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.

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!


  • 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.


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”


Teachers are lifelong learners, a trait we should instill in all the students we teach.


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

The first week back is like spinning sugar

If you have ever seen or tried to spin sugar, you will know it looks tricky and confusing.  The sugar layers over and over again. Like spinning sugar, when we begin in September we have ideas of grandeur which we expect to be instant but it takes time to develop, shape and moulds it to our liking.  Just like the information we receive as teachers at the beginning of the term.

If you are new to a school, the layers of information can feel overwhelming and when you are in the thick of it, it can sometimes feel like it won’t ever make sense, or turn out the way you want or had hoped. There is so much to learn, so many things to take in and most importantly, there are many little faces which stare at you waiting to be inspired by your wisdom.

With this in mind, I thought it would be the perfect time to give my top three apps for helping you navigate yourself in those first few weeks.

(NB: I work in an apple 1:1 device school, so these are tailored to the iPad, although I am sure there are other similar options available on the Android alternatives.) 

Apple Classroomthis brilliant app from Apple allows you to support and navigate your pupils around a meaningful lesson using technology.  In addition, it is a great way of ensuring students are always on task and behaving.  Apple Classroom allows you to navigate (and lock) pupils into apps which are on their devices for them to be able to complete specific tasks.  You can take them to web pages via the app, directing them to websites which you have stored in your favourites, this allows you to find suitable research material, especially for those in the lower year groups or at a primary age. It allows you to control all, or individual iPads ensuring all students are listening and not still using their device when you are expecting them to be listening.  One of my favourite elements, however, is the grouping options. As teachers, we have very mixed ability groups.  I think this is true to almost every school around the world, Apple Classroom allows you easily to separate pupils into groups, where you can then personalise the learning for those pupils and ensure that their needs are being met, the great thing, none of the other pupils even need to know that worksheet or question paper is different. The app also allows airdropping to the whole class in one touch, screen sharing, mirroring without logging in and muting of sound if so required.

In addition to those elements is also gives you a great rundown of the student’s device usage, at the end of the lesson, you can see second by second what they did when they were in your class.

Tip: If you have an apple school management system, lock their Bluetooth on. 


Kahoot is not a new app, however, it is one which at our school we use frequently. Why? because it allows us to capture data snapshots easily.  Students love the challenge of a Kahoot, it engages them all in active learning but also doesn’t humiliate those who are unsure or unlikely to speak out in a hand up exercise. If they get it wrong, they can hide their screen and only you and they know overall scores.

The great thing about Kahoot is you can create your own, edit something already created or even borrow someones if it is suitable for the task.  At our school, we use these for new topics, keyword consolidation, tracking understanding in a lesson and even baseline testing in some subjects where there is no standardised test.  Kahoot happily allows you to download the data for the class and this can influence your next lesson planning, your student tracking or just be a good formative assessment task. Kahoot also allows a “Ghost Mode” so you can do the same Kahoot at the end of the lesson to show progress in their understanding. It frees up teacher time from marking mini tests as it is all completed for you which can be very helpful, especially when you are teaching a range of classes or a range of subjects to one class.

Tip: Give pupils a time limit to log in, ensuring they pupil their correct name (tracking).  You can even allow the first people to be listening to put an emoji at the end of their name to encourage them to get on task as quickly as possible. 

Camera, Camera Roll & Markup Tool. 

I realise that there are three elements to this one, however, I find this is the most useful tool you have on the iPad. It can be a great get to know you activity, you can have conversations about sharing information but as a tool, it can allow you to use something very simple, and free, to create a really interesting and meaningful lesson.

With the updates to the iPads, pupils can now edit and draw or write (text and cursive) onto their iPad.  It could be a photograph of an object, linking to Maths, English, Science or any subject. A stimulus.  Pupils writing words, ideas, comments onto and then sharing with others via AirDrop. This could be placed into their Notes app as a digital workbook of ideas and research.  You might want pupils to photograph their own work, they could share this with another pupil and they comment on the work, allowing collaboration of ideas with their classmates and getting that valuable peer-to-peer assessment and feedback.

Tip: If you teach students to know how to use the Mark-Up tool on their Photos they will be able to use it in all of their other Apple Programmes. Making other lessons and learning easier to manage as they already have the prepared skills. 

