The right teaching will drive education digitalisation

When it comes to ICT in education, the conversation has shifted. It’s not about providing technology and devices; it’s about teaching our kids how to use it.

In just five years, we face a digital economy that will require 2.3 million digitally skilled workers. Are our children ready to enter such a workforce?

Many would argue no. Research shows that 65% of kids will end up in jobs that don’t exist yet, but only 10% of schools offer any kind of computer science class.

There’s a massive disconnect between what’s being taught now and the skills young people will need to compete in the jobs space of the future.

The leaders in this scenario are our teachers and their use of technology in the classroom. However, with increasing demands already placed on staff and without tech training, it is unreasonable to expect them to adopt new technologies and be our digital heroes as well, without adequate support.

From traditional to tech savvy

A recent Childwise report indicated that 6.3 million children aged 5-16 in the UK use a laptop, PC or tablet and on average, spend 1.5 hours online per day.

We are dealing with a generation of digital natives.

To cater for this, schools are increasingly introducing new tech like interactive whiteboards, film projectors and tablets.

But just introducing new devices into a still traditional four-walled teaching environment isn’t effective enough. Imagine dropping a teacher from the Victorian era into a 2017 classroom. Yes, they might need a few minutes to learn how to use a desktop computer or a whiteboard, but I guarantee you the essence of the teaching methods will be similar – students still have to conform.

We need to prepare our kids to meet the demands of a digital nation. This means cloud-based learning where kids can log-in from anywhere, anytime to access their work, or provide access to multiple teachers to ensure a ‘best-fit’ teaching style for each student.

Also, technology can benefit the teacher too. The days of marking with a red pen are numbered. Using programmes like Office 365 are guaranteed to help a teacher reduce time spent on menial tasks and allows more time for creating an environment prime for student engagement. Students could go home and complete work in their own time, freeing up the hours in the day for teachers to focus on face-to-face, interactive teaching.

Support the supporters

The silver bullet to this transformational change? Our teachers. Yet worryingly, a NASUWT Teachers’ Union report found that 83% of teachers who teach ICT as a subject, said that they do not receive regular ICT-related training and CPD. But, the report also concluded that teachers made specific references to the need to develop these skills that pupils need for the real world – highlighting their dedication to the cause.

There is no arguing that embedding a new technology into a school is always going to be challenging. But, by providing pre-implementation training and support for teachers, you can guarantee the new equipment is utilised to its full potential and will empower staff with the knowledge and confidence to use it.

In turn, if teachers can gain a thorough understanding of the technology and how to use it effectively, this can be used to prepare the UK’s younger generations for the guaranteed digital workplace they will find themselves in.

Not only that, but the combination of great technology and great teaching will help broaden their horizons for a future career.

Fujitsu are driving change in education through technology

The Fujitsu Education Ambassador Programme was launched at BETT 2015. A year on, Fujitsu have 10 schools, colleges and universities in the UK signed up to the programme, with 9 hubs already opened in 2015. At this year’s BETT show, Fujitsu announced they are aiming to sign up 20 more education institutions to their Education Ambassador Programme in partnership with Intel. It means hundreds more students across the UK will have better access to the latest technology and digital skills development.

The programme was set up to enable and promote collaboration across all levels of education, and promote shared best practice vision for driving transformational change through technology.

If you’re not familiar with what Fujitsu are doing, here’s how it works. Fujitsu have been setting up Innovation Hubs in education institutions across the country to equip students and teachers with the best in tech. Fujitsu believe that by putting technology at the heart of education you can enhance teaching and unleash students’ full potential.

This aligns with the Department for Education’s Further Education Learning Technology Action Group (FELTAG), which wants to identify the obstacles preventing further education providers from taking full advantage of technology.

This latest batch of hubs will feature Fujitsu and Intel technology, providing both students and educators with the opportunity to develop their digital skills.

Passion goes a long way in supporting and driving achievement, however, passion in isolation is sometimes not enough. Education needs collaboration and support from the wider industry to really support the right skills development for young people. This is about helping people get ready for the workforce of the future.

Virtue Technologies’ Managing Director Phil Lawson Wins Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2015 BIBAs

We are proud to announce that our Managing Director Phil Lawson is this year’s winner of the BIBA Award for Entrepreneur of the Year. Run by the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, the BIBAs is the ‘the one they all want to win’. That’s because businesses that win a BIBA get much more than just a trophy. The meticulous approach of the judging process, the BIBAs Winners’ Academy and the national profile of the event means those entrepreneurs that take part in the BIBAs take their minds and business to another level.

