DISPLAYING ITEMS BY TAG: EDTECH

“If we teach today's students as we taught yesterday's, we rob them of tomorrow” - John Dewey.

I was first introduced to this quote by Lee Parkinson, and I think it illustrates perfectly how we should think of edtech. When it comes to technology in the classroom, we tend to follow the most up-to-date trends; this has been how I have used technology such as Minecraft and online memes (ideal for grammar). Plus, there really is an app for absolutely everything. However, to bring real benefit to edtech usage, I’m now changing my thinking.

I had always believed that, in a fast-paced world, we need to find the latest app of the week and involve it in the class to best stay at the cutting edge. However, more recently I have backed off a little. I came to the realise that learners don’t need our help on discovering apps, or figuring out how to access them. They need help with using these resources creatively and effectively. So, at Old Hall Primary our approach has changed from having the latest app on the iPad, or the newest piece of software on the computers - we have slightly gone back to basics.

Apple apps - Back-to-basics

For me, Keynote, Pages and iMovie are a necessity on any school iPad. Admittedly, I was guilty of not using these enough, but since taking the time to really understand them - as well as going through the free Apple Teacher programme - I have done a u-turn. This could be due to the ease of many other apps, or possibly user interface on third-party apps that we use more regularly, but investing the time can really pay off. I think this could also be the case for Google and Microsoft products too, both of which offer self-taught programmes similar to Apple Teacher. I thought I would share one ‘hack’ / feature for a few resources...

Keynote... and Magic Move!

Keynote can used to create presentations. It’s similar to Powerpoint, but with a cleaner, less complicated look, which does help the user interface. A fantastic feature that I wasn’t aware of is Magic Move, a transition tool you can apply between two slides. If the next slide shares any objects such as images, text or text boxes with the previous slide, those objects will be magically moved from one position to the next, and this can then be saved as a video! Therefore, you could turn a presentation into an informative animation, which would be very helpful to explain relationships and cause & effect, such as:

  • Movement of tectonic plates.
  • Circuits.
  • Solar System and the movement of objects.
  • Explaining computing concepts.

Pages… and Instant Alpha!

Pages is Apple’s word processing software, best described as a mixture of Word and Publisher which has the simple, intuitive look of most Apple products. The main feature that I got excited about was Instant Alpha, which allows you to delete the background or a selected space of an image. This offers a couple of benefits: it makes the image look more part of the text, rather than the old copy and pasted image with a box around it, and it also allows for a basic ‘Photoshopping’ effect of a couple images becoming one.

 

iMovie… and CCTV footage!

This is probably the Apple software that people are the most familiar with, iMovie is a very effective video editor where you can add pictures, videos, audio or a combination of all three. The effect I like to do was shown to me by Amy Kingsley, an Apple ADE based in Manchester. Amy uses Apple products in an inspirational way in KS1, creating a CCTV effect video!

In truth, the effect is actually using two features. The colour filter is enabled done by tapping a clip, selecting the Filter button, and selecting a filter (I like to go for a black and white one for this end product). If you only want a portion of a clip to have a colour filter, just split the clip and add the filter to the segment you want. The second part of this is to add a title. This is done by selecting a section of the video, tapping the Title button, and choosing the style of font and its position (for this I prefer lower). The end product is very effective, especially for creating exciting videos such as dinosaurs or aliens invading the school, or even staging a break in to help inspire a newspaper report.

Seesaw… and changing your Classwork Mindset!

Seesaw is an online portfolio system that can be used to collect and comment on work. More importantly, children’s parents, guardians and carers can comment on the work too! To get started, teachers will need to upload pupils’ names separately (or, for speed, they can enter a full class list). Seesaw then does the rest. Honestly, this is enough to give each child a login and account for Seesaw. Not only that, but Seesaw does all the hard work to give the child’s parents a log in, too. Plus, it’s free!

