Remote Teaching & Learning; The RGS Worcester Blueprint

These last few weeks have been astonishing. The COVID-19 outbreak has forced teachers from across the world, in a matter of days, to come up with plans to keep children learning whilst their schools indefinitely close down. Remarkably, and with no assistance, educators have drawn up radical plans to facilitate the best possible provision for pupils in their respective settings.

Circumstances have been challenging, emotive and provoked much ‘outside the box’ thinking. Nevertheless, educators have joined forces, shared ideas, resources and concepts and as a result, school children across the world have been given opportunities to continue to learn, despite these extraordinary circumstances.

Provision Design and Planning

At RGS Worcester discussions and preparations began in earnest three weeks before UK schools were officially closed. Looking at the global picture it was clear that school closure was a distinct possibility and it was vital we needed to be prepared. Our 1:2:1 iPad provision for all pupils from Year Five meant that continuing timetabled academic lesson was possible, albeit remotely. The portability and versatility of iPad, combined with the fact our teachers and pupils are already accustomed to using the device, meant we could develop ambitious plans, safe in the knowledge our Digital Learning Programme (DLP) and status as an Apple Distinguished School provided secure foundations on which to build them. Indeed, considering that both pupils and staff already use Google Accounts; the Computing & IT team quickly agreed that Google Meet would offer the best live-lesson provision. It was also decided that Google Meet should be used in conjunction with Showbie, a workflow solution that most of our academic departments already embrace whilst splitting the iPad screen between Showbie and Google Meet offered a great methodology for remote learning.

Furthermore, iPad tools such as split-screen view and apps such as Showbie were already familiar to our staff and introducing too many new concepts at this point was not something we wished to burden our teachers with. Our mantra was to keep things as simple as possible. However, we were also aware that not all teachers would be comfortable with teaching live lessons, so an alternative strategy was quickly devised; using Showbie to host pre-recorded lessons whilst a teacher remained online for questioning. There were also two ‘fallback’ strategies should teachers not be available online for whatever reason. This Digital Provision Guide was then put together, outlining the options.

Training For Staff

1. Live lessons

Without being sure when schools were going to close, it was deemed imperative to get teachers trained to confidently teach remotely. We hosted four sessions in four days at which attendance was obligatory. We modelled how to create a meeting in Google Meet, the best way to share invite codes with pupils and how to cast either yourself or your device screen. We showed how the Apple Pencil could be used in conjunction with Apps like Notability and Keynote to become essentially a whiteboard to model learning on. We also demonstrated how pupils could split their iPad screen between two apps so they could follow instructions and work at the same time. We also encouraged staff, in the time we still had at school, to practice using Google Meet with their pupils so all parties had some experience of using the technology before remote learning became a reality. This provided particularly useful as many minor glitches were eliminated and ground rules were established.

2. Pre-recorded lessons

We were also able to put together three sessions regarding the best way to create pre-recorded lessons. Again simplicity was key here, and it turned out that simply using either the iPad or MacBook screen record function was a hugely popular concept for teachers. Screen record does what it says on the tin; records exactly what you do on your device but with the added bonus of being able to record instructions over the top.

This meant teachers could use Notability or KeyNote to model work, record explanations and then post to Showbie. Another advantage of this concept was that lessons could be created and then shared more than once, thus saving time. One considerable point worth reiterating here is in relation to GDPR; it is extremely important that notifications are turned off when recording, passwords are not entered and only windows that teachers wish to be shared were open. We also put together a graphic to help:

Guidelines for Pupils

Equally as important was getting a firm and clear message to pupils about our expectations for their behaviour when participating in remote learning. Indeed, we put together a presentation that outlined exactly what they were. Next, we called emergency assemblies so that every single pupil received our message and the presentation was also emailed home to those that were already absent. In these extraordinary times, the support of pupils is essential and we needed to be able to demonstrate just how important their cooperation was when conducting remote lessons.

The rules were also put on our Trilby TV digital signage screens across the school and emailed to all pupils, along with these remote-learning guidelines that were also shared with all parents and guardians.

In Practice

On Monday 23rd March 2020, all UK schools were closed to pupils, other than for those children of Key Workers whose parents needed to continue working in the fight against COVID-19. This unprecedented move meant that, for the first time in over 1300 years of history, lessons at RGS Worcester were not taking place at the school. Instead, teachers were conducting lessons remotely, to pupils in all corners of Worcestershire via digital platforms. I was among the teachers that taught in the first period this morning at 8:45am, hopeful that all our hard work would pay off.