When asked what it felt like to win a BIBA award and what it means to him, Phil said “It is a great honour to win such a high profile award, although it is an individual award it is only made possible by all the wonderful people that work for and are in partnership with us”

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The Entrepreneur of the Year Category was focused on the person behind the successful business. Key areas for any entrepreneur are the ability to innovate and to recognise opportunities. Even though Phil is relatively young, he has a vast amount of experience, skills and knowledge which has helped him have a good eye for spotting businesses with potential. Phil has identified many new opportunities for his business. With the skills and knowledge he has gained from being the Managing Director of Virtue Technologies it has enabled him to easily spot potential in start-up businesses.

Phil was once before short-listed for Entrepreneur of the year at the BIBA awards back in 2008, since then Phil’s achievements as an entrepreneur have excelled. As the Managing Director of Virtue Technologies, using this as a base, he has developed numerous businesses which has given him multiple roots into the one niche market. Being involved with multiple companies focused on dealing with the same sector, it continually gives Phil a better understanding and knowledge of the sector in which he operates. It further allows him to develop and grow start-up businesses to be successful and continue to develop and complement each other.

Phil demonstrates many different personality traits that make a successful entrepreneur. As any entrepreneur will tell you, there are numerous problems to overcome and it is not easy being an entrepreneur. Being passionate and resilient can only go so far. Phil’s strong sense of self confidence along with flexibility, knowledge and vision makes him successful. Phil believes both continuity and consistency are critical, whilst sometimes it is easy to be drawn by something new Phil always looks to the bigger plan and maintains continuity.

His eye for cutting edge innovation and keeping abreast of emerging business ideas, trends and technology allows him to make informed judgements on future strategies and trends. Phil displays these qualities on a daily basis, but a fine example of when he has demonstrated these qualities is through the many business opportunities he contributes towards, making them successful.

Phil’s sense of strong leadership has earned the trust and respect of his team by demonstrating positive work qualities and confidence. This is displayed on a daily basis in the gratified workplace he has created for his employees. Phil has a strong sense of basic ethics and integrity to all his shareholders whether it be maintaining loyal partnerships with suppliers or always having the customer’s best interest at heart. As Phil grew up on a farm he was involved in a business from a young age, the honesty and work ethic of his upbringing is conveyed in the culture of the companies he is involved in today.

The Virtue Technologies team would like to Congratulate Phil once more for his many achievements. Congratulations!

Here is why the BIBA judges chose Phil Lawson as the Winner of this year’s Entrepreneur of the year award

 

New school year brings new security features to Office 365 Education

As schools prepare for the start of another school year and teachers get their classrooms ready to welcome students, Microsoft are introducing additional features to meet the needs of schools, teachers and students.

Today Microsoft are announcing changes to Office 365 Education that will make it easier for schools to meet their security and compliance needs at a time when teaching and learning are becoming increasingly collaborative and cloud-connected.

With today’s update Microsoft simplified their education lineup, moving to a single, free plan for all academic institutions and added several new features to help schools meet their security and compliance requirements.

In addition to the basic services—Office Online, 1TB of OneDrive storage, Exchange email and Skype—free Office 365 Education now includes advanced features such as:

  • Legal hold and eDiscovery to help you find, preserve, analyze and package electronic content for a legal request or investigation. This capability spans across email, documents and instant messaging.
  • Rights Management Services, which prevents file-level access without the right user credentials.
  • Data Loss Prevention to help you identify, monitor and protect sensitive information in your organization.

With these additional features, now included at no cost for Office 365 Education, schools can more easily maintain a safe, effective and compliant learning environment while providing world-class productivity tools for their teachers and students.

If you already have Office 365 Education, there’s nothing for you to do. These new features will simply show up as they become available.

School admins, if you’re not yet providing Office 365 Education to your entire school, contact Virtue Technologies today. We have deployed nearly 60,000 Office 365 seats across 86 customer sites.

For more information about Microsoft Office 365 visit our website or call us on 01695 731 233

Ben Whittle’s Uber Computer Update – Front Panel

 

front panelSo having chosen the fans he will be using, Ben has finally set about mounting them to the front panel. The front filter sticks to a self-adhesive magnetic strip; so Ben used this as a template to marks out where to cut once he had planned out the exact positioning of the fans.

