The Digital Priory

Repton School pioneers a new approach to hybrid learning

Ashley Currie looks at how part of a heritage school building in rural Derbyshire has been repurposed for Global 21st Century learning.

 Local and global balance

 

Located in the heart of Derbyshire, Repton is just a short drive from the stunning beauty of the Peak District. Our rural location is one of the great joys of teaching here, but we are also directly connected to a global network of schools, our own Repton Family of Schools or ‘RFS’.

At the core of our vision is a desire for students in all our schools to attain a sense of balance in their lives while still achieving academic excellence. A strong sense of connection both to our local and global communities is an important part of this balance.

 

Sport, the arts, drama and music share the limelight at Repton with significant time and expertise dedicated to achieving excellence in these areas, but we also believe that it is crucial that young adults become rounded and culturally aware so that they are ready to become true global citizens when they leave us.

Two sides of a post-covid reflection

When our students returned to school following the Covid pandemic, we saw the impact that excessive device use was having on the young people in our school and it made us think. As a result, we reemphasised the importance of ‘pen and paper’ well before the UNESCO report on device usage was published, and long before the news that Sweden was going back to basics following a drop in pupil attainment that was attributed to the mass rollout of devices in the classroom.

Despite these concerns, however, we still wanted to take full advantage of the EdTech revolution to enhance our academic curriculum and inculcate pupils with the ability to be skilful, digital citizens. We did not want to retreat into ourselves and it almost goes without saying that, like many schools, our students develop digital skills within their academic subjects and in signposted digital literacy slots in their timetables.

Using EdTech to connect

One of our learnings in the last four years has been the degree to which EdTech has developed to allow connections across the globe. The opportunities for meaningful collaboration and interaction between students across the world seem endless: our family of pupils already meet to take part in language lessons, debating festivals and much more. The benefits of interacting with and listening to experiences from a global community are clear. And yet . . . all of those who recall delivering lessons online during Covid will remember that those virtual interactions lacked the level of warmth and engagement that teachers cultivate in their classrooms. We reflected further and did our research.

The Digital Priory

Inspired by non-education industry leaders who need to deliver really effective training across a global network of teams, we have launched a project we call the Digital Priory using OneRoom technology next to the site of the original twelfth century priory at Repton. A fitting way for our students to lead the EdTech revolution while being reminded of our history. The design team behind the OneRoom product are an experienced group who worked with us to create a bespoke learning space in a unique cultural environment.

This facility gives teachers and students who are separated by great distances an experience that is as close to being in the same room as is possible. With directional audio and vision, a bank of screens and some brilliant software, this project will connect our Repton Family of Schools across the globe and allow our community – both students and teachers –  to benefit from inspirational experiences wherever they are in the world.

 

The digital platform that comes with OneRoom is another reason to be excited. The shared whiteboard can be accessed by all users variously and files can be shared through the OneRoom’s digital ecosystem. Critically, the software used for teaching and learning has tools built in to facilitate effective assessment for learning, that will inform the teaching in real-time throughout a lesson.  A watermark appears if a student navigates away from your lesson . . . no more staring at a blank screen, wondering who is still paying attention in your lesson or your meeting!

Developing a global culture for professional development

Now we are all set up, it’s hard not to be enthusiastic about the possibilities. While students will be taught new and exciting languages, benefit from inspirational speakers and collaborate in a range of cultural and intellectual events, our staff around the world will be able to share best practice with each other and interact fully with virtual CPD regardless of their location.

A 12th and 21st Century interface

We all recognise that EdTech presents so many opportunities for enhancing the learning of pupils and teachers. At the same time, it is important to remember how students learn best and to base any EdTech commitment on research. We are excited about the launch of our OneRoom simply because it allows us to look beyond individual devices and leverage digital technology in our own historic buildings. We will be better connected to the world outside of school, which can only be a good thing for our young people wherever they are in our Family of Schools..

And there can’t be many schools that offer a 21st Century Learning experience in a facility on a 12th Century site. All part of that sense of balance.

 

Click on the flyer to follow the link.

Ashley Currie is Deputy Head, Academic at Repton School, UK

Find out more about careers at the Repton Family of Schools at a special online event on Tuesday, February 6th

 

 

 

For GLOBAL OPPORTUNITIES at REPTON – Visit: https://www.reptonschool.org.uk/careers

FEATURE IMAGE: Repton School – The cricket pitch with Priory buildings in the background kindly provided by Repton School

Support Images:

The Peak District – by Luke Ellis-Craven on Unsplash

The Digital Priory – https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/5820363 – Author: Alan Murray-Rust / Former priory building, Repton School / CC BY-SA 2.0

OneRoom images – kindly provided by Repton School