I taught y7 and y8 Computer Science and was happy with how the lessons went; the pupils were brilliant. They followed the rules immaculately (as far as I could tell), they even asked permission to use the toilet! Tasks and resources were pre-loaded in to Showbie so they had scaffolded work to complete and they were able to ask question through the chat function in Google Meet. This proved a little tricky to monitor so I adjusted to only allow questions at certain times. The ‘Thumbs-Up/Down’ emoji was used to check visibility, sound and comprehension of instruction but on occasion, I allowed selected student cameras to be switched on so they could mirror their screens to model work. It was the same with microphones; they were allowed on when messaging was not proving fruitful to address misunderstanding or miscomprehension. Generally, pupils seemed to enjoy the lessons and the only issue was connectivity for pupils with poor WiFi. However, none was so bad that pupils couldn’t progress. I asked for some feedback at the end of the lessons:

Staff Feedback

I also asked for feedback from staff so we can look to make changes if things are not working or if things are going well, so we could share good practice. Here are a few selected comments:

  • “It was great – I’ve taught 4 lessons from Y7 through to Y13, all live and kids were great.”
  • “Have a list of pupils to hand so you can ask questions – “Jess put you mic on and answer “ everyone gets a chance then as I forget who’s there.”
  • “We played a Kahoot via google meet!”
  • “I preloaded Showbie and this worked well. First 5 minutes on google meet saying hello, registering and explaining task, then being available to answer questions via google meet or Showbie class discussion, work uploaded at the end. Students well behaved.”
  • “Between them Year 4&5 have sent me 126 messages on the class chat! I’m exhausted”\
  • “I’ve taught all of Year 9 this morning – have to say they were really good! It’s a little unnerving to be talking with no “visual feedback” from faces, but touch wood, they all said they understood what we’ve done – we shall see!”
  • “I had mixed experiences today. Y8 was a live Google Meet lesson but GH and OH were unable to see it hear me. They had been OK in Geography though. I was planning to do the lesson on my whiteboard in the classroom but had to do it on Explain everything and put it onto Showbie so GH and OH could access it.”
  • “All resources were preloaded to Showbie and further details were also on Planner. Students in Y7 shared their short essays at the end of the lesson. I asked for volunteers and, when asked to do so, they turned on their mic and read to the rest of us. Many others sent positive chat comments to congratulate them afterwards.”
  • “Y10 helped one another as we wrote a complex essay together and told me we should rename ourselves RadioEnglish as it was like calling in to a talk show!”

Conclusions

So, it is very early days in what promises to be a long battle vs COVID-19, where teachers stand on the very front line. However, after seeing how the education community has come together over the last few weeks, I am certain it is a fight we WILL win. The extraordinary efforts by schools to ensure learning continues in adversity, have been nothing short of miraculous. The power of education should never be underestimated and teachers yet again have proven that in the most unusual of circumstances, they can react, learn and adjust to ensure provision continues.

Royal Grammar School Worcester – Apple Distinguished Until 2022

One of the first tasks I undertook as the Director of Innovation at RGS Worcester was to ensure our institution retained ‘Apple Distinguished’ status; a mission that provided both challenge and opportunity. However, I am pleased to confirm that RGS Springfield, RGS Dodderhill, RGS The Grange and RGS Worcester all received the much-coveted accolade for our innovative and meaningful approach to teaching and learning through the implementation of Apple Technology.

Apple Distinguished Schools are ‘centres of leadership and educational excellence’ that have embedded Apple technology deeply within their teaching and learning culture. For example, we regularly hold Regional Training Centre events that offer high quality and free CPD to educators locally and nationally. Indeed, between now and the end of the academic year there are four events planned ranging from using the app GarageBand to an inter-school robotic golf competition! If you would like to come along to one of our RTC events then please follow us on EventBrite and sign up to an event that interests you.

Apple Distinguished Schools are beacons of educational excellence and we regularly enjoy hosting educators, schools or any interested party who wants to see outstanding digital deployment in action. Just this month we invited PGCE students from the University of Worcester to come along and see what our Digital Learning Programme (DLP) is, how it works and why it benefits both teaching and learning. Furthermore, we are looking forward to welcoming senior leaders from schools in our region next month to demonstrate aspects of our DLP.

Moreover, they are a network of some of the most innovative schools on the planet. Every year we have the opportunity to meet with other Apple Distinguished Schools at the annual ADS innovation summit. Last summer I was fortunate enough to go to Berlin and hear some incredible ADS stories and bring back some great teaching and leadership ideas to RGSW.

Myself and Head of Computing at RGS The Grange, Matt Warne also attended the ADS conference in London in November 2019. It was another opportunity to hear from other ADS Schools based in the UK and Ireland and share ideas, strategies and concepts. We also received official confirmation of our continued ADS status until 2022.

So, how do you become an Apple Distinguished School? To obtain recognition, each school must have successfully embedded Apple products into everyday school life to inspire creativity, collaboration and critical thinking. Furthermore, they need to showcase the impact that innovative uses of technology have had upon learning, teaching and the school environment. Moreover, you need to have met the following criteria:

  • Established one-to-one programme
  • Innovative use of the Apple platform
  • Staff proficiency with iPad or Mac
  • Documented results

However, there’s also the small challenge of collating evidence of all this in a digital book that is sent to Apple HQ for approval…The process of compiling and writing our ADS book provided me with a unique opportunity, as a new member of staff, to learn about RGSW and its Digital Learning Programme.

