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For the whole of March, we'll be sharing exclusive content centred around Innovation On A Budget. How can schools ensure steady progress with often-stretched funds?

"The need to innovate despite limited funds is a familiar challenge for schools," comments leading edu-preneur and Giglets advocate, Helen Bowen. "Innovation ought to bring improvement, but we’ve all encountered examples of ‘the latest thing’ that brought only confusion and delay.

"In this context, the thought of changing practices in an attempt at innovation is easily dismissed. Why spend money changing what we know? I can only recommend that each of us becomes extremely picky when trying new products and services. For example, Giglets is perfect for quickly updating a school library with high-quality fiction and nonfiction books."

Change is good, but it’s also challenging. The best resource is one where you can’t imagine how you ever managed without it – but you need to be ready to take the first step.

10 ways we’ve implemented real change through edtech

Chris Bateman

As head of technology, enterprise and e-learning at Wheatley Park School, Chris has been co-led his school’s 1:1 journey. A teacher first and foremost, Chris is passionate about technology supporting teaching and learning and firmly believes that technology is a tool for learning and not the tool for learning. As a Computing and Business specialist, he is the SCITT subject lead for Oxfordshire, and plays an active role as a board member for Young Enterprise.

Follow @ckbateman

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Images courtesy of author. Images courtesy of author.

I am very proud to work at Wheatley Park School, a school where ‘everyone learning’ comes first, a school where everyone is caring, and a school that is incredibly proud to be the only Secondary school in Oxfordshire with a 1:1 policy. Every member of our school community, both students and staff has their own Chromebook, that they use in lessons and at home, when appropriate to do so.

We have taken our time to reach this point, and are proud of our journey. The tips below are intended to be beneficial for any school on a journey of adapting their technology environment, whether you want to implement a new piece of equipment, or go the whole hog for 1:1. I hope they are useful.

1. Take your time

In my NQT year, I really struggled with planning. My line manager at the time told me I was like a magpie; constantly changing and swapping methods. He gave me one of the best pieces of advice that I ever had, and something that I am now a full believer in. I was told to just stick with it. If schools are going to make serious changes in the use of technology, we have to do it effectively, and therefore must ensure that we are making the right choice. It took us nearly eight years from considering ‘going Google’ to get to where we are now. Take your time and consider the options.

2. Define your objectives first

While you’re taking your time, spend some of it on defining your objectives. What do you want technology use to look like in your school in the next month, term, year, five years? You might have a ‘wildly audacious goal’ in mind - perhaps this is going 1:1 - but it won’t be your first objective. What are you going to achieve first? What is your priority?

3. Use your early adopters

Once you’ve made your objectives and have set yourself some goals, use your early adopters first. These will be the teachers that you know will be keen to try the new things; usually the teachers who are keen to develop their practice (hopefully you have lots of them) to support the outcomes of our students. But they are also the ones who we know are sceptical enough to not just accept what we are doing. They will try, adapt, and try again. If it is not right they should be able to tell you so, but hopefully with some suggestions. Get these staff (and/or students) on side quickly!

4. Identify the things that will help, not hinder

Along with your early adopters, you should work out which are the things that are beneficial about your new technology, and use these to begin convincing your stakeholders who are ‘on the fence’. The quick wins for us were things like Google Forms to provide automatically-marking quizzes, or recording videos of live models that could be shared time and time again for differentiation. If you’re trying to win over staff, anything that will save time and improves learning will be a winner!

5. Use your early adopters again!

This time, your early adopters will be winning over the other stakeholders in your school. Your early adopters need to be your ‘radiators’, emitting positivity to the rest of your stakeholders, who are going to help you influence and convince your most reluctant staff. We spent a lot of time focussing on the things that are going to benefit staff.

6. Take mini-steps and evaluate practice

Linking closely to #1, plan yourself mini-steps. Before I arrived at the school, it was just using Gmail. Then we added Google Drive. Then, over time, slowly but surely we added little things, until the next logical step was 1:1. Each time we added a new level of complexity, we give it time to embed and be fully evaluated before moving on. Giving things 30 days to embed was key before even trying to evaluate. Before that point, you are in the honeymoon period. Things might look great, but you want to know that things are having a sustainable positive impact. After the 30 days, evaluate through every means possible: staff surveys, student surveys, parent surveys, governor visits, senior leaders from other school, and so on. Evaluate thoroughly and look at the impact it is having. Don’t be afraid to be honest, and admit when it isn’t going well, as long as you move forward.

7. Love your product and brand

My experience of teaching Business Studies tells me that it is so important to love the brand or product that you are offering. You will get to a stage where the organisation is doing something for so long it becomes ‘the way things are done around here’. We are building a reputation as ‘the school who do Google’. Whether you do Google or something different, shout about it when you are doing something, doing it well and it is having a sustainably positive impact.

Chromebooks in use at WPS.

8. Culture comes first

The culture of your school should come first. If the thing you are trying to do will support the culture and ethos of your organisation, do it. If there is a risk that it could damage the culture, don’t do it. Most importantly, develop the culture of openness and get staff to want to try it, rather than just forcing the change upon them. This way, you’ll get a lot more buy-in. Paul Dix talks about ‘culture eating strategy for breakfast’ in his work, and it is so true.

9. Strategy and operations are still important

I’m a big believer that school culture is a crucial aspect to get right any school, however the operations and strategy are equally as important once the culture is right. We have split leadership of our 1:1 rollout in two: Roger Nixon, our director of IT deals with the operational side of preparing devices, getting them distributed and day to day management of the systems. Meanwhile, my role is about the vision, communication, professional learning and monitoring in classrooms to ensure that our work is having a positive impact. Both sides of the work are equally important but must work hand in hand to have the biggest, sustainable, long term impact.

10. #atoolnotthetool

Over the last two years or so of launching 1:1 devices across our school, I’ve said numerous times in presentations to parents, INSET sessions and wherever I can possibly fit it in, that the technology we are very lucky to have is a tool, and not the tool. I’ve said it so many times that our assistant head for engagement has now turned it into a hashtag: #atoolnotthetool. We are all skilled educators, and know that we have a range of tools at our fingertips, whether those tools are pens, pencils or technology. What we must do is make the right choice for the right task. If the technology is not going to enhance what we do, or make the process of learning easier and more efficient, then we must be clear in saying that we should not do it.

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