Implementing an EdTech strategy in your school
Last Friday, I hit the road and headed for Rotherham to attend the very first LearnEd Conference hosted by the British Education Suppliers Association (BESA). There are a further seven LearnEd conferences planned across England, so there’s plenty of time to sign up to a great day, some free CPD and a chance to network with school leaders in your area.
As BESA promised, the Department for Education were represented and Carol Gray, Deputy Director for the Department for Education for East Mids & Humber opened the conference with her guidance on implementing technology in schools, summarised as:
- Of course, technology is not a substitute for good teaching
- Have a vision for how tech can support learning
- Ensure you have realistic hardware provision
- Prepare teaching and non-teaching staff to familiarise themselves with the tech
- Start small and build up
- Allow teachers a space to learn from one another
- Give teachers and students the freedom decide what tech and when
The day was then followed-up with various panels of school leaders, expertly hosted by veterans in the field of education. My highlights from the discussions:
QR codes are helping with oral storytelling
I was totally enthralled by Julian S Wood, Deputy Head and Digital Lead Wybourn Primary School, lead on creative use of tech. Julian described how QR codes, which are the square bar-codes that camera’s can read, are helping with oral storytelling: Julian turned Wybourn Primary school into a map – as he said, the greatest literature starts with a map!
Corridors and halls become swamps and islands. Children assign QR codes to objects – a school trophy becomes a jewelled, stolen goblet. Grasping iPods the children reveal the fantastical, and using recording devices they tell their stories.
Saving time: Standardised lesson plans provide 75% of what teachers need
Sean Gardner, Chair of Governors at Eaton Primary and tech entrepreneur described their use of standardised lesson plans which provide 75% of what teachers need. Others advised using a shared platform so teachers can share lesson plans and resources, no doubt a huge time-saver.
Don’t let the enthusiasm for tech leave with one critical member of staff
Sean also described the importance of embedding tech into your SIP. This message came across repeatedly during the day with many describing situations where one charismatic tech-enthusiast drives the school’s tech implementation forward, only for that teacher to move on, taking the passion for technology with them.
Other headteachers advised a top-down approach whereby the use of technology is critical to every teacher and TAs professional development.
Figure out what you need, then look for the solution
Another thread of the day was outlined by Adrian Dougherty, Director of Partnerships at the Chartered College of Teaching: “Don’t buy kit and then work out how to use it. Do your background research and ensure it will do what you need it to.”
Julian agreed, “Teachers need time to play. We purchased iPads in July and the teachers went home with them for the summer, so training was easier in September. Ensure your school purchases don’t end up in the ‘cupboard of doom’!”
Champion digital leaders
Jessica Shaw, KS1 teacher and computing coordinator at Kenmore Academy Rochdale was a big advocate of teachers learning from other teachers. At Kenmore Academy they run lunchtime drop-in sessions for other teachers. Jessica was also a champion of digital leaders who help in class, essentially playing the part of a TA.
Teachers recording oral feedback and pupils replying to the feedback orally
Olive Tree in Bolton was held up as an example of a school using tech to engage pupils. At the Olive Tree, children upload their homework or air drop it if there’s no wifi. Teachers then record oral feedback and the pupils reply to the feedback orally.
Chromebooks for every teacher and every child raising standards in creative writing
I found Harvey McCarthy, Headteacher from Filey Junior School, very convincing. He followed the aforementioned advice – first identify the problem you want to solve (in his case boys’ creative writing) – then find the technology which can help. For Harvey, this was purchasing Chromebooks for every teacher and every child over 5 years ago – and he hasn’t looked back.
Creative writing has certainly improved, with children collaborating in drafting and editing a particular benefit. Of course, the first question from the audience was, how on earth did they afford that? Harvey has a very clear strategy: they source basic Chromebooks with G-Suite software (Gmail, Calendar, Hangouts, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Sites, Jamboard, App Maker) for round £200 per unit.
Every child in a new Year 3 intake receives a Chromebook which they use through Key Stage 2. At the end of Year 6 their parents are able to purchase the Chromebook for around £20-50. Filey Junior School uses various budgets including pupil premium funding. Harvey also budgets the cost as £50 per head per year rather than £200. He went on to say that there are so many free things that the children can access if they have a personal computer: the internet, YouTube, libraries, Socrative – so they manage without other expensive equipment.
LendED – a free portal for teachers to learn from other teachers and to try EdTech for free
Julia Garvey from BESA and lead for LendED suggested asking suppliers for an extended trial and requesting start dates which suit you – not necessarily the date you signed up! LendED is a very promising tool which launched on November 29th 2018. It promises to be a portal of tips and advice for teachers wishing to implement EdTech.
Using EdTech to become a better teacher
The most thought-provoking talk for me was Ian Walsh, Assistant Head at St Francis de Sales Catholic Junior School. When asked ‘how can tech improve education?’, Ian described how he has been using EdTech to become a better teacher. We now have the tools to film ourselves teaching any lesson.
He described many levels of analysis: firstly, how do you move around the room, who do you talk to?; where do you spend your time? And then digging deeper: what’s my questioning like?; how can I improve my behaviour management?; assessment?; what do I need to do to be a better teacher?