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Thursday, 12 November 2015

Innovative Education, Successful Students

As work continues on building IPACA's new multi-million pound campus, it's exciting to hear about others on the same journey as us.

The below video explores how the New South Wales Government in Australia is investing $1 billion to transform their schools over the next 10 years.

You'll see from the video that they are embracing many of the features that make our IPACA Vision so exciting. 

Thursday, 29 October 2015

#IPACALearn Looking Back... #2

As the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy becomes closer to moving into our multi-million pound Maritime House Campus, I am using this time to look back. To reflect on our experiences, our shared beliefs and our vision for the future. Today, I am drawn to this post from the 'Building Portland's Future...Together' blog -

Being shown round the remarkable Leigh Technology Academy at Dartford today were headteachers from The Grove and Royal Manor Arts College who found much to confirm the directions we have taken with the new Portland institution.

Like others, and indeed like we will be, Leigh Technology Academy is subdivided into much smaller units. They call them Colleges - and these are very autonomous. They are schools in all but name, with their own heads and staff and a unique version of the overall uniform. We were shown round by two highly articulate young men, George and Josh - both head boys within their own Colleges (selected after a gruelling interview and presentation process!). Both told us so much that was useful - and had a pride in the whole institution that was quite remarkable, but well placed. They explained clearly how the smaller units led everyone to behave better, to be proud of their achievements, to support each other and it clearly lies at the heart of the amazing progress the whole institution is making. The colleges are mixed age, and in technology we heard confirmation of what George and Josh had told us: youngsters chase after the role models of older students who in turn respond so well, and work better, with the responsibility of helping the younger ones.

So many little surprises: we asked Josh about work experience - ah yes, he said, he'd done his in India. We asked if they did student lesson observations - yes they said, Ofsted have helped train us to know how to do them. In technology they were building Karts - how are they doing? we asked - to be told they were 4 of the nation's top 10. And so on. Amazing, but attainable. It really is all about ambition and detail. We only saw one item of litter - a can - but as soon as we saw it Josh picked it up and binned it. Pride indeed!

We took away a mass of those details - and they held onto one or two of our ideas too. This relationship with other successful institutions already a little way down the road we are following helps us to be clear about the decisions we make in developing our Portland institution. We caught up with Chief Executive Frank Green at the end of the tour - they have Ofsted tomorrow and he was relishing having them see the progress they had all made! Frank further helped us to understand the detailed processes that had worked so well for them before they got their new building.

So much detail to remember! But we will stay in touch with our friends at Leigh Technology Academy...
It's exciting to think how far we have come with our own work since October 2009, we still atay in touch with the Leigh Technology Academy (now an Outstanding School). We hope to make more visits in the coming academic year. Sometimes, it's good to look back...

Monday, 26 October 2015

#IPACALearn Looking Back... #1

As the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy becomes closer to moving into our multi-million pound Maritime House Campus, I am using this time to look back. To reflect on our experiences, our shared beliefs and our vision for the future. Today, I am drawn to this post from the 'Building Portland's Future...Together' blog -

We got our official approval from DCSF TODAY (12th July 2009) - an exciting day for Portland. You can see some of the Government's press release at the bottom of this post.
In it, Ed Balls, then Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, said: "This is an exciting new step for Portland and the Academies programme. The idea of an all ages Academy is a recent innovation – the idea that an Academy could provide University places too is truly pioneering. Professor Heppell has a huge range of experience in educational innovation, both in this country and internationally. He is committed to improving education in Portland, and I believe that with the right
support his vision will be realised. With the Olympic Sailing base to be situated in Portland, this is a fitting Olympic legacy project for the island."
It's exciting to think how far we have come since 2009, the Olympics have long gone but we are now closer than ever to realising the above vision. Sometimes, it's good to look back...

Monday, 21 September 2015

Mini #ETAGReport Update

It was a shame I missed the opportunity to meet my #ETAGReport colleagues today in London, however, other priorities took precedence I am afraid. 

The ETAG Challenge
As a bit of history, at the beginning of 2014, Ministers from DfE and BIS set up the Education Technology Action Group (ETAG). I was delighted to be invited as a member and advise on how digital technology might empower teachers and learners by enabling innovation across schools, further education and higher education sectors for the benefit of students, employers and the wider economy. ETAG is chaired by Stephen Heppell (IPACA Patron).

