Innovating the teaching experience: the Arula School success story

The Árula school is an educational center located in Alalpardo, a small town in the outskirts of Madrid. In 2008 some teachers and educators driven by big dreams and illusions joined forces to establish a reference school in the area. Now, it has more than 1600 students distributed from Kindergarten to High School.
Education technology plays a primary role in the day to day classroom activities of Árula school: the teaching staff had tested a four-years “1-to-1 device” project and visited numerous schools, so to compare how other schools were carrying on their innovation and digitalization process. After this, they became aware of the great importance of teacher’s role: a teacher can be innovative regardless of the use of technology, but surely digital devices can be important supportive tools to create magic lands of learning, so students can learn better and happier.

What is the “One to One” project?

The “One to One” project had started much earlier the purchase of laptops and tablets: as the managing staff expected, it is a slow and firm process. These are the steps taken from the principal, teachers and IT staff:

  1. Digitization of the teaching staff: in the first place, great efforts were made to provide all the classrooms with digital whiteboards, while laptops were given to each teacher. This is a two to three-year process that must be complemented with teacher training;
  2. First contact with a tablet: to the traditional computer labs, a portable storage cart with 30 Acer devices was provided. With this, the computer lab stopped to be reserved only for the most digitalized teachers, but all the teachers began to voluntarily use the tablets in their daily activities;
  3. Implementation of the Office 365 environment: e-mail, Word, Excel and PowerPoint complement classrooms tools such as Onenote Classroom, computer lab reservations, Cloud Storage with OneNote, or the possibility of generating evaluations with Forms are some of the many options that Office offers teachers to use at school;
  4. Pilot Class: the “One to One project” was implemented in two of the four third-grade classes. On completion, the staff analyzed the academic results and the opinion of the families: the results were very positive;
  5. Extending the project: in the next year the project was extended to eleven more classes, the next to fourteen and so on. Satisfaction surveys are spread among teachers and families.

Acer TravelMate Spin B118: an education-built device

After starting with several portable storage carts of Acer tablets, teachers immediately bought 50 Acer Aspire Switch 10 devices for two pilot classes. The technical support by Acer was very good, and students were very satisfied with these devices, so the Árula school kept Acer as supplier, buying TravelMate Spin B118 model, considered an ideal solution for the following reasons:

  • it has Windows;
  • its long battery life;
  • its very competitive performance;
  • its rugged and resistant, prepared for the classroom;
  • its very good price.

How Acer devices overturned the classroom experience

After a progressive start-up, improvements in the internet connection and the existence of a very reliable device, the results of the “One to One” project have been positive, as confirmed by observing the students’ day-to-day, their opinions and experiences.
Some of the great changes experienced have been the following:

  • Access to information: the student is the protagonist in his learning experience. It is no longer necessary to wait for the contents to be given by the teacher, the book or the library of the school: the student has learned to look for what he needs and to implement it in his daily activities or tasks;
  • Feedback to the teacher: current publishers and digital educative apps provide several information to the teacher, who later can use it to deepen some specific contents. Some of the data that these tools bring are: At what time students make homework, how much time students spend on doing it, how many times they have try and how many students answer one or other question;
  • Communication improvement: applications such as Classdojo, Edmodo or Onenote Classroom have greatly improved communication with students and families. Thanks to them, parents are informed of everything in real-time and students can work together by sharing documents. This has greatly improved their teamwork skills;
  • Digital evaluation: keeping to a large extent traditional evaluation, students have access to much more motivating evaluations. Also, the teacher receives much more information from the tests, spending less time in grading;
  • Flip Classroom: it is one of the most successful methodologies at the school. In the beginning, it was a first step for all teachers to have their own blog. Currently, many teachers are taking a step further by creating their own educational channels where they explain on a playful manner the class content. The students can watch the videos at home as many times as they want and when they finish they fill up a small digital form. The next day, the teacher knows exactly how many students have understood the subject and which sections must be reinforced;
  • Gamification: is there a better way to learn than enjoying the contents? The teachers have observed that students learn more efficiently when they are having a nice time. That’s why they have used numerous tools such as Kahoot or Socrative that serve to generate questions with a competitive nature, or others such as virtual learning environments, or the creation of video games by teachers.
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