Buttons … None of them are like the other

Today, I have been working on a very delayed project of making our wedding album. Being very awkward and not wanting someone to create it for me, it went into a very long list of things to do, travelling to Abu Dhabi with us, unfinished.

So what has my craft-a-noon got to do with education and children?

Well, as I glue down a random assortment of buttons into the pages of the album, I began to muse about how beautiful each button was, and now none of them is the same at all—a little bit like our classrooms.

Why do I think this? OK buttons to me are extraordinary; it was part of the “theme” of my wedding; buttons all have a history, a past and a future. They were sprinkled everywhere as a homage to my grandma’s, who collected buttons in special boxes (like many grandparents of their time, I am sure). As a child, I adored looking through them. Everyone my grandma could tell me a story about where it had been or why she had kept it. I inherited the button boxes, which I keep with me. I ordered and trawled charity shops for the buttons making bouquets and decorations for tables with 100’s of them.

So I digress.

Buttons.

Each button, like a child, tells a story. So when I look at the somewhat random selection of green, blue, ivory, mother of pearl, ornate and circular buttons, I am reminded as an educator how much buttons are like those beautiful people who sit in our classes every day and ask us to support them, teach them, nurture them and grow them into people skilled to take on the world.

As a button, we may not know the full extent of where a child has come from, how many tops or cardigans a button has belonged to, or homes and carers.

We may look at a button and think it is the same as all the others, just like a child standing in front of us, who reminds us of another we have taught, or even their sibling, but we may not see the loose threads which hold it together or the quirky style which makes them individual.

We may, at first glance, think a button is bright and shiny, but when we come to thread it to the garment, we may find that it is layered, making it difficult to fix, just like a child hiding behind their bravado. Shouting out or being the joker, hiding what is really inside.

We may think a button is dull and serious, but as a child, this is no reason to disregard and believe it is ok to get on their own; this button can hold together, strengthening situations, show them what makes them special.

You may see a broken button, consider that it has no value or worth, but every button has its power, worth and ability to be the best.

Every child deserves the best.

Your classroom is full of buttons; every child will experience different things, sees the world from a different perspective. Our job is to make every button shine brightly, find the garment that suits them, nurture them and help them thrive, sewing them into the fabric of life, which are strong enough to take on the world.

Developing Digital Literacy: Part one – Digital Portfolios

With digital technology becoming more prevalent in our schools, we must ensure that it is added to school teaching and learning. Otherwise, why are we using it at all?

Over the last year, I have been working with my team to support teachers in embedding digital literacy into their subjects.

[This has been in conjunction with a range of other elements within the school.]

In term one, staff were encouraged to use core elements set out during our remote learning period and just prior.

Such as:

  • Seesaw (Foundation Stage 1 – Year 4)
  • Google Classroom (Year 5-13)

Being specific has allowed consistency across year groups for teachers and parents to engage with their children’s work and support, especially those at home. As a school, we use these. The same can be seen across other schools, using Microsoft or platforms like Showbie or Edmodo.

In addition to this, we had also been delivering professional development for Google Certified Educator, Apple Teacher and Seesaw ambassadors. This allowed self-paced learning, completing badges and courses enabled staff to see their digital technology skills grow. They were embedding it as they develop and also relevant as they were using it daily.

They were doing small things over time, reflecting on how it changed their workflow and supported students to engage in learning. This works, regardless of hybrid, remote or in school learning. Pacing the development of staff allows time to develop skills meaningfully.

To ensure all staff confidence, quick things like:

  • Survey confidence regularly
  • Asking if staff want to share skills they have learnt, being “champions.”
  • Use colleagues to check in on staff who shared their concerns about digital literacy, support them with informal chats

You can also keep an eye on any admin platforms.

I have found that this is a great way to ensure that staff are confidently using technology.

E.g. on Seesaw you can show consistency across a year group. The work being posted home or comments and feedback. In schools, it can be hard to have one class sending 100s of posts a week and another sending less than 50.

This disparity shows us as teachers that there is a confidence issue, but equally, is anther teacher using it too much? Can co-teaching then be introduced? The teacher posting more can support and guide the year group, showing simple ways to develop the platforms’ use.

Having now embedded digital portfolios and classrooms it improved students ability to be independent, to develop their reflection skills; they are notified when feedback is given, and they have work ready for them when they need to revise. Throughout the school, students develop new skills in using digital technology, from scanning in written work or completing quizzes to typing an assignment and collaborating on documents for a group task.

Even with small changes like embedding a core platform to have all students digital and none digital work is building skills for students which can be developed and adapted over time. Tangible skills are going to be beneficial to them in the future.

Feedback from students this year has been:

  • They know what is expected of them for every task
  • They know how and when things need to be handed in
  • They are able to access and use the feedback given to them in a more meaningful way to in their physical books, notifications make this simpler and help them to be organised
  • They are in control of their own progression, being able to challenge themselves or find additional work to do if they complete tasks before others.

ADAPT – Thrive on the Momentum

The COVID whirlwind is still spiralling for many educators. Education technology has been brought to the forefront of everyone’s minds, so where next and what should we do to ensure that it is meaningful and the best for every child?

Over the last 18 months, schools have been through digital transformations, planned possibly, but equally faster than anticipated. Now schools worldwide are using technology in classrooms to differing degrees, but how do we strike a balance between this being meaningful or being overused and unsupportive of students’ learning outcomes?

