Why my ‘coffee tray’ is an edtech Swiss Army knife [interview]

Tim Head

Tim Head is an assistant head in a large Nottinghamshire Primary School, with 17 years of teaching experience working in large Primary schools across the East Midlands. One of the organisers of the Primary Rocks Live conference, he loves to share his passion for all things teaching and edtech through the #PrimaryRocks Twitter chat, as well as presenting at educational conferences. Tim is a keen blogger, and has written for the TES, Teach Primary and Innovate My School.

Follow @MrHeadPrimary

Website: www.nominativedeterminism.wordpress.com Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Image courtesy of interviewee. Image courtesy of interviewee.

To coincide with 25th May’s Geek Pride Day, we thought we’d interview one of British education’s most passionate, knowledgeable geeks. Enter Primary acting head of school, NPQML-holder, blogger, presenter and Primary Rocker, Tim Head.

As an acting head of school, what are some of the most exciting edtech resources you've seen this school year?

I think, for me at the moment, parental engagement is my key focus. We have just started using Marvellous Me in our EYFS. This is an excellent tool for engaging parents and building up a dialogue. The online element allows working parents to enjoy the same level of teacher interaction as those who are able to do the school run. Similarly, we are looking at Seesaw and ClassDojo to use with our older pupils.

YouTube link

As a Computing lead, things like the Think & Learn Code-a-pillar and the Blue-bot help to introduce the concepts of coding in a child-friendly way. Their intuitive nature means they are perfect for any child - or any teacher, for that matter - to have a go at!

I saw now>press>play at Bett earlier this year, and that is something I would like to explore at some point. Their concept of 30 wireless headphones, that play a selection of subject-specific soundscapes, appeals to me as a way to inspire writing. The headphones allow children to experience the lesson individually, even though they are in a room with others.

Image via now>press>play.

Finally, my iPad Pro is like the Swiss Army knife of edtech. It’s my camera, my sound recorder, my portable office and - as some have remarked due to its size - a tray for carrying coffee. Jokes aside, to have such a powerful device that is so portable really boosts my productivity, and means I can work on the go.

What's your favourite edtech for helping to tackle teacher workload - especially when it comes to marking, planning and data management?

The cloud is a massive game-changer for me. Gone are the days of corrupted or lost USB sticks. I am now able to use G Suite for Education, and have my files follow me wherever I need to be. Cloud-based email solutions like Microsoft 365 allow me to keep track of where and when I need to be, via the shared school calendar.

I can move seamlessly between my phone, laptop and iPad, experiencing the same information on different platforms, which is something that was impossible until now.

When it comes to marking, though, I am still analogue. You just cannot beat a good ink pen to write with. Something about the smell of the ink... Twitter has taught me that it is better to mark smarter than to write hundreds of comments that the children do not read. We have been working hard to change our school policy. The aim is for the staff to write less, and anything that is written, the children need to act upon.

For planning, Google Docs is my biggest win. Not only can I pick up a document on any web-enabled device, but with the power of witchcraft, you can have multiple editors working on a document in real-time. This is perfect for a school like mine, where you have multiple teachers in a year group and they may all need to contribute. It is also perfect for collating items on the school improvement plan.

What are the biggest edtech roadblocks facing you as an acting head of school?

At the moment, “budget” is the first word on everyone’s lips when any kind of purchase. Sadly, there just isn’t the money to play with that used to be there. I am old enough to remember when schools were given lots of e-learning credits that could be used to pay for software. Although it was ringfenced, it meant that any ICT budget could be used to buy hardware.

Combine that with lack of training - because schools have understandably focussed their CPD budgets on English and Maths - and you have the makings of a perfect storm. Edtech without training is a folly. Many schools have purchased banks of iPads that now are showing their age... and gathering dust.

For me, the dilemma is how we best make use of what we have already, before we look to purchase anything else.

Geek Pride Day is coming up. How has being a self-identified geek helped you as an educator?

Being a geek means that I can enjoy all of those things that others do not always see as valuable. It takes all sorts to make the world go round. I have a love of learning; so much so that I will happily go off on a multi-tangent tour of Wikipedia, learning all kinds of mostly useless information. You would be amazed at when that information could come in handy - especially in an assembly!

I also like to think that being a geek makes me approachable for the pupils. I play video games, and can converse with them about the latest titles (though I would never play online with pupils, for obvious reasons). You would also be amazed at how having superhero stickers on your staff laptop can connect with even the most shy pupils.

Tell us about the people and organisations who have been valuable to your journey as an educator.

I know I am biased, but #PrimaryRocks [of which Tim is a part] has been so important to me. It has lit the fire in my belly that has led me to taking more risks. Without the awesome group of people behind it, and the wider community, I would not have taken up blogging, presenting, or even sought promotion. They have challenged and supported, nurtured and developed me into the educator that I am today.

Alongside the #PrimaryRocks community, the #caschat community have also been a great help in pushing me to expand my knowledge of Computing and edtech. No matter how good I think my Computing subject knowledge is, they are able to show me that I have so much to learn. It reminds me that you can never rest on your laurels as an educator.

What do you hope to achieve in the next year?

I am really enjoying being head of school. I want to make it my mission to start and complete my NPQH, with a view to finding my first permanent headship. I have signed up to go to Picademy, the Raspberry Pi-certified teacher training initiative. I have dabbled with the Raspberry Pi, but it has always been on the edge of my ability and subject knowledge. I will continue to write my blog and other bits if I get asked.

It is my hope that #PrimaryRocks continues on its path of awesome! It is brilliant to see so many younger teachers embracing the movement, and making it their own.

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