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.

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

 

 

Absorbing ADE2017: Five Things I Took Home From Windsor

Windsor is a stunning town, situated on the River Thames, 20 miles or so west of London. It is the home of Legoland UK and the world famous royal residence, Windsor Castle, originally built by William the Conqueror in the 11th Century. In July 2017, it also was one of the locations that welcomed the new Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) class of 2017 and I was lucky enough to attend as Alumni. They were a brilliant few days, and I’d like to share five things that I took away from a remarkable experience.

1.Teaching Is Amazing

With all the negativity surrounding Ofsted, SATs, teachers pay, teacher recruitment etc. it is easy to forget what an amazing job teaching actually is and what a brilliant job teachers do.  At ADE2017, all attendees were provided with ample opportunities to hear stories from classrooms across the world, demonstrating the wonderful work that takes place on a daily basis. From showcases to informal conversations, it was inspiring to hear so many marvellous projects taking place, orchestrated by a brilliant team of educators.

2. Chase and Status Don’t Just Make Brilliant Music

One of the highlights was the interview conducted by Peter Ford with Chase and Status’ very own Will Kennard (aka Status). I have long been a fan of Chase and Status and was amazed when Mr Kennard appeared on stage! He provided a fascinating insight into his own education and how although he attended a good school, was not engaged with the education available there. He passed his exams and went to university as he felt he had too, but “dropped out” after a year (much to his Mum’s dismay) to concentrate on his true passion; electronic music production and DJing. It proved to be the right choice as Chase and Status are now global superstars within their scene and regularly tour the planet, headlining major music festivals across the planet. We also got a sneak preview of their new album, Tribe, which sounded typically awesome. However, the most inspiring aspect of Will’s story was that he used his negative experience of education to try and make a positive difference to young people today by forming the East London School for Arts and Music (ELAM). The objective of ELAM is to give children the opportunity to develop their skills in music, arts and drama, regardless of their background. Furthermore, their unique curriculum allows the fusion of songwriting, poetry, news articles, gig reviews, and even plays that have been performed at the National Theatre. The dreaded OFSTED had even confirmed what a stellar job Will and his team are doing when they awarded the school ‘Outstanding’ in their most recent inspection.

3. There Are More Fantastic Swift Playground And Coding Resources Available

I have already used Swift Playground, Apple’s quite excellent coding App, with Year 7 and received fantastic feedback from students. However, it looks like there may be even more excitement next school year as there is now bluetooth connectivity to robots, drones and musical instruments including Lego Mindstorms Education EV3, the Sphero SPRK+, Parrot drones and more. Furthermore, the younger pupils will be able to enjoy more coding as I will be using the free Get Started With Code teacher guide. I will be using it alongside Tynker, CodeSpark Academy and Keynote. All resources are free and each lesson has editable slides, purpose built for the classroom and importantly, in case you get stuck, the answers!

4. Clips Are Everywhere and Bursting With Potential

If you are a teacher on Twitter, you may have noticed a sudden burst of #classroomclips appear on your timeline. One of the main reasons is that us ADE’s were set the challenge of producing something useful, tangible and constructive using the new, simple and intuitive Apple App, Clips. It is free and allows for very quick production of pretty professional looking video clips, ideal for sharing on social media. I have already seen some brilliant projects unfold, such as the #ClipsTours videos which showcase parts of the world visited by ADE’s or the @TechTeachGoals team who are now sharing short but useful hints and tips for #Edtech use in the classroom. However, I am most excited by the prospect of seeing what the pupils will produce when back at school and are unleashed upon the Clips App themselves.

