Edtech success through outreach boxes

Graeme Lawrie

Graeme Lawrie is both director of Innovation and Excellence and head of Science and Technology at Sevenoaks School in Kent. He is also the host of one of the largest school-based STEM events: Science Week at Sevenoaks School.

Follow @SevenoaksSchool @SchoolOutreach

Website: www.sevenoaksschool.org Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Images courtesy of author. Images courtesy of author.

With the ever-changing growth in technology and Computing, it is clear to see that schools need to move with the times. They must incorporate new skills into the curriculum, in order for students to thrive after school in the workplace. Technology is always evolving, and children require specific skills in order to evolve along with it, to reflect the rapid pace of innovation. However, one major factor often hinders this progress: the edtech needed in order to teach these skills is usually quite expensive, and not always accessible to every child.

At Sevenoaks School in Kent, we have recently started our Outreach Box programme, the first programme of this type and scale in the UK. This initiative allows local schools to share apparatus, ensuring that every child is able to access the kind of equipment needed to learn specific skills such as coding.

The idea stemmed from 2016, when the BBC offered the micro:bit free to every Year 7 student in the country. This small, “We started to lend out our microscopes, laser thermometers, animal bones...”hi-tech device gave children the chance to explore hardware and software, and helped them learn to programme. In fact, the the device fulfilled many areas in the national curriculum. We were incredibly fortunate to have access to many free boxes of micro:bits, which we supplied to all our partnership schools, also offering staff training in their use.

A discussion with the local Primary school staff gave us an insight into how the micro:bits had an impact on the children as well as the Primary schools staff, and the issues they were facing regarding access to this level of technology. We started to lend out our microscopes, laser thermometers, animal bones, data loggers and other resources, packaging them up and visiting the schools with the resources and loaning them for a week or two.

We started with a few small trial boxes with Arduinos, micro:bits and digital USB microscopes. The proof of concept was there, with each pack seeing several hundred children a week. The micro:bit box even visited China during a holiday session!

This led to the production of the outreach boxes. Due to an extremely generous sponsor, we were able to start a new initiative for which we bought educational resources, which were to be used for a few weeks by one school.

From here, the packs started to evolve. New pieces of equipment were added, specifically items that the local schools had requested to see and thought would be beneficial to their students.

The advantage of this system is that we buy, as a group, one set of equipment. This is rather than each school purchasing their own, using them for a short period, and then storing them for the rest of the year, waiting for the next cohort and potentially becoming obsolete in storage. Sevenoaks lends resources out to neighbouring schools at no charge, delivering them personally to cut down all costs and make the initiative as cost-effective as possible.

We also invite students to come to our school to benefit from our staff’s understanding of the technology, as well as accessing some of the equipment that is not as portable. By creating the outreach boxes, all children are given the opportunity to learn innovative skills without having the pay for the expensive equipment required.

We hope to build upon this library of resources over the next few years, honing the offering to ensure we continually provide resources that meet the area’s educational needs. By continuing to listen to staff at our local schools, we hope to offer the best possible collaborative support we can.

At present, we are only able to offer outreach boxes to Primary schools local to Sevenoaks. We are, however, keen to hear from other schools or sponsors who may wish to offer the same programme, expanding provision across the UK. Eventually, we hope to make the scheme available to any school that would like to borrow a pack, sharing the more distinctive and advanced resources between schools in a similar way to a public library.

If you want to start your own programme, here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Research what the local schools in your area need. Talk to them about the areas of the curriculum they are struggling with - either due to lack of resource / equipment or lack of expertise.
2. Identify staff in your school who are keen to help, and have time available to support an outreach programme.
3. Understand how much time your school can commit to this programme, and what facilities, support you can realistically offer.
4. Start small - don’t over-promise and under-deliver. Better to gain credibility and surpass expectations.
5. Seek feedback from the participating schools, and adapt / evolve the programme ongoing.
6. Gain sponsorship / funding from external business and donors if possible - this makes the programme more sustainable.
7. Promote the programme - your school and the participating schools will all benefit from the marketing exposure.

