Creating a Safer, Healthier and Kinder Social Experience

E-safety champion Henry Platten is on a mission to make the internet a safer, healthier and kinder place for children.

A GoBubble Blog, By Henry Platten

Understanding digital interactions and learning how to lead a healthy digital life is of growing importance for young people today. And like any life skill, learning how to thrive in a digital world is something which needs to be demonstrated, discussed and practiced.

Of course, internet access, and specifically use of mainstream social media, is a topic very close to many parents’ hearts. Our kids want to chat online with their friends, communicate and create content, just as they see parents, elder siblings and potentially friends doing. So integral in our society is this ‘new’ form of communication.

Through my role as an e-safety champion I am all too familiar with the pull of social media felt by our children. And, of course, the news is quick to report the downsides of social media use in children. On the flip side, there are many positives to be gained from understanding how to communicate, create and collaborate digitally.  

In 2012 I launched eCadets; a successful pupil-led online safety education programme. With a view to creating a safe online space for children, families and teachers to enjoy creating digital content and interacting with friends, I subsequently founded the child-safe social media experience, GoBubble. My mission was to establish a platform which offers a welcome balance; where children can benefit from the advantages of social media and parents/teachers don’t have to worry.  

I am proud to say that GoBubble is making a real difference in the lives of kids, teachers and families every day. We have been able to offer an online space that is safer, accessible and fun to use. And pivotally, we have designed GoBubble to be utilised by schools across the globe, as a ‘Freemium’ platform; which means it’s free to register and use.

Through our outreach programme we can see the evolution of tomorrow’s digital citizens and help them to secure important skills. Our users value kindness, empathy and community. They can express themselves, communicate with their peers and explore and experiment with digital awareness; valuable attributes which they will take with them into their online lives as teenagers and adults.

Students using GoBubble

In addition to decreasing cyber-bullying, feedback from many of the educators who have implemented GoBubble, is an overall impact of positivity and wellbeing within their classrooms; enabling the development of global digital communities, inspiring creativity, supporting writing skills and many other aspects of the curriculum.

Ian Rockey is the headteacher in the UK. He has found that GoBubble has supported students in understanding more about the world around them, and expanded communication horizons. Here’s what he has to say:

“At Westwood with Iford Primary School we have been using GoBubble to successfully collaborate with peers and professionals around the globe.

“As a village primary school, we are always keen to enhance the children’s internationalism and appreciation of the world around them and GoBubble provides the perfect safe, secure platform with which to communicate, share ideas and celebrate experiences.

“Through GoBubble we can teach children to think before they post in order to become good digital citizens and to keep themselves safe online. This is crucial in an age when social media has become such a powerful medium. Our children have found this both an engaging and exciting way to learn. It has clearly impacted on their understanding of how important it is to communicate online in a respectful and safe way, and we are looking forward to another year of collaboration and communication online through GoBubble.”

Tilly O’Brien is a teacher in London. She’s proactive in nurturing a positive example of digital citizenship in her school and started to use GoBubble to support her ethos in April 2019. Here’s what she has to say:

“GoBubble has made a huge impact at our school. It’s definitely a platform where our children feel safe.

“Since we introduced GoBubble we have seen a reduction in students using Snapchat, WhatsApp and other mainstream social networking sites. And, because GoBubble users are rewarded for the positive interactions they make, we have seen lots of the children giving each other ‘likes’, paying each other compliments and generally acting with kindness and sensitivity.

“Our users quickly learnt that they are responsible for the content they post. It’s preparing them for future interactions whilst giving them more time to be children.

“Our families have certainly seen the positives of GoBubble, and the children enjoy using it too; I would definitely encourage other schools to sign up.”

Students using GoBubble

The Technology

GoBubble uses a unique form of AI powered moderation to remove any problematic content before it appears. Unlike others, we have developed the site to screen both written and video content prior to posting; so, there’s definitively no chance that inappropriate content will appear. This exclusive feature relating to video content is something which the wider industry has struggled with. Consequently, we are in talks with other developers to make our technology available and help them to keep their sites safe too.