5. The amazing prospect of Apple School Manager & Shared iPad

Over the summer, we are lucky enough to be adding 20 brand new iPads to our resources at King’s ready for September. They are the new ‘iPad’ which means that we will be able to set up users on the devices who will be able to log-in and find their respective set up. Our existing shared iPads were iPad Mini 2’s and although they have proved brilliant for our pupils, there were lots of occasions where work was lost, wrongly edited or settings had been changed. Instead, with Apple School Manager and shared iPad, individual users log-in to the device to find their own unique settings. We will be among the first schools in the UK to be using the new feature and I can’t wait to get started. Regarding the old devices, they will now be exclusively for Y4 whilst the new devices, for Y5. Furthermore, we are lucky enough to have 1:2:1 iPads in Y6,Y7 and Y8 so our pupils iPad provision has never looked so healthy.

 

Operation: Cosmic Dust – A Pupil Powered Mission To Space

In September 2016, an email from The Principal began what was to become a remarkable adventure, not only for Roffa The Teddy Bear, but also for the pupils of my place of employment; King’s Prep School in Rochester. The mission, code named ‘Operation: Cosmic Dust’ was clear; get Roffa The Bear into space and back whilst obtaining some footage of the journey! Simple, right?

Captain Roffa The Bear

Immediately, this seemed like an ideal challenge based learning project for the Prep School’s extraordinary Digital Genius team; two members of each class that meet once a week with myself to learn about everything Edtech and to be on hand in every class to assist teachers and their fellow pupils. As the Michaelmas term ‘blasted’ towards Christmas, naturally the weather started to deteriorate. Therefore, our wonderful ‘cluster’ of Digital Geniuses spent the rest of the term procuring the required equipment; accompanying Captain Roffa on his journey was two SIM card GPS transmitters, a 64GB SD card and a Go-Pro Camera to record the adventure. Most of the equipment was purchased from the fantastic team at Sent Into Space.

The Digital Genius Team and Roffa’s kit

The Digital Genius team immediately set about designing and building the payload to carry Roffa and the equipment into space. Once completed, it was simply a matter of waiting for the right weather conditions to occur. Roffa could not travel north due to air-traffic, whilst travelling east was no-good due to the proximity of the Thames Estuary and the North Sea. Days turned to weeks, and weeks to months until, deep into May, the metaphorical planets aligned and the launch date was finally decided for Thursday the 25th.

The landing predictor finally comes up trumps!

When the countdown had finished and take-off day was upon us, at lunch time the whole school gathered on the school field, known as The Paddock, to watch the extraordinary event unfold. When everything was prepared, everybody shouted out the countdown from 10 and then, in a blink of an eye, Roffa’s astonishing ascent to the stratosphere began. As Roffa majestically disappeared from sight, it was down to Head of Science – Mr Caithness, and myself to head off into the Kent wilderness in the hope we could retrieve the Astrobear.

The school gathers to watch the launch of Roffa

Finally, after 4 hours Roffa made contact and provided GPS coordinates stating he had landed just east of Hadlow. With no hesitation, we sped over to the location but, to our dismay, after an extensive search, it was clear Roffa was gone…

Roffa was recovered in Hadlow by Mr Tim Shilton

However, just as we were about to return to school empty-handed, Mr Caithness received a phonecall! Thankfully, Roffa had been found by a Mr Tim Shilton of Hadlow! We made the short journey to Mr Shilton’s house who then explained he had been enjoying a glass of Shiraz with his wife when he suddenly saw the bear descend near the bottom of his back garden! He retrieved Roffa from a tree and then made the call.

Roffa Featured in The Times

The next day, the Digital Genius team carefully opened the payload and ejected the SD card and the footage they found was simply stunning. The curvature of the earth was clear alongside East Anglia, the Isle of Wight, France, Belgium and beyond and all can be seen the film at the bottom of this post.  Roffa’s journey was subsequently featured in the Medway Messenger, The Times and even the international press. Furthermore, the Digital Genius Team were invited to present their project at Sussex University as part of the Solutions INC Annual Education Summit.

The Digital Genius Team at Sussex University

Nevertheless, most importantly of all, Roffa’s adventure inspired the learners of King’s Prep School in what was a truly memorable experience for us all.