Our report available here, fundamentally concludes that the use of digital technology in education is not optional. Competence with digital technology to find information, to create, to critique and share knowledge, is an essential contemporary skill set. It belongs at the heart of education. Learners should receive recognition for their level of mastery; teachers and lecturers should too. Digital technology can and should bring joy and engagement: a delight in stellar progress, the exhilaration of unexpected challenges, some playfulness, the reaffirmation of a global audience.

2020 Looks Like This
The above was presented at BETT 2015, since then silence from the Department for Education.

Now, as a school leader, I am getting on with the spirit of the ETAG report (and I hope you are too) but I am disappointed that the report has been with the Minister for eight months now and still we have had no response.

I have a responsibility to make sure my learners take advantage of the learning opportunities technology presents and I cannot wait for the Department for Education's response to continue their progress.

While my learners continue to break new ground and use cloud technologies, augmented reality and 3D Printing to expand their horizons, I will leave the Department for Education to continue burying their head in the sand.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

OECD: A Response

A global study from the OECD has gained mass media attention today, including this headline from the BBC -

BBC Education Website - 15th September, 2015
As is often the case though, it's important to look beyond the headline. Strangely, in this case, the OECD actually makes a convincing case for technology use in education.

See below for some useful quotes from the forward of the report which James Penny (@JSPenny1) has kindly pulled out and listed on his blog here-

‘Technology can amplify great teaching but technology cannot replace poor teaching’
‘If we want students to become smarter than a smartphone, we need to think harder about the pedagogies we are using to teach’
‘We need to get this right in order to provide educators with the learning environments that support 21st Century pedagogies and provide children with the 21st Century skills they need to succeed in tomorrow’s world.’
‘Why should students be limited to a textbook that was printed two years ago, maybe designed ten years ago, when they could have access to the world’s best and most up-to-date textbook.’
‘Perhaps more importantly technology can support new pedagogies and collaborative workspaces. For example, technology can support new pedagogies that focus on learners as active participants with tools for inquiry-based pedagogies and collaborative workspaces.
‘……….technology can enhance experiential learning, foster project-based and inquiry-based pedagogies, facilitate hands-on activities and cooperative learning, deliver formative real-time assessment and support learning and teaching communities, with new tools such as remote and virtual labs, highly interactive non-linear courseware based on state-of-the-art instructional design, sophisticated software for experimentation and simulation, social media and serious games.
‘To deliver on the promises technology holds, countries will need a convincing strategy to build teachers’ capacity. And policy-makers need to become better at building support for this agenda.’
‘… is vital that teachers become active agents for change, not just in implementing technological innovations, but in designing them too.’

Now, what the actual focus of the report seems to be saying is, 'When we use tech for Pisa style tests do we see improvement? Answer no...' ...but as the above illustrates that misses the point. 

This is not about a 'golden bullet' for learning but more about using technology as one of many tools to deliver change.

Here at the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy we’ve been looking at how we make learning better. Challenging ourselves to understand what makes a difference and what will give our learners the vital edge in their future lives. We always knew technology was essential but there are other things we knew we needed to look at.

Working with James Penny  (@JSPenny1) from our technology partner European Electronique we’ve come up with a new way of thinking about all the things that we think need considering when looking at creating a truly great learning environment. We’ve grouped these under the title of an Educational Digital Maturity Index – EDMI. This defines six domains where we think it is essential to think hard and ask questions about what you are doing. EDMI links well with the quotes pulled out from the above OECD report.

The six domains are:

1. Digitally Mature Leaders – How do leaders use technology? How do they encourage others to use technology? Is the use of technology fully embedded into their vision for the organisation? How does their vision for technology support enhanced outcomes?

2. Digitally Mature Teachers – Are teachers confident about using technology? Do they have technology embedded into their pedagogical practice? Do teachers share their great practice between each other? Do teachers use technology to teach and work across areas of knowledge?

3. Digitally Mature Students – We often think of students as the master of technology but often they need as much support as everyone else. Are all students confident in using technology? Are all students able to access and use technology? Does the use of technology support students to perform better?

4. Digitally Relevant Curriculum – Without a review of the curriculum technology can often not be fully exploited. Have leaders and teachers reviewed the curriculum to ensure that technology is being used effectively? Have curriculum activities been specifically designed to make effective use of what technology can offer? Will the curriculum take advantage of the opportunities for out of school learning?