The Future

Our user base is continually growing and we’re proud to say that GoBubble is now in 31 countries. Teachers have been getting very excited about the Global Wellbeing Educator Badge and Digital Wellbeing Pledge, both of which were launched as part of the GoBubble 2020 Year of Wellbeing: https://gobubble.school/channel/digitalwellbeing

And, watch out for the team at the conferences and events you’re attending! Or, follow along via Twitter to see what we’re up to! 2020 is already shaping up to be a very exciting year!

Sign up your school at: GoBubble.School

You can keep up with GoBubble news on Twitter @joinbubble

My Driving Force

A decade ago, my eldest son was unknown to my husband and I. To think that this year he will turn 10 is epic and empowering. We now have two and they are my pacer’s. They drive me to push beyond what I thought was possible.

My why is now two-fold:

  1. To show them that they can do what ever they set their mind to
  2. To ensure that my work supports them, and others, to be safe and grow up to be aware, strong, creative, collaborative and happy individuals

This is where my website comes in. There will be many elements to this website across the year which will be built and developed.

Firstly, I will be finding educators to support and share their work and ideas with others, collaboration in education is a big way we can support to reduce teacher workload!

Secondly, I will be blogging about the set up of a 1:1 device scheme, being developed in a school which is already set up. Sharing ideas and elements which have made positive impact on the whole school (Nursery-Year 13/ K-12). From recent blogs and articles I have read it saddens me that people do not feel technology is a helping hand in education. However I do agree that we should not just put it there and expect it to work, it takes time, dedication and support for all stakeholders to make it meaningful and not just a gimick.

Thirdly, I will be promoting the Global goals, I want educators from around the world to share their communities global goals in a short 1-2 minute video. These videos can then be shared with schools around the world to give real world scenarios when students are working on projects to support the development of innovation across the globe.

Finally, I will be sharing Digital Safeguarding support, with the help of experts, I will be developing a range of resources which can help educators to positively embed Digital Safeguarding across schools, sharing the message, in this digitally savvy world, we are all responsible for keeping our young people aware and safe online, as well as in real life.

If you are interesting in finding out more, subscribe to my website for regular updates!

The EdTech Podcast

The EdTech Podcast

The EdTech Podcast was the first podcast about Education I listened to and I found myself working backwards through the episodes which Sophie Bailey hosts.

I find this podcast covers such a host of topics and conversations about EdTech across all key stages of education, inlcuding the impact of higher education and the changes which are beginning to happen in this area. As well as future tech and interviews with global reformists.

I find her work truely inspiring and always feel in the mood to write or create a new concept for a lesson after it.

Breakfast Conversations #ADEbreakfast

Recommend Podcast

“1:1 conversations with amazing educators from around the world.

We will sit down and drink coffee with truly inspiring teachers with great stories and visions. This podcast will connect you with Visionary and creative educators that like to share and help. Every episode also includes a question or challenge that will inspirer you to think deeply about different highly relevant topics in education.

#ADEbreakfast is perfect in the morning and when ever you want to get inspired to start something new.”

Blurb from #ADEbreakfast

Begin 2020 with an EdTech boost by downloading some fantastic podcast content

Breakfast conversations came to my attention when I went to the #ADE institute 2019. Meeting some fantastic educators I was asked to be part of a breakfast conversation. Chatting to Jakob about education across the globe was a wonderful experience. But it didnt end there. I listen regularly to the podcast to find out all about the exciting and innovative things going on in classrooms around the world.

These topical conversations are always insightful and ignite ideas for me to put into practice in my own classroom. A favorite of mine has been the conversation between Lee Blowers and Chris Galley who teach in London. I think perhaps this is due to my love for the city and the hope that one day I can take students on trips to the iconic Design Museum in London.

Jakob has a knack of finding educators who are incredibly passionate about their EdTech Journey and adventures. I personally love hearing about what got them to where they are today and their own future goals.

Lee Blowers from OpenDoor: https://twitter.com/MrBlowers

Chris Galley from OpenDoor: https://twitter.com/cgalleyedu

Top tips for the long journey home…

Adobe Spark

Meaningful Screen time, for those times when a screen is a great option!

