Education powered by cutting-edge technology

From Virtual Reality and AI-assisted interview preparations and online learning & revision platforms, to E-Champions and hackathons – we’re using the power of the very latest technology to enhance pupil’s learning and prepare them for the future – and empowering them to take charge of their own learning!

1 April 2022

We recognise the important role that technology plays in supporting and advancing our pupils’ learning to prepare them for their next academic steps and future careers, and how it can empower them to take charge of their own learning journey.

During this academic year we have forged ahead with new partnerships to ensure that we stay at the forefront of technological advances in education.

Virtual Reality and AI-Assisted Interview Training for Sixth Form

We are proud to be the first school to be using VR (Virtual Reality) headsets to help our students become world ready. Our bank of VR headsets are proving to be a big hit with our Sixth Form students who have already started taking advantage of this new tech addition to their interview preparations.

Almost all leading business surveys, such as the Harvard Business Review, put soft skills, such as leadership, communication, teamwork, and interpersonal awareness, at the top of the list for recruiters. We have offered interview practise sessions for many years and have been looking for ways to extend that one-off experience to give our pupils the opportunity to practise at their own pace. With the emergence of fantastic EdTech training platforms, like Bodyswaps, we are excited to announce the introduction of VR and AI (Artificial Intelligence) to our interview training programme.

The programme now includes training using VR headsets, creating an alternative to the traditional in-person approach with significant advantages. VR and AI support input methods such as speech, gaze and 3D gesture recognition, which enables pupils to practice behaviours in their own time and at their own pace, without the need to meet in person.

Virtual practise can feel safer and less stressful than performing in front of peers and it enables pupils to focus on honing their interview skills at their own pace.

As the world becomes more technologically advanced, we are aware that nurturing human to human interaction is important, now more than ever. The digital training programme concludes with online interviews using Shortlist Me, and personalised feedback with our partner EBP, to complete the whole programme which includes the range of traditional interview practice activities.

E-Champions – committed to helping their peers make the most of School technology

As a Microsoft Showcase School, all our pupils and staff use MS Surface devices and the MS Office 365, as well as other EdTech, as part of everyday learning. We have a group of dedicated volunteer E-Champions from across the School who help their peers make the most of the technology we all have at our fingertips.

This term, the E-Champions helped to road test a survey for all our new pupils focussing on the Microsoft Surface experience:

  • Are we giving enough support and what is the pupil’s experience?
  • What do they find useful and what can we improve?

The results will help us provide the best possible experience for all pupils, no matter when they start their Downe House journey.

This committed group of tech-savvy pupils also launched an E-Champions Logo Competition seeking a logo that can be used on all E-Champion initiatives – such as their ‘Top Tech Tips’ guides and drop-in Tech Surgeries, as well as for the E-Champions themselves to proudly wear as badges. There were many entries from across the School community, and the quality of the submissions was excellent. The E-Champions voted for their favourite, which was designed by Tiffany C. Congratulations to all those who submitted designs and especially to Tiffany whose winning design ideas can be seen below.

Century Tech and Up Learn

We have partnered with leading AI and innovative online platforms to provide supplementary learning tools for our pupils. These truly enable them to take greater control of their own learning. Century Tech combines AI with the latest research in learning science and neuroscience to deliver AI-assisted support to our GCSE pupils.

Up Learn is an online independent learning and revision platform for A Level students. Providing access to hundreds of online video lessons covering their A Level course, available any time on a computer, tablet or phone, to compliment and consolidate classroom learning and independent studies.

Safer Internet Day

Every year we celebrate and show support for Safer Internet Day, ensuring our pupils are part of the conversation to spread the message of staying safe online. Our E-Champions were instrumental in sharing E-Safety tips with the school community. Their message was to use the internet responsibly, respectfully, critically, and creatively. With so much information at our fingertips, it is important to use the internet wisely and to remind ourselves of some useful parameters to keep us safe.