You can view and download the Royal Grammar School ADS Book by following this link

  • The first chapter is an overview of our four schools; The Senior School, RGS The Grange, RGS Springfield and RGS Dodderhill and afforded the possibility to learn about the unique cultures that each school enjoys but also understand the commonalities that bind them together.
  • Chapter two focuses on the RGSW vision for using digital technology. It gave me the chance to speak to the four Head teachers across our four schools to hear how they saw the continued progression of our DLP as a fundamental aspect of the school’s development strategy. This chapter also gave me a chance to explore the role of ‘key stakeholders’ and how they underpin the innovative culture RGSW is famous for and to explore how the DLP helps RGSW to become a more sustainable environment.
  • The third chapter examines learning and how the DLP encourages teamwork, collaboration and creativity. It includes movies, pictures, examples of work and interviews with teacher who explain how the personalisation of work and critical thinking are facilitated by our use of digital technology.
  • The focus of chapter four is teaching and how across our four schools, high quality continuous professional development for our teachers is integral to the success of the DLP. It explains how we have used evidence-based practice, and tools such as the Apple Teacher Programme to develop teacher skills, knowledge and confidence to use their MacBook, iPad and Apple Pencil.
  • The Environment is the topic of chapter 5, and describes how our holistic infrastructure enables learning to take place anywhere, anytime. Across our four RGSW Schools, we are incredibly fortunate to have a wide selection of environments that encourage creativity, collaboration and independent learning to flourish.
  • Finally, chapter six examines results. Measuring outcomes are vital to ensure RGSW achieves our goals and fulfils our vision. In this chapter we show the results of in-house research that evidences the difference digital learning has made to teaching and learning.

In conclusion, the selection of the RGS Worcester family of schools as Apple Distinguished highlights our respective successes as innovative and compelling learning environments. It is a badge of honour that all our staff members should wear with a huge amount of pride.  It is ultimately their dedication to continually engage and motivate our students, create incredible learning journeys and challenge themselves to continually improve and reflect upon their own pedagogy that has helped us to be recognised as a distinguished school.

Social Media: What Is The Significance of Parental Engagement?

Today in the UK there is a plethora of different social media available. 72% of 12-15 year olds and 91% of 16-24 year olds use the internet for social networking (RSPH 2017). Certainly, the ability to communicate in a variety of manners, instantaneously across the globe, has introduced a myriad of advantages to almost every sector, including education. However, it has also brought with it serious challenges such as computer security, viruses, data hacking, fake news and of course, online bullying and harassment.

Click on the image to download this free iBook

Recent news headlines have called for the banning of mobile phones in schools; discussed controversy surrounding social media platform’s handling of content promoting self-harm and suicide and highlighted potential damage social media can do to mental health.

It is certainly true that many children connect to social media just when their social and emotional development levels leave them exposed, yet despite the widespread concern, social media can also undoubtedly bring benefits to young people that use it. For example, socialisation, communication and relationships have all been made easier to manage, whilst health information and emotional support have also been made more accessible. Furthermore, social media platforms also provide an opportunity for young people to express who they are and promote positive self expression and have provided the platform for a ‘revolution’ in young people’s engagement in politics (Orehek and Human, 2017).

This situation leaves parents, and indeed teachers, in a seemingly permanent battle between the potential educational and social advantages of social media, and the possible negative effects that some content may have on children’s attitudes, behaviour and safety.

In an effort to discover more about this conundrum, and offer research-based guidance to both educators and parents, I undertook an investigation that also formed part of my MA in Educational Leadership and Management. I conducted a critical examination of the importance of parental engagement, the disadvantages of social media and the current practice of parents when mediating their children’s social media usage. Furthermore, I am happy to be able to share that research with you for free on Apple iBooks.

 

The Apple Distinguished Schools Innovation Summit – Berlin 2019.

My five years working at King’s Rochester came to an end in April this year when I undertook my current role as Director of Innovation at RGS Worcester – an Apple Distinguished School (ADS). Interestingly, just before I left King’s, after several years of preparation, we had just been told that we met the requirements to become an ADS School in 2020.

Apple Distinguished Schools are recognised by Apple as ‘centres of leadership and educational excellence ​that demonstrate Apple’s vision for learning with technology‘. To qualify, schools must have an established one-to-one programme; be able to demonstrate innovative use of the Apple platform; ensure their staff are proficient with iPad and/or Mac and be able to provide documented results. Those schools that meet the requirements and achieve ADS status are then invited to attend the annual Apple Distinguished Schools Innovation Summit, somewhere on The Globe – and for this reason, I recently found myself in Berlin with other members of the ADS community.