This summer, my family and I travelled from Nottingham to St. Ives (Cornwall not Nr. Cambridge) 322 Miles to be exact.

A place we have been over and again. Somewhere which for us feels very relaxing and has so much to explore, devices down, for little peoples feet as well as our big feet. Lots of climbing, surfing, walking not to mention a lot of pasties and fish and chips!

Over the week we did very well, the boys had about an hour a day , controlled by our Family Sharing – Screen Time option in my iPhone settings.

We adapted these settings before going away, the iPad down time is set to lock the iPad until 8am. Combatting the desire for the boys to wake up early to play games at the weekend

(we have a rule during term time, devices are only used for education in the week and the weekend limited, monitored “Free play”)

But the summer is different, rules can go out of the window.

So screen time normally in the morning whilst we lazed around and pondered what to do that day, I decided that after dinner I would teach the boys card games, with what my youngest son calls “Real Life Cards”, it was a big part of my growing up and they were easy to take everywhere with us.

So, where am I going with this?

The day we left was a Friday, those of you who have holidayed in England like this will know, Friday and Saturday are leaving and arrival days. If you don’t get out quick, it doubles the journey home.

This was one of those, because our 5 and a 1/2 hour journey just became 9 and a 1/2 hours … OH DEAR!

Now this could have been a frustrating time where we threw the rules out, but instead we tried some things which actually allowed the very slow journey very fun and interactive. All Wifi Free! (You may airdrop images you have taken from your device to theirs, again no WIFI)

So here are my Top Tips for the iPad on your journey home:

  1. Collect images from your holiday, create using the MarkUp tool which is in the photos and add images and captions to the photos, e.g. “What I was really thinking?” or allowing animals in the image to come to life as a character e.g “He thinks I like bread, I am after his ice-cream”
  2. Create a Clips Video of all of the things which happened. If your children are older, they might put them chronologically. Using Clips they can caption, add emojis and music.
  3. Compose music which captures a mood from something you did. You could take turns and try and guess what part of the holiday they are thinking of with the style of music.
  4. A simple one can be using Notes and adding a Sketch, they can draw on it, or upping the game a little you could play hangman or pictionary with them. This will support literacy skills as well.
  5. Create a Photo Book using Pages, they can use a template and add videos, thoughts, names of people they have met and places they went too. This is a great one for children who are going to be going back to school and asked what they did for their summer. By exporting the final version as an EPub they can share their summer with others, anywhere!
  6. Use Photo to doodle each other, getting a bit competitive challenge them to add elements to an image using the MarkUp Draw tools.
  7. Create an Animation of a place or something they did using Keynote. This one can be quite tricky, or very simple. But getting them to re-tell the story is a great way to hold onto their memories. They can even add a voice recording to tell people where it is and why it was their favourite.
  8. Finally, this was is a little more tricky… they can use the new green screen feature on iMovie, capture an image of themselves, add a green bubble on MarkUp in photos. Add a video of something they had done, along with their image into iMovie to make a worm hole… see what is going on in their memory bank.

I hope you have safe travels, remember… #EveryoneCanCreate

Where did all the “Real” news go?

The demise of TV news – Can we spot fake from the fact?

Adobe Spark Post

Today I was listening to my new favourite, non-educational podcast called The High Low, an amusing and wonderful weekly pop culture podcast by Dolly Alderton & Pandora Sykes. Not surprisingly it highlighted something rather interesting, which although I teach the concept of “Fake News” and “Digital Literacy” to a range of year groups, the immediacy and importance of why I teach it set in. In addition, why actually EVERY teacher should be teaching it. 

Ofcom found in their annual review that

“The internet is the second most popular platform for news at 66%, followed by radio at 43% and newspapers at 38%.”

with this in mind, never has it been more important to ensure that digital literacy is a core part of the curriculum, embedded not only into the traditional “computer science” or “ICT” lessons but across all curriculum areas. 