From working with on developing digital learning, technology has seen been seen as a gimmick. I, for one, know after delivering over 1000 hours of CPD online to educators in the first lockdown alone that digital learning is now being seen as much more than just the shiny new toy.

We have full attention!

But how do we transition from “surviving” through COVID to “thriving” with learning as our end goal?

And, with so many staff now engaged in the concept of digital learning, we need to keep this momentum going.

We reflect…

Given the task of looking at how well technology and digital literacy have developed in school, I took the opportunity also to change perceptions of how learning walks could be completed in a way which focused on being able to adapt and develop our teaching and learning methods continually.

Without “formal” judgment. But with relevant outcomes to nurture a sense of success for the things which work and we should hold onto, share and develop.

To make the impact and outcomes of digital learning tangible to leadership and stakeholders, I needed to use a visual framework for success. The outcomes could then link to what we can still be improved.

I took insight from the ADAPT model, presented by Oliver Caviglioli and Tom Sherrington in their book Teaching WalkThrus: Five-step guides to instructional coaching. Coaching is vital; we are not judging but supporting one another to achieve our goals.

One of the reasons I chose this model as opposed to the “traditional” learning walk was due to the nature of it being an ongoing concept of ADAPT-ing & Coaching.

I know I feel panic and pressure to perform if someone is coming into my classroom when planned, no matter my experience in some schools for teachers to not receive any feedback. I much prefer an open door, a community of sharing good practice. Not the case in all schools, so I hope this idea can provide some ideas about how to think differently.

What is ADAPT?

Attempt, Develop, Adapt, Practice & Test.

So to begin my review, I looked at the ADAPT model and also looked at the Apple Rubric from the book Elements of learning, something which I have used in several schools to support embedding meaningful digital concepts; I modified the Apple Rubric reducing the criteria’s to three areas,

  • Using digital skills in lessons
  • Students understanding of how to use digital tools
  • Enhancement of the subject

I love a rubric, the use of them in lessons is supportive to our students, guiding them, developing, showing what is expected, so it made sense to have a similar tack when completing a learning walk.

The rubric allowed assessment of how well digital technology has been integrated into the schools teaching and learning. The primary outcome being that students understood what they were being taught and that it was helpful to their learning outcomes, not an add on. From my perspective as well, having completed one 18 months ago, it was interesting to compare the progress of the strategy.

To be able to assess this, the “learning walk” would take the format of the following:

Element One: Staff Survey

Questions designed to encourage personal reflection, allowing recognition of how far they have come in 12 months, considering the weeks and additions in line with the students in front of you, the context of curriculum and new technology or tools available to you.

  • Focusing on one essential subject or lesson, where do you place yourself in the ADAPT model?
  • Considering the same essential subject or lesson, where would you like to be on the ADAPT model next term?
  • How do you rate your confidence in using digital technology?
  • Has digital literacy been added to your curriculum?

To support, I created a document explaining the ADAPT concept to staff, so they could confidently answer the question. They are considering all of the new tools they have been using.

This was important, I find a big barrier to digital teaching and learning is this concept that you must “master” when in reality, digital learning will forever change, so we should always be re-evaluating our practice.

  • Staff confidence in delivering digital learning is now rated 4/5 for 84% of staff
  • Staff feel they are not at “attempt” but continually working around, develop, adapt and practice, using skills they have learnt.
  • 70% of staff said that Digital Literacy was now fully embedded within their subject.

Element Two: Student Surveys

The final element of the process was to speak to our main “stakeholders” the students. Where better to get our feedback about how we as teachers are doing than to ask our students. Asking a range of questions, a few are below;

  • What subjects have you enjoyed the most this term?
  • What piece of work have you used technology with which has been most enjoyable?
  • Do you prefer lessons that involve the use of technology?
  • If you were in charge of digital learning what would you implement?

I love the honesty of students, you find out so much, refreshing and mature when asked direct questions. They feel empowered to be able to support, what did it say?

  • Student enjoys being able to learn new skills to show off their knowledge.
  • Students feel they are more organised since introducing google classroom, they are more in control of revision materials, hand in dates and lesson tasks are clear.
  • Students enjoy having verbal feedback recorded as they can reflect on it again when they complete work.
  • Students feel there is less anxiety towards doing assessments as teachers are completing more quizzes and mini assessments.

The rubric allowed me to assess how well digital technology has been integrated into the schools teaching and learning, the main outcome is that students understood what they were being taught and that it was useful to their learning outcomes.

The rubric was also shared with staff before the learning walk to show what is being looked at. Transparency is key to being able to gain trust and to in turn be able to support staff.

Element Three: Student Portfolios or shared work

One of the things we asked students to do was share their favourite project and tell us why it was so engaging and fun. This was a great way to find out the skills they had learnt and also if they had been able to challenge themselves and their subject and even chose relevant software to complete tasks.

Top skills learnt by students from using digital technology,

Research, Independent learning and Creativity

with students feeling like having digital tools allowed them to blend subjects and learning helping them to achieve more.

How amazing!

So why ADAPT and ask what is going on?

I believe that if we do not acknowledge the achievements and learning which we as teachers have taken on in the last 12 months, then what have we achieved? We risk those staff, who before COVID would have ignored digital technology, simply put down the device, ignoring the impact it has had on reducing their mark load or how their consistent approach to formative assessment has strengthened their understanding of students knowledge gaps.

We must embrace the positive developments which it has had on our working systems, removing the things which we no longer need to waste time on, or those things as restrictions ease can be done in traditional senses.

