Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Embedding Technology to Change Pedagogy

Embedding Technology to Change Pedagogy

Changing the way you teach is always scary whether it is introducing a new AfL technique, trialling Kagan structures or a trying a new differentiation strategy. Add the layer of complexity that using technology brings and to be honest, it’s often easy just to play around or avoid it at all, rather than consciously using tech to change and develop your pedagogy. Yet, we instinctively know that the benefits could be substantial if we can break through those invisible barriers. So are there shortcuts to embedding technology to change pedagogy?

Simply, the answer is no. Sorry. However, there are some simple steps I would suggest you can follow to make your journey a little easier.

  1. Choose ONE thing!
There are thousands of apps and as many different ways of using each of them, which can be overwhelming when trying to embed technology to change pedagogy. The most common error I see in our schools is teachers trying to do ten things, all of which don’t quite get embedded and get quickly forgotten. If you starting out, go very simple. If you consider yourself an expert, I would still suggest just doing one or two things well, until it is completely natural to both you and the students.
  1. Plan for the technical setup time
This often the most difficult step. Every time you are planning to use a new tool/app, set aside time to allow for getting students set up or logged in. However long you think it should take to get 30 students set up, double it, possibly even triple it. If it is an app, make their homework a week before to download it, then check the lesson before you plan to use it that they have it. In a culture of making every second count, teachers are often afraid to see this as good use of time, but try to see it as an investment that will lead to long term gains.

  1. Develop pedagogy around the tool
Ask yourself which key teaching and learning skill can I focus on with this tool/app. For example, can I use this tool with groups that are differentiated by ability or with the most able, supporting the least able? Can I use this tool as a way stimulate higher level questions or thinking? As we know, no technology tool can replace the invaluable skill you have as an educator in helping students learn.

  1. Invest in student learning time
We assume that because students are digital natives and can use a tablet proficiently at aged two, like my youngest son, that they are expert users of technology for learning. That simply isn’t the case. Playing games is one thing, using technology for a purpose is another level of skill. So often teachers expect too much of students, so that when the outcomes students produce using technology are often poorer than through traditional methods, teachers become discouraged and move on. By doing one thing and investing time in helping students master it for learning purposes over time you will change the culture of using technology not just a reward or novelty bonus but a useful tool for learning.
Once you have your classes using the ONE tool effectively and you can plan and use it with minimal effort, then you are ready to move on the next tool or technique. Trying to rush ahead is often self defeating.

Quick suggestions for useful tools:

  1. Kahoot- Free, quick and easy online quiz application that kids highly engaged
  2. Padlet- Free, quick and easy online whiteboard application that everyone can share.
  3. Google Classroom- Great way to share work, ask questions. If you want to be more advanced you can start marking work online through Google docs.
  4. Blogger- A free blogging service from Google. A potential way to get students to use an online exercise book, with opportunity for comments and feedback

Embedding technology is a marathon not a sprint, so don’t rush it because if it’s worth doing, it’s worth taking time over.

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Friday, 20 November 2015

Laptop vs Chromebook

This week we have been researching and considering the differences between introducing Chromebooks or Windows Laptops for teachers. With the help of our design team I have produced this Infographic which is based on our experience and our findings from the work we have already done.

We are finding that staff are happy to trial and play with a Chromebook but are wary of making the full jump away from a Windows Laptop. Choosing to move a whole school from one system to another always carries risks, the Chromebook may potentially be risky for teachers if it requires learning new skills and may require a change to the way we work. However a Laptop carries risks of security breaches, ongoing maintenance challenges and slowing down overtime. The question is which risk are you willing to take?

Teachers and IT professionals may answer that question differently....

View the Infographic by clicking here

What are your thoughts?

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Friday, 8 May 2015

From Mac to Chromebook... I made the switch!

About 6 weeks ago I was given a new Toshiba Chromebook 2, with a high resolution screen to trial.
Initially I was sceptical.... I have been a full MacBook Pro user for the past 4 years and while I love the Google tools I was not sure that a £180 device would match up to the finery of the Mac.


I now live on my Chromebook and have turned my Mac on only once in 6 weeks when I forgot the power cord for the Chromebook. I have surprised myself.

Why did it work for me?

1. I am fully Google: All of my email, calendar, documents, spreadsheets and presentations (both work and personal) are now done in Google. I much prefer it to both Microsoft Office suite and the iWorks suite, I find it very simple to use and the ability to collaborate has become a daily occurrence. If you are a big Google Apps users then the Chromebook makes perfect sense

2. I am impatient: Its true, I HATE waiting for a computer to turn on or load things. My Mac was getting on a bit (nearly 4 years old) not sure what that makes it human years but it is definitely ready for its pension. It was often presenting me with the rainbow wheel of death! The Chromebook however moves faster than a toupee in a hurricane. From off its on in 7 seconds and the lid up going up and down is about 1 second until I'm going again. Brilliant for the impatient worker like me.

3. I am not doing any heavy lifting: I used to do a lot more video editing and sound creation, creating tutorials and presentations for my multimedia teaching, I do a lot less of this now and so the on-line tools of We-Video are sufficient... for now. However if I were to do more of this work, I may need to reconsider.