Although in the UK television news is still the highest ranking form of information for this category, across the globe many expats such as myself do not watch traditional television at all, relying on news apps and catch up television. This would be a similar context for the 1000+ students and their families in my school and undoubtably the 1000’s of others in many other schools in the region. 

Why should everyone be teaching it? Because it is relevant to anything where students need to research, where they need to fact find, gather statistics, read reviews… I could go on for days. As the internet is the second most popular source of new based information, we need to teach students the skills to find accurate information, segregate the fact and opinion, teaching students to not rely on just one source. Otherwise we are left with the playground scenario of “he said, she said” and miss communication. 

Interestingly,

“Six in ten older children aged 12-15 claim to be interested in news. Three quarters (76%) said they read, watched or listened to news at least once a week.”

this is not surprising with the politics being such a heavy topic, the younger generations want to have a voice and to understand how they can change their future. So how as educators can we support this, making it relevant to those who really need it. 

School projects 

Last year I developed a “Fake News” project in my school with our year 6 students. I felt that across the curriculum they had been able to grasp a range of key understandings linked to Fake News having done some work using Common Sense Media Lessons as well as Google’s BeInternetAwesome. I felt that students needed to really go deeper with their understanding and be curators. 

The aim of the project was to try and trick their peers into thinking a real new story was a fake and that their fake was real. 

Task: Find two news stories and present them using green screen and iMovie on a new TV channel, you must also have a third story which has been written and developed by you and your team. 

Students were given 4 weeks (1 hour per week in their Computer Science lesson) to develop their news show using their iPad. They were give a green wall, a planning document using Numbers, this was to plan their script, share with me where they found their stories as well as put together a story board. 

Side note: at the time the brilliant addition to iMovie was not on the iPad, so students had to record and send videos to my iPad and other teachers who were willing to share to be able to use the DoInk App, which has been fantastic for us in so many projects pre-iMovie green screen. A brilliant addition to any school if you do not have the iPad. 

So off they would go each lesson to develop, create and inspire one another with their ideas, slowly piecing together their stories, using GarageBand to make intro music, iMovie to add frames and transitions, mixing sound levels and editing. 

And in the end… 

We had a showcase, all of the students shared their work with the classes, the classes had to work out which was real and which was fake. I even sent them on to a friend who works for Sky News to have a look at. 

Why was this so important and why did they have so much fun?

They were able to be creative, to showcase their idea of real news, I allowed them to option to be deceptive and truly try to curate believable fake news stories. They were excited, they had by in, they became journalists, musicians, editors and so much more. Most of all, they had a real life audience to give them peer to peer feedback on what they did, most impressively to them was that some fake news was believable. 

A project which I hope will stay with them for a long time, I hope they will use the skills they have developed as well as trigger and question when they see news now which they are unsure of.

  • Give projects meaning, an audience who will see it at the end will help this, even if it is just their own class
  • Use small groups if you have the devices, if not get students to make a whole TV show, interviews, News, Weather – this way you can incorporate history, geography, maths, science, and so many more.
  • Make it relevant to what they are learning, and why they are learning it
  • Give them choices

If you haven’t tried out the new version of iMovie with GreenScreen, click here to find out more. 

Sleep Spiral & Ed Tech

Adobe Spark

I write this, inspired by a considerable lack of sleep. having come back from a wonderful month away from the place I now call home, visiting places which I have once called home. Travelling is a wonderful thing, as well as a luxury, even when it consists of sofa surfing and being on edge to make sure my two boys are always on their best behaviour in other peoples homes.  

But sleep is a strange concept to some, a barrier to others, especially those who have FOMO, we hear about this being a reason some teens and people in general feel they cannot turn off their phones. 

The reality really is a little like this… 

Ditch the Label – Social Media Campaign 

With so many things stop us from sleeping, we need to be able as educators to support educating parents and caregivers to do the simplest of things to support the bodies need for sleep. Because despite it sometimes feeling like it is getting in the way, sleep is something we all need to get us through life. 

