On the 1st of May at the OGH Hotel, the final Seminar of the Winter series, themed on Education, was held in front of an audience of IoD Members and educationalists. The title for this Seminar was, “A view from the Education Department on our Island’s Schools’ strategy”.
Rob Jones from the IoD Guernsey Branch welcomed the panel and the Audience to the seminar and Meriel Lenfestey introduced the panel. Robert Sillars was first to speak and he set the scene as regards the vision for the future of Education in Guernsey. He began by summing up the vision in four words, Equality, Excellence, Enjoyment and Efficiency.
He reminded everyone that in 2011 we had the worst GCSE results ever but in 2014 we had the best ever. To achieve that involved a lot of hard work. He talked about the Federation of schools idea to enable students to study what they want, where they want. They had to talk to Heads, Teachers, Students and Parents about their plans and faced opposition in the media and from some parents. They also had to harmonise school timetables and arrange buses, but after all that work they started their first course in 2014. That went really well and now in 2015 there will be 14 courses covering a range of different topics.
This should bring make new courses available to students and bring down staff numbers. They are working on bringing Alderney into the Federation. Jon Buckland then spoke about how the Guernsey Integrated Learning Environment (GILE2) was established. He explained how in the 6 week summer break they had installed 35 Macs, 1,025 ipads, 1,235 laptops, 436 Chrome books, 1,142 desktops - despite a 10 day delay due to a ferry accident.
With the support of JT they now have a cutting edge network was established, including a Bring Your Own Device Network. Now they have improved resilience, incorporating Cloud storage, dedicated networks for Students, staff and visitors and a management which allows them to monitor the health of the Network in real time. The system connects 120 sites, 26 schools and uses nearly 50 kilometres of cabling. It is scaleable and future proof.
Now on a daily basis they have 425,000 average google requests and almost 300 thousand megabytes of data transfer each day. They are continuing to plan for the future and don't want to ever be in the situation there were in before.
The final speaker was Lucy Witham of the Guernsey Grammar School. Lucy wanted to look beyond implementation and tell us about what connected teaching really means. She spoke of how in the past she would have to take a pile of homework home and physically mark them by hand whereas now they students are using their Digital Sketchbooks and can receive live feedback from their teacher, refining and reviewing the work they are doing as they are doing it.
Being always connected has its challenges as well as providing opportunities and they have to provide a way for students to tell people about their concerns and also explain to them about their digital footprint, as employers can now Google prospective employees so they need to be careful what they place online.
She mentioned that digital/cyber bullying is also out there but she feels it is less of a worry than other types of bullying because it is trackable and as such is easier to challenge. She explained that there has been a paradigm shift in education with the OCR even suggesting that students should be allowed to use Google in some exams.
She finished her talk with an interesting quote by Kevin Kelly which says, “Machines are for Answers, Humans are for Questions. She feels learning should be a evolution, not a revolution.
After the three talks Meriel Lenfestey led the discussions which followed on a range of topics. These included areas such as the retraining of people to use digital technology, parent learning, the potential for a Mega school, the need to prepare students for work, links with Industry, ECOF (Every Child our Future) and the need for confidence training, interpersonal skills and works experience to help some youngsters get jobs.
Numerous examples of successes in the schools were mentioned but one stood out. That was Lucy Witham's story about her SWAT team of year 8 digital learners who are offering digital training for parents at parents evenings and other similar events. The whole picture given was excellent and it seems the future for Education in Guernsey looks really positive.