Seesaw provides the perfect way to keep a constant record of a child’s progress. It links brilliantly with other apps, so it is a fantastic way to collect and share work with pupils on their iPads. As Seesaw links well with other apps, information can be uploaded in a variety of ways:

  • Photo – I have done this with artwork, homework projects, work from class, and even Science experiments, as well as work from Computing.
  • Video – I have used this for Science experiment videos, PE work in dance and gymnastics, Computing for explanation videos. Any videos from the camera roll can be uploaded.
  • Drawings – I have done this with explanations to gauge children’s understanding; similar to how I use Explain Everything.
  • Note – Not the most amazing feature in comparison to the rest but still valuable for research purposes.
  • Link and File – These are great for sharing work from the teacher and doing some project-based learning.

 

It is worth noting that all of the above features can also be improved further with a brilliant feature with is adding a sound file, or annotation. This can be the child explaining what they have done or the teacher giving feedback to a piece of work. In addition, there is the facility for parents to add feedback too, which is very powerful!

Skype... and Book Creator

I enjoy using Skype, as there is so much power in having an expert stranger - I was lucky enough to get Jillian Morris-Brake. Jillian runs Bimini Shark Lab in the Bahamas, and has years of experience where she has traveled, filmed and photographed extensively across the globe. I was excited for my class to get the opportunity to speak to Jillian, as she could provide not only the content for our persuasive text, but also the purpose, which was going to be to shared on her website sharks4kids.com.

Launching Skype in your classroom is a fairly simple process. All it requires is a new account, some video and audio equipment, and a device to broadcast from. Skype used to only be available through the computer, but you can now use it on many different devices.

Following a Skype interview with Jillian, I asked the children to discuss the notes that they had made; they even swapped notes that they had made from Jillian’s lesson. We followed this with some research in class using iPads, laptops and, of course, books.

The next day I set the class up on Book Creator Chrome, which I had used with small groups, but I had wanted to try in a class situation. Dear me, what a game-changer! Book Creator itself is an app that has been used in schools for a number of years. Recently however, a Chrome site was launched. This has many of the same features, with one major addition: collaboration. Now, I have had some good moments with edtech, but 24 laptops accessing and working on the same book at the same time - wow! In short, we wrote an informative eBook about sharks and the threats to them, and managed to complete it in four hours: two hours were spent writing it, and then two the next day to edit.

In summary, I am not necessarily suggesting that you go out and use these specific edtech resources. This year, choose any piece of edtech that you are unfamiliar with, or haven’t used in a while, then spend some time learning its features. Brainstorm how to use it, share it with a colleague, give it a month or so of using it now and again in class, and see where it goes.

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From scores to written comments, verbal responses and summaries or the possibility of combing them all in order to generate a comprehensive narrative of a student’s progress - most teachers know what authentic assessment looks like.  It is personalised, it is descriptive, and it is encouraging. Most of all, it should make a difference and give direction to the learner. Good teachers know what valuable feedback looks like and they also know that it must be delivered in a timely fashion and tailored in specific ways to make an impact.

The first component for any kind of genuine assessment and feedback is that of getting to know the students and their educational backgrounds, interests and academic goals. However, all of this comes at a cost and that is time. Teacher time is valuable and as we know, class sizes are not getting any smaller.  From descriptive feedback, to assessments, to contributions and achievements, there lies the complexity of collation and organisation of all things said. How do you remember everything that you have said to a student, and have you remembered to jot it down to include in the final evaluation?

With AI growing in demand and offering a future of great promise, it comes as no surprise that there are now numerous technologies available in the marketplace to produce real-time, data-driven responses and personalised feedback and assessment for students. Artificial Intelligence platforms, such as Kinteract, provide for customised learning programmes, with the intention to improve and accelerate learning outcomes for students.  This can start right from early years to university, creating a digital record for a lifetime of achievement and rewards.

Teachers using AI personalised learning tools, such as Kinteract, can make informed decisions based on their students’ outcomes and can steer the learning pathways for their learners so that they can accelerate at their own pace, some faster than others. As a result, students are offered interventions at just the right time with just the right amount of feedback to improve or accelerate learning. One size does not fit all, and this makes me wonder if we will see younger graduates in the years to come?

