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.

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. 

What Teachers/Students/Parents Should Know during Learn from Home… A Librarian’s Perspective

First and foremost, we see you all and you look GOOOOOOOD.    Congrats on surviving and even thriving during this first week back.  I know we all have little and big siblings ordering us about; children wanting to do the eating thing; assignments and work that had to be done yesterday; and occasionally there are horrible, PTSD-inducing sirens coming from our mobile phones warning us to STAY inside.  If you are reading this, you survived and should be congratulated.

Second,  do you miss the Library yet?  You may not even realize it but the School Library is a very important Third Space for us all, but especially students.  A Third Space is one that is neither work nor home.  “…[It] is “an intersection zone between the school curriculum and the student’s knowledge and ways of knowing”, which creates a dynamic learning space. The concept of “third space” served as a theoretical framework for the study on the use of information sources, and the requirements for the provision of information and related support …” (http://bit.ly/3rdSpaceArch).  Adults have the real world as their playground.  They go to restaurants, places of worship, shopping malls/stores.  But due to their age, most kids don’t have the funds or mobility for this kind of experience.  For students, the Third Space in school is the one place where they can go anytime it is reasonable without anything being required of them.  They can socialize with friends, read, do crafts, work, play games, chat with adults.  It is a safe space to BE and a place to use what they have learned.  In Learn from Home, it is impossible to replicate, particularly in a pandemic crisis like this where everyone is home together and students are being sandwiched between parents, siblings, and teachers.  So I ask “How are you providing your child/student with a Third Space, a place to safely socialize and commiserate with peers?”  And if you think you have one, ask yourself, “Is this place somewhere they want to be or is it really just another an obligation?” Is your school library available in a readily accessible virtual space? Do teachers and parents and students know about these spaces?

Third, teachers!  Where have you been?  Your Library wants to support you!  Yes, we are happy to help the English Department find free e-books for students.  But our REAL purpose in life and library is to help YOU all as teachers.  As my staff have heard on repeat, the library is not about books.  It is about information, which sometimes comes in books.  If you need to find something, your Librarian is THE first place to go.  S/he is being paid not to shelve books but to do information seeking and resource gathering for you.  It isn’t a happy accident that companies like @FollettLearning (the library catalogue giant) include resource collection features in their library software.  It is an intentional expression of our purpose.  Do you want to create a Third Space (see above?)  How about asking your Librarian to arrange a school MinecraftEdu sandbox?  Do you need to find a free and legal place for your whole class to read “Frankenstein”?  We got you covered. Check out https://www.frankenbook.org/.  Throw your library some work and take something off your plate.

Fourth, y’all it is TIME to Sit up or Shut up as educators.  I know you want to use that PDF someone sent you of the latest Caldecott/Kate Greenaway picture book.  You want to send it and more like it to parents and have them read to their kiddos each night.  You want to share that free YouTube video that is a questionable copy of BBC’s “Pride and Prejudice” with your kiddos since you can’t arrange a proper read out loud.  But we can’t.  Yes, this is a crisis and yes, you are doing a great job by just breathing in and out all day and keeping those littles breathing in and out all day.  But society has not fallen so apart that we can condone walking all over other professions and demanding they subordinate themselves to ours.  Did you know that one well-loved children’s author got a royalty check for over 4,000 book sales and received only $22.18 in payment? (http://bit.ly/SHaleRoyalties) We demand our students be accountable for the information they share.  We use “TurnItIn” to check for plagiarism.  We teach and demand bibliographies and citations.  We punish academic dishonesty.  We cannot then, in all good conscience, aid and abet (much less participate in) copyright infringement.  Do not ask your Librarian to make copies of books in whole, even now.  Please do not argue with your Librarians when they demand caution because of copyright.  While most are not doctors of law, I actually am and so for what is advisable when it comes to US materials, I can be considered an expert (“Free Legal Services, you get what you pay for”.) I promise you that your reputation with your librarian and your children can survive without that document or that video but it cannot survive the professional anguish that comes from a multi-million dollar lawsuit (http://bit.ly/HISDCopy) or even just a teen pointing out that you do not practice what you preach.  Authors, journalists, illustrators, artists – their backs are not for us to stand on and scramble over even in a crisis.  They need to eat.  They need to care for their own families.  They need to be protected in times like these when the finer points of culture and society seem to be fraying.  There are rules about this because they are otherwise vulnerable to exploitation.

Lastly, fiction is escape.  And I don’t know about you (except yes, right now, I do), you need escape.  Many authors and publishers have kindly offered their wares for limited free usage.  Per the paragraph above, enjoy these with your family respectfully by following the guidelines creators have set out.  When in doubt, ask your librarian to look up the rules for you.  In general that means to sharing only what your school does or will own, share on closed platforms (private or password protected), remove/destroy when this school year is done, and providing attribution, tell people where you generously got the free material from.  Some publishers ask you to tell them if you are sharing work with their permission.  If you are looking for some of these great resources checkout #EduTwitter, the School Library Journal (https://www.slj.com/), or School Library Association (https://www.sla.org.uk/).  Following #RemoteLearning online will direct you to many great and now free resources.  I personally want to recommend your local library’s website.  You can often apply for a card online and check out e-books and audiobooks (and sometimes magazine and movies) in just a few minutes.  For us in UAE, Sharjah Library is generously donating a free one year membership to residents and citizens of the UAE at https://spl.gov.ae/en//home/4

With all this in mind, I wish you all the healthiest and best of days. You can find out what disasters have befallen me and mine by following me at @LibraryKATinAD on Twitter or via my website (https://www.katinthelibrary.com), where on rare occasion I post book reviews and other nonsense.

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!

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. 

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