I'd like to introduce Umran Naeem, Director of ICT at the RSA Academy, who has kindly written this thought provoking guest blog on a recent blue sky thinking session between the Academy and RM Education. Over to you, Umran!

Blue Sky Thinking

Thursday 16th May 2011 saw the strengthening of the RSA Academy and RM Education strategic partnership. Staff and students from the Academy and the RM Product Managers led by Mike Beech (Head of Product Marketing, Classroom Technologies) were involved in a joint session exploring and discussing technology and the future.

The afternoon started off with the Product Managers being given a brief overview of the Academy and a tour. Mike had this to say about the Academy…

An incredible school and learning environment where you can instantly see and "feel" the difference. The teaching philosophy, supported by the use of space (from roof-tops to expanding classrooms) and technology, clearly demonstrated a school with vision and a real passion for learning. We couldn't have asked for a more engaging partner.
'Mike Beech, Head of Product Marketing

About the RSA Academy

The RSA Academy is an independent academy sponsored by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce (RSA), a charitable organisation with a long history of involvement in education. The Academy opened in September 2008 in Willingsworth High School's old premises. The move to a brand new £35m build was completed in September 2010 with RM providing all the key technology. The curriculum for the Academy has been developed around the Opening Minds principles. Its aim is to develop students' skills, or 'competencies' to enable them to become effective citizens of the 21st century.

I thought it was very useful to listen to the students' ideas for innovation and the future classrooms.  It was also useful to discuss the ideas with RM and to see the emerging technology that could be used in schools.
Danielle Wilkinson, Opening Minds Team Leader

Classroom of the Future

The six students involved in the afternoon were part of the Academy Lead Learners group. The first session, 'Classroom of the Future', was an opportunity for all involved to engage in some "Blue Sky" thinking and predict what a classroom of the future may look like. Amongst some of the great ideas from the students were to have a classroom with all walls being interactive and an 'intelligent' 3D projector which would research information for you and produce it in 3D holographic form.

It was an excellent opportunity to discuss problems and solutions with RM's Product Managers. One which I'm keen to see happen again. What a fantastic day!
Tim Morton, Network Manager

The role of mobile devices in Education

The second session tackled the topic of 'The role of mobile devices in education'. This is a key area under consideration for the Academy as there is so much mobile technology available. As the Academy wishes to remain at the forefront of integrating new technology into the curriculum, it needed the answering of questions such as what is the best mobile hardware available, what is the best approach to harnessing this technology? This session provided the opportunity with the students again excelling at their responses and the RM Product Managers providing some excellent supporting guidance.

Wouldn't it be nice...

The final part of the afternoon involved the Product Managers demonstrating some of the latest RM products and getting feedback on likes/dislikes and 'would be nice if…' The students agreed that their favourite product was the 'Wild Charge' units.

I certainly learnt a lot from this meeting. I really enjoyed it.
' Ajay, Lead Learner

Engaging with the real business world

At the end of the afternoon, a review of the day took place and everyone agreed what a success the whole experience had been. The Academy Lead Learners are often called upon to feedback within the Academy but they felt that this unique opportunity to talk directly to the Product Managers was beneficial both in terms of putting a 'face' to RM and engaging with the real business world.

It was a great session – the opportunity for our students to work with RM Education staff in this way and to influence how future technologies may develop is truly unique. The strength of our strategic partnership is that it is focused on shared learning, research and development. A fantastic melting pot of ideas!
Mick Gernon, Principal

Thank you to the staff and students of the RSA Academy for their warm welcome, and to Umran for a super reflection of the day. Find out more about the RSA Academy.

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