Assessment is truly authentic when students can take ownership, engage in and share their personal learning plans. Involving parents with very young children to support their development is a more powerful form of assessment than ever. By providing an immediate and personalised window to their child’s school day, carers can now be equipped with the knowledge they need to maximise on opportunities present and resolve any problems that may go unnoticed.  We all know that children are unique and develop in various ways, and by utilising collaborative spaces, such as Kinteract, one can be reassured that no child is left behind.

With AI on the rise, there is no doubt that there is the potential to shape the next generation for more personalised learning and responsive teaching; helping teachers to more effectively meet the diverse needs of many of their students simultaneously. If we can think of authentic assessment more as a process of practice instead of an outcome, then innovative AI applications, like Kinteract, might be the best place to make a start.

Discover for yourself how Kinteract supports assessment best practices. Sign up for your free account today.

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As a school leader, I find myself wondering how to best utilise the resources we have: time and money. What should I focus on? How can we use our staff time in the best way possible so that our teachers can be prepared to lead learning-filled classrooms? Which technologies should we invest in? Which areas of learning research and development should we focus on? There are so many choices and limited resources.

In June, I travelled to the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) Conference in Chicago. Along with nearly 17,000 other eager participants, I spent three days in workshops, lectures, visiting the expo, networking with teachers from around the world and reflecting on how all of this new knowledge could empower the students in my organisation.

ISTE is so much more than a technology conference. It is a pedagogy conference. It was like a giant discussion of what works best when and where and how to implement best practices. Information, skills and experiences were shared in every direction. Check out #ISTE18 to see examples of what I mean. Or even better, check out #NOTatISTE18 to see what you missed.

During my visit, some trends became very obvious:

1. Programming

The idea of students of all ages learning how to code and program was being discussed at every level. The idea of computational thinking extends well beyond the Maths classroom. A whole body of activities aimed at teaching students how to think in a logic way to solve problems were introduced, discussed and tested.

Further read: Students build coding skills block by block.

2. Professional development

Everyone was asking “how can we train our teaching force to be ‘ready’?” I noticed that in many settings, teachers were referred to as “learners”, and that professional development was no longer about workshops and lectures. It was more about professional learning where teachers had embedded training often administered in a need-to-know, personalised way. I could hear from many of the participants that “technology coaches” had now been replaced with “learning coaches”.

Further read: Great example of “shifting” to professional learning.

 

3. AR and VR

Very trendy in the gadget world, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are now becoming accessible and “buildable” by teachers and students. Finally, the price is right and the possibilities are endless.

Further read: Check out Google Tour Builder.

4. Neuroscience

This body of research is now leading the choices we make in Instructional Design. How students take in information, remember and connect important ideas, spacing, chunking, looping - all technical terms for how we can more effectively organise learning in our classrooms.

Further reading: The Learning Scientists blog.

5. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The thought of robots in the classroom scared many people a few years ago. Today, teachers and administrators are starting to embrace the idea of an assistant. Many schools were talking about how they were piloting Alexa and Echo in the classrooms to answer routine questions. In addition, there were multiple examples of how AI when integrated with our digital teaching material could help tailor the learning path for just that student.

Further read: 7 Roles for AI in Education.

6. Design Thinking  

Another trend evident throughout the conference was the idea of creating, designing and making ideas grow. Entrepreneurial thinking, idea-to-action and design lessons and activities were evident in many workshops. On a district-wide and state level, the discussions were focused on how to shift this exciting trend and problem-based way of working from electives and one time projects to a more systematic and integrated part of every classroom at every level.

Further investigation: My favourite speaker at ISTE was @thetechrabbi. Follow him on Twitter for great inspiration.

7. Digital citizenship  

No longer is it about being careful who you connect with; the trends were much more about how to make your connections work for you.

The focus is moving away from warning students about online risks or trying to curtail their activities and toward helping them leverage the power of digital media to work toward creation, social justice and equity. The new digital citizenship, also reflected in the ISTE Standards for Students, is about being in community with others and creating digital citizenship curricula that shows students possibilities over problems, opportunities over risks and community successes over personal gain.” - from Julie Randles

Further Read: Check out Be Internet Awesome with Google.

