Digital skills to succeed  

Three years ago, the Digital Strategy 21st Century Skills Working Group came up with a bold plan to ensure that girls leave Downe House equipped with the key digital skills and knowledge needed to flourish in higher education and the workplace in a rapidly changing 21st century world.

6 November 2019

The plan aimed to overcome the limitations of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategy which was in place at the time and to specify a single device across the School which would be a compulsory item for all pupils, as well as adopting cloud-based technologies to enable teachers and pupils to collaborate more closely both in and outside the classroom.  

Fast forward to the current day and every teacher has their own Microsoft Surface as do all girls from Remove to Lower Fifth; there is a robust school-wide WiFi network which enables teaching and learning to continue between teacher and pupil beyond the classroom, making full use of the gift of extra time in the evenings and at weekends offered by the boarding model; the cloud-based Microsoft Office 365 Suite has been adopted bringing a host of new apps which facilitate collaboration and feedback as well as making work available to users from anywhere. 

Head of Digital Strategy, Mr Gareth Bouwer explains,  

“Our first priority was to make a full training package available for all teachers so that they could familiarise themselves with their Surface devices and learn how to effectively use new tools such as OneNote and Teams. The aim is for all academic staff to attain Microsoft Innovative Education Expert (MIEE) status as part of their CPD training over the next year and I am delighted to say that a quarter of academic staff have already earned their MIEE Badge. 

Initially our approach to the academic staff focused on how the new technologies would save time in terms of marking and providing feedback, which is of course a high priority for every teacher. Our aim was to reduce the time taken from when a piece of prep was set through the various stages of submissions, marking, teacher and student feedback. Now, when prep is set using OneNote, teachers can click into their students’ Class Notebooks and give more immediate and thorough feedback to guide and support students within a matter of hours. 

The next phase of our strategy will focus on a tailored and innovative approach to further integrate digital teaching and learning into the curriculum, making sure that each department is making full use of the functionality available. We deliberately chose the Microsoft Education Platform because Windows is so widely used in both higher education establishments and in the corporate world. Our aim is to equip Downe House girls with both the academic and digital skillset they will need to succeed in the 21st century world beyond Downe House, where information and knowledge is readily available to all. The key to success in the future therefore lies within ‘Knowledge Construction’ or the ability to collaborate with others to explore, investigate and question the available information and to become creative problem solvers and critical thinkers. The Digital Strategy is driving that transformation of teaching and learning to ensure that Downe House girls are fully prepared for the future. 

Find out more about digital teaching and learning at Downe House 

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