Tag Archives: collaboration

Getting the best value from Microsoft 365 for Education with Jonathan Bishop from The Cornerstone Academy Trust

In this podcast episode, we speak with Jonathan Bishop, the CEO and Executive Headteacher of The Cornerstone Academy Trust (TCAT), about getting the best value from Microsoft 365 for Education.

TCAT is based in the southeast of England and comprises four primary schools. Their motto “Fortune Favours the Brave” is undoubtedly reflected in their forward-thinking approach to IT and technology, as Jonathan explains in this podcast episode.   



“We run our academy trust like one school with four campuses. We use technology to bring our four schools together and pool our money and resources to do everything centrally,” Jonathan tells us. 

TCAT has spent the last few years rolling out one-to-one devices to each student in their trust and working with Cloud Design Box and other partners to move all their infrastructure to the cloud: 

“We had a clear vision to have one device per student, with a cloud-based learning platform that allows flexibility and enables a teaching and learning strategy built around blended learning,” Jonathan describes. 

Because of their success with technology, they have been involved in several Department for Education programmes, working with schools regionally and nationally on a number of projects.  

The EdTech Demonstrator programme is one example – this is where TCAT works with schools and trusts across the UK to deploy networks and devices, set up learning platforms and help with ed tech strategies.  

On top of this, all four schools within the trust are Microsoft Showcase Schools, English Hubs and run the Science Learning Partnership. 

“This allows us to have a big outreach and work collaboratively in partnership with other schools on school improvement projects.”  

How do you get the best value from technology in education? 

“Getting the best value out of technology is not about getting the cheapest option. It’s about looking at what outcomes you want to achieve and choosing the solution that will deliver those outcomes best,” Jonathan explains.  

“The danger with going for the cheapest option to get ‘the best value for money’ is that if it doesn’t change the outcomes for the children and doesn’t have any impact, then it’s not value for money, is it?” 

When looking at your ed tech strategy, Jonathan explains that you must first look at your infrastructure.  

“You could spend lots of money on devices but have utterly frustrated students and staff because they don’t work due to slow internet speeds or short battery life,” he adds. 

“Device selection is so important, and changes depending on your desired outcomes. For example, when we built our TV studio, we wanted a place to create media content for the curriculum, do staff CPD and bring our schools together for assemblies and conferences. So we needed high-end machines, hardwired with good broadband. However, when we looked at one-to-one devices for our students, we wanted mobility and long battery life.”  

Investing in IT to enable specialist learning. 

This approach to ed tech strategy has enabled TCAT to work in new and flexible ways, transforming how they deliver the curriculum. 

One example is the ability to get the most value out of specialist teachers. 

By investing in noise-cancelling wireless headsets and mics, the trusts can now deliver specialist learning (like languages and coding) to hundreds more students at a time. 

“Before, we would have 30 children in a classroom with one teacher and maybe a teaching assistant. Now, we have 250+ children in one lesson – they could even be across different year groups – being supported by specialists in that subject.” 

“What you’ve got is value for money because while I’ve invested in the headset, the digital pen and the tablet, I’ve got lots more children getting a better-quality education, delivered by a specialist.”  

Jonathan Bishop shows the noise cancelling headsets he invested in for TCAT.

Your ed tech strategy isn’t optional – trusts cannot afford not to invest in IT.  

Jonathan is a firm believer that if schools and trusts aren’t investing in ed tech, then they are denying students vital opportunities and skills: 

“Too many people think ‘we have no money, so we can’t achieve this, and therefore we’re not going to do it’. But, you’ve got to think differently. Getting the right devices and technology in the right hands of students and teachers brings MAT-wide efficiencies – it’s not an option,” he continues. 

“We’re in the business of education, and I’m a teacher. And whilst I might oversee these four schools in this role, I want to get as we all do the very best for children, the very best experiences, opportunities and outcomes for children.” 

Catch up on all the episodes of our podcast on YouTube, Spotify or on our website.

If you would like to find out more about our Cloud Box platform and how we can help improve communication and collaboration in your school or MAT, book a free demo today.  

Improving communication and collaboration at Bridge Academy Trust

In this podcast episode, we caught up with Mark Fuller, IT Director for Bridge Academy Trust (BAT) – a multi academy trust based in Essex – about how they have extended Microsoft 365 with Cloud Box to improve communication and collaboration between their 12 schools.



Bridge Academy Trust is a large MAT made up of four secondary schools and eight primary schools. Providing education to students 3-19, the Trust needed a solution that would not only enable collaboration between its schools but also allow each individual school to embrace blended learning in its own unique way.

Following a merger, BAT found themselves managing ten different Microsoft 365 tenants across the trust – one for each of the schools and one for their central trust team:

“We quickly realised that this approach was unsustainable. Our staff had several different logins to access what they needed. It was complex and time-consuming, and didn’t promote any kind of collaboration or communication between our schools,” Mark explains.

“To make everything simpler and to encourage more collaboration between our schools, we made the decision to merge all schools into one BAT tenant with the help of Cloud Design Box and their partners.”