8. Personalised, student-driven, blended, instructional design

Many different words all baked into one idea... empowering the student to take charge of their own learning. How teachers design the learning activities, build the (face-to-face and online) environment, and manage the learning time determine the when, where and how our students will learn. No longer is it a pie-in-the-sky dream to personalise and tailor for each kid. With the right methods and tools, this is finally becoming a reality.

Further read: All that we have learned, 5 years working on personalised learning

So, back to my original questions:

How can we use our staff time in the best way possible so that our teachers can be best prepared to lead learning-filled classrooms?

Model best learning practices - personalised, embedded, just-in-time learning

Which technologies should we invest in?

Across our organisation, our major investment is a powerful LMS. This is sort of our epicentre for learning. Other than that, tools that my teachers request and believe in. If they have a plan for how it will help their students learn more, I want to hear about it and try to make it happen.

Which areas of learning research and development should we focus on?

Brain-based science and motivational psychology … and, yes, edtech tools that can help us implement best practices.

These are the trends I am thinking about. What are you focused on?

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School children are constantly engaging with their peers on digital technology and social networking sites such as Instagram, Snapchat and Musical.ly. While it is sometimes harmful - reports of cyberbullying cases are increasingly commonplace - digital technology also comes with considerable benefits. Below are some of the top e-health tools that enable pupils, and those supporting them, to access mental health and wellbeing advice at the click of a button.

1. Chat Health

This school nurse text messaging service was developed by the Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust. ChatHealth is a confidential text messaging service which enables school children aged 11-19 to connect with their school nurse for help and advice on health and wellbeing issues, such as depression and anxiety, bullying, self-harm, alcohol, sex, drugs and body issues. Students will generally receive an instant confirmation message followed by a full response within one working day.

Find it at: www.southernhealth.nhs.uk/services/childrens-services/school-nursing/chathealth

2. SAM

This is an anxiety management app created by the University of the West of England, Bristol. SAM helps users understand the causes of anxiety, monitor their anxious thoughts and behaviour, and manage their anxiety through self-help exercises and reflection. The app also allows users to share their experiences with the SAM community, and fellow anxiety sufferers, through a ‘social cloud’ feature.

Find it at: www.sam-app.org.uk

3. Worrinots

Created for Primary school children dealing with anxiety and worry, this app allows children to send a written or recorded message to one of four Worrinot characters: Chomp, Shakey, Rip and Stomp. The pupil’s message is then forwarded to a designated person at the school. The app can also be used by teachers as a tool to monitor their pupils’ wellbeing and provide early intervention where necessary. Worrinots was developed with the help of child psychologists, school staff and counsellors, and is Ofsted compliant.

4. WellHappy

An app for London-based 12-25-year-olds, this guidance and information resource contains details for accessing more than 1,000 local support services for mental health, sexual health, drugs, alcohol and smoking. Through the app, young people can also blog about their own experiences, read FAQs, jargon busters and information about rights and advocacy.

Find it at: mentalhealthpartnerships.com/resource/well-happy-app

5. TooToot

This platform and app, which offers ‘a voice for your students’, is an alternative way for students to report incidents of bullying, cyberbullying, racism, radicalisation, sexism, mental health and self-harm straight to their school, when they are unable to do so face-to-face. The app can be used by students (to report concerns directly to teachers), by school staff (to record incidents and behavioural concerns) and by parents (to report any concerns to school staff) Tootoot provides students with 24-hour support.

Find it at: www.tootoot.co.uk

6. ForMe

Developed with Childline by teenagers, this wellbeing app is aimed at children and young people, up to 19. Features include: access to self-help articles and videos on topics such as body issues, exam stress, emotions, bullying, abuse, mental health and self-harm issues. There is a message board where children can chat to others about what’s on their mind. Children can keep track of their daily mood through the app and tailor content that’s relevant to how they are feeling. If a child needs more support, the app will content them with a Childline counsellor for a phone or email conversation.

Find it at: www.childline.org.uk/toolbox/for-me

The year for progress

With teachers’ workloads persistently increasing, technology will continue to play an important role in enabling schools to screen for, and monitor, the mental health and wellbeing of their pupils. Apps and websites are essential in making effective use of teachers’ busy schedules and maximising their time with children: allowing face-to-face contact to be as targeted and beneficial as possible.