The E-Champions presented an assembly to introduce the day. For 2022, the day was centred around safer gaming and promoting the SID national competition to design a game concept, to form and sustain respectful relationships online. The ICT department also ran a number of SID-themed activities throughout the day for all our pupils to participate in.

Hackathon

March 2022 saw 25 pupils take part in our first Microsoft Imagine Junior Cup Girls Hackathon. An international competition with schools from as far afield as Pakistan, Bulgaria, Saudi Arabia and of course Downe House. The aim of the weekend was to produce a project that could use AI to address one of the five UNESCO development goals selected by the organisers:

  • Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  • Reduced Inequalities
  • Good Health and Well-Being
  • Climate Action
  • Education

The pupils listened to keynote speakers on topics including the use of AI in wildlife conservation, access to education for girls in Pakistan during lockdown and career progression for women in the IT industry. They completed tasks using Excel and Python as part of workshops, introducing the concepts of machine learning in AI through the use of regression, categorisation and clustering, before designing their projects. The girls particularly enjoyed collaborating in teams drawn from a mixture of year groups.

Our five Downe House teams came up with some very innovative projects, including:

  • the protection of turtle eggs
  • making educational resources more readily accessible
  • mapping environmental projects
  • restoration of the coral reefs
  • the promotion of good posture when working on screen for extended periods

We were delighted that the Vertiscan app for good posture and back health, proposed by Team Quantum, came third overall.

Pupils and staff alike enjoyed the Hackathon experience, which took place over a weekend in March. Some of our pupils shared their experience of the initiative…

Star Hacks:

“This Hackathon was only open to females and non-binary people, and most participants were first-timers so I thought it would be quite a good starting point for me. The theme was ‘building bridges’. Our idea was to build a website that allows high school students to search for scholarships/bursaries easily, connecting disadvantaged students to their dream universities. I teamed up with three people: two Canadians and one American, aged from 17 to 32 years old. The main thing I improved was my communication skills, as you definitely need everyone to be on the same page! We had only 24 hours to complete a functional website, so it was important that we didn’t duplicate work or lose track!” –Pupil

Hack Your Tomorrow:

“This Hackathon was open to 13- to 18-year-olds and my teammates were from all over the world: USA, Australia and India. We all had different coding experiences, so we all learnt something new through our collaboration. Therefore, lots of prior experience was not necessary, but it was super-important to be open-minded and able to learn quickly. I certainly learnt the importance of planning, as on the second day we realised the first design of the website (which we made in a rush!) was not good enough. So, we spent a long time redesigning everything. By participating with people of the same age, I felt it was really easy to form friendships and we are already planning to join the next Hackathon together!” -Pupil

Jigsaw Hacks:

“I had not intended to join the Hackathon at first. However, my teammate mentioned developing a game for this Hackathon alongside Hack Your Tomorrow. I showed him the game I had made during the pandemic. He absolutely loved it and suggested that we submit two games, both his and mine. He used his friend’s website template and embedded both of our games. I had never imagined that my game would be award-winning (we got a small side award!) and it really highlights the fact that you need to put yourself out there and be fearless.” –Pupil

Coding Club

This academic year saw the launch of Coding Club at Downe. Like-minded pupils from all year groups come together and work collaboratively on an exciting range of problem-solving activities. The club’s aim is to provide an opportunity to explore and extend areas of computing and robotics, beyond the classroom syllabus.

Our group entered the annual PA Raspberry Pi Competition! In keeping with this year’s theme, “innovations to save the planet”, the DH Code Club Team produced an educational role-player game (RPG) called “Save the Planet Dash”. Our pupils designed and developed this idea entirely by themselves, coding their solution in Python, using the Raspberry Pi devices provided. Their code was modularised, so it could be developed and tested concurrently by different team members. The idea behind the game was to have fun while learning important facts and how to make planet saving decisions!

Tours & Open Mornings

The best way to find out more about Downe House is to experience it for yourself. Book a personal tour or join us at one of our Open Mornings, available throughout the year.

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