5. Robust and well designed Infrastructure – Has the infrastructure been designed to support the multiple personal devices that might be deployed? Has the connectivity been checked to see if it is sufficient? Has the active network infrastructure been configured to support the data it will need to process? Has the wireless infrastructure been designed to support the device strategy?

6. An understanding of how classroom spaces, buildings and campuses support the use of technology – Traditional classroom and ICT sites support certain types of technology. What happens when you suddenly introduce mobile devices? Are traditional learning spaces suitable for mobile personal learning? Do classrooms have the spaces and facilities to make mobile learning successful?

The EDMI is underpinned by an understanding of school effectiveness and school improvement, drawing reference from research by the Institute of Education on school effectiveness, linking the use of technology to school improvement.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Will a robot take your job?

Technology has been replacing manual work for years. But which jobs will robots be able to take on in the future? This week, BBC News is running a series looking at this very question.

According to a study by researchers at Oxford University and Deloitte, about 35% of current jobs in the UK are at high risk of computerisation over the following 20 years.

The question we therefore need to ask ourselves as educators is are we comparing the skills needed in the future with the skills being offered by schools today...?

See the BBC 'Special Report: Intelligent Machines' for more information.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

The Importance of Movement

As the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy becomes closer to moving into our multi-million pound Maritime House Campus, I am using this time to reflect. Tonight, I have been reflecting on the importance of movement in learning spaces.

The question of “is sitting the next smoking” has been raised by many health experts in the past few months. Diabetes and heart disease are known to be connected to an inactive lifestyle, however, most of this attention has been focused on adult office workers and the negative health impact of sitting at work all day. But, if our waistlines and even our longevity are connected to how active we are each day, is it not important to teach our children how to be more active, from an early age?

With this in mind, there is a strong argument to create learning spaces that encourage movement. After all, a traditional model of thirty children sat at tables in row surely does nothing to support movement?

I love these examples of movement in Learning Spaces -

Building on this, Dr Mark Benden from Texas A&M University has been writing in the Conversation. He has been researching the impact of getting children in class to spend more time on their feet. His article (available by clicking here) makes for more interesting reading in the context of our work at the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Inspiring #SCIL - @Stephen_H

It was a pleasure to receive an unexpected email from Stephen Harris today. Stephen is Principal at SCIL (Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning), he visited IPACA back in October 2014 and lead a very special INSET day for us (you can read more about that day here).

Stephen shared with me the below video created by two of his Year 10 students, it highlights SCIL's new community precinct 'Manhattan and the City' -

The building generates its own electricity and water systems. It is designed around notions of community, connection, relationship and 'spontaneous space', rather than traditional classrooms. 

One section (a large open workspace) has been established as a co-working space where we have mixed senior students, staff who choose to opt in and invited external start ups or similar all together in the 'Manhattan Co-working space'. 

Stephen tells me that the concept is working extremely well and that senior students clearly benefit by being immersed in a real work space.

Yet again Stephen's work inspires me. It really shows what is possible when you put learning first. 

Sunday, 2 August 2015

#UMOD, bringing it isn't good enough!

In September 2013, we became the first school in the UK to provide large-scale 1:1 Google Chromebook access to our learners. This scheme had a positive influence on learners' enjoyment and attainment in learning and transformed teaching and learning in our school.

However, the world is not monotone, nor can EVERY task that supports learning be completed on just a Chromebook (or any other one device for that matter). We therefore must prepare our learners for this clear fact by using a range of devices. I myself use a MacBook Pro for the majority of my work related tasks, however, sometimes I use a Windows device and I regularly use my Android SmartPhone or even occasionally my SmartWatch to complete my work. My point is... I need to be able to use more than one device on a regular basis, I need to be competent on multiple platforms, operating systems and interfaces. If I need to be able to do this, what will our learners need to do in the future? Surely we need to prepare them to be more versatile and adaptive than I will ever be!

With the above in mind, one could argue, 1:1 provision in any school is not enough. Across IPACA we have a rich range of devices with multiple operating systems and platforms used to support learning with all Campuses benefiting from superfast fibre-optic broadband. Learners throughout IPACA use this technology in a wide range of settings, we are keen to extend this provision and increase the opportunities learners have.

Since October 2012, the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy has been working with European Electronique to build an academy-wide system that supports BYOD (Bring Your Own Devices). The below video recognises this partnership and work -

We have worked hard to develop the infrastructure to support BYOD. However, we recognise that an effective approach to learners bringing in their own devices to support learning is about more than just technology though. It's about a fundamental change in approach to learning and teaching, a cultural shift away from old pedagogy to an environment that embraces 21st century learning. This culture is one in which learning can happen from anywhere, any time and on any device! Our use of Google Chromebooks has supported this change in culture, not only for teachers but also for learners.

