20 Years in Information Technology
Our longest-serving IT staff have seen many changes during their two decades of service to Brooke Weston Academy and the Trust, and have implemented strategies to enhance the smooth running of our academies and the educational experience of our students.
Mr Stuart McGown and Mr Matt Robbins joined Brooke Weston Academy as IT technicians on the same day in January 1998. Since then Stuart has become a software developer working on the website and overseeing many of the control systems at Brooke Weston Academy. Matt is now Director of IT, working across all ten Trust schools. Both say that technology is growing so fast that it is difficult to predict what the next decade will bring, although innovations such as virtual and augmented reality may well have a place in the classroom.
Over the years Stuart and Matt have seen rapid advances in technology, the rise of home computing, reliance on the internet and more sophisticated systems such as cloud storage and interactive touch screens in classrooms, all of which enhance teaching and learning. The challenge facing our IT departments and the Trust is to keep pace with developments while keeping within strict budgets.
Matt said: ‘Back then the vast majority of students didn’t have a computer at home and now every aspect of people’s lives has changed; we have entertainment coming to phones, laptops, tablets and TV via the Internet. It has gone from being a shop window for business to the point where it is considered to be the ultimate reference source and people believe everything they find there. In the classroom we have moved from projectors to touch screens so it is about making what would, in the past, have been done on a traditional blackboard more engaging, dynamic and animated. We are at the point where IT in the curriculum is almost a thing of the past because it is so embedded in every lesson and students start secondary school with a high level of capability.’
Stuart said: ‘Technologically IT is moving so fast in so many different directions that it is scary but augmented reality is the big thing at the moment. It could be that in ten years you can have an interactive Minecraft city on a table or alerts or pictures beamed onto different walls so as you walk around what you see changes. The key is to gauge the moment when the next wave of technology affects the schools so it is about implementing and controlling it.’
New technologies being introduced across our Trust include a new Management Information System, plus an increase in bandwidth that should give more stable internet access for the increased number of staff and students accessing it for lessons.
Stuart’s work, particularly on display screens, cashless systems and telephone installation has been rolled out at some other Trust schools, while Matt is also involved in data protection and has done external consultancy work, most recently advising on IT for the new Red Kite academy planned for Corby.
He said: ‘I can still get involved as a day-to-day trouble shooter when things go wrong in one of our schools and I get called up. However, I am mostly involved in strategy and trying to predict which direction IT will develop in, which is always difficult because there are always new developments. Some that look promising may die off unexpectedly and other things, that you think didn’t have a future, suddenly become the thing of the moment.’
However, both Stuart and Matt agree that whatever technology may bring in the next decade, it is just one of the tools that aid teaching: ‘Our job is to make sure that our schools have the most appropriate and fitting technology for their situation however, those who are good teachers can teach well, with or without technology. They can transmit concepts, enthusiasm and information as easily with a pen and paper as they can with computers or a touch screen. What is around the next corner technologically could change everything and we have to be ready to adapt to it when it appears.’
To see their original profile ten years ago click here.