Access to digital mental health support also comes with an array of benefits for children, such as the ease, cost-effectiveness and swiftness in which these services can be tapped into. Additionally, digital technology provides an opportunity for pupils to share experiences with a group of like-minded people, fostering a sense of community and camaraderie.

While professional face-to-face services are still an essential part of supporting young people with mental health and wellbeing issues, digital support may be able to reach children who are unlikely to engage with mental health services. According to a 2016 Centre for Mental Health report, entitled Missed Opportunities, children are waiting on average 10 years for effective mental health treatment. Lastly, digital technology brings with it a level of privacy and anonymity - key for young people who are not comfortable to voice their concerns in person.

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BESA is proud to share the news of a brand new series of LearnED Roadshows in partnership with the Department for Education (DfE). There will be eight one-day events focused on exploring the best ways for teachers to incorporate edtech into their classrooms. The first event will take place on Thursday 29 November at The New York Stadium in Rotherham and is free to attend.

The events are designed for headteachers and ICT leads and will aim to inspire and inform school decisionmakers through peer-to-peer panel discussions and DfE keynote speakers. The aim is to improve teaching and learning outcomes, assessment and support leadership and management across the whole school.

The concept, created by BESA and the DfE, comes after Damien Hinds’ announcement this summer on the UK government championing edtech. BESA’s members are some of the most trusted and high-quality edtech suppliers in the UK. We feel that a collaboration between top quality suppliers and school leaders would be highly beneficial when incorporating edtech seamlessly into classrooms.

BESA’s director general, Caroline Wright, is delighted to share this initiative with teachers and the education supplies sector:

“I am delighted that the DfE’s plans place teacher training and support at the heart and soul of their future approach to edtech. As Damian Hinds says, technology can be used in the classroom in ‘revolutionary ways’ – allowing students to explore a rainforest from their classroom, or programme a robot.

“There are many examples of ministries of education across the world evangelising about the revolutionary potential of education technology, often supplied by UK companies. It’s very welcome that our own Department for Education is now setting out a vision for edtech that, if realised, could have a ground-breaking impact upon its implementation worldwide.”

We would like to invite all headteachers, ICT Leads and members of school senior leadership teams in the Rotherham area to attend our first event on Thursday 29 November. We will be announcing speakers, panellists and the full agenda in the coming weeks, but tickets will go fast, so be quick!

Get your free ticket to the Rotherham event here. Not from the area? Don’t worry! There will be a further seven shows taking place around the country throughout the academic year. To find an event in your area, click here.

If you have any further questions, feel free to contact William Prieto-Parra. We look forward to seeing you there!

By Roisin McHugh - Events and Communications Coordinator

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Technology has transformed the classroom over the past decade. Computers, smart boards and laser cutters - which were once few and far between - are now commonplace thanks to the £900m spent on education tech every year. These changes have gone a long way in creating a more engaging learning experience, but the next wave of developments will take things to the next level, by creating more sensory experiences that help educators convey concepts to students in new, hands-on ways. So what should your school be looking to invest in? Here are three top choices.

1. The power of virtual reality

Virtual reality (VR) has the power to immerse users in a completely new environment. When applied to education, it can enable students to virtually visit a broad range of places and see theories conceptualised in a highly immersive way, all from their classroom. For example, VR headsets are being used by schools in Dubai to virtually transport students to Egypt, where they can measure the bases of pyramids.

With the appropriate financial investment, this technology could easily be instituted in the UK and used for the same purpose in a whole host of subjects. Students could take a virtual trip inside a live volcano for Geography, or go on a tour of the human heart when learning about its structure in Biology. Anything is possible, and everything will deliver a sensory, interactive and highly engaging learning opportunity.

2. The potential of smart materials

Over the next couple of years, we can expect to see intelligent surfaces and smart fabrics make their entrance onto the classroom stage. These will build on existing smartboard technology by turning any wall or tabletop into an interactive canvas for collaborative learning. For instance, it could be used in a Maths class to enable students to work together on a problem, facilitating not only academic development but also social skills.