 

32ddOnce the air intake was cut out Ben had to carefully mark out where to drill the mounting points for the fans. The secondary filters made this quite a laborious task as they overlap the 120mm fans by about 2mm on each side, otherwise he would have just lined all the fans in a row and pencilled through the mounting points.

 

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The careful planning paid off in the end, as all fans perfectly lined up with the filters literally touching each other. Ben was  quite pleased with that result.

 

 

tbvOne small issue with the front filter is that it is 120 x 480mm including the border, meaning a fair bit of the surface area of the blades is blocked by the front panel. This isn’t so much an issue of airflow, more that the blades being so close to the mounting surface will result in the fans not performing as well as they could.

Thankfully there is a solution, Ben found a company called Phobya who make 120mm acrylic fan spacers. This should put some space between the fan and the mounting surface, with the added bonus of having pre-drilled 5mm mounting points for LEDs. So this little problem, in a way, has turned out to be a positive. The fan filters are somewhat transparent and Ben likes the idea of a light glowing behind the filter, the only reason he didn’t go for LED fans was that he wouldn’t have been able to link them to the lighting controller which will change the colour of the illumination under the glass. However, if he’s just buying a bunch of 5mm RGB LEDs he can wire them to the lighting controller and have all the illumination changing colour simultaneously, might be a bit of extra work but Ben thinks the end result will look pretty good.

tttggfffOnce Ben had finished mounting the fans, he ordered his spacers and made a start on the panels underneath the desk, making up the sections which will house the optical drive and the Asus ROG panel. Ben discovered that cutting angles out of 8mm plywood is a bit of a pain but the end result isn’t too bad.

Ben says there is still a lot of work to do on the front panel, he has yet to design the control panel. He is planning on having power switch, headphones jack, 4x USB 3.0 ports, volume control and UPS control al mounted to one panel. That alone will be a few hours work, especially with wiring.

Stay tuned for more Ben Whittle’s Uber Computer updates.

Virtue Technologies makes the final of the BIBA Awards for ‘Best Use of IT’ and ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’

This week we found out that Virtue Technologies has made it through to the final round of the BIBAs 2015. We have been shortlisted for the award of ‘Best Use of IT’ and Virtue Technologies’ Managing Director, Phil Lawson, has been shortlisted for ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’.

Run by the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, the BIBAs is the ‘the one they all want to win’. That’s because businesses that win a BIBA get much more than just a trophy. The meticulous approach of the judging process, the BIBAs Winners’ Academy and the national profile of the event means those entrepreneurs that take part in the BIBAs take their minds and business to another level.

We all have our fingers crossed here at Virtue Technologies for when the winners are announced later this year. Here is our story we shared with the BIBAs which has gotten us so far in the competition.

Our Story

Following the 2010 general election, the change of government brought huge changes to Virtue Technologies’ customers, focusing on the education sector we looked these changes and responded quickly in a way that a only small business can. Using a combination of ICT and internet technology, we created our Private Cloud solution. This is a direct response to Schools becoming part of multi academy trusts and needing the ability work seamlessly and securely across multiple Schools in different areas. We provided high speed connectivity solutions to every site in the trust, we then used a combination of routing and server technology to create each trust a private cloud for all their sites.

We located equipment within our own data centre of the core of the network, within this data centre we provided a virtual server solution designed specifically for the needs of education. There the trust hosts for example a financial package, centralised learning portal or internet security solution. To take it to another level we then created a seamless single sign on experience presenting on-site apps, private cloud apps and public cloud apps such as Microsoft Office 365, Google apps.To a user, this gives a completely seamless experience with one user name and password on any device mobile or fixed and at any work or home location. It allows the Academy trust to use a hybrid environment storing data locally, in a private cloud or in a public cloud. Critically this gives them the flexibility to choose where there data is meeting regulatory guidelines or the accessibility of the public cloud services.

We feel our position as an innovative and flexible small business has made us able to respond to the needs of the changing education system. We competed against huge PLC’s such as Virgin Media, BT and RM PLC for this contract and none them innovated quickly enough and could not offer a cost effective solution to the customer. We have done this and have a relationship with this customer and many other similar ones that are long term, high value and profitable, but most importantly, meet the customer’s needs.