Embedding digital learning fully, by understanding what is being enjoyed, what can be removed and what can be learnt from is an important step to being able to develop a digital balance. Where digital learning is meaningful and relevant.

Next Steps

    Looking at consistent use of quizzing apps in lessons so students achievement is not based on time or literacy
    Using less technology when it is not necessary (We are currently in a hybrid model) Students recognise that we don’t always need the device to complete tasks, so when this is the case, lets not.
    Ensuring that we don’t always give students an option of digital tool, some are swaying to “easy” when the tools could differentiate and support them to challenge themselves.

So where next?

We can see what is going well and areas to improve, in term three, we will focus as departments to use the rubric when considering using technology as part of a lesson or a project, the beginning stage embedding in the planning. Using all our digital tools to ADAPT and make sure it is worthwhile, relevant and supports learning.

Technology for learning is not a gimmick, we should be making sure it is fit for purpose, it continually develops, so do we. Keep the momentum going by acknowledging how far you have come.

Embedding a Digital Strategy

Beginning a new project at a school can be daunting at any time. Developing ones which are all about change can be full of sharp corners. Here are my top tips for creating a digital strategy in your school

Engage all stakeholders

Regardless of if you have been in a school a while or you are new in a role for digital learning or strategy, it is crucial to ensure that you find everyone’s voice. The best advice I was given was to survey people and find out what they want, need and would like. Getting everyone’s thoughts on what changes are likely to be made will ensure that you have to buy-in from everyone. This is not to say you can please everyone, but it will allow you to have reasonable grounds for the decisions you make moving forwards. With this, I also mean the students, making significant changes to the way students learn, this question should also be opened up to them.

Find out what is necessary and what works: Streamline

All schools will have systems in place for student data like iSams or Engage, but if you are a small school you may not have much else specifically in place which is “necessary” to the workings of the school. For example,

  • Is your VLE fit for purpose?
  • Do you have a school website which has a parent portal?
  • Is it accessed frequently and upto date?
  • Do you use an online portfolio? Or are there more than one in place? If so, why?
  • How many apps are you using? Do they all link to the curriculum? How do they get selected?

Reviewing what is being used is so important, regardless of the size of your school, using similar systems will support not only the ability to train staff confidently to use the platforms but also allow parents to be able to understand and engage in the platform, if they have more than one child in a school, it can be hard to understand why they need to get to grips with viewing so many.

In addition to the larger platforms, making sure that the apps you have are fit for purpose is helpful to being able to get rid of paid apps and free apps which show adverts more that then do teach skills. Review apps in line with the curriculum, is there a new app out there which can help to enhance the project?

  • Have you chosen to use a different phonics style and are the apps you had still relevant to teach those core skills.
  • Could you take students on an adventure by adding in some augmented reality into the lesson?
  • Can an app save teacher time and support formative assessment?

Find innovators

Be excited with those staff in your school who are really enthused about what technology in the classroom can do. They are powerful, supporting and spreading their understanding in ways which you cannot do alone. Some schools call them “digital leaders” or “digital champions” but either way having peers who allow staff to knock on their door for a quick show and tell about the work they are doing is invaluable.

These people are also on the ground with different types of students, primary, secondary, classroom based or specialists so they bring so many different elements into the teaching and learning arena. Things you may not have thought about, things which can be shared that did not work as well, ways to use tech differently.

But most of all, they are a direct peer support, they don’t play with tech every day, they just use simple tools for big outcomes. Removing fear from the concept.

Develop strong links to the curriculum

Once teachers have had time to play around with technology, be it before or after COVID, make sure it is then being linked to the learning happening;

  • What is the app for?
  • Does it enhance the topic or subject?
  • Would the topic or subject be the same without it?
  • Can it help collate results as formative or summative assessment?
  • Can it stretch and challenge?
  • Does it need to be taught as part of the lesson to be used correctly?
  • Is it suitable for the age range?

When embedding a meaningful digital strategy, the steps along the way should be considered, otherwise the project will be undermined. Doubts about its suitability and functionality. A bit of leg work at the beginning will go along way.

Review, reflect and adapt

Do not assume that what is working now will work forever, continually itterate, review, refresh. Technology changes and so should our working practices in the classroom. When trying new things, making people aware that it is ok to change, make errors and for it not to work, we may try ten things with only one or two being successful and kept, but it will be worth trying new things, pushing the boundaries and finding out what fits you and your schools ecosystem.

Remember

In the current educational climate, the last few are so important. Embrace what has been working really well with your staff and students learning. Find ways to share successes. Continually reflect. Technology isnt just for remote teaching, it can have a lasting, positive, impact on education.

If you are looking for inspiration on where to start have a look at the following guides for support:

NetSupport’s guide for developing a digital strategy

– Apple’s Elements of Leadership and their range of books on developing educational technology.

NOT: Teachers are Binary

Binary Logic, believe me, I find this hard to get my head around, especially when it comes to NOT.  I had fun this week playing the opposites game with students trying to help them (and me) get their heads around it.

Basically, anything with NOT in front is a false statement (see title)

I found myself pondering, after speaking to colleagues and friends in the teaching profession, the concept that people believe that teachers are in fact, binary.

We are not. 

So binary represents 1 = True and 0 = False. A concept with no variables in between. Now that I am a teacher of computer science. I understand this and can deconstruct this concept, and as I with everything I do, I reflect on how it is in real life.