My trip began with a quick visit to the Berlin Metropolitan School, where @JenOFee is Head of the Primary Section. It was great to see the pupils meaningfully use a range of technologies as they prepared for their PYP (Primary Years Programme) exhibition; taking place that very evening. The PYP is a transdisciplinary framework that places an emphasis on inquiry-based learning. The exhibition itself happens at the end of year six and provides pupils with the opportunity to share their newly developed knowledge and skills with their peers, teachers, parents and wider school community.

The student work on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning was of particular interest to me and was testament to the fact that if orchestrated properly, inquiry-based practice can have high-impact on student learning.


Next stop was the Innovation Summit itself, taking place next to Potsdamer Platz – itself once at the helm of innovation when the first traffic lights in continental Europe were installed back in 1924.

The Summit started with an overview of the ADS programme, specifically in the EMEIA (Europe, Middle East, India and Africa) whose schools were represented at the Berlin 2019 summit. 86 Schools from 17 countries were represented and it really was brilliant to see so many familiar faces from the ADE Community there as well. Indeed, some of the highlights of the whole summit were hearing from delegates from several different schools and how they had managed to successfully embed technology within their curriculums, change culture, strengthen communities and empower learners, often in very difficult circumstances.

We also took a detailed look at the ‘Elements of Learning‘; a book published by Apple in 2018, in conjunction with SRI International, that aims to help educators to design lessons that incorporate five elements of learning when using Apple Technology. The elements are:

  • Teamwork
  • Communication and Creation
  • Personalisation of Learning
  • Critical Thinking
  • Real-World Engagement

The book contains detailed chapters on each element and features lesson plans that are supported by both guiding and reflective questions. Although, by no means definitive, the book certainly has some interesting and valuable ideas that could easily be customised to fit in with most schools curricula.

Moreover, the session provided an opportunity to reflect and discuss Apple’s ‘Elements of Learning’ in relation to our respective practices.


Day two kicked off with a look at how Apple prioritised meaningful innovation when designing their products. It was also good to hear that their US operations (for example their data centres) are now running on 100% renewable energy, whilst worldwide – that figure stands around 93%.

Further workshops then followed, allowing delegates to investigate various aspects of teaching and learning. One option was a session focusing on the excellent Everyone Can Create curriculum that provides ideas for students to develop and communicate their ideas through drawing, photography, video and music.

I attended a session on Augmented Reality (AR) and how teachers are using it purposefully in the classroom. As much as I love AR, I do find there are a lot of impractical ideas floating about on social media that fail to take into account a time-benefit analysis. However, these sessions offered some really nice, simple workflows. For example, using apps like Insight Heart or Froggipedia, in conjunction with ‘screen record’ for students to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of difficult concepts such as coronary circulation.

Next up was an excellent session by fellow ADE’s @DepHead_Jones and @LynseyCarrMPS who discussed how they empowered their respective school communities through active collaboration and problem-solving – working together to build momentum behind the commitment to continuous innovation taking place at their schools. Time was also taken to discuss how this commitment to community engagement could be developed in each of our respective schools. I referenced some of the great work completed by @MattWarne and @efaulkneruk in this regard; earlier this year Matt and Emma released the worlds first online Apple Regional Training (RTC) online courses. Created on Padlet, some courses have all you need to know to use some key apps – for example, Keynote or Swift Playgrounds,whilst others look at areas such as productivity on iPad.


The final school story of the Innovation Summit came from @cat_ht, ADE and Deputy Head of the awesome Holy Trinity Primary School in Hackney, London. Their story involved utilising the space above their school to help enhance their learning environment. As their school was rebuilt, they constructed flats above the new classrooms to help finance the project and indeed, fund their highly successful adoption of iPads.

Part of the Holy Trinity success story involves the continuous professional development they offer their teachers and perhaps my favourite aspect of their strategy was combining snacks and apps! There can be no denying that the prospect of some Pages training seems infinitely more enticing when some pancakes are thrown into the mix! Who knows, staff at RGS Worcester may soon be able to look forward to some tasty trimmings alongside their CPD opportunities…


In conclusion, the Apple Distinguished Schools Innovation Summit was a hugely rewarding, thought-provoking experience that not only served-up some fantastic ideas to bring back to Worcestershire, but also the opportunity to speak, laugh and develop bonds with like-minded educators from across the EMEIA region.

It’s great to know that innovative practice has had such a profound effect on learning all over the planet. However, it is worth remembering that it is not just digital devices that bind innovative schools together. Moreover, it is the sharing of practice, ideas and the drive for meaningful innovation that means RGS Worcester, RGS The Grange, RGS Springfield and RGS Dodderhill are proud to stand amongst the most forward-thinking, innovative schools in the world.