I am grateful to have the ability to reach a range of stakeholders – teachers, parents or even that of the student, as an advocate of positive digital technology, it is so important that we work with our parents and students to educate them on the WHY

From reading and researching, it seems that most parents believe that technology is the main cause, of which in some instances, it may well be. But as educators, we need to enhance the reasons we use technology, showcasing the positive side to this way of learning. Changing the perceptions of technology and its impact on our students. Highlighting how we can support the development of everyones digital footprint and digital etiquette. 

“Teens need about 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night to function best. Most teens do not get enough sleep — one study found that only 15% reported sleeping 8 1/2 hours on school nights.” https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/teens-and-sleep 

So WHY? 

Although for many it is the summer holidays, this can be where we neglect the need to limits to screen use because we want to allow children to “relax” but this in itself can be harmful. The National Sleep Foundation shares a range of articles for all ages about the importance of sleep, stress and depression being one of the biggest effects caused by lack of sleep. 

“73% of those adolescents who report feeling unhappy, sad, or depressed also report not getting enough sleep at night and being excessively sleepy during the day.”

Having these conversations, with parents and students can be difficult 

What can we do?

  • Encourage parents to support meaningful device time, setting time limits on devices can get children to evaluate how much time they are using their device for in the day.
  • Add down time to the device, this means that unless requested the device can only be used during the day. 
  • Devices limited to communal areas of the home, allowing parents and guardians the ability to ask questions and raise concerns if they think they have been using something for too long.
  • Speak to the school and teachers, find out if they use devices, what do they use them for, if it is a 1:1 school or a digitally savvy school, they will have support and guidance for parents to showcase the WHY. 
  • Give students a voice, get them to pass the messages to their parents about why they use technology but also … 
  • Highlight the dangers of not being educated about digital safety
  • Promote open conversations between families in your schools community
  • Support parents to add screen time options onto their childs device (see my Screentime blog)

Embedding technology into the education system in the right way can only support a positive view on technology usage. As an educator I support and promote staff in my school to only use technology if and when it enhances a lesson and is truly meaningful. Growing up around this style of learning allows students to become creative and inquisitive, with the additional benefit of being able to understand the educational benefits of using a device. 

Parents also need to take charge, remember that the device they gave their child, is actually theirs so they make the rules. I would always advocate an open conversation with children, explain why they cannot have every app, why night time is for sleep and why we have age restrictions. You might even agree to reduce your own screen time. This can be difficult but it will be worth while.

Resources to help develop this in your own school can be found in a range of places Hannah Whaley has a brilliant range of books about Digital Literacy for FS-KS2. These are great short stories which can promote some excellent positive conversations with young children. In the coming weeks i will be posting some lesson plans for how you can integrate this into digital literacy in your school. 

Google have the Be Internet Awesome campaign, which not only has interactive lessons for educators but gives parental support for at home. 

There are also some fantastic app choice advice on common sense media as well as family resources. As well as lesson plans for the full range of key stages and academic grade levels. 

Finally, for older students there is a brilliant site called ditch the label this frank site is actually to stop bullying, but it deals very well with real online instances, some of which are the things keeping students up at night. 

Overflowing with #EdTech Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm is infectious, but Education Technology should empower and support your classroom environment

Writing this I would like to openly admit to being someone who gets very excited about EdTech and new apps, but who has also seen the impact of both sides of this coin. I have learnt along my travels, to consider the depth before use

I have been lucky enough to work with educators from a range of disciplines at International schools for middle and higher education (11-19yrs). 

As a trainer I have some very varied weeks. If we all reflect on the education institutes we work in and for, you can imagine the breath of experience and knowledge for pedagogy as well as their subject.

It has been an inspiring and reflective.

Training others in Education Technology it can be very difficult to get the room on your side.  For me, this is something I enjoy, in fact changing mindsets is one of my favourite tasks when it comes to delivering training, as this to me is real progress.

When walking into situations where change is needed but blocked, there is no real amount of preparation you can have.  Knowing your resources is very important, but above all, reading the room is the best skill you can have to give those educators.  Just like when teaching your own students, developing the work to suit the needs of those in front of you is your most important super power. 