Tangible  

A teacher, in my view, is a malleable character, you begin your career with the concept that you will be everything, and I do not mean by choice this is part of the role as an educator.  We are the tutor, the teacher, the expert, the friendly, the stern and the fun—all in the aim to inspire students in our care of any age. 

As we progress in the profession, it is expected, if you want to progress, to choose, Pastoral Or Academic? Once this choice has been made, there is very little movement for many into the other areas of the school.  But surely a well rounded leader is able to be malleable to all features of school life?

Pastoral OR Academic 

Becomes…

NOT: Pastoral = Academic

Or 

NOT: Academic = Pastoral 

This is similar to those who are into education technology, I find conversations with my EdTech peers that more often than not they become “IT Support”.

“Ask X they can help with the IT, thats what they do. We can sort the Ed bit after” 

Yet the passion which drives people interested in educational technology is the chance for it to enable, support and enhance a students wellbeing, progress, access … I could go on. 

Coming from a background in design and technology, my passion for education technology is most definitely the latter, having struggled at school, I know my experience would have been far greater, easier and more enjoyable, had I had some of the tools which are in place now.  

I find the ability to blend cognitive development, pedagogy and learning is incredible. 

So I thought I would shout out to some of the incredible educators who are most definitely not binary, they are

supportive, collaborative and brilliant, bluring the boundaries of what is expected. 

Not just teachers and most definitely not IT (NB: nothing wrong with IT, but teachers come into a different bracket, with many variables, even those who teach IT can do more than “just” IT).

So if you are looking for #ResearchED, check out: @87History @OLewis_coaching @DigiLin_

If you are looking for scaffolding and resources for primary, check out: @MrDigiTechSabe @JacobWoolcock

Need empowering secondary resources, you need to see: @XpatEducator @CyresDt

Creativity don’t miss: @MrsHilltoutArt @BenHaydenEDU @clive_gibson

Outstanding professional development: @ICTEvangelist @TechMrHenderson @EvoHannan

Inspiring blended learning and classroom ideas: @mrlewis_edu @MrAndiPrice @mcoutts81 @MrGeorgeStokes

The whole school package @ICTEvangelist @PeterHyman21 @DepHead_Jones

(I could hand out Twitter handles all day long of the people who inspire me. If you are looking for direction or help with getting some support, reach out to me and I will do my best to help!)

I hope you enjoy checking out these educators, I get so inspired by them, I thank them wholeheartedly for their passion and drive as educators. 

They are not binary

They are educators 

I am a Woman in Education #Wii_Edu

My name is Philippa Wraithmell; I am 34 years old. I live in the UAE and have a husband and two children, 10 and 6 years old. Why am I beginning this blog as though I am 5 years old writing my biography in a literacy class? 

Because education is one of the few professional sectors where this can truly define who you are. It can limit opportunities and allows people to make judgment upon you without knowing the whole story. 

To profile me as an educator, you would know this: 

Teacher with 12 + years experience as a middle and senior leader, Apple Distinguished Educator, BETT MEA Board Member, Innovation in Education Award winner. Qualified Safeguarding level 3.

This is my story.

This summer, I was reached out to by an incredible educator, Linda Parsons, who wanted my support to create a culture where we could change the mindset and support other women, no matter their leadership goals or background.

We are Women who Innovate, Integrate and Educate.

We are Wii_Edu, and this is my story. 

Twelve years ago, I left my career in the buying industry to follow a passion for education and become a teacher.  I had recently found out that due to several operations over the years that it was unlikely I would be able to have children, and I wanted to be in a position that if I were ever lucky enough to have them, I would be able to have time to spend and share with them.  I had made the right decision. The moment I stood in front of a class, I knew I was in the right place.  

I began my PGCE in Design and Technology in Nottingham, where I then successfully gained my NQT position at a school at an inner-city school.

Curious, questioning, driven, passionate and excited, I was raring to go. 

However, in term three of my PGCE, I was pregnant with my first child. I was so fortunate that my headteacher understood my position, and I had been able to build strong relationships with staff having done my PGCE there. They were happy for me to begin still and join as soon as I could.  However, the news was less well taken by my university, who told me that I had ruined my career. I would never be taken seriously. 

After a complicated and almost fatal pregnancy, I had three months off before beginning my teaching career properly.  In the background, my husband had just started a new job as well. He has always been a co-parent with me, and we look after each other, our children and our family as a team, my job at that time put food on the table and clothes on our backs. It was tough, leaving my new baby, one which I never thought I would have the opportunity to have, but I had to go back to work as the primary earner that was and is my role. 

My first months back were hard. I had a female colleague who refused to leave the room I had been given to express my milk over my lunch breaks to provide me with privacy; due to her long-standing role, the school sided with her, and I found myself expressing in the cleaners cupboard so that I could still feed my newborn baby.  In those first few months, I found myself faced with emotions which were high and a lack of support. I was a young teacher, back at work, night feeding as her baby refused a bottle and wouldn’t drink the gallons of milk expressed*1. 

If anything, this position drove me to make a stand.  Although scared, I made a formal complaint.  The woman retired at the end of the year.  No genuine support was given to me, but this made me want to do more to make sure no one was ever in my position.  

By the end of that academic year, I was promoted to second in department, I cannot say I remember a lot of that year, but I know that I got up every day, and I knew I could do more, do better and teach those children who needed me to show up.  It is schools like this one that show us how privileged we are to come from loving homes and backgrounds.  They needed me more than I needed sleep.   

