Here, Network Manager Mrs Janine Le Cras talks us through the preparations that the College put in place to cope with home schooling, and how the College continues to implement the latest technology to benefit both students and teachers.
What kind of digital systems did you already have in place before the pandemic?
For the last few years, we have been implementing a strategy to become a fully-integrated digital school.
Back in 2017, we formed a group of ‘Digital Champions’ who have continued to trial and advise on the use of hardware and software to prepare our pupils for 21st-century learning. All teachers were upgraded from laptops to Windows 10 tablet devices in 2018 and training was delivered on both the device and supporting software.
We have also been training our teachers and students to use cloud-based storage, for example OneDrive and SharePoint, which enables more collaborative work and allows access to documents and resources from any location.
We have continued to run training on platforms such as Microsoft Teams and ClassNotebook, and many school groups were already familiar with using Teams for assignments.
What about access to computers and laptops for remote working?
We’ve always had an IT suite, which gives students access to computers in addition to a space for regular IT lessons, but we’ve been increasingly encouraging students to use their own devices for schoolwork. We’ve been rolling out our ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) campaign to simplify and streamline the learning experience, which really helped during lockdown.
From September 2019, all new Removes had to have a Microsoft Surface device, either a Microsoft Go 2 or a Microsoft Pro 7 with a keyboard, and it is our aim that all students from Remove to Upper Five will have one by September 2021.
What did you do when lockdown was announced?
In the two weeks before we knew that the College was going to have to close, we created Teams for any remaining groups that did not have them in place and that were not going on study leave for exams.
We held after-school and lunchtime refresher courses for teaching staff so that when the inevitable happened they were as prepared as they could be. We also went to all tutor groups during their sessions to make sure that all students knew how to access Teams on their devices.
Once the order to close arrived we were as prepared as we could be in the circumstances and, I have to say, both the staff and the students rose to the challenge magnificently.
Our success was a combination of the attitude of the staff and students and having the appropriate resources and training.
How did the College’s staff and teachers adapt to the challenges presented by lockdown?
The IT team managed to keep working from home, remotely accessing devices to help people and providing advice via the Teams helpdesk.
We were also able to remotely access the College systems to ensure that everything kept running smoothly.
The admin staff, who on the whole had never seen or used Teams, took on the challenge of working from home and communicating via this new platform brilliantly.
The teaching staff found new and exciting ways to engage their students remotely using recorded lessons, live meetings, inventive projects and all manner of amazing ideas, and were only too happy to help each other out by posting and answering questions in the virtual staffroom Team.
The whole College kept in touch via the Virtual LC Team where Mrs Clancy posted her weekly recordings, with the weekly challenges being something of a highlight.
How did you support the students who were learning in lockdown, particularly those dealing with exams?
For those year groups that were due to be doing public examinations, we were able to put Teams in place to help them further their education.
The Upper Five were able to get a head start on their A-level choices and also to get to know their counterparts from Elizabeth College as they were put together in Teams to get a foundation in their chosen A-level syllabuses.
Our junior school colleagues deserve a big mention too. Despite not having been trained in the use of Teams they wholeheartedly embraced the challenge and set about delivering lessons alongside their senior school counterparts with their usual enthusiasm.
How is technology continuing to benefit the College?
The College has recently been made a Microsoft Test Centre through Certiport, which means that we are able to offer both MOS and MTA qualifications along with Adobe certification to enhance our students’ CVs.
We’re proud to be one of only two centres here in Guernsey and we’re the only educational institution to offer this.
The Upper Sixth were even given the opportunity to do a Microsoft Office Specialist qualification through remote learning during lockdown and 15 of our students passed with flying colours!
Eventually, we hope to be able to offer these qualifications to parents, and people outside the College community.
I am sure that there will be more challenges to come but we have the technology in place and are confident that we can accommodate them.