Operation: Cosmic Dust – Launch Day from King’s Prep School on Vimeo.

The Impact Of iPad – Results Are In…

Over the Christmas break, King’s was involved in a flurry of activity. Despite the lack of students, the ancient Meru APcorridors were witnessing a fundamental change in the learning environment. WiFi was being installed…

Across the school, peculiar little white boxes adjoined with four flappy panels appeared on many of our walls and ceilings. These devices, otherwise known as AP’s (Access Points), offered a seismic opportunity for change in our classrooms and opened up the endless potential of transformational digital technologies to our pupils.

In the Prep School we took the decision to invest in a number of iPads. Although we are well aware that the devices are better used in a 1:2:1 environment, the acquisition of shared devices is a huge stepping stone in the right direction and an exciting statement of intent. Eight weeks into the project, the iPads have been in almost continual use. From subjects as diverse as Latin and Maths, they have been used in a whole host of imaginative and creative ways and are fast becoming a much-valued resource.

What though, and most importantly, has been the impact on learning? Last week I took the opportunity to gauge the opinion of those who matter most, our pupils. The results of the survey are published below and are a real cause for celebration:

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In conclusion, the graphics above tell their own story. We are very much in the early stages of iPad adoption but already they have had an incredibly successful impact on learning and pupil engagement. Interestingly, the statistic concerning sharing work on the devices caused the most disagreement, and that in itself is telling. Having shared devices does not help to create a dynamic workflow and neither does a lack of connectivity to the classroom display board. We do have a few Apple TV’s up and running but are looking to roll out ‘Airserver’ in the very near future. When combined with Showbie and our school blog site I expect to see an increase in connectivity between teachers, pupils and the outside world. We know there is a huge amount of work ahead of us, but we can be confident we have made  a very positive start and that plans are in place to ensure future success.

A Journey In The Right Direction

Teaching takes you in many directions and provides you with unique experiences. From toxic chemical cloud drills to games of Bunny Bunny, the old cliche that no two days are the same really does carry weight in our exhilarating profession. Thursday 28th November was no exception.

A party of six left King’s Rochester at 7am to visit three Sussex schools; Hove ParkRoedean and Hurspierpoint. All three schools had been recommended by Solutions Inc; an Apple re-seller in Hove with whom we are building links. Solutions have already visited King’s to complete a WiFi survey and kindly invited us to speak to, and learn from, a selection of schools that were on different stages of their tech adoption. The M25 insisted that we took the scenic route to The South Coast and after an enjoyable journey through the countryside, we arrived at our first destination…

Hove Park is a school on the up. In August 2012, they were placed first in Brighton and Hove for most improved schools, being 2nd in the South East and 12th Nationally. Their results have also coincided with a innovative approach to learning by introducing iPads in the day-to-day life of the school. Our meeting was led by Deputy Head and Business Manager, Niel McLeod, and he walked us through the journey Hove Park had been on thus far. Niel confirmed that any tech adoption scheme must be driven from the SLT. Without support from the top, any initiative will be unlikely to succeed. He also talked of the importance of not forcing change; allowing teachers the freedom to develop their own pedagogy around devices is crucial. Teachers who had been happily and successfully teaching for 25 years sometimes did not see the need to incorporate iPads into their lessons and were often afraid to do so. However, putting the devices in their hands long before the students got hold of them, alleviated some of this pressure. Furthermore, the use of drop-in workshops and Digital Leaders had also helped with the transition, and had the dual effect of empowering students. Indeed, it was the evidence collected form the students that demonstrated why their iPad adoption scheme was working – and why the effort that teachers had made to was so worth it – enjoyment of lessons had increased by over 60% whilst remarkably, negative behaviour had actually reduced by 56%.

One of the most famous girls schools in Brighton.