3. The use of 3D printing

3D printing provides numerous possibilities for creating tailored, multi-dimensional learning tools that can bring experiences normally only accessible outside the classroom inside its walls. For instance, it would be financially and logistically impossible for most students studying Ancient Egypt to travel to Cairo to see the funeral mask of Tutankhamun. However, with 3D printing they could not only print a replica - bringing them face-to-face with the history they’re studying - but also handle the object, which is impossible with real artefacts.

As 3D printing technology improves, so does the level of engagement it can deliver. It used to only be possible to print in one or two colours, but new models can now create full-colour designs. For colourful objects, like our Tutankhamen example, these advanced capabilities make all the difference in creating a more realistic and visually engaging copy.

Designing a complex 3D model using CAD or CAM may be beyond the capabilities of certain age groups. However, many 3D printing companies produce scanners that enable users to create designs by scanning existing objects and converting them into printable files, as well as offering pre-made printable designs. This means that students could, for instance, download and print molecule parts, recreating the type of experience they could have at a science museum.

The value of virtual reality headsets, smart materials and 3D printers for facilitating learning across all subjects by providing more creative educational experiences is clear. With this in mind, it’s vital that schools and their governing bodies direct the £129 billion expected to be spent on edtech globally by 2020 into these avenues so that pupils can have the best learning experiences possible.

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What is more engaging than a robot dog that kids can program? Or a virtual reality trip through the jungle? Or a 3D printout of Michelangelo’s David? This is the beauty and the diversity of edtech: there is literally something to engage everyone. And isn’t engagement important when it comes to kids? Getting them focused and fully immersed in the lesson - what could be more crucial?

Well, there’s the not-so-small matter of the learning itself. How can a child program a computer if they do not have a solid grasp of numbers? How can a child articulate their experience of a jungle without the basic vocabulary and grammar to convey it? Engagement is a ‘nice to have’, but learning… that’s an essential.

Ironically, learning is something the edtech industry may be guilty of drifting away from. Bigger screens, more gadgets and gizmos, more fun… not necessarily a significant amount more learning. A perfect example was given by education minister Damian Hinds recently, in an article published in the Telegraph in August 2018. In the article, he openly stated that the introduction of interactive whiteboards into schools did not have any reflection in the academic achievement of pupils, and said "schools must decide which products suit them best".

It’s not just the pupils who have been affected (or not affected, as the case may be). The schools, the teachers, the budgets and, subsequently, even the edtech industry itself as the boy who cried wolf (or robot dog!) have all had their fingers burnt. According to the latest BESA statistics, a quarter of teachers, in the modern age of 2018, still maintain that technology brings no significant impact to their classrooms.

It’s almost the rain on the parade, isn’t it? The ultimate party pooper. It’s like Father Christmas coming to take all of his toys back.

In our rush to create brighter colours and louder sounds and hipper concepts… we also forgot that learning, for its own sake, can be fun. Recall the pure joy of finally getting something right. Or the addictive feeling of wanting to get a better score on the next round. What we need to remember is that real learning doesn’t need to be condescending or dressed-up like an accessory from Back to the Future. It can have integrity.

So what should you look for to separate the edtech wheat from the chaff?

1. Accessibility

It needs to be easy to use and implement for busy teachers who do not have the luxury of time to learn complicated new tools. As simple as it needs to be, it also must be flexible so that teachers can use it the way they want to, not be dictated as to how to do their job. Edtech should empower, not burden.

2. Differentiation

One of the key positives for technology in the classroom is that it is not a one-size-fits-all solution; it’s adaptable, and that makes it possible for different pupils to learn in different ways. Edtech should maximise this, not just as a one-hit wonder or gimmick, but as a long-term solution that helps children throughout their school careers.

3. Quality content

Great mediums such as VR and 3D printing are being developed all the time, and it’s easy to get very excited. But before you invest, check that they have quality, curriculum-aligned content that teachers can get on and use. This was the problem with interactive whiteboards 10 years ago. Without a clear strategy of use and content teachers can rely upon, expensive edtech can end up gathering dust in the corner of the classroom.