I feel it's important to remind everyone though what a Google Chromebook (so widely used currently at IPACA) actually is... essentially it's a web-browser, nothing more, nothing less. This therefore means, any device that has a web browser, can provide the same functionality for learning. Yes, some may work better for mobile work (tablets), while others will work better for typing sustained pieces of work (clamshell devices with keyboard), the choice here is often a personal preference. However, for our learners who are already competent working in a browser, the digital device doesn't need to be fancy! This I believe is where the beauty in IPACA's approach lies, we have built an environment for learning which is truly 'device agnostic'. Where any learner at any age, can access their personalised learning materials, anywhere, anytime and on any device! This agnostic approach means that whether you are using a £300-£500 new iPad, a £200-£400 new Chromebook or a £20-£250 Android Tablet, the way that device supports your learning is still the same. In this way, all platforms have their value and can support learning.

In January 2015, we ran a pilot which saw over one-hundred learners bring in their own devices to support their learning. Our experience at Osprey Quay and that of the other schools we work closely with reports a wholly positive experience to this approach. The initial analysis of those devices that were being brought in from home to support learning by pupils ranging in age from 6-10 showed a true agnostic approach -

Through work with our learners and European Electronique Solutions Director, James Penny, we have moved the language beyond BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). This is because it's no good just bringing your own device to school, you need to use it! This is the reasoning behind the UMOD (Using My Own Device) abbreviation.

Confident young learners at IPACA share how they use their own devices to support learning with visitors from Kadampa Private School, Derbyshire.

As we extend our optional pilot in September 2015 to all learners from Years 1-13, we are excited about the possibilities for learning! We recognise that across four buildings and 1,200 learners that there will inevitably be plenty of questions, fears and nervous thoughts. However, I am confident, in our technology, in our culture and more importantly in our learners. I believe they will continue to amaze us every day and that in time, UMOD will be the norm for all IPACA learners.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Samsung Virtual Exchange


Young learners from the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy recently took part in a ‘virtual school exchange’ with AnEui Middle School in South Korea. The virtual exchange saw children from the Portland Academy's Osprey Quay Campus visit the ‘Samsung Digital Classroom’ in the IPACA Sixth Form Centre. While there they used Google Hangout video conferencing technology to speak to fellow learners in South Korea.

Academy Director for Change and Innovation, Mr Gary Spracklen explains, 'This is another great example of how we are using technology to engage, innovate and inspire learning at the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy'. In preparation for the video call, learners were given a Samsung Galaxy Active Tablet. Mr Spracklen explains how, 'the learners used the device to record their thoughts around the topic of ‘ Portland sports’. This included the sport they enjoy participating in at school, sport they do outside of school and the sports they enjoy watching. In particular, learners were keen to celebrate their own personal sporting achievements and the rich watersport heritage that we have here on Portland!'

Speaking about the video call, Minje Sung from the Samsung UK Citizenship team said, 'The IPACA learners were most surprised by the long hours the students in South Korea spend at school (07:30am to 20:30pm) and the fact that many students have to walk a long way to get to school'. However, Minje believes, 'it was less about the difference, but more about understanding there are so much more in common'. He highlights how, 'during the call there was a bit of a problem with the sound where the voice from UK side didn't travel to Korean very well. However, the IPACA learners had no problem starting to write questions and showing answers on the Galaxy Tabs in front of the camera as if nothing was wrong. Of course - children are naturally agile and creative in finding a solution!'

The Virtual Exchange is just one way in which the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy and Samsung UK are working together. In May, the two organisations officially opened a new community learning space - The Samsung Digital Classroom - in the IPACA Sixth Form Centre at Victoria Building. The new Digital Classroom is a multi-use space that supports a wide range of digital learning activities, not only for IPACA students but for all age groups, including toddlers, parents and senior citizens. Samsung equipped the classroom with a range of resources, including some of their latest mobile, wearable and interactive technologies and it is now being used for exciting opportunities such as the 'Virtual Exchange'.

A link to the video call recording can be seen below or by clicking the following link -

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Learning Spaces and COLOUR

Linking to my last post on 'how colour affects learning', we have being thinking more about colour recently here at the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy. This is especially as work continues and on our multi-million pound Maritime House Campus.

