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.

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!

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.