Kenton School is one of the largest secondary schools in the country. Situated in the West-end of Newcastle, it has a real mixture of pupils from all sorts of backgrounds.
In 2003, I started working at the school and was charged with the task of developing and running their intranet. Over the next four years, I developed a custom built virtual learning environment tuned to the specific needs of staff and pupils at Kenton. The intranet grew into a massive collection of resources and tools, and the team grew to include three other developers and a designer.
Off the shelf?
It’s pretty unusual for a school to have their own in-house web team – most schools just buy an off-the-shelf product and get a teacher or IT technician to run it. It was a bold choice for Kenton to go their own way and I think it really paid off. Teachers can get really involved by coming up with ideas for tools which can be developed there and then. Working within the school you can see what ideas really engage with users and take off and you are always on hand to deal with queries or bugs.
The most basic use of the intranet is as a tool to create or upload teaching and learning resources, then organize them into lessons. It’s a web based PHP platform running of MYSQL databases on IIS.
There is a suite of tools which allow teachers to create different types of learning resources for use in lessons, or by pupils in their own time. A quiz module lets teachers create engaging quizzes in the form of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Connect 4, board games and more.
Assignments can be set for pupils, which will collect pupils’ work and give the teacher an easy interface to grade work and hand it back with comments.
Questionnaires, votes and a host of other Flash games can all by dynamically created and assigned to lessons.
A Communication Hub
In a large school like Kenton, it can be difficult to make the whole school feel united. The intranet acts as an online meeting place where staff and students can interact in a single location. School bulletins, message boards, blogs, calendars and news feeds all help to deliver information around the school.