The basis of our highly successful private cloud solution is a high quality internet delivery network. As the initial demand for cloud based services started we made a strategic decision that to provide cloud services we need to control and manage the end to end delivery of the internet to our customers. Traditionally the local authority provided the solution which was inflexible, wrapped in red tape and not meeting the needs of a modern Academy. We provided a solution fit for purpose and meeting the needs of the Schools which was hugely successful, gaining Virtue new customers. At the same time the education sector was starting to invest heavily in mobile devices, iPad’s, kindles etc. This created huge challenges for anyone providing internet to Schools. First priority to keep children safe online, but these devices need to be flexible and work very differently from a standard PC or laptop. The Schools were demanding the security to be relaxed but this put Children as risk.

We embarked and a large R & D project and developed an offering that allows the APP based learning an iPad offers to be allowed but at the same time putting security in place to protect children. This was ground breaking for our customers who had previously been restricted by outdated internet solutions provided red tape laden local authorities. Our solution has revolutionised things for the local IT support teams but most importantly revolutionised the learning experience for the children.

This development then created a second challenge for our business, the freedom given and huge increase in number of devices and sent internet usage through the roof. Being limited by the infrastructure available to us in the local area we can only provide a certain size of internet at a price within budget of the academy. We had to be clever and we completed a 2nd R & D project to analyse what each user was doing with this new way of learning, what Apps they were using and what was using all the internet bandwidth. Once understood we were able to complete some innovative designs to prioritise certain APPs and internet usage over others. For example we can prioritise a student taking an online exam to ensure it is seamless whilst restricting guest users accessing YouTube. We were able to allow YouTube but only for education based videos. We could allow social media but block the games within them, and stop people updating their iPhones at the same time.

The overall innovation is a constant work in progress responding to the changing needs of our users and internet landscape. It is a balancing act to give the user a high speed, flexible but crucially secure experience.

As an IT company it is critical we follow technical trends but we are also very clear that it is very easy to jump around from new product to new product. We live in a world of information, so getting information on trends is easy. We believe the key is to be able to sift through them and apply them to our business and most importantly to the niche sector we work in.

Consumerisation of IT is a huge challenge, home based technologies are being pushed into enterprises by users. This is both exciting and challenging, some of the technology such as Apple’s new watch or Google glass offer wonderful learning opportunities for children, but they also create us technology integration challenges.

Our strategy is to take a step back from the technology and look at need, it is about engaging with our customers to help them to understand before investing. We hold regular strategy meetings with our customers and we run customer events showcasing new technology. We help our customers with a 3-year plan and new technology is slotted into this to ensure it is thought about before purchasing. Once we see new technology that there is a clear need for, we invest in it. We train, develop and design within our business to have solutions ready for market.

For our business we believe innovation in IT is not about that one magic invention that changes the world, it is about how we put together lots of small innovations to create a solution that meets both our customers and our business needs. Innovation in IT is the most important part of this but we also feel innovation in financing, training and customer engagement is critical.

We firmly believe our cloud and internet solution meets all these needs and is a wonderful example of the use of IT.

Winners of the BIBAs will be announced at the BIBAs Ceremony, Blackpool Tower Ballroom on September 11th 2015BIBAS_FINALIST_2015_Best Use of Information Technology (3)BIBAS_FINALIST_2015_ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR

Blippit IO PureCode Python – Offering schools a tech free easy entry into text based coding

New for 2015, in response to schools’ demand linked to Computer Science, Blippit IO has this week announced the launch of its new product PureCode Python. PureCode Python allows students to code their projects anywhere and anytime thanks to the way it is designed for schools and it is the most flexible way to give students access to coding in Python wherever they are. PureCode is ready-to-use with no tech set up, it includes the popular Turtle for Python and is designed for easy school management.

How it works

Students log in to their own account under the school umbrella. They can start their project with a blank canvas, use a teacher template project or use one of Blippit’s template projects, Students can then share what they make, explore what others have made and learn from each other. Students can also download Python code to use wherever they want.

Pricing and availability

Pricing for PureCode Python starts at £125. Blippit IO offer a free trial for schools to test out the PureCode Python at: https://www.blippit.co.uk/blippit-io-purecode-python.html

About Blippit IO

Blippit IO is a growing suite of online computing tools for schools which also offers Blippit IO App Maker, which currently has over 35,000 users, as a powerful but simple new tool for the computing curriculum and Blippit Social is another arm of Blippit specialising as a complete schools’ social media parental engagement service backed by 20 years of experience working with schools in the North West and UK.

For more information visit: https://www.blippit.co.uk/