will also be held on site. If a student loses their stylus a new one will be issued and the cost of the replacement stylus will be added to the next school bill. Once this has occurred, it will not be possible to return the replacement stylus if the original is subsequently found. All styluses should, therefore, be clearly named.

Much as now, items that pupils believe to have been stolen should reported to the School and based upon the circumstances, attempts will be made to recover the device. To guard against instances where the matter is not very quickly resolved, families should consider adding their son’s device as a named item to their home insurance policy, having also ascertained that the policy will extend to losses that occur outside the family home.

Some classrooms in the School such as Computing and Science rooms already have a good coverage of power sockets. We are undertaking a phased programme to increase the number of sockets available in more traditional classrooms. We also have two charging bank stations, one held in IT and one held in the Head Porter’s Office.  

Pupils also have the option of bringing in a portable battery pack which has been charged at home should they wish. There are also several helpful recommendations about how to extend battery life at: Battery Life Extension Tips  

As with mobile phone use, boys should get into good habits of fully charging their devices overnight. However, the device chosen has good battery life, so overnight charging is expected to be sufficient. However, it will be possible to charge the device during the day if needed in some classrooms. 

Other schools have found that very few pupils do. Pupils rarely forget to bring their mobiles with them, and packing their fully charged tablet should become part of their daily routine. If they forget it, the situation is similar to where they currently forget their books: they will get a demerit and find it inconvenient. That day they will have to use paper and pen, and copy across their work when they get home that evening. 

Yes. However, it will be important that parents have a good understanding of their own WIFI provider’s parental control options to ensure that inappropriate content is not accessible at home. As with all digital devices we advise that parents only permit students to use them in public family spaces, not in bedrooms and not within one hour before going to bed. 

In the Sixth Form we wish to continue to give students the freedom to choose their own device. A device purchased for use in the Sixth Form is likely to continue to be used when a pupil leaves School. This gives pupils the opportunity to make their own choice and to be familiar with this device when they leave, so that they are not grappling with new technology when they start university or other activities.

At this stage, we do not intend to extend the scheme to the youngest pupils at MTS. In the pre-GCSE years pupils are still getting used to a much bigger site than their prep or primary school, take far more subjects and are sometimes more easily distracted. Our current plan is to supply devices to pupils as they embark on their exam courses towards the end of the Fourth Form.

Training on Office 365 will be delivered in Computing lessons for Fourth Form pupils at the end of the Spring Term. We will also use the Summer Term Field Day to show the pupils much of the functionality of the devices and help them familiarise themselves with them.

As they do currently, all pupils will have access to the IT drop-in centre in school, between 8am and 4pm, Monday to Friday.