Within two years, I was running a department in a failing school which we had taken over as part of an academy. I took this on with excitement and vision. Over the years, which I was, there was able to:

  • Build a department with 5+ confident staff 
  • Mentor staff deemed to be “failing” (awful word) to deliver outstanding results
  • AQA Assessor for GCSE DT 
  • Write relevant, innovative schemes of work
  • Recreate the assessment for the subject to allow for progress
  • Introduced a policy that ALL students, regardless of background, be given food technology supplies to teach them how to cook healthy meals. *2 
  • Delivered parents cooking sessions for low budget meals
  • Created an Annual careers day for design and technology industries 3*
  • Highest opted for the subject in the school
  • Second highest grades for GCSE in the school (maths being No.1)

It is when you write it down that you can realise what you have achieved. My goal was to show them how important design and technology is as a subject, especially to that community, to share tangible links between school and their futures. 

I applied for other leadership roles within the school. Others were promoted. My line manager of 2014 asked me what my future goals were when I told her; she laughed at me. She told me it wasn’t a thing to improve schools and departments. Had I thought about just maybe leading a more significant department?

So I decided to try and have another baby, as clearly, my life goals were laughable.  I had six months this time.  I was raring to get back; aside from everything, I was saddened to hear that standards had been allowed to drop. 

And then in January of 2015, as I came in from break duty, also to note having broken up a fight, a male member of the SLT walked past sniggering when questioned, I asked what it was. 

“Have they not told you yet? They are cutting your subject from GCSE…” 

And he walked away. 

Furious, I spoke to my line manager, an incredible woman, who had no idea, checked and found it true.  

No one had told me because “they didn’t have time”—the lack of respect at that moment in time. 

  • Because I led DT?
  • Because I am a woman?
  • Because I am young?

Or actually, because they know me and they knew I would give 101 reasons why that was a wrong decision for the school and the pupils of that school specifically.  They took the easy way and hoped I wouldn’t notice or mind. 

I did mind; I quit. I left that August. 

I moved to another school in September, Head of DT again. I love my subject.

Within weeks, I found myself having similar conversations with the SLT.  

  • The staff are failing
  • The department is rubbish
  • No one will visit on open evening

I found it astonishing, I rallied around the students and staff, showcased work, had GCSE pupils cooking live, and the head of school walked in and said, 

“ 3D printer… seen that before. I don’t know why you’re bothering, and We don’t even tell parents to come to the DT on the open evening. They don’t care about it.” 

Wow… 

I had a meeting with him the next day about the following:

  • Why did he have such low expectations of his staff and a department?
  • Did he not think that his low expectations perhaps caused the “poor teaching” as SLT saw it?
  • How did he expect me to raise his STEAM school attainment if he didn’t care for himself? 

It was at that point that I decided I wanted to be a headteacher.  When I left, I was made to have a meeting with him and one of the governors to check I wasn’t going due to the open evening incident. I said yes, that is part of it, but overall I cannot work for a person who has such low expectations.

Rule #1 of teaching: Have high expectations of students and young people. 

To achieve this, indeed, you should also be setting high standards for yourself and your staff?

At this point, it felt like my only option was to leave teaching. But I love teaching.

So we moved to the UAE.  A land of promise and innovation.

I have been so fortunate to work in two excellent schools here, my first which I will talk about I found, driven by the need that being here, I had to work in the best school to ensure my children had the best education possible.  When I started, I was asked to be head of computing, and I decided I had to be a yes person. So I said yes!  

Over the next few months and years, I built my skills;

  • Delivering school-wide training 
  • Learning the primary curriculum
  • Data analysis and tracking curriculums
  • Developing my digital skills 
  • Training departments 1:1 
  • Rolled out annually 1:1 devices 
  • Developed policies, integrating pastoral care
  • Worked with Safeguarding & SEN on the provision
  • Creating learning experiences
  • Building my leadership skills 
  • Working with Governors, SLT and Marketing on whole school projects
  • Writing a book on behalf of the school
  • Leading two teacher conferences
  • Delivering four vertical learning experiences for the whole school
  • Writing blogs
  • Marketing the school and introducing twitter to staff for CPD as well as building the schools image.
  • Created curriculum for computer science
  • Gained the school Apple Distinguished Schools Status renewal
  • Awarded Apple Distinguished Educator and Apple Professional Learning specialist

Interestingly, after all of this, I found myself in my principal’s office, wanting to know why he thought I should speak at a conference? 

Imposter syndrome

He laughed at me and said, you still see yourself as a teacher. Look at all you have accomplished. He was empowering.

The following year at the Apple Distinguished Educators conference, I decided that no one knew me; if I failed, it wouldn’t matter. Everything I have done to this point had failure within it.  I am now far more resilient than I have ever been.  I signed up for everything, I felt fear, and I did it anyway. 

Getting over imposter syndrome was hard; it is made harder by then others putting you down.  Making you feel like you shouldn’t be trying to better yourself.  People expect of you what they expect of themselves. Don’t drop your standards because others are not high enough. 

As time went on, I applied for further leadership, wanting to broaden my horizons. I have skills in all academic and pastoral areas, and I wanted to keep progressing. 

However, I get told a lot the following:

  • You are so young
  • Don’t try and do it all at once
  • Your children are so young be a mum spend time with them

The latter, I agree, but I do. I spend far more time with my children than many do. I always will because I like my children. But it is important to me is that they see their mum, who works hard to achieve her goals. 

I read 10% braver #WomenEd – A great and empowering book if you haven’t read it. 

