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 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?

Top tips for the long journey home…

Adobe Spark

Meaningful Screen time, for those times when a screen is a great option!

This summer, my family and I travelled from Nottingham to St. Ives (Cornwall not Nr. Cambridge) 322 Miles to be exact.

A place we have been over and again. Somewhere which for us feels very relaxing and has so much to explore, devices down, for little peoples feet as well as our big feet. Lots of climbing, surfing, walking not to mention a lot of pasties and fish and chips!

Over the week we did very well, the boys had about an hour a day , controlled by our Family Sharing – Screen Time option in my iPhone settings.

We adapted these settings before going away, the iPad down time is set to lock the iPad until 8am. Combatting the desire for the boys to wake up early to play games at the weekend

(we have a rule during term time, devices are only used for education in the week and the weekend limited, monitored “Free play”)

But the summer is different, rules can go out of the window.

So screen time normally in the morning whilst we lazed around and pondered what to do that day, I decided that after dinner I would teach the boys card games, with what my youngest son calls “Real Life Cards”, it was a big part of my growing up and they were easy to take everywhere with us.

So, where am I going with this?

The day we left was a Friday, those of you who have holidayed in England like this will know, Friday and Saturday are leaving and arrival days. If you don’t get out quick, it doubles the journey home.

This was one of those, because our 5 and a 1/2 hour journey just became 9 and a 1/2 hours … OH DEAR!

Now this could have been a frustrating time where we threw the rules out, but instead we tried some things which actually allowed the very slow journey very fun and interactive. All Wifi Free! (You may airdrop images you have taken from your device to theirs, again no WIFI)

So here are my Top Tips for the iPad on your journey home:

  1. Collect images from your holiday, create using the MarkUp tool which is in the photos and add images and captions to the photos, e.g. “What I was really thinking?” or allowing animals in the image to come to life as a character e.g “He thinks I like bread, I am after his ice-cream”
  2. Create a Clips Video of all of the things which happened. If your children are older, they might put them chronologically. Using Clips they can caption, add emojis and music.
  3. Compose music which captures a mood from something you did. You could take turns and try and guess what part of the holiday they are thinking of with the style of music.
  4. A simple one can be using Notes and adding a Sketch, they can draw on it, or upping the game a little you could play hangman or pictionary with them. This will support literacy skills as well.
  5. Create a Photo Book using Pages, they can use a template and add videos, thoughts, names of people they have met and places they went too. This is a great one for children who are going to be going back to school and asked what they did for their summer. By exporting the final version as an EPub they can share their summer with others, anywhere!
  6. Use Photo to doodle each other, getting a bit competitive challenge them to add elements to an image using the MarkUp Draw tools.
  7. Create an Animation of a place or something they did using Keynote. This one can be quite tricky, or very simple. But getting them to re-tell the story is a great way to hold onto their memories. They can even add a voice recording to tell people where it is and why it was their favourite.
  8. Finally, this was is a little more tricky… they can use the new green screen feature on iMovie, capture an image of themselves, add a green bubble on MarkUp in photos. Add a video of something they had done, along with their image into iMovie to make a worm hole… see what is going on in their memory bank.

I hope you have safe travels, remember… #EveryoneCanCreate

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.