Dan Plunkett, Nova-Co Design
This week I have spoken to Dan Plunkett who is working with us on the project about his thoughts in this area. Dan is an architect and product strategist who has over twenty-five years of experience within the public and private sectors, delivering projects that add value to user experience and operational performance. From a background in retail architecture, with IKEA and Audi, he has been at the forefront of translating an understanding of the psychological and behavioural influences of space from retail across to learning environments.

Dan thoughts are that, 'There is a good degree of myth around colour and learning and very little scientific base'. Speaking to him, he highlights that,  'The eye only has a physical reaction to red as a specific colour. The rest is mostly to do with tone and a bit on colour saturation. So no one colour can have a better or worse impact on learning'. 

Dan has developed some understanding through some work with a Royal Academy artist on this as well as developing his thoughts through twenty years in retail.

He states that a 'general rule of thumb (he has) developed is:

A narrow tonal range is a calmer environment, higher contrast is more stimulating. Very high contrast can be disturbing to students on the autistic spectrum'.

Dan is, 'not sure white is good for walls due to the high contrast' but he believes that, 'patterns can help cognition, problem solving and concentration, particularly those that are derived from nature - complex trees etc.. Natural materials are good on furniture as a connection to nature is a basic psychological need'.

Dan believes that, 'you need at least one neutral element in a room to balance colour – a floor or wall' and that 'a basic rule from branding is three colours are most memorable. Think of a tricolour or flag'.

Dan's background has taught him that, 'Children don't like primary colours. They will always instinctively mix colours before using them'.

Obviously, Dan's view are just one person's thoughts on this interesting topic... what do you think? Let us know using the comments feature below.

Monday, 11 May 2015

How Colour Affects Learning

Does the colour of your classroom affect learning outcomes? What effect do different colours have on the behaviour and attainment of your students? And does it really matter?
The team at Space Oasis are often asked what colour a classroom ‘should’ be, but like most things there’s no one right answer. Slapping on a few litres of magnolia tends to be standard classroom décor, but a little knowledge goes a long way and in their latest article Space Oasis look at the meaning of colour and its impact on learning environments.

See below for Space Oasis' overview -

The colour of learning: the impact of colour within classrooms
Simply using industrial quantities of soft-sheen magnolia paint in schools, sometimes complimented by a dash of maroon or navy gloss, ignores research and knowledge about the meaning of colour and the effect it has on students.

“The amateur, convinced he/she has good ‘colour sense’ and able to choose colours intuitively and do it well, ventures to offer opinions often in conflict with the professional.” So wrote Robert Samuels and Harry Stephens in their 1997 report, ‘Colour and Light in Schools’. In their research they say that without any guidelines around colour principles, decisions become based on personal, fashionable or political tastes rather than on evidence or best practice.

Read the full report from the brilliant team at Space Oasis by clicking here...

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Transforming the 'Traditional Curriculum'

I have been inspired this weekend by the #GoogleEduOnAir Conference and I have been dropping into sessions where I can. The below session entitled, 'Transforming traditional curriculum design to embrace collaboration and critical thinking' caught my eye.

The event, run jointly by The Personalised Learning Network, Wapping High School and The Innovation Unit, explored an issue close to our thinking here at the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy.

In the session, Kerstyn Comley examines recent case studies to demonstrate how technology is being used in the UK to embrace the concept of schools as communities of learners where students and teachers learn with and from each other. Kerstyn, who recently interviewed me about our practice at IPACA, argues that learning is more effective when it fulfils a real need and integrates of a variety of knowledge and information. 

A full copy of the session is available below -

Saturday, 9 May 2015

IPACA Sixth Form Shines at #GoogleEduOnAir

I've loved being involved in #GoogleEduOnAir tonight, thank-you Google for the invitation. All credit must go to our IPACA Sixth Form students who have represented the Academy so well across the last two days. See below for a press release I am putting out to share their success -

IPACA Sixth Form Shines on International Stage

Sixth Formers from the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy were asked to share their innovative approach to learning with a worldwide audience. The event, organised by Google's Education Team in California, showcased the very best in education from around the world.

Speaking about the invitation, Academy Director for Change and Innovation, Mr Gary Spracklen said, "We were humbled to be invited to share our work by Google. It's always an honour to share best practice, especially to such a large international audience. This invitation was all the more special because we have only be opened as a Sixth Form since September 2014. It clearly shows that what is happening with Sixth Form Education here on Portland is very special".