My final Tip would be to use the camera to photograph your students in their seating plans.  At the beginning of the year, if you teach lots of new pupils, it can be a great way to get to know your students faster.  If like me you teach upwards for 400 Students it helps to remember those names. We all know knowing their names can make such a difference to your student’s lives.  Feeling empowered, special and remembered, especially if they are new to the school. (NB: I use my school iPad and not a personal device – this is for my classroom management only and I do not share the images.)

I hope that some of these apps and tips can be helpful to you, guiding your spun sugar to create beautifully crafted lessons.

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!


They know too much…Or do they?

So, if you have read my blog so far you will know that I am an accidental primary IT and computing teacher. 

When I was first asked to lead the computing department, I had no real idea of what to expect.  It is a growing school [EXCITING], but also one of the main objectives is to be the leading technology school in the UAE [SCARY]. Potentially a very big and important job.

Having always thought of myself as a teacher who used technology.  I am willing to try new devices and apps in my lessons, which would support the learning, I decided it couldn’t hurt to try leading a new area of the curriculum. So over the summer, I immersed myself into books, on my iPad, reading a range of different books from basic curriculum to embedding ICT across the primary curriculum. 

Why? mainly due to my fear that I wouldn’t know how to teach computing in our new digital age, or our fourth industrial revolution (my new favorite term). 

I remember talking to a friend who is in charge of computing for their primary curriculum and he questioned why I was so worried? I had been a teacher for a long time, and in the end as long as you know your curriculum, teaching it would come easily, surely?

Despite the reassurance I kept reading and making notes and by the end of summer I had so many ideas and wanted to share so much with the new collegues at school.  As well as wanting to be at least one step ahead of our pupils who “know so much about technology”.  I think I could have burst with the amount of things which I now knew.

Did it help, well yes, in some ways I felt ready and empowered me to teach a range of different class based activities.  But when it came to actually starting, I found that I was trying to fit far too much in to my lessons, and pupils were unable to successfully complete activities.

Then came the lightbulb moment: There really is such a thing as too many applications.  It really took me a few months to fully get my head around it.  In fact, it was only after attending my first EduTech Conference in Dubai that I clicked. My realisation came at much delight to my principal! Less is definitely more, but now was the job to prove that to others.  I think as teacher we worry that we need to keep pupils interested in lots of new things, which is where the problems can occur.

More recently, I was listening to a fantastic episode on @PodcastEdTech where the brilliant point was made that people assume that children know so much about apps and technology, but in reality, they do not.  They know a really small amount, and mainly only about things which they have been exposed to.

Now in my classroom, I try not to use too many different apps with the pupils at once. As a school one of our main priorities is to focus in on specific apps which would be used and mastered, not only by pupils but by our staff as well.  So this comment really resinated with me.  We are all so worried about how “tech savvy” pupils are, but we forget that they are only as good as we allow them to be.

If we as teachers focused on ensuring pupils were masters in apps and not just skimming from the top, progress and skills development would be much deeper.

So over this academic year we have begun to be more focused in our expectations of using apps.  We are a 1-1 device school, so we are very lucky to always have the technology available. But instead of all using different applications and clouding pupils with information overload.  We have been training teachers to become Apple Teachers.  Getting to grips with a range of brilliant technology which they already have just in their hands all the time. From there we also have a set of core apps. Nearpod, Explain Everything and Book Creator.  Three apps which allow us to flip the learning, allow for Peer and self assessment as well as personal learning. All of which allow us to create digital portfolios which we can show our learners progress. 

The more we use them, the better our pupils become at being able to focus on the learning outcome and less on the idea that they are using a device. We get pupils to upload work to showbie at the end of lessons, or projects for verbal feedback.  As we grow, we aim to be better at facilitating and using the right technology which allows learning to happen without gimmicks.

As we grow as a digital school, so will our pupils. We are already planning, as much as we can in our digital world for our KS3 and 4 pupils entering next academic year.  To ensure that they are equipped with the right tools to be employed in the fourth industrial era.