So, what does all of this boil down to? Why does it come under the “Overflowing” heading you might ask?

The biggest part which I find as a barrier, not only to student progess, but also their own progress is the sheer volume of apps and programmes which are being used.  Sadly, it is not just in the school I am reflecting upon, its is across a range of institutes, across, I would assume the world.

A shiny new app comes along and people want to use it. Which is understandable. We are sold the educational reasons for using it and are now inspired… Please do not get me wrong, this is wonderful that we can see the benefit of using technology in the classroom. 

But imagine this… 

Every teacher in your institute asks the same thing, asking for one or maybe two brilliant apps which we cannot live without. 

Now, imagine the student in your classroom, who has come to your lesson, perhaps it is the third or fourth lesson of the day.  

To them, this is the fifth or sixth new application or programme they have used already.  How much of the actual learning are they able to take in, around remembering what to do, where to login and how to use the tools?

The answer is, not a lot.  

Now, if in addition to this you are talking to your students in a non-native language, very common in lots of schools not just international schools, then they are also trying to de-code all of the terminology you need them to know for your subject.

So how do we over come this? Keep it simple.

What do students need to know? How to use EdTech which will help them succeed in lesson, but also in their future 

What is the best way to do this?

Use programmes native to the device the students use. Apps can be here today, gone tomorrow, however Numbers, Keynote and Pages have been around since iWork was launched in 2005, only getting better and more advanced in their ability.   Students need transferable skills, things which will hold relevance to their daily lives now and also in the future.

I am not saying all apps are irrelevant, they defiantly are not. However, complimenting a core understanding of one range of software, develops a mastery level for students (and educators) will allow learning to happen in your classroom every day, with ease.

Embedding some core apps to support assessment or theory can still happen, but slowly allowing everyone to have confidence.  Especially if EdTech is new to your classroom. It also allows you to share information quickly and easily with one another as well as your students.

How can this be instilled?

  1. Chose your software 
  2. Train all staff in the school on that specific platform, have non negotiable elements with staff to ensure it is being used and implemented effectively. 
  3. Have core “whole school apps” things which can help more than one department or subject area 
  4. Get leadership to use the same platforms – consistency and modelling of the systems by leadership show staff that you are working together 
  5. Have a whole school ethos about meaninful EdTech

Personal recommendations would be Apple, once you have the device, all you need is in there. I could teach all elements of learning in a lesson using the iPad native software alone, it allows for so much development and creativity.

Apple have guides on how to develop curriculums, as well as rubrics.  They even support CPD within their #AppleTeacher program, relevant to all staff in your school, not just the educators. https://www.apple.com/ae/education/apple-teacher/

in addition:

  • You are Embedding real-world skills into students
  • Apple platform allows for creativity within all subjects #EveryoneCanCreate
  • Ability to design simple work flows for staff
  • Assessment tracking (Integrated very well with external apps via SchoolWork)
  • Students work portfolios; In Pages, Number or Keynote #ElementsOfLearning 
  • SchoolWork you can send documents and assignments to students with deadlines creating a diary for the student which allows you to track progress
  • Clips or iMovie can allow collation of evidence 
  • Sketch and annotation avaliable on all their software 

For more information click on the following links:

https://www.apple.com/ae/everyone-can-code/

https://www.apple.com/ae/education/everyone-can-create/

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/elements-of-learning/id1367981260?mt=11

Digital Feedback

By Andi Price @MrAndiPrice

The Future of Teaching – reducing workload and increasing pupil interaction.

Two years ago, I made the unusual, and dare I say radical decision of returning full time to the classroom. I had been a Headteacher, in different schools both in the UK and internationally for the past 13 years. Although I maintained a teaching commitment in all my roles, I became increasing frustrated with not being able to fully implement new strategies for learning I was advocating as a leader. The most effective strategy I felt I was missing out on was the onslaught of learning assisted by technology. Being a semi tech-geek, I had a huge desire to fully embed this into classroom practice and ensure accelerated learning.    