 

Everyone Can Create a Better Internet

Since it’s inception in 2004, Safer Internet Day has gone from strength to strength and reportedly, in 2018, 45% of UK 8-17 year olds were involved in the annual event. The 2019 Safer Internet Day takes place on Tuesday 5th February, and this year’s global theme is ‘Together for a better internet’. The day provides an opportunity to put a spotlight on the positive uses of digital technology and investigate the role everybody plays to create an online community that is increasingly safer and responsible.

2018 was not just a success for Safer Internet Day. It was also the year in which Apple released their highly anticipated ‘Everyone Can Create’ curriculum. Four superb iBooks were made freely available on Apple Books on 1st October. Each one provides expert guidance for children to develop and communicate their ideas through drawing, music, photography and video on iPad.

So, for Safer Internet Day 2019, why not take the opportunity to unleash the creativity of your pupils and use the Everyone Can Create books to help them understand the significance of safe and responsible use of technology.

At Burton Joyce Primary School in Nottingham, Apple Distinguished Educator, Marc Faulder, has done exactly that and put together the following plans that link the Everyone Can Create guides to their existing ‘Digital Skills’ long term plan which is part of the school’s Computing curriculum:

Many of the strands in the Burton Joyce curriculum, such as ‘Image’, ‘Film’, and ‘Sound’ correlate exactly with the projects and activities from Everyone Can Create and therefore can be mapped to digital skills for each year group in Primary school.

Indeed, this enabled Marc to be able to select appropriate projects and activities for pupils to work on for Safer Internet Day this year; here are some examples:

Year 6:

  • Objective: Create ‘e-Safety’ Tutorial Videos.
  • Everyone Can Create: Video Guide; Chapter 4; Tutorials

Apps:

  • Pages (for script typing and using the teleprompter feature)
  • Clips/iMovie to create

Pupils in Year 6 will follow the tutorial for filming a ‘teaching show’. They will be familiar with the ‘how-to’ style of video from their own viewing habits on YouTube, therefore this style of filming is very relevant to them. They will film tutorials that explain how pupils can talk about any issues they may be facing online; highlighting a variety ways pupils can report e-Safety problems both in and out of school.

Year 5:

  • Objective: Performance Poetry, Raps and Podcasts
  • Everyone Can CreateMusic Guide; Chapter 5; Writing and Recording Lyrics

Apps:

This project comes from the Music guide from Everyone Can Create. Pupils will follow this chapter to write lyrics for a rap, performance poetry or spoken word podcast. They can share their advice for creating a better internet for all or draw on their own experiences, giving first hand accounts of existing problems and why we need to work together to make the internet a better place.

Year 3 and 4:

  • Objective: Health and Well-Being Collage
  • Everyone Can Create: Photography Guide; Chapter 5; Project: Create a personalised collage (page 41)
    (Children need to refer to Chapter 2 to take their silhouette or portrait photo)

Apps:

This project teaches pupils concepts from the new Burton Joyce e-Safety long term plan. Based on the recommendations in Education For A Connected World (February, 2018), we now teach our pupils a healthy lifestyle for device use. This strand explores well-being, sleeping routines and emotions when using technology for different purposes and at different times of day. Pupils will create a personal photo collage of device use throughout a typical day in their life. Their photo collage will reflect their usage but also their emotions when engaged in this activity. This project aims to give our Year 3 and 4 pupils a chance to reflect on habits that may be forming already and how to adapt these choices to make their technology use better.

Year 1 and 2:

  • Objective: e-Safety Emotions
  • Drawing Guide: Chapter 1; Word Art – Activity 1; Sketch and express with an emoji

Apps:

Using the Everyone Can Create guides with younger students can be a challenging process. Instead of selecting a project from the Drawing guide, we took an activity and broke it down in to smaller steps. Children listen to a range of e-Safety themed stories such as Troll, Little Red Riding Hood and the Woolly Sheep and Daisy Chain. They map out these stories and discuss the emotions the characters feel when using technology throughout the story. They will reflect on how they feel when using devices and bring their own experiences in to the story mapping. Next, children will be taught how to draw shapes and patterns on a digital paint program first. Then they will begin designing emojis which represent their feelings when using technology and how others feel when problems arise. Finally, teachers will review the advice on what to do when something goes wrong online, referring to the plots from the stories read.

Final Note:

When integrating Everyone Can Create projects with your existing curriculum, it is important to know the skills and interests of your staff. These projects were not just allocated to staff, they were carefully planned for, based on the teachers professional development. Year 1 and 2 teachers have already used the Drawing guide to create digital drawings of poppies for the school’s Remembrance Day exhibition. They are now familiar with the apps needed in this activities. The teacher in Year 5 is also the school’s music specialist. Planning to use the Music guide in Year 5 supports the teacher’s strengths and interests, making the technology use relevant to her curriculum plans too. The teacher in Year 6 achieved Apple Teacher when this professional development tool launched in 2017 and she has already planned from the Animatics’ chapter in the Everyone Can Create Video guide. This project is the next step for her pupils learning.

