Case Study: Falkner House

At a time when technology continues to evolve at a much greater speed than any best practices in teaching and learning, Falkner House School stands as a beacon of innovation. Not only is this small primary school in South Kensington reducing considerable amounts of paper, but as a consequence of their superb use of technology, they are saving 30 hours of classroom time per core subject teacher, every single year. The school managed to achieve this by adopting a digital approach in the classroom, equipping their students with digital notebooks on Goodnotes and the iPad. Here's how and why they made this happen.

Falkner House is an independent school in London that caters to children aged 3 to 11, with separate boys' and girls' schools and a co-educational nursery. Known for its high academic standards and broad curriculum, the school emphasises nurturing each child's character and self-esteem in a family-like atmosphere. The school is led by a forward-thinking management team, which prioritises balancing strong academics with a keen focus on personal development, kindness, and manners, ensuring a well-rounded education in one of the world's most vibrant cities.

What Drove Falkner House to Look for Digital Solutions in the Classroom?

Falkner House, as with many other schools across the globe, faced a critical challenge: to revolutionise their educational approach and increase teaching capacity in the classroom. They wished to achieve this in an era increasingly dominated by digital technology, all while addressing the environmental and efficiency concerns of traditional paper-based teaching and learning. Spearheaded by the efforts of the school’s Head of Digital Learning, Mrs Post, Falkner House strove to address the inefficiencies and ecological footprint associated with excessive paper use and a need to increase the amount of time that teachers actually spent teaching. The transition to Goodnotes was driven by a need to reduce waste, streamline processes, and adapt teaching methods for a digital future. However, this change also required overcoming hurdles such as ensuring digital literacy and maintaining inclusivity for all students. Falkner House's move towards a paperless environment reflects a strategic decision to embrace modern technology, aligning with their commitment to environmental responsibility and future-focused education​.

At Falkner House, the shift constitutes a strategic move towards streamlining workflows, preparing young learners for the future and maximising classroom time. This all became apparent after I stepped into the main reception on a cold November morning and met with Mrs Post. As the person responsible for bringing Goodnotes into the school almost a decade ago after trying out various digital note-taking apps, she told me that "the top three years of our school are completely paperless. All of the students’ classwork and homework is done in Goodnotes, which is a really simple and effective solution for what we need." The transition from analogue to digital has taken a while to perfect but now that it is fully in place, these practices exemplify the school's commitment to integrating technology seamlessly into the curriculum while taking both their environmental and productivity goals to heart.

Mrs Post continued to explain that the benefits of this integration became particularly evident during the Covid lockdown period. The ability to continue teaching without a physical school environment highlighted the platform's effectiveness. "Over lockdown we could essentially teach with no school because the teachers could see all of the children's exercise books in real time and they could mark them as they were going along," she recalled. Teachers and students took advantage of Goodnotes' link sharing feature. Each student could share a link to their exercise book with the teacher, allowing teachers to view each student's work on their own iPad. This adaptability in times of crisis underscores the resilience and foresight embedded in Falkner House's educational approach, but also the impact that a sound digital strategy can have.

Goodnotes' impact on teaching and learning at Falkner House is profound, but has only been achievable with strong and robust protocols in place to ensure both safety measures and good digital citizenship across all year groups in addition to strong professional development of faculty. Teachers leverage the app features to create interactive, personalised learning experiences. One teacher highlighted the use of Goodnotes in a lesson as he checked in on what the class were working on through his iPad: "Zoom out a little bit”, he says to one student without leaving his desk, “that's wonderful. I can see here that you've used some really interesting language." He was delivering a Year 5 English class; the students all opened their iPads at the beginning of the lesson and the teacher Air Dropped the content to them in seconds, which the learners added to their Year 5 English notebooks and began the exercise.

How Falkner House Implemented Goodnotes School-Wide

Implementing Goodnotes school-wide wasn't without its challenges, but the school's strategy was meticulous and student-centred. Peer mentoring and focused induction periods ensured that students quickly became proficient in using the application. Mrs Post described the approach: "The first week of term in Year 4 is when the students sign their iPad declaration and they are given a tutorial on basic features and functionality. By the end of the first lesson they can use Goodnotes easily. The older pupils also come in and mentor the younger ones, helping with specific questions and showcasing the work that they have been able to capture since they became Goodnotes users themselves." This collaborative learning environment not only helps in overcoming technological hurdles but also fosters a sense of community and shared responsibility among students; they want to share their work because Goodnotes allows them to be creative, colourful and imaginative with what they learn.

As far as the pupils’ parents are concerned, there were two areas in particular that they were worried about when Falkner House first brought in Goodnotes on the iPad. Mrs Post explained that “the first concern was the amount of screentime that students would get, but we explained the situation to them. We explained the difference between working screen time and entertainment screen time. If you're sitting watching something or playing a game that’s a different type of stimulation of the brain. Because nowadays, we don't worry about eye strain because you've got the auto brightness; everything works together to make sure that the light on the iPad mirrors the light around you.” Mrs Post went on to say that “it's actually better than sitting with a book because you're not straining your eyes as much. So when you are just writing a piece of work, that is no different to sitting and writing on a piece of paper and it's better physically for you because pupils have the iPad on a stand, so they can write with good posture." This was something I was able to see first hand when I visited different Year 4 and Year 5 classes throughout the day.

The second concern was that the young learners would need to write exam papers by hand at some point in the future and that they would need to practise this. Mrs Post told me that, “Any time the pupils do an exam paper, they practise on paper and simply scan it into Goodnotes afterwards so they can annotate it."

She also spoke about how the school “monitors the handwriting now to check that the handwriting on an exam paper is the same as on Goodnotes, so that we can always say to the parents, look, we are constantly monitoring this”.

Today, Falkner House Students Enjoy Digital Note-Taking with Goodnotes over Traditional Methods

Students themselves express a strong preference for Goodnotes over traditional methods. The two Year 6 students I met find it "smoother to write with" and appreciate the organisational benefits. "It's easier to keep everything neat and tidy because you know where everything is," says Claudia, who is eager to show me her most prized work from Year 4 upwards. Mrs Post confirms that the ease of use and organisation is crucial in maintaining student engagement and enthusiasm. The students are committed to doing a good job, and then revisiting their work later on because of how proud they are of what they have accomplished. “They can easily do this because it is all in one place!”

Goodnotes has also brought about significant time savings and increased productivity. Mrs Post quantifies this impact: "We earned back five hours teaching time per subject over every half a term. The time saved on handing out books, dealing with missed classes, searching for lost books, analogue marking and feedback, presentation of work, distributing materials, creating materials is exceptional." This remarkable gain in teaching time underscores the efficiency that good use of Goodnotes brings to the educational process.

In the educational landscape where digital transformation is becoming an increasing necessity in preparing young people for study, work and life ahead, Falkner House School's adoption of Goodnotes on the iPad presents a fascinating example of what might be accomplished. To find out how your school could do more to save time, improve productivity and ensure that students are at the centre of your digital strategy, contact us:

Author's note