4. Evolution

Everyone who has a smartphone knows that by the time they’ve got it out of the packaging, another version has been released. Make sure that you invest in future-proof solutions for your school, ones that regularly update their content and evolve their platform so that today’s purchase can last for years to come.

5. Evidence

Don’t buy on a promise. Any developer worth their salt will have conducted some research, and have evidence that their product does what it says on the tin. Ask to see some proof of their claims, so that you know you’re investing in edtech that actually delivers.

There is no question that technology is the key to unleashing the potential of our amazing teachers and pupils, but we do everyone a disservice by pushing solutions into schools that haven’t got the infrastructure to support real long term learning.

A robot dog should be for life, not just for Christmas.

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Fostering creativity in students has dominated discussion in education since the turn of the century. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) lists creativity as one of its 4Cs alongside critical thinking, collaboration, and communication. In 2016, the World Economic Forum released its top ten list of desired skills for 2020, including creativity among them. Professor Michael Fullan includes creativity as one of his 6Cs, and describes it as the need for students to possess creativity and imagination.

Despite these attempts at defining creativity in education, a challenge remains: explaining what creativity looks like within the traditional school culture. Too often, ‘creativity’ gets confined to a single course - such as art - or an individual unit, project, or activity. However, Professor Fullan defines creativity not only as “the opportunity to pursue novel ideas”, but also as “economic and social entrepreneurialism” and “leadership for action.” He argues that students need the opportunity to use their imaginations, engage in problem-solving, and have the opportunity to learn through play. Therefore, when schools provide these conditions, students have a chance to develop their creative skills.

As an app, Book Creator does not create these conditions any more than a paintbrush or crayon creates a masterpiece. And yet, when placed into the hands of students who are given the opportunity to imagine, explore, problem-solve, and create, it removes the technical limitations from a student’s imagination. Not only does Book Creator provide students with the capacity to work in text, drawing, photos, video, and audio, but it also encourages them to embed and incorporate content created in any number of tools. The open-ended, multimedia capacity of Book Creator then supports the conditions in which the creative process can occur.

Book Creator is an open-ended, creative and cross-curricular app that empowers students and teachers to create multimedia ebooks. Available on iPad and Chromebook, Creator launched in 2011 and has gone on to be one of the most popular apps in education, winning the 2015 Bett Award for Best Educational App, and 2018 American Association of School Librarians Best Website for Teaching and Learning.

Returning to Fullan’s notion - that creativity not only results in a product, but also entrepreneurialism and leadership - how might educators allow students to harness the power of digital tools such as Book Creator to design a creative solution to a community challenge, or take action as a leader in the classroom? Multimedia tools encourage students to share their thinking and demonstrate their understanding in varied and previously unimaginable ways. The challenge then lies in how skilled educators might design new learning experiences that foster the creative process.

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It was Warwickshire County Council that first introduced us at The Coleshill School to the Digital Schoolhouse (DSH) team. We were so impressed by what the programme had to offer, that when the council kindly agreed to fund the initiative, we applied to become a DSH school straight away. While we’re a Secondary school, a significant number of Primary school pupils have chosen to come to us specifically because they’ve enjoyed the DSH experience so much. So, from that perspective alone it’s been massively successful. However, we’ve experienced even more benefits as a school...

As Computing teachers, the programme really opened our eyes to the importance of our students understanding the subject’s concept in order to fully appreciate its principles. So many students will sit at a computer and carry out a checklist of actions to reach their desired result. What many don’t understand, however, is why they are doing these various tasks. Therefore, if there happened to be a problem (a glitch in the system, for example) at any point along this checklist, they wouldn’t be able to try alternative routes to rectify it, because they simply wouldn’t have the conceptual knowledge that would enable them to do so.  

The DSH programme is a way of simplifying and explaining concepts away from a computer, something we never would have explored before. Over a year in, not only do we use this approach with the Primary school pupils, but we also apply the same concept to our own students. We’ve put quite a lot of what we’ve learned into our schemes of work for our Key Stage 3 students; ultimately, it’s changed the way we teach Computing in the school as a whole!  