The Portland Academy's Sixth Form played a leading role in '#GoogleEduOnAir' which took place from Friday 8th to Sunday 10th May, 2015. On Friday, IPACA Sixth Form Student, Nicole Butcher, travelled to Google's UK Head Office in London to speak at the launch event. Speaking with confidence, Nicole shared how IPACA has equipped her, "To be a 21st Century Learner by embracing technology and inspiring learning in new ways'. Nicole, the only UK Student represented in the global launch, spoke alongside Jouni Kangasniemi, Senior Advisor to the Ministry of Education and Culture, Finland. Speaking about Nicole, Mr Spracklen said, 'Nicole had 1,000's of people watching the launch event live from around the world. She did an incredible job speaking alongside such established speakers. Nicole did a fantastic job representing the IPACA Sixth Form and all of us here at the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy".

Nicole travelling to London with Mrs. Rod
Nicole's words at the launch were built on by a second IPACA Sixth Form Student on the Saturday evening. Ryan Jordan, who studies Engineering, ICT and Art A-Level, shared how the concept of 'Learner Led Design'  has been used to shape the IPACA Sixth Form. Speaking to international delegates, Ryan shared how IPACA Sixth Form, "is like no other Sixth Form in the world... it's unique!" The talk highlighted the work of students which took place last summer when IPACA gave Sixth Formers £5,000 to research, design and deliver their own learning spaces. Speaking about the project, Mr. Spracklen adds, 'It was a project that really shines a light on our Academy's ethos and values, especially those of always putting our learners first in all that we do.  As an Academy, we don't believe in just paying lip service to student voice but in enabling all to become confident, responsible and independent lifelong learners'.

See below  for our Saturday Hangout entitled, 'Challenging YOU to engage, innovate and inspire learning!' -

IPACA's involvements in '#GoogleEduOnAir' can be watched back at -

Monday, 20 April 2015

@SuperFastDorset Conference - #IPACASamsung

Today, Samsung Community Space Committee Member; Wayne Day represented us at the Super Fast Dorset Conference. The event held in Sturminster Newton was part of a wider plan to develop a pan-Dorset vision to include the 20% currently left behind in the digital race.

The event included three national key speakers, well-known for their work in digital inclusion - 

- Valerie Singleton OBE – well-loved BBC presenter and co-founder of Simplicity Computers

- Lord Jim Knight – chairman of the digital technology social enterprise the Tinder Foundation, and South Dorset MP 2001-2010.

- Sarah Bridges – Director of Programme and Partnerships for the digital skills charity Go ON UK

Tonight, Wayne shared some key messages from the event with the Samsung Community Space Management Committee, key points included -

  • 20% Dorset Digital Divide - why are this amount in Dorset not interested? Confidence? Skills?

  • It's estimated that if we got 100% Digital Confident across the Country this would lead to cost savings of £63 billion to central government. It's estimated to cost £865 million to lead us through this step change. (Money that could be well spent?)

  • Interesting Fact - Three times as many Smart Phones on the planet than there are toothbrushes.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

#IPACALearn to be shared in #EducationOnAir

Last month Google announced Education on Air—the free online conference for educators, this will take place from 8th-9th May, 2015. As of this week you can now check out the
full schedule of sessions. I will be taking part as a speaker on day two of the event and I am delighted to see the above image being used to promote the event.

For full information about my session please see below -

More information about the conference -

Day 1- Leading for the future: During Day 1, hear from speakers who will challenge us to innovate and improve education. In the kickoff session, panelists will tackle the question “What are the skills of the future?”. Keynote speakers include actor and Reading Rainbow host LeVar Burton, Google Vice President Laszlo Bock, Google Science Fair 2012 winner Brittany Wenger, and education experts Sir Michael Barber and Michel Fullan, OC. There are educator panels on "transforming learning with technology" and "empowering students."

Day 2- Shaping the classroom today: Throughout Day 2, there are over 100 sessions led by educators from 12 countries and 29 U.S. states. Sessions have been designed to offer practical advice and examples. Find ones you like and add them to your calendar. Sessions include:

Monday, 13 April 2015

#IPACALearn Champions Group Launched

As the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy begins work on our multi-million pound Maritime House Campus, we are using the time before our move to model new approaches to teaching and learning. 

