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.

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.


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 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.” 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!