Be afraid and do it anyway: Devices and Social Media in Schools

Eight years ago when I first began teaching, phones were all banned and the idea of having a pupil bring in their own device for learning was a million light years away.  How wrong we were. 

Over the last few years schools have either steered towards, or sped away from the idea that devices can be useful.   To our pupils using a device for learning is not only normal, but also enhances and supports their mastery of subjects. 

Over the past few months I have been researching and looking into how best practice can be used, throughout both primary and secondary schools. It seems now obvious to me that what needs to be recognized is how to use devices meaningfully as well as teach pupils and teachers about how to model positive behaviors.  I read something quite compelling recently: How can we get things right, if non of us know what the rules are?

It would be naive of us to believe that whilst we live in a digitally responsive world that we should discourage the use of them in schools.  Over the past few months I have been immersed in a school who are taking digital competency and communications very seriously, it has really allowed me as a practitioner to see all the benefits and have real theory’s behind why the negative views on devices and social media in schools is such an important pedagogical tool.

I have found that, although many of us, would not allow our children to go to the shops alone, we are blissfully unaware of the dangers in our own homes.  My point is not that we are not being good parents, teachers or people, but that the digital world in many respects has been thrust upon us.  I often speak to pupils about the age I got my first mobile phone and “how texting hadn’t even been invented yet”, which partly makes me feel old, but also makes it very obvious that actually we have come so far, so fast.  It has been difficult for us to be able to keep up with everything. 

Parents or I should say adults, as it is not just parents, are learning about this new world as well.  Having just read Failed it! By Erik Kessels this has taught me if nothing else if someone somewhere didn’t get it wrong, we wouldn’t have some of the wonderful things from this digital age.  In a similar consideration, it would only be another who would be the first to “Fail”.  From this I think we have to consider that as educators and parents we do not want our young people to feel as though they have failed, however, to ensure we can protect their decisions and support the right ones we have to teach them the rules.

Going back to my current school, I feel very lucky to be part of the growth stage.  The vision is to be fully digital, not uncommon I am sure in our time, however many pitfalls which could take it in the wrong direction.  Which is something that I will endeavor to ensure doesn’t happen. 

It is written into the curriculum “Digital Citizenship” or “Digital Literacy”, teaching our young people to be aware of networks, blogs, hashtags and all the other elements of our digital age. A vast amount to teach young people.  So how do we do this successfully, to ensure pupils get the right messages about the world we now live in, without scaring them away.  We allow them the use of 1-1 iPads and have specific rules about meaningful use and offer screen time advice to all our parents, but is this enough?

So, what to do about it all? After much research, podcast listening and meetings with a variety of people the team at my school and I decided to trial an online resource called Showbie. This isn’t the only available platform of its kind, but after seeing others as well as the different elements which it could provide our school, it seemed like the best option. 

My reasons were as follows, having been a secondary teacher, I have seen and been involved in some of the outcomes of social media for young people.  The issues arise in that they do not have the deeper understanding of the damage they can cause with their comments, or on the flip side, how they can be damaged by the comments said to them. 

One of the things which I feel is important is to get that message of digital literacy across to students but in a safe and managed way. We all know in school pupils come in from a variety of different back grounds, some are sheltered, some are released into it and some are in the middle of the road.  I want to be able to use such a platform to help and support our pupils, guiding them through what is and what is not appropriate. 

In addition this platform is linked with their learning. The internet is a vast array of information for us to absorb.  If we are able to link pupils understanding of social media and blog sites to that of learning, much like so many do already on things like YouTube, then we can push out that message of positive digital citizenship. 

As a teacher, introducing Showbie to my students I am allowing them to have safe and managed conversations about learning, about play times and things they enjoy, with the underlaying message that the whole application is linked back to them completing their classroom assignments and gaining valuable feedback on their work which can improve and enhance their educational experience. I wont go into at this point how valuable the feedback elements via voice recording are, I shall save this for another post. My point is that if we as educators can start at KS2 and lower in providing a positive way of experiencing the digital world, they will in turn be better prepared for a life where we are no longer there to support them.