Tonight, I shared with all staff how this process will be supported by the formation of a 'Champions Group'. This group will reflect on our experiences, our shared beliefs and our vision for the future. The groups initial project will be to plan and implement our model environment for learning in KS2 and KS3. This space will be located in the current Library space at Royal Manor Campus.

The Champions Group will be involved in a number of off-site visits during the Summer Term and will work with IPACA SLT and our learners to design the new space. We are very fortunate that Terry White and Dan Plunkett will be leading our Champions Group through their initial project -

The Champions Group will be involved in the following activities this coming week -

Tuesday - 1:30-4:30pm
Attendees - CHAMPIONS GROUPContent - Awareness Raising Session - Overview of best practice, UK and international examples, PBL etc.

Wednesday - 9:00-10:00am - Year 5 Osprey Quay Campus
Attendees - Year 5 Pupils OQ and Teacher Content - Pupil Awareness Raising Session - What makes your learning effective for you?

Wednesday - 11:00-12:00pm - Year 5 Southwell Campus
Attendees - Year 5 Pupils Southwell and Teacher 
Content - Pupil Awareness Raising Session - What makes your learning effective for you?

Wednesday - 1:30-4:30pm
Attendees - CHAMPIONS GROUPContent - Design Workshop - Defining learning activities, pedagogy and curriculum delivery. Agree team working and collaborative approaches. Define learning space needs. Acoustic tolerances, technology and furniture.

Thursday - 9:00-12:30pm
Attendees - Terry White and Dan PlunkettContent - Sample CAD layouts and options.

Thursday - 1:30pm-3:30pm
Attendees - CHAMPIONSContent - Prepare for design presentation and feedback session.

Thursday - 3:45pm-4:00pm - Location - Royal Manor Campus Dining Hall
Attendees - ALL STAFFContent - Design presentation and feedback session. All staff given opportunity to comment on new space designs.

I look forward to sharing the work of the Champions Group with you all in future posts.

Thursday, 12 March 2015


Tonight i've been thinking about 'what makes great learning?'... for me it's imagination, creativity, engagement and fun. Great learning is about inspiring learners to dig deeper.

I find great joy as a teacher in designing learning experiences for the learners I teach, I find even greater joy when an experience is led by the learner. Tonight this West Base Blog Post, reminded me of Caine's Arcade -

I think we should share this video with our learners and see who is up for taking part in the Global Cardboard Challenge?

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Hot-Desking in School

As the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy becomes closer to beginning work and ultimately moving into our multi-million pound Maritime House Campus, I am using this time to reflect. To reflect on our experiences, our shared beliefs and our vision for the future. Tonight, I am drawn to this article from the Australian Financial Review -

Hot-desking – the office interior trend disliked by everyone except cost-cutting chief financial officers – has come to children.

At Sacred Heart Primary School in Sydney’s Mosman, rows of individual desks have been replaced by circular booths and shared tables for collaborative working. Furniture is at different heights to facilitate sitting and – should any eight-year-olds be concerned about their sedentary lifestyle – standing. It’s tidy, but there are no tidy trays.

The thinking behind the classroom arrangements, installed earlier this month, is not about cost; it is inspired by the contemporary trend of “activity-based working” which has gripped the imagination of many of Australia’s largest companies and made having one’s own desk about as rare as having a ­secretary.

It also shows how the physical worlds of children and adult workers are increasingly mimicking each other.

“You’d walk into our room and it wouldn’t remind you of the classroom I was at or you were at,” says Vince Campbell, principal of the Catholic school. “It would be more like a departure lounge in Barcelona airport.”

The old model of teaching, coming out of a 19th-century industrialised world that prepared children for work in factory-like environments, is broken says Campbell. Rows of seated children who are lectured to by a teacher, then tested on how much they’ve absorbed, isn’t a style of education that will equip today’s kids properly.

“We can cram and cram the kids’ heads full of knowledge, but it’s not going to do any good,” he says. “Know­ledge is increasing at an exponential rate. What we need to do is give the children the skills needed in the workplace today – collaboration, working together, problem-solving, teamwork – all these kinds of skills we’re giving them experience of.”

That this is happening on colourful furniture reminiscent of a high-end workplace is no coincidence. Former principal Rosemary De Bono introduced hot-desking at St Mary’s, another Catholic primary school in Sydney, after visiting Macquarie Group’s Shelley Street head office. Investment bankers have been sharing their desks and playing nicely with each other since 2011.