Cloud Design Box worked with SalamanderSoft and AspiraCloud to migrate all 10 tenants into 1 and rollout Microsoft 365, Teams and SharePoint across the whole trust.

One of the key challenges of merging the 12 schools was that they were all at different stages of blended and online learning – each unique in the way they were using Microsoft for teaching and learning.

“Some of our secondary schools were already using the full suite of Microsoft 365 – doing a lot of their teaching and learning in SharePoint and Teams – so there was a lot of data to merge. However, some of the other schools were only using Microsoft for email, while some were using Google’s education tools,” Mark describes.

By rolling out Cloud Box to every school and supporting Mark with training and resources to boost user adoption, we have been able to help every school progress in their Microsoft journey and make the most out of the tools that most benefit their way of working.

You can read all about how Mark has been working with each school to boost user adoption of Microsoft 365 in this blog post.

Moreover, while one of the main motivations for merging to one tenant was to encourage collaboration across the trusts, Mark wanted to make sure address lists stayed useful and relevant to each user.

“We didn’t want students to be able to see the email addresses of every other student across the 12 schools. But, we did want staff to be able to communicate with the central trust team and other relevant groups of people within the trust,” he adds.

“We worked with SalamanderSoft to create separate address lists so that students and staff have access to the contacts they need, instead of a whole list of BAT users.”

This information is driven by the MIS data so automatically stays up to date as students and staff join and leave the trust.

“Our central team all work off SharePoint now. We are working with each school to see how they can benefit from Microsoft 365 and Cloud Box,” Mark enthuses.

“If a new school joins the trust in the future, everything is already set up and we can onboard the school really easily.”

If you would like to find out more about our Cloud Box platform and how we can help improve communication and collaboration in your school or MAT, book a free demo today.  

Transform Student Engagement with Digital Ink

Guest post by Courtney Farrow with video by Tony Phillips

With 98% of classrooms now using computers, laptops and tablets, it’s safe to say that digital learning is here to stay.

However, many teachers still find themselves chained to their desktop computers, whiteboards and paper notebooks, unable to invest time and energy into making lessons more engaging, diverse and dynamic.

Does this sound familiar?

If so, Digital Ink in Microsoft’s Class Notebook could transform the way you teach.

Combining the traditional hand-written word with the power of digital technology, Digital Ink has improved the quality of the curriculum for 90% of teachers who have used it.

On top of this, schools say that Digital Ink saves time, increases engagement and class management, creates more personalised learning environments where students can get authentic, timely feedback from their teachers.

Today, we’re taking a closer look at some of the proven benefits of Digital Ink in the classroom.

Save time.

One of the main advantages of Digital Ink is that it saves time, which will probably be music to every teacher’s ears.

In fact, 67% of teachers who used the product said that it saved them precious time when preparing lessons, allowing them to access pre-prepared resources quickly, without having to redraw or re-write everything the class needs to see on a whiteboard.

One teacher explained:
“When I taught geometry and got to the question that nobody in the class understood, I had to stop the lesson and draw on the whiteboard. It took five minutes, and then I had to add labels. Only after all this, could I finally start talking about how to solve it.”

With Digital Ink, any lesson resources can be prepared in advance and reused over and over again, without having to erase and recreate it the next time you cover the topic.

Meanwhile, half of teachers have found that it saves time marking and grading pupils’ work. There will be more detail on student feedback with Digital Ink later in this blog post.

Improve the quality of lessons by unchaining the teacher from their desk

Most teachers who have used Digital Ink have said that it allows them to be anywhere in the classroom – without being tied to the front desk – enabling them to manage the class and engage the students in the work that’s appearing on the smartboard.

Thanks to the connectivity between student and teacher devices, children can be interacting with what is being displayed on the smartboard within seconds.

A more personalised learning environment.

Real-time collaboration between students and their teachers allows learning to continue outside of the classroom.

Around 50% of teachers have said that the technology increases the quality of communications with students.

Authentic and timely student feedback

Because of increased communication in and outside of the classroom, digital ink has transformed the way teachers give feedback to pupils.

You can quickly and easily annotate a piece of work, feeding back to students instantly and supporting them when they need it, rather than days after they need it.

As with all Microsoft Office 365 products, everything is saved automatically and in one place. One key benefit several teachers have pointed out is that Digital Ink lets teachers give feedback during the school day, or even during the actual lesson, rather than waiting until they get home.

In the video below, Cloud Design Box Founder Tony Phillips walks you through some critical uses of Digital Ink in the classroom, including student feedback and annotations, ink-to-text capability and solutions and steps for Math equations.



*All statistics and research mentioned in this blog post was taken from Digital Ink in the Classroom – Authentic, Efficient Student Engagement, an IDC InfoBrief, sponsored by Microsoft. IDC conducted a research study with 685 teachers who are using computers in the classroom to understand their classroom technology usage, and specifically how they are using Digital Inking devices.

Resources:

onenote.com/ink
digital ink in the classroom authentic efficient student engagement
White Paper: Power Digital Inking Classroom