01:35AM, Wednesday 18 January 2012
A trailblazing school is leading the way in educational technology with Internet giant Google.
Last week education secretary Michael Gove slammed IT teaching in schools and announced that from September schools are free to take advantage of web-based resources.
Claires Court Schools in Maidenhead is one of a handful of schools to fully adopt Google Apps, within its three sites at Ray Mill Road East, College Avenue and Maidenhead Thicket.
The free education tools mean pupils and staff have access to the same six applications (apps) they would use at home, including Google Docs and Google Calendar.
Principal James Wilding is a passionate advocate of the technology and deems himself a 'Google evangelist'.
"IT in schools needs to be utterly different than people think it should be," he said.
"We're demonstrating that with one of the world's greatest computer companies."
While he believes a focus on computer science is not the answer, the biologist said using the apps throughout the school experience - from lessons, homework and extra-curricular activities - is the best way to hone the IT skills which pupils pick up at home.
The tools mean the school can video-conference with other schools across the globe, and language is no longer a barrier with Google's auto-translate tool.
The school 'hub', is also described as a 'walled garden', meaning that everything that goes in and out can be completely controlled.
Even the printed school newsletter includes QR (Quick Response) codes, which can be scanned by smart phones, linking to web content produced by pupils.
Head of Google Apps for education William Florence said Claires Court is at the vanguard of a wave of schools within the Independent Schools Association (ISA), as one of only eight schools adopting Google Apps for Education.
The principal speaks enthusiastically about the system which he hopes will make the children confident users of the technology which is second nature to them.
"We make sure it's understated," said James.
"Never tell children something amazing is happening to them; you have to under promise and over deliver."
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Police have closed part of Ray Mill Road West to traffic this afternoon.