With Pennine’s help a Bolton secondary school which has used iPod Touches to revolutionise learning is now teaching how smartphones and tablets can replace and improve upon traditional telephony.
The ESSA Academy broke ground when it issued students with iPod Touches, recognising that the devices could be invaluable learning tools, giving access to online resources and support emailing so that staff, students and parents can more easily communicate.
“We invested very heavily in mobile devices, iPods and iPads because we wanted to make sure that learning was impactive, 21st Century and personalised,” explains ESSA Academy Director, Abdul Chohan who argues ESSA’s technologically imbued ethos has been key to its five A*-C GCSE pass rate soaring from 26 percent in 2006 to 100 percent today.
Convinced more could be made of that investment he visited Bolton College to see how Pennine had transformed their communications. The company then proposed an Avaya solution that would enable ESSA Academy to use softphones on any of its 1,500-plus Apple mobile devices. This comprised an Avaya Aura Communications Manager unified communications platform complemented by 50 one-X Communicator software clients for MacBooks and 150 one-X Mobile SIP iOS licences which deliver voice over wifi to Apple mobile devices.
“We looked at a number of companies but most offered just traditional telephony. Only Pennine were able to deliver the professional solution we required to integrate with our ethos – and they are experts on it” states Mr. Chohan. “For things like calls they were also definitely giving us the best price. It was a no-brainer who we were going to go with.”
Taking advantage of the existing Meru wireless network ESSA realised “huge” savings. There was no need for cabling, costly handsets, “really expensive” mobile contracts and the number of landlines plummeted from 100 to five. Whilst delighted with revenue savings, Mr. Chohan is most excited at how communications have been revolutionised.
“Every staff member has their own number and can be contacted on the same device so the need for landlines disappears,” he reports. “The beauty of it – and when we say this people are in awe – is that staff can be contacted by a parent directly on their iPad. They can answer or make a call, even using wi-fi routed from home, and it will be the academy’s number that comes up. It’s much more professional.
“It also means that we have some phenomenally productive conversations happening. Teachers can ring each other at no cost throughout the day.”
Pennine is set to further embed the solution within ESSA’s ethos by installing Avaya’s Flare Communicator, opening the door to further collaborative technologies, most notably video-conferencing. “We can have students videoconferencing within the academy or at a school, college or university anywhere else in the world. What’s great about the Avaya solution is that you literally just plug the iPad into a LED screen and you’ve got a complete videoconferencing suite.”
This supports ESSA’s aim of equipping students with more than a clutch of good GCSEs. “We want our students to get fantastic results but also to make sure that they’re global citizens, that they understand their competitors are not just the student next to them or in the UK, but could be a little boy in China who can do programming.
“It helps promote realisation that the world is a big place”