Sharing WPGA Ed Tech Innovations at Oxford University

By Dr. Peter Holowka, Director of Educational Technology
Earlier this year, I was invited to present at Oxford University at the International Conference on Educational and Information Technology. The focus of my talk was on the innovations we are implementing at West Point Grey Academy concerning educational technologies, cloud computing and our student spaces.
We are committed to delivering outstanding educational experiences to our students, and that includes updating some of our classroom spaces. As we do this, we are mindful of delivering good value and keeping project costs reasonable. The topic of keeping costs reasonable is familiar at all levels of education, and was very relevant to the Oxford conference attendees. At WPGA, we recently renovated our computer labs (room 200 in 2018 and room 206 in 2019), making them, in my opinion at least, among the finest computer labs anywhere. Thank you to the donors and all those who contributed to the projects.
As part of the computer lab renovations, we removed the fixed computers and furniture in favour of student BYOD laptops and movable furniture. This dramatically increased flexibility. This also freed enough space for us to have a massive digital display wall as well as a large secondary TV display. These are both advantageous when teaching complex, detailed technical content that requires a high resolution.
A challenge that we have remedied is the use of specialized software in an educational setting. This software was traditionally installed on computer lab workstations due to licencing or performance constraints. We have found a number of cloud computing solutions, such as Desktop as a Service (DaaS) solutions from AWS, Microsoft, and Cloudalize, to overcome this limitation. Because of the school’s earlier investments in a robust internet connection and campus-wide WiFi, these innovations are now possible.
The impact of these innovations on teaching and learning is that it makes it possible for more flexible course scheduling and, ultimately, for more students to be able to take the courses they want. Moreover, it allows students to have the option to work on computer science assignments outside of the traditional computer lab. Lastly, as BYOD and DaaS solutions become increasingly mainstream, it prepares our students for professional work in their futures.