From Hardware to Online Language Teaching, the Stromness Academy Journey with Sanako


David8 months ago2 min read

Situated in the beautiful Orkney Islands North of Scotland, Stromness Academy is a six-year comprehensive school serving the West Mainland of Orkney. We currently have about 350 pupils, which means that the school is large enough to provide all the main academic subjects, but small enough for it to be friendly and welcoming. The school began life in the 1870s in the centre of Stromness, and many generations of former pupils in all walks of life remember their days there with great affection. Over 25 years ago, we moved into a purpose-built new school on the outskirts of the town, which was officially opened on 11th September 1990.

We have always been very proud of our hardware Sanako language labup here in Stromness Academy. Installed in the early 2000s and with 27 booths we loved the fact that we could take in whole classes or set it up for small groups. And then there were the different functions – the way that pupils could control the audio tracks themselves when tackling listening comprehension tasks, the ease of setting up and managing paired and group speaking tasks and that’s before you add in the obvious pupil enjoyment every time we went in to use the lab. It was reliable too- very few problems in almost twenty years use. Readers will have noted however the use of the past tense and might be wondering, if you found your lab so useful, why does it sound like the affair is over?

The lab like our classrooms sat empty, gathering dust from the end of March this year through to the start of the new school year in August when we switched to working from home using Microsoft Teams. Our Language teachers adapted quickly (as you might expect linguists to do!) and once our classes were established in routines we took some time to consider the ‘what next ‘question. That sudden change in our way of working gave us an unexpected opportunity to really reflect on our work and to plan the next steps for the department.

Our plans definitely included the lab- but we needed something more flexible in the way it could be used, that was not only available in one particular room and that could be used when pupils weren’t actually in schoolwith us. Emails to David Binns at Sanako and then a Zoom call with him whilst he demonstrated Sanako Connect and Pronounce Live and we were delighted – this is exactly what we were looking for, and so much more! We had 3 month trial licences issued so that we could really get a good idea of whether this was right for us before going ahead with the purchase for the start of 2021. It was a resounding success in all areas, so whatever the COVID situation, or the weather, we can continue our languages lessons which students really enjoy. So that marks the next stage in the relationship between Stromness Academy Modern Languages Department and Sanako- 20 years together and still going strong

Helen Wailoo, PT Modern Languages, Stromness Academy