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.

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