The Open Academy in Salhouse Road, Norwich, is the 2017 national winner of BT’s annual Tech Factor competition. The competition invited schools to provide a ‘wish list’ of equipment and to demonstrate how they could make smart use of technology to enhance learning and ensure students are armed with the digital skills for a tech-savvy future.
The Open Academy beat around 50 schools to win the first prize of £10,000, which it will invest in 25 new high-spec computers to teach coding and other essential digital skills for the workplace of the future.
The academy was judged the winner based on its innovative ‘Project Refurb’, which involves students refurbishing old PCs to distribute throughout the local community.The idea was born in the classrooms of Years 7, 8 and 9. Students, while taking apart PCs and reassembling them into a working order, asked if they could give the repurposed machines to friends and family. This idea was built upon and championed by students in Years 10 and 11, who study creative media and computer science. The competition entry was planned, resourced and created by learners at the Open Academy with some guidance from sixth formers.
Mr Jerome Thompson, teacher and IT strategic lead from the Open Academy, said: “Our project is an ideal opportunity for students to not only gain practical knowledge on how computers work, but it will also allow learners to practice skills such as coding, ‘digital making’ and soft skills.
“We have always been proud of engagement with our local community and this idea, married with our ‘Eco School’ Green Flag status, seemed another terrific way to be able to give something back to our community. Winning this prize from BT will make such a difference by enabling our students to work on the latest equipment allowing students to use industry standard software for coding and digital creation and reinforce the important core values of our learners that ‘aspiration, leadership, teamwork, humility, courage, hard work, respect, service and integrity’ will be rewarded.”
Helen Slinger, BT’s chief executive of the BT Shop, said: “The number of schools requesting more powerful desktop computers is consistently high, as schools look to run more advanced art and design programmes, animation software, and provide support for virtual reality – with all of these requiring increased processing power. It’s particularly fascinating to see that the interest in virtual reality has grown significantly since last year’s competition.
“Helping school children to build the digital skills they need for the future and introducing these kinds of technologies to the classroom is a core part of our ambition.”
This year, BT was also able to award additional prizes donated by partners. Microsoft, HP, Kyocera, Epson, Fujitsu, Kensington and Brother all sponsored a prize, which gave more schools the chance to win technology.
The Tech Factor competition is part of BT’s wider Tech Literacy initiative to inspire young people in the UK to embrace the role technology plays in their lives.Also, with its Barefoot Computing Project, BT is currently offering free teaching-resources and volunteer-led training workshops, designed to help primary school teachers become more confident when teaching computer science and computing skills.