One of the most famous girls schools in Brighton. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Next on the hit-list was historic Roedean. Perched elegently on the chalk cliffs, East of Brighton, Roedean has also recently rolled out iPads and we heard their story via their incredibly knowledgeable network manager, Shayne Parker. Shayne stated that before considering a tech roll out of any kind, it was essential to have future-proofed and reliable WiFi infrastructure underpinning the operation. It was interesting to hear how Roedean had overcome issues such as the thickness of the historic walls; this is something that needs to be considered in many of the buildings at King’s. The majority of Roedean’s students are boarders, and this was another factor in their decision to get a high quality infrastructure and device management system. Many of the girls at Roedean come from overseas so access to tools such as Skype and Facebook is imperative, but of course there are e-safety concerns that needed to be addressed. Roedean used Smoothwall as their content filtering solution and Shayne could not have been more complimentary. Regarding the iPads themselves, Roedean’s workflow solution used Apple TV and Office 365; a tech ecosystem I had not come across before, but one that clearly worked very well and one that could also work at King’s with our Windows-based network.

Our last stop was Hurstpeirpoint College. Orginally founded in 1849, Hurst boasts the oldest Shakespeare society in existence but fuses tradition with cutting edge technology deployment and the inspirational Deputy Head, Vickie Bacon, filled us in on the schools iPad story. Their 1:2:1 scheme was in its third year and was clearly deeply entrenched in everyday school life and the curriculum. Like the other two schools, Hurst was becoming increasingly involved with iTunesU and has also introduced iPod touches in the Pre-Prep. Technology was clearly a huge part of the school’s vision and after seeing a stunning impromptu Keynote presentation from a Y8 pupil, the positive effect it was having on learning was obvious. Indeed, as soon as the presentation had finished the pupil smiled and said “I had a lot of fun making that”. The fact that the subject was ‘corresponding angles’ says a lot about how, when facilitated correctly, technology can make learning about even the most mundane of subjects, engaging and exciting.

The drive home was filled with much excitement; we had learned so much and were enthused about the adventures ahead. Each school was at a different stage of their respective journeys, and each school was carving a path that was unique and personalised to best enhance the experience of their learners. Nevertheless, each school shared a vision to ensure their students were benefitting from the remarkable technology that is now increasingly a part of everyday life. It is now our job up to use this valuable experience and formulate our own plans for the future at King’s.

The Next Episode…

Things change. As an educator absorbed in a sometimes daunting but fascinating world of technology in education, I know that only too well. It is with very fond memories that I am saying goodbye to The International School of Monaco and taking up a new position, as Head of ICT, at King’s Prep School, Rochester, UK.

Five years at ISM have been challenging, rewarding and memorable. As someone whose career is based around learning, I have been astonished by the amount I have personally learnt as I begin to understand the significance ICT can have on education; the barriers it removes and the borders it breaks. Those five years at ISM have seen the incredible emergence of blogs, iPads and web-tools in the classroom, and with it what would appear a genuine mind-shift in education towards creativity, at least in some quarters.

Twitter itself has been one of the most radical tools with regard to my own understanding of learning. Without it my knowledge could still be limited to CPD sessions run by The County Council, in which if you were lucky, you’d get 30 minutes of valuable insight and the rest was all about the sausage rolls. 30 minutes on twitter and you can be overwhelmed with innovative ideas and invaluable resources. Its with great excitement and anticipation that I look forward to continuing to learn from Twitter whilst attending TeachMeets and other such teacher-led CPD opportunities to continue my personal learning journey.

And learn is what I am going to have to do. I will leaving the comfort of my IOS, Apple environment, in which iPads and digital tools have become firmly embedded in everyday classroom life, to a predominantly Windows environment where ICT is still taught discreetly. Its a very different setup with very different challenges, but is something I am incredibly excited about undertaking. Furthermore, it is something that I feel far more confident in doing, knowing that I have a huge network of education professionals from around the World to call upon for help and advice when I, inevitably, will need it.