So far we have managed to open a range of blog or social media style groups to allow the pupils time to discuss and review their ideas and learning, so far we have the following successful pupil groups:

  • The School Newspaper
  • The Digital Team
  • Book Club
  • Classroom forums

We have taught the pupils to use them in the same way we would in an open online forum.  Pupils are able to feel they can chat and share information in a safe way.  The impact of this has been wonderful, building pupils ability to be in charge of their own learning.

As we progress in the development of my school, I hope that we are able to link their work to real life bloggers and people.  I have been so inspired by other teachers who have done such amazing projects with pupils and allowed them the that authentic feedback from authors, directors and even astronauts.  It is projects like this which make the learning come to life.  One inspiring teacher in our school has already been able to use some elements of this, and the impact on the understanding of the pupils due to this is outstanding. 

We should be using the internet to show our young people how to be positive online and make a difference. Instead of bulldozing them with negative representations of how the digital age is putting holt to face to face conversations. What about the brilliance of how the internet can connect communities from across the globe and support equality and social injustice.  The opportunities which can be reached are endless and need to be tapped into further.

My second focus currently, is changing teachers mindsets, that social media is not just about the phone in your pocket or people taking selfies.  This has mainly come about by schools fears that the internet is damaging, and yes, if used in the wrong way or without understanding or being taught the rules it can be.  The internet and use of social media is the most powerful teaching tool we now have access to.  Teacher should and must have a public profile which students are able to see a role model from, to be able to understand and see that their teacher learns, they enjoy learning their subject and are able to be just as savvy in the digital world as they are. I am not for a second suggesting that everyone should blog, or that facebook profiles should be opened and personal photographs shared, but a simple thing like a professional twitter account, even if all you do is like tweets from other practitioners and join in with some of the CPD available on line you have become a digital leader, a digital role model to those pupils.  Someone who is showing young people how to appropriately behave online. 

I was speaking to a colleague the other day, someone who inspires me the more I speak with them, due to their ability to embrace the technological world.  We spoke about how we can move our young people from working on poetry on their own, to collaborating using Pages, this lead to the idea that he could create a blog. Private at first, so it was safe then there is the possibility of putting it out live.  The children are so excited, but in addition there are endless opportunities to teach our year four pupils about e-safety, how to write for others to read, appropriate blogs, how to give feedback, I could go on.  But this kind of teaching and using devices and social media for this will stay with those young people forever.  They are being taught to be digital citizens, just like we teach them to be good people, we can now teach them to be positive digital citizens, and leaders.

My third focus, is our student digital team, a group of leaders within our school, set up long before I was at the school, but who this year we have focused on ensuring they are real decision makers. When other pupils see the work they do inspiring messages about e-safety, appropriate apps, global goals and many other topics pupils really listen.  I am so proud when I hear them speak.  Most recently on safer internet day, they made the decision that with the recent release of our platform showbie, that pupils needed to know what to do if they saw or read something which upset them. We discussed for a few sessions why it was important and what the implications of others not knowing what to do. Then we were able to discuss what it meant to hashtag something, which many didn’t know about, even though they use them and see them everywhere. 

The outcome was they performed an assembly, and promoted their hashtag #SBR or Screenshot Block Report. I was immensely proud as, although their ideas weren’t new, they were important to them as a pupil team and so their message was heard by all because of their passion and delivery.  After all, Peer to peer learning is surely the most valuable of all.

So why is this my first blog post? Sadly, at some point I think, tables will turn and people will ask why teachers didn’t do more to make young people aware of digital citizenship. I am not saying that this is right or OK, but like many issues before it, it will be asked.  If we can teach our pupils the positive message, much like we would of stranger danger and such like, we are supporting their future, their decisions and there understanding of the world which they are a part of.

I, as do most of us do, have high hopes for all our young people, but most of all, I hope that using the internet for positive and interesting projects can mean that when we grow into our secondary school life . We can allow phones into our school, without the fear that they will be used for negativity and poor behavior, but for research, positive communications and learning collaboratively with the world around us. 

I hope to like so many other digital schools be promoting the use of devices and social media to be leaders and strong resilient young adults, who are able to adapt to our ever changing society.

They may change, but my focus’s are on the following.  Hopefully the strength of these will allow us to support our learners in the best way we currently know how.

1. An internal social platform

2. Open minded teachers willing to try new things 

3. A student voice


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.