It made me decide to want to reach the next level. A new challenge would give me official leadership because although I know I worked with the whole school, there is importance to recognise leadership in people, even sometimes if it is just the title.  

Since joining my new school, I have been able to strengthen my leadership skills.  Being part of vertical groups across the school, the array of personalities and leadership qualities is vast in such a large school. 

The resilience I have built over the years is essential, although I am still a person, and we all still have feelings.  I worked a lot on my emotions with the female principal at the previous school, and I now don’t cry when in difficult situations that I thank her for. 

In the last six months, I have lead a vision across a school:

  • Created a strategy, vision and goal for the whole school
  • Developed a digital safeguarding system (supported by the safeguarding lead)
  • Rolled out 1:1 iPad devices to YR 2-6 
  • Written Responsible usage policies for parents, students and staff
  • Put measures in place to safeguard staff using digital technology
  • Brought in systems to support digital literacy and wellbeing 
  • Created a digital literacy curriculum for prep school
  • Gained National Online Safety and GoBubble school status 
  • SMT roles, so now Digital Learning is recognised within Pre-prep, Prep and Senior areas of the school. 
  • Developing the Student Digital Leaders to be able to drive the student’s vision

I am a Teacher, a mother, a wife.  

I am experienced.

I am resilient 

I have passion

I have a vision

I am a leader. 

I am a Woman in Education.  Please do not label me. Please do not put me in a box. 

I am a Woman who Innovates, Integrates, and Educates gives a voice to all.  

Does my age matter? Does my gender matter? Does my choice have a family matter?

So what have I learnt, and what advice would I share? 

  • No one has the right to belittle you or your goals.  This is insecurity within themselves. 
  • If you are passionate and driven, embrace it, but always follow through.  You can be dynamic and driven in an interview, but if you do not follow it up, it is worthless. I have been criticised so often for being too passionate or excited, but I know even if it doesn’t seem realistic to some, it doesn’t mean you cannot achieve it. 
  • It was once noted that “even though Philippa is leaving, she is still driven and passionate about the school and her job”.  Never lower your expectations, raise people to your standards. 
  • If where you are and what you do does not make you happy, you have the power to change it. 

Wii_Edu supports Women in Education. Our vision is: To Collectively provide a forum that empowers women to pursue equitable leadership roles in their chosen specialisms for the benefit of their school and the people within it. 

*1- to add context, I had to keep expressing otherwise I couldn’t feed at the weekends, and I now know more about bottles, teats and feeding than anyone should due to the amount we had to try. Some babies will not bottle feed!

*2 – Before this, even those on free school meals had to bring in their food to cook, this caused issues for those who couldn’t afford it. To ensure that every child could take part and complete the curriculum, I developed a policy that saw every child have ingredients provided

*3 – We invited female STEAM leads from universities to deliver Q&A sessions and reached out to large and small local companies to inspire students to see opportunities for their future. Once even having someone who looked at the PH of soil.  

Digital Safeguarding, let’s face it, it is Safeguarding.

This topic is close to my heart, as an educator and a parent, safety of the young people in my care is of the utmost importance. With educators across the globe writing and supporting the development of EdTech in their schools and lives we need to see Digital safeguarding as integral to the success of the schools vision and leadership. Giving it the same importance that we do [Traditional] safeguarding. 

When I first became a digital lead in schools, any issues online came to me, but should they have? Please do not miss-understand I was very happy to be able to be the support and it gave me insight into a broader spectrum of education and the pastoral needs of students, outside the realm of being a tutor, more as a leader within the school.

It is my belief that education needs to take digital safeguarding as seriously as what we possibly think of as more “traditional” safeguarding. Listening to the EdTech podcast today reminded me that more often than not our students are not developers or creators but content absorbers. This is the risk we undertake with every digital device we give to our students. With every platform we allow them access to and I say this both as a teacher and a parent. We need to be more aware.

So as we move into a world where COVID is still a very high risk to all across the globe, a society where now we need to realistically work from time to time remotely, blending teaching & learning methods and techniques as well as using a variety of synchronous and asynchronous learning. How do we ensure that the blended approach to learning is safe and secure for our young people? 

I would add that this new approach also means that no teacher can fall back to their “old ways” or repeat the phrase “thats not part of my role” or even “but thats the way it has always been”, which I think will come as a huge relief to so many of us. 

Last year I was made aware of National Online Safety as a mode of getting staff, parents and governors to engage in Digital Safeguarding and online safety, this was key driver for me, especially in role new to the school, it was integral to get across how important understanding digital safety is to everyone, not just your digital lead

Embedding the understanding and belief that at the heart of every digital strategy, should be digital safety.

The platform is brilliant and allows staff to log in and out of their own learning and develop a track of progress. In addition to this, one part I found invaluable is that it goes into detail about every aspect of digital worlds, much of it is quite daunting and unthinkable, but sadly is the reality. Specifically, there is a module on the dark web, having also completed a range of other e-safety and digital safeguarding trainings online for other sources in the past, I felt that this one truly was the most comprehensive. 

So why talk about this as the first point for the new academic year of blogs?

“The NCA and UK policing arrest more than 500 child sex offenders and safeguard about 700 children each month.”https://www.theguardian.com/

The NSPCC’s “Are our Children Safe” report for 2019 really puts it into perspective and provids for some important reading for all school leaders. Additionally, the COVID pandemic has put more children at risk than ever before. As we push our children to be online more, for education, we must be responible and hold high standards to what we are asking them to do online and where they get their content.