JESS Dubai

When I began at my new school, I was highly encouraged to use ‘Twitter’ as a tool for my own development. After a few months, I can firmly say I had missed out on a considerable amount of CPD prior to not using Twitter. What an endless resource of ideas and celebration of modern education it is. I have become part of many learning communities and regularly share my ideas and classroom practice. I would recommend to any teacher or trainee in joining a PLN. I would go as far to say it has changed my career.   

Back at the start of my career I suppose, like many NQTs, I was just trying to keep my head above water; basically playing the game and not really seeing the worth of extensive written feedback in books. The trend of triple marking, writing a response to a child’s piece of work, the child responding back and so on and so forth. I knew early on in my career; written feedback was going to be something highlighted to be me to improve on by senior leaders, some may say justified. Or was it?

From the beginning of my classroom career, until I would say I became a more experienced and confident practitioner, I knew I would have to back mark over the holiday period to keep up with the regular book scrutinies. This would have definitely impacted on my wellbeing and love for the profession. Even though my written feedback was not as frequent as the intense feedback policy required, my pupils would always make considerable progress. How was this if there was a lack of daily feedback in books?  

Further into in my career I have analysed this more and more. I have come to the conclusion that on the spot, short regular snippets of guidance, encouragement and further enquiry tasks are much more beneficial to the pupils than reams and reams of writing at the end of their work, which in the majority of cases, the students don’t take on board or have a positive impact. What a waste of our precious time that otherwise could be used on much more beneficial tasks for example preparing high quality resources or furthering our subject knowledge. 

Teachers who write reams, and enforce immaculate books might not be the greatest teachers! Unfortunately, I know this outdated accountability judgement process is still very much in existence. Professional practitioners are predominately judged by their books and not by the progress their pupils make. But thank goodness there does seem to be a feedback revolution taking place across the profession.  

My biggest fear going back into the classroom full time was the mile-high pile of books waiting for your attention at the end of each day. The dread of a long writing task. The writer who had written 6 side of drivel that need highlighting with yellow, green and blue highlighters. The buddy mathematician who requires numerous calculations methods corrected. The depressing amount of time spent writing further questions with THAT green pen and then pupils write a one-word answer. We have all been there!

My focus as both a leader and class teacher for the last few years has been how can we turn this immediate, purposeful, diagnostic feedback, we all give in class, so it is accessible, purposeful and can be referred back to time after time especially within the current accountability process climate. Also with an aim of raising the quality of feedback. And no, verbal feedback stamps are not the answer! As Joe Kirby writes:

Feedback is effective when it is timely (not too late after the task), frequent (not too scarce) and acted on (not ignored). Written marking often militates against this.” 

Pragmaticreform.wordpress.com 2015

I can see both sides of the coin, having been senior leadership for many years I totally understand the trepidation and fear that exists in permitting teachers to feedback through digital platforms. It is the ridiculous accountability process we are all exposed to throughout education worldwide that exacerbates this reluctance. So how can we meet in the middle? Less onerous feedback with the same amount of progress evidence. Impossible right? Not at all. 

How to begin with Digital feedback

Firstly, you need to choose a platform, although we have progressed to using a number of platforms, it is always good to start small. My preferred platform of choose is @seesaw. I choose this for its ease of use, parental access and multiple feedback options. Hardware, well surprisingly you do not need much. In fact 1 tablet or a smartphone would suffice. @Seesaw has a very simple procedure for setting up parental access. I have always had 100% take up for all students in my classes (this has been so successful over the years that we as a whole school have adopted it as our one form of communication). Uploading students work is super easy, just take pictures and away you go.

Now that you have students work uploaded, this can now be sorted into categories or folders (i.e. digital exercise books). Press a button and you can now feedback on all your English work for example. Feedback can take three forms. I firstly started typing feedback and students typed back their responses. I know what you are thinking, well this takes longer then writing in exercise books, well not if you are commenting on the same misconception in the majority of work. Copy, paste and adapt. I estimate that I saved around a third of the time I would have done by writing in exercise books. 

