From having unreliable internet and lacking faith in computers a little more than a year ago, Orere Primary School is now flying high and a lighthouse school for Microsoft’s Cloud Transformation Project.
Orere School Principal Kerry Forse.
It’s been quite a start to life at Orere Primary School for first-time Principal Kerry Forse.
“When I arrived here, the school had just had stable internet for six months. There’s been a long history of not using the internet because it was unstable. The staff didn’t have faith in computers, so they tended to revert back to the old way of doing things, pen and paper, and those sorts of things.”
During the Term 1 break, however, that all changed. After developing a plan with New Era, the small rural school’s ICT services were migrated to Microsoft Office 365 and Azure, and ageing computing devices were replaced with new Windows 10 desktops and tablets, specified for classroom environments.
“We weighed up how we were going to use the money we had – and the best way to use it was on devices and the technology. We couldn’t do that if we had to manage a server, so the best option for us was to go fully on the public cloud. We have full remote support, which means we don’t have to pay someone all the time to come out here. There’s also the option, say, if we only needed one computer to be worked on, we could courier it in and out. It’s quite adaptable in that sort of way.”
Understanding education needs
To achieve its ‘Cloud Transformation’, Orere School – located an hour’s drive south east of Auckland – partnered with Microsoft and New Era.
“I think the biggest thing is having people who understand how schools run. They are different from businesses. The way we want things to work is quite specific in education.
“New Era has people on board who are ex teachers. They understand what education is and what it needs. But then they also have the IT gurus who have all the knowledge to facilitate that.”
Orere School was New Era’s first primary school to move exclusively to cloud services. Two terms in and Kerry reports no problems with the new solution.
“We’ve not had one issue. There’s been nothing, no issue at all. The internet has been stable, we’ve changed our Student Management System and we’re now using NZCER for assessment, so the children are now doing online assessments.”
Meeting students’ needs
What difference has the cloud made to the school’s 43 students?
“Heaps,” said Jese, a Year 8 student from Room One, who admits working locally on the old computers was frustrating. “It was very complicated. Before you had to go on the same computer to get a document. You’d have to be in groups because all the work would be saved on that one computer.”
The addition of Office 365 has significantly opened up the possibilities, as well.
“This is just all in the browser, you can access it from home. I could probably access it from the other side of the world if I wanted to. It’s way easier than before.”
There’s also a balance being struck, however, between integrating e-learning and retaining a face-to-face approach.
“My teacher said he didn’t want us to be like other schools where students don’t interact with the teacher so we try to keep an even balance between ‘computer life’ and interacting with the teacher.”
Throughout planning and implementation, New Era, Microsoft and the school knew that targeting students’ needs was important and clearly a key benefit of the new platform.
“Now we can fine tune what teachers are doing to specifically target the needs of the children. The school is now able to use data from top end to bottom, to make decisions about what we’re doing. That’s led to changing our goals across our school, our target students and looking at the types of assessment and learning we’re doing. All of that has come about by actually thinking about how we use the internet and the technology that we have available to us. It’s changed everything.”
Learn about Cloud Transformation with Microsoft and New Era by visiting newerait.co.nz/cloud
Find out more about Microsoft’s products and services for schools at microsoft.com/en-nz/education/