  • It should be a priority to all schools to keep students safe,
  • It must not be a bi-product, historically because it is digital being seen as a lesser entity in education (perhaps less so in recent months) and not seen as something school needs to envolve as actively in.
  • Educate the community: If we want teachers to be able to spot online dangers, grooming and understand what risks there are out there, we need to make these conversations happen.
  • Value it from leadership down to ensure people know its worth.
  • All content going out to students should be curated by staff to ensure it is of quality and safe for the viewing of our students, this includes recommended ages on apps.

For me the JESS Digital Innovation summit 2020 was inspiring and couldnt have come at a better time. The focus was clear and deliberate it was safeguarding. But if we don’t keep making the noise and reminding people that we should be considering it in everything which we do, we are letting our students down. It really was food for thought and showed that there was a big journey to undertake, but that we could all be in it together, to support one another and deliver the best for every child.

So, realistic targets. At the school I work at, ALL staff (including admin) will be completing their annual online safety course in term one, in addition, SEND, ICT, DSL’s and pastoral leads will be completing targeted training as well. 

Courses of interest are as follows:

  • The role of safeguarding around SEND and vulnerable learners.
  • DSL Level 1/2/3 annual certificate in online safety 
  • Annual Online safety course for ICT Leads
  • Annual Online Reputation Course for Schools and Staff 
  • Certificate in Cyber Security in schools
  • Certificate in Data protection & GDPR in Schools

Due to needing to do much of this online remotely, with some new staff and those who travelled in quarantine, we will be setting up a hub of CPD on Google Classroom, that way staff can work through courses and upload their certificates onces they are completed. NOS tracks the completed courses but whilst being remote the Google classroom allows us to be able to have FAQs and support to staff online.

Because if we have knowledge, we have the power to make a difference. 

Tips:

  1. Read the 2020 version of the Keeping Children Safe in Education there are a range of links which can help support staff, students and parents.
  2. Check out National Online Safety and the resources they provide for educators and parents.
  3. Train your Digital Leader as a Designated Safeguarding Lead.
  4. If you are in the UK contact CEOP if you have any concerns about online safety, in the UAE they have a designated contact for Digital Wellbeing who will support in the same way.
  5. If you have a low budget (many do) check out Common Sense Media for support and curriulum guidance

A Reflection … for Future Thinking

Reflection: A thing that is a consequence of or arises from something else. 

My Principal, along with many others on my journey into leadership said that we must reflect. Importantly, step away from what we are doing, as it is only then that you will be able to reflect properly. This summer is most likely to be the first time that I have every truly realised how important this is. 

Six months has been a whirlwind, as it will have been for many others. A positive outcome in my perspective was that digital education went from being an add on to a school, to being a necessity. Digital leaders who have fought their cause for an epic amount of time are finally able to take those nuggets of education technology gold and share them to staff who needed to become invested. 

Now, I realise that I am very fortunate to be working in a school where students have equitable access to devices, some still shared at home, we were not a 1:1 school throughout but it was most defiantly a situation that every school could work with. 

I am incredibly proud of how well the staff and students immersed themselves into online learning. A factor we must not forget, however I know edtech leads now have an enormous task to ensure that we do not blur of what EdTech is in the classroom, as it is inherently different to delivering a full curriculum online. 

It is also good to note that throughout the initial weeks and months of the school closures, I also lead and delivered EdTech support to 15 other schools, who by no means had anything like what my school is lucky enough to have. So my reflections on how this pandemic has effected education comes from a range of schools needs, resources and backgrounds of students. Although was a long and arduous slog to get to summer, I am very pleased that my team was able to support the schools who were most in need, I will share more about how to work a strategy in schools who are low fee paying or have low budgets in future blogs. 

Quickly, I would like to share how important the break away from the screen for me has been. The last day of term, honestly felt like it would never arrive, the day its self felt surreal. Up to and longer than 12 hour days, hours sat in front of the screen, teaching, supporting, training, discussing & planning. 

Burn out was real. 

I think it is very important for people to acknowledge that is it ok to take time out. Something which I would admit I think it is very hard to do, I hate saying no, I hate letting people down when they reached out for support, but for my own sanity, I had to switch off. 

  • Night mode at 8pm
  • No notifications on apps for work
  • Quit outlook on my laptop (reduces anxiety when you do need to use a computer for something else)
  • Read real physical books 

The next few weeks and months will be filled with short blogs about the things which I have come across, used and the roll out of our 1:1 device program. My summer up until now has seen little of me on a screen, everyone needs time away, to reflect, contemplate and for me read and make notes about all the exciting opportunities which there are to be had from education in the coming months and years. 

My summer reading has included:

It might seem like I haven’t got my head out of education, but when it is a passion and you want to strive to deliver the best it is hard to let go. I find it hard to focus when I am at school on reading as well. Like cooking, I practice in the summer so I know I have some quick wins when I am busy. The books will live with me, go to tools which I can flick to a source from or share with another educator. 

I have learnt a good deal from the above books, I also am looking forward to receiving more in the next few weeks:

So the goal for the first six months in my new Role was to plan and deliver part one of a digital strategy, which would suit one school, which houses, three schools (Nursery – YR13). A plan which after much hard work, report writing & research into #EdTech outcomes was approved. 

My blogs for the coming months will discuss the roll out, the team and leadership needed to be able to facilitate this successfully, with specific nod to having a very able Director of IT along side who deals with all the technical elements, for me EdTech is about Education and I am pleased that my school recognises this and so we work in tandem, which is how it should be. 