For more of Marc’s resources and ideas, check out his blog; Enabling Environments

iPad CPD for schools; how to get it right.

During the previous 30 years, powerful digital technology has restructured how we communicate and how we live. Internet-ready mobile phones, tablets and laptops have become an intrinsic part of everyday life that has been mirrored by a seismic growth of educational technology in schools. Indeed, global expenditure is expected to reach as much as £190 billion by 2020 (Spaven, 2016). Broad academic opinion suggests that digital technology has the potential to improve learning opportunities, workflow and even reduce teacher workload (Bingimlas, 2009).

Nevertheless, some research indicates that digital devices in schools can also have a significant negative effect on outcomes and can be an expensive gamble for schools when budgets are already stretched. Some difficulties derive from an incoherent understanding of the everyday instructional benefits that technology can facilitate (Adams, 2016) . Moreover, much of the academic literature suggests that many of the challenges originate from poor long-term planning that failed to consider network infrastructure, ownership models, stakeholder engagement, evaluation of progress and perhaps most fundamentally of all, associated continuous professional development (CPD).

As teachers know, there is an ever-growing variety of different CPD options available to schools, however the increasing range by no means guarantees quality. Like with the adoption of technology, ill-considered CPD leadership and management can be expensive and is unlikely to wield improved student outcomes. For every expensive failed technological adoption there is an equally ineffective education “guru” who is willing to charge schools a small fortune for their wisdom yet with little or no evidence of impact. Whatever CPD you experience, it is worth remembering that it should not be a short-term intervention, rather a long-term process.

At the school I work at, we have invested significantly in digital infrastructure which has been the backbone behind a 1:2:1 iPad adoption from Year Six to Year Eight, where the expectation is that all pupils bring in their own device to assist with their learning. The project is nearly at the end of it’s third year and previous in-house research has demonstrated that opinion on the iPad scheme from teachers, pupils and parents has been positive. Nevertheless, when considering that one of the prevailing reasons for failed technology implementations is a lack of suitable continuous professional development, we have offered a variety of different CPD solutions to help teachers and pupils get the best out of the devices. However, how useful has it been? I recently conducted some research for my MA in Educational Leadership and Management to ascertain perceived value and work out some useful strategies moving forward, which can also be applied to more general CPD as well.

Resources:

Paramount to the success of any technological adoption is the procurement of suitable resources. This does not simply mean buying a bunch of iPads.  The accompanying infrastructure all needs to work as well. Although, it should be remembered, even when resources are available, it does not guarantee a successful integration. 

 

This study revealed a sizable minority (33.3%) of teachers reporting they felt they did not have the required resources to successfully deploy iPads. Interestingly, the iPads themselves were not cited as resources that were causing issues, rather it was surrounding infrastructure such as projectors, access to devices and time that were cited. Instead of simply amassing more technology, leadership and management need to ensure a sustainable plan is in place for the maintenance of all equipment involved in iPad workflow.

Internal Workshops

High-quality internal professional development offers the opportunity to remove barriers and improve teacher efficacy (Kopcha, 2011). We have run internal workshops on a varity of Apps, pedagogical concepts and ways in which to integrate iPads into everyday teaching.

 

80% of all respondents had attended internal workshops; these have taken various formats and have normally occurred on average three times a term. Furthermore, 100% of attendees reported a positive impact, 28.6% stating a ‘highly positive’ impact. The qualitative data cited ‘the chance to learn in a ‘relaxed environment’, ‘learning new skills and gaining confidence’, ‘able to ask questions’, and ‘peer-to-peer collaboration and hands on learning, not just a session delivered from the front’ as advantages of the in-house workshops and reasons why staff returned for more than one session

Nevertheless, the data also revealed that 57% of teachers had only attended between 1-3 sessions; timing and workload were cited as reasons for this. Therefore, leadership and management should undertake a creative analysis of time allowance for CPD and make subsequent provision for staff development.

External Workshops

Sometimes expensive external workshops or CPD sessions can prove to be intellectually superficial and inadequate for teacher needs. However, we have tended to utilise free opportunities like the highly regarded sessions run by TRAMS in London. Again, all respondents reported that external workshops had a positive impact; 40% implying it was highly positive. The opportunity for ‘networking’, to ‘chat to experts’ and ‘see the wider pictures of how Apps can be used’ also provided qualitative information about the advantages as deemed by staff. Nevertheless, over 50% of the teachers who responded had never actually attended an external workshop and 60% only attended one session.

The unlikelihood of long-lasting change occurring when professional development is not continuous is well-documented. Therefore, by their very nature workshops with no follow-up are unlikely to have a deep impact. Teachers referenced workload, cover and finances as reasons why attendance was generally low.

