For this month’s Blog, I have chosen to return to the theme of new technologies.
Some months ago, I wrote that John Taylor was on a journey to harness technologies in order to improve learning – naturally – but also to improve communication. Yesterday saw the launch of a “JTHS App”, now downloadable from the Android Market (or GooglePlay as it is now known), and its arrival at the Apple AppStore for iPhone users is imminent. The App itself draws useful information straight from our website (for example, “Latest News”, the events calendar), our hugely-popular Twitter feed, and also enables connection to ParentPay, GCSEPod, our Facebook Newsfeed and the Learning Gateway. At one day old, and “version 1.0”, there will inevitably be bugs to iron out and improvements to add. However, the message of my blog is more about how this development reflects so much about our school in microcosm.

First, this is part of a “big picture” of new technologies that includes the GCSEPod revision tool, Gmail accounts for all, a new virtual learning environment, ‘ClickView’ resource storage, Kindles and iPads, a total campus Wi-Fi installation over Easter, and new servers and computers.

These developments are not ends in themselves: they are the ‘luggage’ we need to pack as we embark on a 21st Century learning and communication journey. They enable us to make our ideas real.

This is my second point about John Taylor: we innovate. We are the first UK state school with such an App. This reflects the passion and commitment of our staff and pupils to look creatively at what we do, and what we could do. Our new Year 7 project-based learning further indicates this. As the first ‘converter’ academy in the County, and one of the first in the country, we are prepared to step out. In a world with an insatiable appetite for innovation, we must lead our pupils by example. Innovation is a way to gain advantage: to leapfrog others who were ahead. As such, we must ‘walk the talk’ for our pupils.
Third, we are trying to communicate in ways that suit an increasing number of our intended audience. With over 1100 followers on Twitter, a popular Facebook feed, e-mail, Gmail and texts, we can send and receive information much more effectively. However, we’ll always be there for the face-to-face stuff too! To me, that remains at the heart of relationships that are successful.

Finally, it is an indication that the staff can respond quickly. I first went “kite flying” about the possibilities of a mobile version of our website twelve days ago. Within three days we had a prototype app developing, and now we’re at launch.

There is a “buzz” around the school that is palpable. Technology is not for the whizzes and bangs, but for creating learning opportunities and, perhaps most importantly, pump-priming the imagination of all of us. Exciting times ahead!

Thank you for reading. Our App can be downloaded via the Android Market (search for “JTHS”, or follow the link from the QR Code above).

M Donoghue

Posted by JTMAT