A DSH session's activities depend entirely on the areas and styles upon which each school wants to focus. Workshops could focus on anything from understanding sequences in computing, to more playful computing activities (which can be embedded in workshops or delivered separately as an injection of play-based learning). Examples include:

Get with the Algo-rhythm

Aims to develop the understanding of a sequence and highlight the importance of accurate instructions. Developed by DSH and Langley Grammar School, Get with the Algo-rhythm was born from the ‘Computing through Dance’ project, to use innovative computing to appeal to girls. Flow charts are developed to instruct famous dance routines, including the Hokey Cokey and Thriller!

Cat on Yer Head

Cat On Yer Head is a crowd game that aims to teach key game-design principles using unplugged techniques. DSH worked in collaboration with Playniac to develop teacher guidance to help bring this exciting activity into the classroom. You can deliver it as a fun five minute starter to your lesson, or turn it into a main activity stretching over 20+ mins.

Jazzy Jigsaws

Here’s one that helps to develop strategic thinking and collaborative thinking skills within learners using jigsaw puzzles. This activity, developed in collaboration with Code Kingdoms, takes this well-loved game further by building in opportunities to develop Computational Thinking skills.

Click for larger version

You can find more workshop ideas at www.digitalschoolhouse.org.uk/workshops.

The DSH programme benefits Secondary schools, but it is also hugely valuable for Primaries too. It’s a great way to start teaching key skills related to Computing from a young age, and helps prepare them when it comes to making the transition to Secondary school. By the time they come to us in Year 7, for example, they’re already familiar with programming and debugging system; it’s an incredible starting point for them!  

Primary teachers really appreciate the programme too, as obviously Computing isn’t where their skill base lies. Several teachers have told me that prior to doing the DSH workshops, the extent of their Computing knowledge would have been limited to Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. However, the programme can really help to develop their skills - some have even used it as their Computing project!

My advice to other Secondary schools is this: Apply to become a DSH school. And to Primary schools, I say: Reach out to your nearest DSH school to schedule some workshops as soon as possible!

To find out more about the Digital Schoolhouse initiative, head over to www.digitalschoolhouse.org.uk and get involved!

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The overload of information on the internet poses a problem for time-strapped teachers, who have to trawl search engines for resources that are appropriate for their subject and class. It was this problem that, in Autumn 2014, we decided to tackle head-on with the creation of TeachPitch, a platform that curates free teaching resources and lets you search these for the perfect resource.

Since then we have had tens of thousands of users from over 130 countries, providing direct access to over hundreds of thousands of resources and with millions more available via our dedicated premium content providers.

We are so proud of the work we have done, but we have come to understand that dealing with information abundance is only one part of a wider issue; the digital capability of teachers. In a report in 2016 (page 9) the UK Government recommended that:

“Employers should ensure existing staff have the training to keep their digital skills updated, and develop active recruitment and development strategies to maximise the digital skills of their workforce at all times.”

We know that teachers are still not always offered this level of support, and we want to help solve this bigger problem with a resource that is relevant to them. This is why we are very excited to announce a brand new online teacher-training platform solely focussed on fully engaging teachers as professionals in a rapidly evolving new Digital Economy.

We are extremely proud to present: the Digital Skills Course.

This course consists of a series of 20+ webinars given by expert tutors over one year, accessible via our innovative, exclusive training platform. Registered teachers will be able to enjoy online training in a variety of topics, from video teaching & learning, using tech to identify and address student special needs, and digital educational content creation. The course also addresses tech matters that are further out there, such as virtual/augmented reality, the role of the blockchain in education, introduction to coding, and so much more.

With this course, we aim to improve teachers’ digital awareness and introduce them to the way that digital tools and methods will change how teaching takes place in the future. We want to provide the teachers of today with the skills to teach the students of tomorrow. We are working hard on the first release of the course; building the platform, testing it with real teachers and identifying the very best tutors to lead the webinars. We cannot wait to introduce the final product next month.

We have had great feedback so far. If you’d like to get involved with helping test the course, or keep updated about our progress, please email us at [email protected]. To find out more about TeachPitch, visit www.teachpitch.com.

Want to receive cutting-edge insights from leading educators each week? Sign up to our Community Update and be part of the action!

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