Technology plays a key role in helping Ormiston Primary students to build digital skills that prepare them for secondary school and future careers. “We’re quite a forward-looking school in terms of our ICT, and we’re always looking for ways to meet students’ needs,” says Kirsty Dunn, a class teacher at Ormiston Primary.
The school has received positive reports from Education Scotland that show its progress. However, school leaders recognised that the slow, aging Windows laptops that they were using presented a barrier to teaching and learning. “While we’re doing well as a school, we wanted to keep on track with the good progress we’ve been making,” Dunn says. “But our computers were not matching the expectations of our curriculum. It was a big barrier just to even get them started up.”
The slow boot-up times frustrated teachers who didn’t want to lose precious minutes of classroom time that should be devoted to teaching and learning. The sluggish laptops also bothered students. “Most of them are used to fast devices in their daily lives, so they couldn’t understand why the laptops didn’t function the way they expected them to,” says Dunn.
What’s more, there weren’t enough of the laptops to go around. “Because of budget constraints, it was difficult to provide an appropriate number of devices,” Dunn says. Each laptop was shared by about four pupils, limiting their use of online tools.
The local education authority’s IT department centrally managed the laptops, which were configured with a preset suite of applications. This limited teachers’ choices of apps that would add creative approaches to lesson presentation, or help pupils who had learning challenges to grasp new concepts and test their comprehension skills.
Like many schools in Scotland, Ormiston Primary focuses on reducing inequalities in student learning. “We need to meet the needs of all learners,” says class teacher Kirsty Dunn. “We want to close gaps between different groups of students so we can ensure equity.” To meet their learning needs, some students had to use different software, or portable devices that assisted in spelling or in converting speech to text. The additional software and devices had to be ordered from the education authority—and had the effect of setting the students with learning difficulties apart from fellow pupils.