Want to receive cutting-edge insights from leading educators each week? Sign up to our Community Update and be part of the action!

Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support us.
When you register, you'll join a grassroots community where you can:
• Enjoy unlimited access to articles
• Get recommendations tailored to your interests
• Attend virtual events with our leading contributors
Register Now
Login

Latest stories

  • How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country
    How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country

    Teaching English in a foreign country is likely to be one of the most demanding experiences you'll ever have. It entails relocating to a new country, relocating to a new home, and beginning a new career, all of which are stressful in and of themselves, but now you're doing it all at once. And you'll have to converse in a strange language you may not understand.

  • Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?
    Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?

    Over the weekend, my family of five went to an Orlando theme park, and I decided we should really enjoy ourselves by purchasing an Unlimited Quick Queue pass. It was so worth the money! We rode every ride in the park at least twice, but one ride required us to ride down a rapidly flowing river, which quenched us with water. It was incredible that my two-year-old was laughing as well. We rode the Infinity Falls ride four times in one day—BEST DAY EVER for FAMILY FUN in the Sun! The entire experience was epic, full of energizing emotions and, most importantly, lots of smiles. What made this ride so cool was that the whole family could experience it together, the motions were on point, and the water was the icing on the cake. It had been a while since I had that type of fun, and I will never forget it.

  • Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2
    Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2

    The Action Pack is back for the start of the brand new school year, just in time for Recycle Week 2021 on 20 - 26 September, to empower pupils to make the world a better and more sustainable place. The free recycling-themed resources are designed for KS1 and KS2 and cover the topics of Art, English, PSHE, Science and Maths and have been created to easily fit into day-to-day lesson planning.

  • Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu
    Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu

    Following the exceptional performance from British breakthrough star Emma Raducanu, who captured her first Grand Slam at the US Open recently, Emmamania is already inspiring pupils aged 4 - 11 to get more involved in tennis - and LTA Youth, the flagship
    programme from The LTA, the governing body of tennis in Britain, has teachers across the country covered.

  • 5 ways to boost your school's eSafety
    5 ways to boost your school's eSafety

    eSafety is a term that constantly comes up in school communities, and with good reason. Students across the world are engaging with technology in ways that have never been seen before. This article addresses 5 beginning tips to help you boost your school’s eSafety. 

  • Tackling inequality in EdTech
    Tackling inequality in EdTech

    We have all been devastated by this pandemic that has swept the world in a matter of weeks. Schools have rapidly had to change the way they operate and be available for key workers' children. The inequalities that have long existed in communities and schools are now being amplified by the virus.

  • EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab
    EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab

    The world is catching up with a truth that we’ve championed at Learning Ladders for the last 5 years - that children’s learning outcomes are greatly improved by teachers, parents and learners working in partnership. 

  • Reducing primary to secondary transition stress
    Reducing primary to secondary transition stress

    As school leaders grapple with the near impossible mission to start bringing more students into schools from 1st June, there are hundreds of thousands of Year 6 pupils thinking anxiously about their move to secondary school.

  • Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?
    Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?

    The K-12 online tutoring market is booming around the world, with recent research estimating it to grow by 12% per year over the next five years, a USD $60bn increase. By breaking down geographic barriers and moving beyond the limits of local teaching expertise, online tutoring platforms are an especially valuable tool for those looking to supplement their studies in the developing world, and students globally are increasingly signing up to online tuition early on in their secondary education schooling. 

  • Employable young people or human robots?
    Employable young people or human robots?

    STEM skills have been a major focus in education for over a decade and more young people are taking science, technology, engineering, and maths subjects at university than ever before, according to statistics published by UCAS. The downside of this is that the UK is now facing a soft skills crisis and the modern world will also require children to develop strong social skills as the workplaces are transformed by technology. 

In order to make our website better for you, we use cookies!

Some firefox users may experience missing content, to fix this, click the shield in the top left and "disable tracking protection"