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.

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. 

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.

 

Digital Break Out – The Isles Need YOU!

With everything we do in schools now, there is no better way to get pupils to understand the concepts than to link it back to everyday life.  I am a very hands-on learner.  I really do have to be emersed in the physical making and doing, to understand it.

So with that in mind, I try to ensure that all learning styles are given the opportunity to excel, Differentiation I will save for another blog because every child is not like me.

I currently teach coding to KS2 we touch upon a range of different elements of coding, now we are in our third term my pupils are confidently coding a range of different robotic systems.  All with the topical insight about why that specific system may have been developed. We discuss how @Sphero could be similar to a driverless vehicle, how @Parrot Drones are used in tracking down sources of water, heat and areas which we cannot physically, or safely reach.  We don our space imaginary space suits and blast off to Mars with @LEGOEducationUK, considering why we cannot land on Mars or even why we would want to?

The realistic approach to teaching and learning is key to the development and understanding of each child. We can cover all learning styles when we make it real.  Why do we need to know these things, if there isn’t a credible reason to do so.  With a future of uncertain job structures, our pupils need to learn so many skills to enable them to be adaptable.

Coding is such an amazing way of being able to get them to become more adaptable to ever-changing circumstances. Keeping pupils on their toes, they never know what my classroom may morph into when they step through the door.  What they do know is, I will always be able to link everything they do to a reason and their topic.

So how do we go wider and get the whole school to collaborate under these changing circumstances? Get pupils to see the bigger picture?

Take a look at the link below:

Save the Isles

For a whole afternoon, we had verticle style learning, house teams, with a range of scenarios and pupil ability.  Pupils were pushed out of their comfort zone, using all of their coding and programming knowledge they worked as teams to save stranded villagers on the islands, find sources of water and navigate around areas of natural disaster.  It was wonderful to watch as they discussed and negotiated, using critical thinking and problem-solving skills. I even threw an @Kahoot in there for pupils to keep them on their toes.

The most important part, the pupils enjoyed it.  They understood how their technology, which quite often is taken for granted, really can begin to solve larger problems.

I cannot wait for the next one!

 

My Digital Classroom: The Beginning

IMG_2254This is my very first blog.

6 months ago, i had never taught ‘computing’, i am, and always will be a Design and Technology Teacher.  But i was taking a chance, an opportunity to be part of the growth of something wonderful. A new school, a new challenge and a new set of learning for not only my pupils, but myself.

Its now 2018 and i love every minute of my job, i am excited to go back to work and face new digital challenges, innovations and work with new and exciting people every day.

I am one of the luckiest teachers in the world.  I feel so inspired by those around me in my school and online.  My blog will be about all of the inspirational new technologies which have crossed my path, the ups and downs of using them and how they can truly support meaningful pedagogy.