My Incorrect Misconceptions:

1. It's rubbish if you don't have a connection: I was on the train home from Birmingham last week and was able to create and access all the documents I needed. If you use Google Apps, using a Chromebook makes sense.

2. Lots of software won't work on it: There are of course many pieces of software which are not compatible with the Chromebook but as yet that has not affected my work. There are some good SMARTboard tools which work with the Chromebook and all the other tools I use now have a web interface.

3. Rubbish Hardware: Granted my Toshiba Chromebook 2 is not quite as nice as my Mac in terms of feel and probably durability but its still pretty good. Nice keyboard, great screen, nice feel, light, although a little plastic it even looks like a nice machine

Would I recommend a Chromebook?

Simply yes... If you all you mainly use is office tools and the web, want a device that is lightning fast, is under £200 and has a great screen then this is totally worth the investment.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Big 6

It's easy to give tablets to kids and get them excited, who wouldn't want one...
It's easy to get teachers to realise that tablets offer the possibility to transform their classroom...
It's hard to actually make it happen!

I guess that many people reading this (or the two of you!) will probably be educational enthusiasts who just "get it", are willing to experiment and love tech. However most teachers don't fall into this category, in the average school that will be about 90% of staff. This doesn't mean they are bad teachers, just that they haven't been able to make the connections between the possibilities of the future and the realities of the now.

My vision as a strategic leader is to see transformation across a whole school community, with all teachers making good use of technology to help students learn quicker, deeper and better. However, in my last four years leading mass iPad rollouts and technology implementations it has been a challenge to actually to get this mass change.

So my focus has increasingly been on understanding the stones teachers need to step on to cross the gap. One of these steps is to identify the Big 6. Six applications that we will insist all teachers use in as many lessons as possible, helping them to make the connections when using these apps. We wanted where possible to have apps that worked on iOS and on Chrome so students who may not have an iOS device are not disadvantaged.

SO....ours are...

1) Google Drive- All work can now be saved and shared, regardless of device or file size. As an iPad teacher for the last 4 years, getting work off devices has often been one of the biggest time drains.

2) Google Classroom- Assignments can now be set and shared with my class. I know that other applications such as Edmodo or Showbie, do this a bit better at the moment but Classroom is free and fully integrates with our current Google Apps solution.

3) Nearpod- While expensive to use properly, especially with our classes of 60, it allows teachers to create presentations, which they would do anyway, but with lots of added functionality and interactivity. It works brilliantly as a flipped learning resource for homework with the self paced option.

4) Popplet- A simple to use mind-mapping app. This might be a surprise choice for some, but it works as a great tool to create notes on lessons, develop ideas, revise topics and is visually attractive.

5) Explain Everything- A great way for students to present their learning in a powerful and meaningful way. A great way for teachers to create tutorials for Flipped Learning lessons, which then simply exports to Google Drive to be shared.

6) Book Creator-  Probably one of the easiest content creation apps to use and produces a fantastic eBook at the end. There are so many uses for teachers delivering topics or students doing homework, creating a personal learning diaries or ePortfolios.

These are ours...for now! They may change in the future because, as we all know, technology evolves and adapts.

Hopefully we haven't missed anything really obvious or made any huge errors but just like our students, we are all learners.

I would be really interested to hear what yours are? What are your thoughts on ours?

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Wednesday, 12 November 2014

The Leigh Trust is Going Google

The Leigh Academies Trust is going Google.....
That's right all 9 schools (5000+ users) are in the process of transferring all their email, calendars and storage to Google! As a Trust we have a clear and strong vision for seeing our schools really getting hold of the power of technology and utilising it for to actually transform our schools into 21st century learning environments.

So why did we go Google?

1. It supports our 1-2-1 Schemes
We have several of our schools who are 1-2-1 iPad schools. These schools love the iPads and way they can add so much colour and creativity to learning. However they have been encountering lots of boring but yet critical problems such as document compatibility,  getting work off an iPad to the teachers, work collaboratively with other students. Google works really well on the iPad, although there are, as ever, a few annoyances but it provides the missing link to enable the us to get the best of both worlds!

2. We can be one school
We are rapidly growing Trust, with new schools growing all the time and one of our big questions is how do we work more collaboratively. We now have a shared Post 16, so how can we help students who work across sites have seamless experience? Now we have a global address list for all students and staff, which has class groups and allows you to share and collaborate on work simply.

3. It provides one platform for users
Having multiple schools with multiple systems creates all kinds of problems between Windows and Mac, let alone the issues created by versions of those operating systems/ software. Now we have one platform that allows us to work seamlessly!

4. 24/7 learning
This the goal! We want our students working when suits them and not being impeded by annoying technology issues. With every student having their own Google Account, they can get access to all school material truly anytime, anywhere, any device!

I am excited about how these changes have the chance to actually change things for students, nit just in the classroom of the enthusiast but in the all classrooms!

I hope to post more about our journey in more depth as we go...

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