It’s happening. WiFi is arriving at King’s Rochester. Not just any WiFi either – we are lucky enough to be having a cutting edge, fully managed and scalable Meru Network installed over the Christmas break. The good news does not end there. We will also be the lucky recipients of 20 shared iPads and the necessary MDM required to manage and sync the devices. Considering where the school was a year and a half ago with regard to technology, it truly is a huge step forward for King’s. However, the real work has not even started yet…
The WiFi and iPads will be rendered useless if after all, they make no impact on learning. After all, the devices themselves are inanimate objects. On their own they do nothing. However, if the project is managed successfully – there is every chance that there will be a dramatic shift in the boundaries of learning and the conventions of the traditional classroom will finally be displaced. Nevertheless, it is that very change, that shift in parameters, which brings with it the project makers or breakers. During a recent NPQSL seminar, we were presented with the Dimensions of Change table you see below and this provided the perfect platform for me to reflect on our project thus far, and analyse what we were doing right -and where we will need to take action.
VISION – since starting at King’s, I have had a clear vision of where I wanted the school to be. I used my experience of establishing a 1:2:1 program in Monaco, conversations with other professionals and visits to schools with mobile learning infrastructure to hone this vision to one that matched the needs of my school. However, a solitary vision is rarely successful. Knowing this, I organised an ‘EdTech Committee’ in which the Heads of School , Heads of Computing, ICT Manager and Bursar started to meet to discuss, analyse and formulate a shared vision of WiFi and how Mobile Learning would best be deployed in each respective school. However, to avoid confusion it is essential that the vision is shared, understood and supported by all members of the school community.
SKILLS – For technology to be usefully deployed in the classroom and for redefined learning opportunities to take place, teachers need to know how to use the technology available. There have been plenty of examples of thousands of pounds being wasted on tech, as money was not spent on CPD for the teachers who were supposed to use it. With that in mind, we have been running in-house CPD sessions for over a year now. Ranging from superb in house Teach-Meet sessions to Apple Tech breakfast workshops. However, attendance has not always been as good as it might have so it is vital that this continues. I have established Digital Leaders who I am to train on the iPads and who therefore will be available, in every class, for teachers to utilise should they feel the need. I also aim to up to the quality and quantity of iPad CPD over the coming years to ensure teachers skill levels and confidence is continually building. We have also utilised external CPD through Trilby, Solutions INC and ADE’s such as Marc Faulder, EYFS and KS1 specialist. This will be ongoing and hopefully utilised as much as possible by our staff and prevent any unnecessary anxiety.
INCENTIVES – The incentives for staff to immerse themselves in WiFi and mobile learning are hard to quantify. Pay rises or million dollar bonuses are unlikely. However, the personal incentives for teachers to develop their own practice, learn new skills and improve their lessons are immediate. Additionally, the acquisition of new technology know-how also has the added incentive of reducing workload and stress! I find it so much easier to mark and plan on a computer and deliver my lessons digitally. I can honestly say I have not used the photocopier once in 1 and 1/2 years at King’s, what more of an incentive could a teacher want? Finally, offering new redefined learning opportunities to pupil’s is perhaps the greatest incentive of all and will hopefully help to ease any resistance.
RESOURCES – The Meru WiFi network is going to be awesome. It is future proofed, holistic, fully managed and scalable. The iPads are also transformational resources and will be able to safely rely on the network to work, so in that sense the resources are going to be there. However, knowing that teachers themselves will need tech, we have also acquired some extra iPads for departments and have also started a Salary Sacrifice scheme that allows teachers to purchase tech for use at school with at least a 32% discount. However, in an ideal world, staff would each be given a device as it’s impossible to expect teachers to use the devices if they do not have access to them and without the necessary tools, will understandably get frustrated.
ACTION PLANS – Since the vision was originally shared back in October 2013, a clear, evolving, flexible but specific action plan has underpinned strategic development. From visiting other schools, to creating student Digital Leaders, the plan was comprehensive enough to work, but adaptable enough to change when barriers where met. For example, the original plan involved a staggered adoption, each of our three schools adopting WiFi one by one. This proved impractical and the decision was made to go whole-school all at once.
The picture above shows our WiFi adoption timeline, which forms part of the overall EdTech Action Plan. It is based on the principles of Hooper and Reiber, and each stage had a more focused Action Plan layered underneath. I am currently finalising the Action Plan for the ‘Integrate’ and ‘Transform’ stage to ensure success and avoid false starts.
COLLEGIALITY – Defined as the ‘cooperative relationship of colleagues’, collegiality is essential for success with our mobile learning project. Staff are under no obligation to use the devices, but with the correct support available, I’m certain that teachers will see the advantages of using mobile technology in the classroom and do their best to make the project work.
The future at King’s is not what it used to be and I for one am incredibly excited about it.