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The Sky’s the Limit for New Era IT Showcase School Owairoa Primary School

Or is it? Owairoa Primary School is New Era IT’s first Showcase School. E-Learning Facilitator Kirsty Rice writes about their cloud journey and what’s next for the innovative school.

Instead of starting our ascent up into the atmosphere we found ourselves descending towards the Earth at a fast rate of knots.

Back in 2012, we had hit rock bottom. Our on-site full-time technician had left for another job and we were left with no one who was experienced enough to replace him. Our network was very unreliable and was unable to support the infrastructure and classroom programmes and our equipment was fast becoming outdated.

It is from this baseline that we started our journey and began our ascent again. After much discussion and research with key management people and our Board of Trustees, it was decided to employ New Era as our key IT provider (a good decision that has only enhanced our journey upward). Our school signed up for N4L to get ultra-fast broadband and we got SNUP to ensure all learning spaces were IT ready. New Era was with us during this journey to explain the process and to challenge our thinking to ensure we were future proofing our decisions as much as possible.

Another key decision on our journey was the question of purchase and ownership of IT equipment. Previously we purchased all our own equipment but this left us with a lot of outdated equipment that was no longer under warranty and often didn’t fit with our current pedagogy requirements. We reviewed our funding arrangements and started to lease our IT equipment which meant that we could keep equipment for 3 years before renewing it and should anything happen to it, it was still under warranty. This did come with its own issues with the Government’s constraints on the proportion of money a school can spend on leasing. Our school is now multi-platform hosting a range of PC desktops, laptops, iPads and our latest adventure into Chrome books.

“We particularly like the levels of service experience within the New Era organisation so if our on-site tech does not know a solution to a problem he could escalate it to a team of engineers who through collective wisdom, will be better able to solve any scenario that we have  encountered.”

– Kirsty Rice, eLearning Facilitator, Owairoa Primary School

We also host BYOD for our Year 5 and 6 students. This leasing strategy means that we now able to change what devices we use to suit our Strategic Plan and current pedagogical practices. We are finding the type of equipment found in each classroom level has changed based on the needs of the students and the programme that is running.

In 2016 we saw another major change in our ICT infrastructure. We were faced with another big issue with our then current servers being out of warranty and lacking storage space. Should we replace our servers and get new ones or should we move to the Cloud? We researched what was available in terms of cloud storage and decided to move to New Era’s cloud. Although the move to the cloud went relatively smoothly we were pleased to have the expertise of New Era team on board to oversee the process, as we did come into a few difficulties initially with moving some software e.g. our accounting software, into the cloud.

In terms of financial planning and budget projections, we felt it was appropriate and prudent to sign up to the New Era Ultra Gold Plan. This gave us peace of mind as we could budget accurately and not be faced with a lot of hidden costs. This was particularly important to our school where we saw a growing proportion of our operation grant going into ICT.

We particularly like the levels of service experience within the New Era organisation so if our on-site tech does not know a solution to a problem he could escalate it to a team of engineers who through collective wisdom, will be better able to solve any scenario that we have encountered. We now have regular meetings with our Client Manager, and Education and Client Services Manager. At these meetings we explore current trends in ICT, we are introduced to new technology or new ways of thinking and ensuring we are future proofing any decisions that we make.

We effectively run an on-site help desk where we have an on-site tech for 16 hours per week. Our help desk requests are run through a ticket system. Analysis of these ticket requests are then fed back into our PLD programme to up-skill staff and thus over time reducing the number of tickets that appear on the help desk work schedule.

With all these changes in place, we are now confident our IT infrastructure is sound and is able to support the growing demands it is receiving with IT in our school. Teachers are now confident that the IT component of their programme will be reliable. We are now able to allocate more money into teacher PLD to continue to explore and challenge teacher’s pedagogical beliefs to ensure quality learning outcomes for the students at our school. Our journey of discovery has seen us travel on a steep learning curve towards the clouds but will we stop there or go beyond? ■

Kirsty Rice
E-Learning Facilitator
Owairoa Primary School
www.owairoa.school.nz

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At a Glance
  • Client:Owairoa Primary Schools
  • Solutions:Cloud, Managed ICT Support
  • School Website:Visit Link