Next, I progressed on to verbal feedback, this was probably the most scary part of the procedure. Would students respond? Was the feedback useful/challenging? Would SLT accept this typed of feedback? Funnily enough this proved to be the most successful part of the journey with digital feedback. Student engagement improved 10 fold, SLT observed huge benefits and were witnessing considerable progress.  

Of course this feedback was accessible for scrutinises and inspection purposes. This success prompted the change to the whole school feedback policy and encouraged other staff to try out digital feedback. The whole project then snowballed with the vast majority of teachers adopting, seeing a huge reduction to their workload, parents interacting with their children’s work, praising and in some cases, using further in-depth questioning. And most importantly feedback was purposeful for the students. 

Once typed and verbal feedback has been embedded, you can then try the real game-changer, annotated feedback. This was developed in conjunction with a few of my colleagues who saw the benefit of modelling methods where students had misconceptions in mathematics.

This approach to feedback has been recognised by inspectors as being revolutionary. They commented that the collaborative approach of educators, parents and peers having the ability to view work, comment upon and further question students increased learning dramatically. Digital feedback is a leap of faith for schools however as a profession we are behind, and it is not due to the lack of hardware! I fear that it will not be parents and students that will be the ones that slow this process of moving toward this more accessible, collaborative and workload reducing feedback process. Senior leaders need to trust, trust in practitioners who have always provided quality feedback. Without doubt Digital Feedback is a ‘safer’ option for schools to adopt than ‘Whole Class Feedback’, it is considerably more personalised but still dramatically reduces teacher workload. With teachers’ workload at record levels we must revolutionise our profession before it is too late. Let the revolution begin! 

OLD WAYS WON’T OPEN NEW DOORS

As half term approaches and the usual stresses and strains appear in the school; planning, marking, assessment, targets, tracking, intervention … as well as the normal day to day pastoral issues, which never cease to amaze me, the vast range of things which could fall under this umbrella.  I have had a very reflective week.

Mid-way through this week was CPD, a brilliant training session from The Applied and Behavioral Training Institute,  which made me giggle a little inside at how similar my role in school is to what the trainer in front of us, talking about behaviour management, was trying to tell us.

It was all about strategies, which most of us have been taught during teacher training year, but the refresher and some new tips were helpful in such a busy week.  As it is our role to support our students and to endeavour to keep trying, stay strong when learned habits from individual students continue to return.

So why was this funny? Across the year I deliver CPD, have drop-in sessions for staff and try my best to support them in new technologies, new technologies which I hope will help ease the strains of their role.  I am positive that the digital elements we embed in our curriculum are always meaningful and well used.  But when we first begin to use them, just like behaviour management strategies, we find it hard, we find elements difficult and we are impelled to believe that the best way, is the way we did it before.  Just like behaviour management is hard to keep doing, it can be hard to do new things when there feels like there already is such a lot to do.

Technology has, and always will create things to make our lives easier. That is one of the wonderful things about it.  But, perseverance is key, just like the student in your class who shouts out or needs a little more attention for whatever reason, with continued practice, we can support them to be the best they can be.  Just like with continued use, we can use the right technologies to support our working balance, enhancing engagement of our 21st-century learners whilst utilizing programs and software which take the strain of a job which can be relentless. Let us not switch off because it feels too complicated or hard.

I found a brilliant quote today which said,

“I am yet to have a student tell me they can’t use technology in class because they haven’t had professional development on it”

(Unknown)

Teachers are lifelong learners, a trait we should instill in all the students we teach.

Tips:

Nearpod is brilliant for not only engaging learners but also for creating tests which mark themselves.  Using the ‘Quiz’ function you can make an exam or multiple choice test which learners can complete at their own pace.

Showbie, an online paperless classroom.  Being a teacher of a digital subject it is so helpful to be able to collate the work of all of my KS2 classes.  They upload work, images and reflect, from there I am able to give individual feedback to students, personalising their learning. Breaking down lessons into curriculum strands, WALT and WILF’s are there and can be accessed by pupils at any time.  Pre-planning my lessons options is really helpful as well, allowing me to hide elements from classes until they need them.