On Thursday 23rd January, at 4.25am, four students from saltash.net community school set off on a day that would be very unlike an ordinary school day – but then, these are no ordinary students, from no ordinary school.
The OffPerts are a group of young people from saltash.net who, just over a year ago, set up their own small group. They set themselves a challenge of finding out all the ways that Office 365, a free cloud based, collaborative platform from Microsoft, could help and benefit their education – thus making them “Office Experts”. When they realised how much of an impact the tools were having on their learning, they took a very altruistic approach to try and encourage its use all over the UK, and if possible, the world. Since starting their ‘mission’ the OffPerts have been invited to Microsoft HQ, given regular Radio and Online interviews, contributed to features in over 5 magazines, and clocked up thousands of YouTube hits.
January 23rd, however, was a first for the OffPerts, and actually a very rare occasion for anyone – the OffPerts were invited to present at BETT. BETT, or the British Education and Training Technology conference is one of the biggest such conferences in the World, and has hundreds of national, and international exhibitors. Taking place in London’s Excel centre, every year around 30,000 people from 100 different countries flock to the event. This year, they would also get the chance to see The OffPerts.
After the five hour trip to the venue (and due to the rail works and diversions not even chance to get a ‘bacon bap’) the OffPerts arrived, kitted out in their exclusive OffPerts Live t-shirts. After picking up their exhibitor passes they proceeded straight to the stand to prepare. During the next eight hours, the students presented about saltash.net, its use of Office 365, and everything they have been doing as OffPerts, to the thousands of visitors in attendance.
Enrichment Coordinator at the school, and OffPerts Founder Scott Wieprecht, commented, “What a fantastic achievement this has been for our students. In just over 12 months the OffPerts have gone from a small hobby group, to presenting on a world stage. Their use of Office 365 is widely known and we get weekly requests from schools for assistance on how to best use it in learning.”
One OffPert in attendance, George Lambert-Gorwyn, added “We had an amazing day. We got to present about the latest technology, and were one of a very small group of young people that can say they have ever presented at BETT.” Fellow OffPert Jack Baker added, “What a brilliant day, not only did we get to present, but we also got to look around at all the other technology and recommend what we think our school should invest in next.” When asked about their favourite piece of new technology, they all had similar answers: the humanoid robot, and 3D printers.
Also accompanying on the Trip were Deputy Head, Dan Buckley, and Head of Year 7, Ben Rowe, who added, “The students impressed so much with what they were doing at the conference. They were interviewed live on the radio whilst still at the event presenting.”
The students also got to meet Sarika Rao, who is the senior product manager for Office 365 in education, and let her know all their plans for the coming months. “All the students had great fun, and showcased themselves and our school superbly!” added Mr Wieprecht “They also got a fair few freebies from pens and rubbers, to mugs and even footballs!”
The four Offperts: George Lambert-Gorwyn; Jack Baker; Isaac Jewell; Max Frost