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.

The Digital Strategy: Part Two – Formative Assesment Tools

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

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

Here is why:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

but …

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

why do they not understand?

What is the barrier?

How can we help?

How can we engage?

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

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

Tips:

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

The Hakuna Matata Effect

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

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

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

So Hakuna Matata,

“it means no worries”

The Lion King

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Year 3 Teacher

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

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

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

#DigitalCitizenship #TechControl #DigitalAwareness

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

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

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

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

Why don’t you give it a go to?

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.

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. 

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.

 

The cornerstone’s of my working Classroom

Many teachers will be in a similar position to me when it comes to working their classroom out and being able to support each child with everything they need.

Today I have felt quite reflective of this fact when I received my update from Grammarly, it seems to help me more than I could ever have imagined.  This wonderful app is on all of my devices. So why is this so important. Well, it is two-fold:

Firstly, I am dyslexic, I struggled a lot as a child to ensure that my work was as it should be, more often than not being told to read “What was on the line and not what I Thought was there”, which is quite hard when everything has a habit of jumping around.  To me, the digital technology which we empower our classrooms with every day holds such importance to all pupils, but perhaps specifically to those who struggle to access everything as easily as our most able pupils. Having a learning difficulty doesn’t mean that our students are not as capable, we just need to support them to be the best they can be, regardless.

Secondly, What I love about Grammarly is how it simply works in the background helping us to correct our spelling and our grammar.  But more than this, unlike our normal spell checking facilities, it tells us what the error is and explains it.  How powerful to a child that without fear of failure they can learn from their device.  Yes, some may say that we are reliant on such things, but in a classroom, it can empower a child to have more confidence in their writing. In everyday life, I hope we can all agree that actually, it is a better way to be also given the reason why it is wrong and not just scroll down a few words, which more often than not are actually inaccurate.

This week I have been taking time in my classroom to ensure that all my students have the correct language settings. We are an international school with 72 different nationalities, we are very proud to be able to support such a wide variety of Nationalities.  Something as simple as Keyboard settings on the iPad can really make a difference to a child.  We ensure that pupils have the following as a core; English (United Kingdom) as we are a British Curriculum school, Arabic, French (France), Emoji (Who can live without it) and then the students Mother Tongue or Native Language. For a child beginning their journey in a new country, this can allow them to be able to use their device to its maximum and be supportive to their learning.  Many pupils are learning English as they go through their day at school, going home and speaking once again in their mother tongue. Allowing them to be able to use their native language and translate elements in non-core lessons helps them to access our curriculum.

My other cornerstone’s include google translateas a teacher I have just prepared some resources for my lessons next week, but knowing my classes have a range of different languages, and that some students are so very new to speaking and reading English, I have translated my document.  I have just changed 10 documents into alternative languages for pupils to be able to clearly access my assessment for next week, it took less than 2 minutes.  The students in my class are so capable, I am in awe that they can pick up a language so quickly, I have no intention of disadvantaging them by giving them a worksheet they cannot access. In the same way, I have my differentiated sheets, different questions to push and pull all my student’s abilities.  My assessments get pinged out to them via AirDrop through AppleClassroomSo no worry about printing or wasting them, I have groups set up within classes, ready to select for AirDropping to them all at the touch of a button.  The best part is none of them think to question if their sheet is different from another’s. Students can have both copies or just one (English and Native).

To allow a child to access and succeed for me overall is the most important part of my teaching.  Pupils all have the google translate app, as students become more confident in their language learning they can look to this for difficult terminology, small sentence translations.  But we shouldn’t in such an advanced digital world have to allow a child to feel isolated from their peers due to languages or learning difficulties. Let’s empower.

Top tips:

  • Add Grammarly to your school’s devices (we use the free version, you can also buy a paid package)
  • Get the google translate app on your devices
  • Utilise Apple Classroom, share documents with specific pupil groups to differentiate your lesson
  • Check your pupils have the keyboards to access their curriculum