Coaching and Mentoring

Mentoring should be considered as a process to manage career transition, normally between an experienced mentor and a less experienced mentee. Various studies suggest that mentor programs assist novice teachers and the moral and emotional support is valued as much as pedagogical guidance. Coaching is a different, but equally as powerful mechanism for situated professional development that involves peer-to-peer discussions that provide the coached teacher objective feedback on both weaknesses and strengths in self-selected areas. Coaching can help develop meta-cognitive articulation, reflection and exploration skills whilst helping teachers to become more aware of their pedagogic understanding.

Only 34% of respondents confirmed they had experienced either coaching or mentoring as a form of iPad CPD. All respondents reported a positive impact, but coaching in particular had a high impact upon practice according to the results. Qualitative feedback confirmed perceived advantages of coaching and mentoring as ‘a chance to ask very basic questions’, ‘developing good relations with trusted partners’, ability to ‘ask specific questions to my own use’, ‘can-do rassurance and ‘gain in confidence’. Disadvantages were cited as time constraints and internet connectivity issues.

Personal Learning Networks (PLN’s)

Although not all PLN’s are digital, teachers are increasingly utilising digital technology for CPD. Global networks of support allow them to take advantage of collective knowledge and experiences from friends, colleagues, teachers and educationalists from all over the planet. These PLN’s offer constant, on-demand support therefore allowing for cost and time effective development of practitioner careers.

Teachers involved in PLN’s formed 43% of respondents and 100% of them reported an impact on practice. Advantages specified included ‘new ideas’, ‘comfort knowing that colleagues struggle with same issues’, ‘keeping up-to-date with current issues in teaching’ and ‘amazing for subject knowledge’. Nevertheless, 57% of teachers were therefore not benefiting from the perceived advantages of Personal Learning Networks and again, time restraints were revealed as a difficulty. The sheer amount of information was also mentioned as a disadvantage.

Apple Teacher

The Apple Teacher is a free professional learning course aimed at supporting and celebrating educators who use Apple technology for teaching and learning. Eight badges are required to pass and each badge can be obtained after completing a short, multiple-choice quiz on-line. It has been introduced as part of the iPad CPD programme within the context of this study as an optional CPD pathway. 30% of respondents reported that they had passed the course and were now Apple Teachers whilst 40% reported to have earned some of the badges – this constituted 12 teachers.  12 respondents also reported the program had impacted upon their practice. Advantages of Apple Teacher included learning new methods, increase in confidence and improved proficiency.

 

Two teachers reported ‘No Impact’ from Apple Teacher. All disadvantages that were shared once more focused on the school level barrier of time as being the main constraint.

Practices, Beliefs and Attitudes

The behaviour of teachers is normally determined by attitude as opposed to knowledge (Pajares, 1992). Therefore, preordained negative views of different types of CPD has the potential to be a significant barrier to any introduction. The problem deepens for school leaders hopeful of integrating coaching, mentoring or PLN’s as teacher beliefs are rarely completely reversed and, over the course of time, can become ever more firmly entrenched and highly resistant to change (Ertmer, 2005). Nevertheless, there are inconsistencies concerning teacher belief and the actualities of classroom behaviour. Indeed, contextual influences could hinder the opportunity for teachers to administer personal beliefs in their classrooms; for example, avoiding high quality personalised CPD within an overriding culture of learning and innovation would be incompatible.

Regarding the use of iPads in education, general opinions at my school were positive among respondents; 88% believed that iPads allowed for greater ownership of learning whilst 72% did not consider iPads to be a distraction. Indeed, not one teacher disagreed with the notion that if used effectively, iPads had the potential to enrich the learning experience of pupils. 

Conclusions

In conclusion, nearly every modern proposal for improving education and adopting new technologies cites high-quality professional development as a key component. Therefore, as the Independent Preparatory School at which this research took place recently adopted Wi-Fi and iPads, an evaluation of the associated CPD provision offered an opportunity to critically reflect on current practice and consider possibilities to improve teaching and learning. This study ascertained a positive overview of the iPad CPD provision and indeed, an encouraging staff attitude towards the devices. It revealed that the form of CPD itself need not be a concern as long as it provides high quality, personalised opportunities for teachers to improve teaching and learning when using iPads in their classroom. However, it also revealed that many teachers were not utilising all the different CPD opportunities at their disposal and raised concerns about the availability of resources.

Therefore, this study proposes that to improve the situation and help maintain a genuine learning culture in which iPads are ubiquitously used by teachers to facilitate transformational learning opportunities, there are ten key actions for development:

  • A holistic shared understanding of the aims of iPad CPD
  • Relevant resources need to be available and maintained
  • Raising awareness of available personalised CPD opportunities
  • Utilisation of PLN’s to be encouraged
  • Sufficient time allowance needs to be made for professional development
  • iPad CPD opportunities need to be personalised
  • iPad CPD needs to be monitored and impact evaluated
  • Positive personal experience of iPad needs to be facilitated
  • Good practice needs to be shared and modelled
  • An environment created that encourages teacher leadership

In addition, this research necessitated a subsequent measurement of impact via future rounds of research.