So, I hope this is the beginning of a fruitful journey of the highs and lows of digital technology in education, the return to school in the midst of a global pandemic; what that looks like for all age ranges in a school, and finally, I hope one day I am looking back on this as my reflective journey to being the head teacher of my own school. 

The Digital Strategy: Part Two – Formative Assesment Tools

Those of you who have lead digital strategies in schools pre-covid will know that having a hook that will engage and develop trust in colleagues is fundamental to the strategy’s success.

Needing quick wins is why part two of my strategy is to find formative assessment tools which work for your school.

Here is why:

We already assess, so make it simple. Teaching should not be an uphill struggle.

Every teacher will be assessing students in subjects in a range of ways, likely one is paper-based or requires additional time after to mark. Collating grades can be stored and compared (key especially for subject specialists when a quiz may show anomalies across a whole cohort, as well as a class).

One of the component reasons why we need to do the formative assessment is to be able to make a judgment on our lesson and adapt, going back and filling in knowledge gaps or moving forwards.

We also use it to understand smaller parts of knowledge, broken down into smaller chunks can allow students time to process concepts. What do you already know? What do I want you to understand and apply to a topic or across the curriculum? Answering similar questions across the topic allows students to develop information in their long term memory. Supporting the development of those students.

The benefit to the teacher, you do not need to mark the work. Review it. I love Kahoots ability to inform you across an assessment which questions a group found hard, which students need support? Quizzes, for instance, also allows you to then share the outcomes with parents.

Formative assessment, quickly, can give an understanding of students ability, understanding, knowledge and most important, gaps in both student and class understanding.

And the wonderful thing is, the more informed we are, the better the teaching, the less time lost, the time we gain back from marking work can be put into, well I can think of several areas linking to Teacher-Wellbeing,

but …

we can also allow ourselves time to consider the student in front of us;

why do they not understand?

What is the barrier?

How can we help?

How can we engage?

The students I have reviewed also say that the more we complete short quiz-style tests, the less anxious they become about completing “tests”. They are used to a range of question styles, time frames and limits.

We can stretch and challenge students; we can allow them to reach their potential!

Tips:

  • Don’t use too many different tools in one subject; this can overwhelm, confuse and remove the positives. You need solid data which you can use to inform you.
  • Time-sensitive questions are great for building excitement and engagement, but they are not for everyone. Make sure you do assessments where every child has the time to think. Quickfire questions can cause incorrect answers, students who are less confident readers may struggle, and students often don’t fully take in the question clicking fast and unsure.
  • Try and find a tool that links to your learning portfolios (if you have them); this will make storage of your data much easier if you can “connect” your classroom and import the data into your mark book.

The Hakuna Matata Effect

Yes, inspired by the brilliant re-make of The Lion King, but I couldnt help thinking whist I was watching it that more of us should take on board the “Hakuna Matata” this academic year.

We try to build resilience, we tell students to embrace faliure, but how many of us really show our students that it is ok?

Having now been in m new role for 7 weeks I have been trying to embed this culture across the school in relation to educational technology.

So Hakuna Matata,

“it means no worries”

The Lion King

This really should be the way we all look at embracing the introduction of EdTech in the classroom. The resilience which we are supporting our students to develop should also be developed more by us. Things do not always go right first time, but as I am sure we are all aware, failure is part of the road to success!

We have re-distributed our iPad devices across the junior school, to trial how a 1:3 device approach would work

(We had previously had devices in trolley’s across the school which would be booked out. Frustrations occur when staff began a project only to find they could not re-book them at the right times.)

With negotiation and willingness to try things in a new way, we now have 40 devices per year group.

To support this, staff have been provided resources which can help them to embed positive and meaningful device use in the classroom, focusing on their learning objectives and not on a range of apps. Thus allowing learning to take place as a whole group as we are not using devices as a “Golden Time”. For example, an empty session, where there is little to no impact as the focus is not clear.

Above is the current year 3 project template. We have seen some brilliant work this week from year 3 including some brilliant success stories alread, one year 3 teacher sent me this along with a piece of work which said…

“look what one of my lower ability children in did English earlier where they were identifying the persuasive devices used in speech. It was awesome! The child was one of the first to finish & I was completely blown away! 😁”

Year 3 Teacher

When students are engaged in meaningful use of technology they can really get excited and, with the example above, feel empowered successful learners! It is small steps, but thats a good approach, as the saying goes, Rome wasnt build in a day.

But… The Hakuna Matata approach with little gems of success like this will spread across our school. This teacher dared to do it and look at the success in one day, one week, just imagine the impact of a term or a year.

The same teacher also said the students commented on how their “Screen Time” must be much higher this week because of the iPad devices being in class, to which they considered how much more meaningful their use had been. They then were able to reflect upon all the fantastic things they had learnt how to do!

#DigitalCitizenship #TechControl #DigitalAwareness

Other year groups are taking a different approach. Year 4 as an example are looking at a guided reading project and are using a booklet which I found from another ADE on Twitter @BenHadenEDU (who if you don’t follow, you really should!)

Having these scaffolded resources are really helping to get staff on board and enabelling them to take more risks with other elements of the iPad device like the Camera and fun apps like Clips.

Next week we launch a two-week campaign to “count the ways…” with our focus being on the Camera tools. I look forward to sharing with you all the ways our students and staff have been using their Camera tools.

For now, our focus will be to continue to build our communities strength with the Hakuna Matata Effect!

Why don’t you give it a go to?