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.

 

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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.