It is widely acknowledged that simple acquisition of technology in education will do nothing to improve standards. This research and the wider literature agree that school leaders, and those in charge of CPD, whether iPad related or not, need to develop a culture of learning, where teachers know that opportunities for professional development will help improve their practice, skills and knowledge. Teachers need to be able to tailor their professional development for direct impact on their own practice and be afforded the opportunity to take responsibility for pedagogical improvement. When adopting iPads or indeed other new technologies or strategies successfully, they must become an everyday part of teachers’ repertoire with tangible results and positive impact in their classrooms. The needs of teachers are best ascertained by clear and open-dialogue. With relevant and positive conversations taking place, the evolution of common-purpose may contribute to the ability of this school, and those further afield, to maintain and develop the use of iPads in a transformational way. Indeed, the creation of a culture with genuine distributed leadership could also provide an environment where teachers routinely and willingly learn from one another and from their wider PLN’s. Furthermore, teachers would be more likely to feel empowered to experiment with iPads and utilise the new skills and knowledge they have procured.

Like teachers, each educational system, and each school within it, must be regarded with their own identity, idiosyncrasies and culture. Nevertheless, unless change initiatives ultimately have direct, positive impact on students for whose future teachers are partly responsible, they are unlikely to succeed anywhere. Although it is too early to ascertain any-long term impact of this research, the findings of my study have already impacted upon practice at my school. The mentoring and coaching program has been expanded and more people are becoming involved with the planning and delivery of iPad CPD; indicative of increased distributed-leadership. Furthermore, this research has already helped shape future technological, iPad CPD and leadership developmental plans and will continue to do so with further action-research cycles.

Fundamentally, if school leadership teams are focused on the provision of the highest possible standards for their students and feel iPads can assist with that goal, they must develop and sustain a culture that encourages teachers to experiment, discover and learn from their mistakes together.

References:

Adams, R. (2016) Students who use digital devices in class ‘perform worse in exams’. The Guardian. 11th May 2016, [online]. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/may/11/students-who-use-digital-devices-in-class-perform-worse-in-exams

Bingimlas, K.A. (2009) Barriers to the successful integration of ICT in teaching and learning environments: A review of the literature. Eurasia journal of mathematics, science & technology education5(3).

Ertmer, P. (2005) Teacher Pedagogical Beliefs: The Final Frontier in Our Quest for Technology Integration? Educational Technology Research and Development, [online] 53(4): pp.25- 39. Available at: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF02504683

Kopcha, T. (2011) Teachers’ perceptions of the barriers to technology integration and practices with technology under situated professional development. Computers and Education, [online] 59(4): pp.1109-1121. Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360131512001352

Spaven, E. (2016) Report: EdTech spend will reach $252bn by 2020 [online]. Available at  https://www.uktech.news/news/report-edtech-spend-will-reach-252bn-2020-20160526

 

 

It’s not whether you use social media, it’s how you use social media…

“It’s not whether you use social media, it’s how you use social media”

On Friday 4th May, we are hosting a Social Media Awareness Afternoon at King’s and for those parents that can not make it, I have linked the presentation to this blog post. The message really centres around the above quote. We live in a digital age where the number of people engaging on social media dwarfs the population of the worlds biggest countries. There is no point in burying our heads in the sand or scare mongering about the inevitable apocalyptic end-game that social media will bring to humanity. Rather, we strongly recommend a proactive, mediative approach where parents educate both themselves and their pupils about the dangers of social media, but also about it’s virtues and ensure that the correct measures are taken to make sure user experience is optimised.

Social media is here to stay. Recent news stories about Facebook data mining and trolls on Twitter have not seen a large decline in the social media giants’ respective user-base. Even if one of the social media giants did fold, it would only be a matter of time before another replaces it and becomes a part of every-day life for everyone with an internet connection. However, the invasive nature of social media in all our lives does highlight the need for education about the pitfalls of clickbait, unsolicited hyperlinks, sharing personal data and digital footprints. We are confident that the children at our school enjoy an engaging digital literacy program whilst at school and also realise that they probably know far more about the social media that they use on a daily basis then most adults. Therefore, during the afternoon, pupils will also be presenting and demonstrating which social-communication tools they use, how they protect themselves and why the power of conversations and communication between parents and pupils is a great way to develop deeper understanding. Furthermore, we will offer reassurance that children’s online lives can be positive if sensible procedures are established and followed. More detailed advice is available in the Prezi below.

http://prezi.com/wfxn5-bnw47q/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy