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?
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.
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.