And ironically, in contrast to adults, children find it easier to respond to the change. “When we visited places like Macquarie, someone commented that adults tend to have problems not having their little places and that ownership,” says De Bono, now the acting head of gifted eduction for the Catholic archdiocese of Sydney. “I thought: this is going to be interesting to see how the children reacted and whether they get upset or don’t connect with this. We didn’t have any problems at all.”

Sacred Heart and St Mary’s are not alone. All of the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta’s 80 primary and high schools – and their 45,000 students – have embraced mobile or activity-based working to some degree since the diocese started rolling it out in 2006.

Just as ASX-listed companies such as National Australia Bank know that success means even the CEO cannot have a desk, the schools have found those at the top need to be fully on board.

“Where we’re finding it difficult is where we’ve got teachers who still have one foot in the 20th century and they’re in the mode of teaching where they say: ‘I find it much easier when all the desks are the same’,” Campbell says.

He has a clinical answer for laggards. “My response to them is: ‘Would you go to a hospital that had fantastic results in terms of patient outcomes in the 1980s but hadn’t moved beyond that? Would you still go there for an operation?”

Parramatta diocese’s executive director of schools, Greg Whitby, says the new methods permit teacher-pupil ratios to vary by activity. This hasn’t meant fewer teachers but it does let staff manage their time and working environment, Whitby says. “We’re finding once we put the profession in charge of their working environment . . . you get them much more deeply engaged,” he says.

And with a start this young, it’s likely that office workers of the future won’t ever complain about not having a desk.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Trillium Creek - Reflection Three - Approach

As the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy becomes closer to beginning work and ultimately moving into our multi-million pound Maritime House Campus, I am using this time to reflect. To reflect on our experiences, our shared beliefs and our vision for the future. This week, I am thinking particularly about my visit to America in October 2014 and my time in one school in particular, Trillium Creek Primary School. This is the third post in a series, for my first post about Trillium Creek Primary School, please click here and for my second please click here.

This evening, I want to focus on the approach at Trillium Creek Primary School which stood out to me as one which is truly child-centred. The school, which is part of the West Linn-Wilsonville School District clearly believed in a character driven approach. This approach was evident in the design of learning spaces, work on display and in the various conversations with learners and staff.

During my visit to Trillium Creek Primary School, it was great to hear from members of the West Linn-Wilsonville School District team who explained the process of reexamination it has been through in recent years to consider its strategic mission.

"Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of a true education."
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

The team explained how several community Futures Conferences were conducted and brought together parents, Board members, citizens, business owners, students and school staff members to create a shared vision for a school learning community. The six district Vision Themes were identified for educating the next generation. Further defining the Educating the Whole Person vision theme, the Character Traits honesty, integrity, respect, responsibility, kindness, compassion, and courage emerged as core ethical values that their community believes their children should learn and that all should strive to exemplify. 

The team pointed to a comprehensive study of American high schools, conducted by Lickona and Davidson, which reported that "there is a national consensus regarding the need for character - doing our best work, doing the right thing, living a life of purpose." The concern for excellence and ethics evident in that statement is exemplified in West Linn-Wilsonville with the guiding question, "How do we create a school community for the greatest thinkers and most thoughtful people for the world?". I wonder how we would answer this same question at IPACA?

Monday, 9 March 2015

Trillium Creek - Reflection Two - Spaces

As the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy becomes closer to beginning work and ultimately moving into our multi-million pound Maritime House Campus, I am using this time to reflect. To reflect on our experiences, our shared beliefs and our vision for the future. This week, I am thinking particularly about my visit to America in October 2014 and my time in one school in particular, Trillium Creek Primary School. This is the second post in a series, for my first post about Trillium Creek Primary School, please click here.

This evening, I want to focus on the spaces within spaces that I believe help make Trillium Creek Primary School a special place for learning. At the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy, we have long recognised the value of such spaces whether it was the inflatable classroom at Grove Campus (now based in West Base at Osprey Quay) or the Art Shed in Royal Manor Campus -

At the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy, we believe in Professor. Stephen Heppell's simple Rule of Three at Learn3K that helps define third millennium learning spaces. This includes the suggestion that in many cases three walls are enough. We recognised that in practice this doesn't only apply to commons areas, breakout spaces, places for focus and so on, it has also characterises the many agile little spaces-within-spaces that have proved so popular with children and teachers alike - they offer a space for mutuality, for an intimacy of collaboration, for serious study and focussed conversations, for peace & quiet sometimes, for focus and of course, with always one side open and an eye line in, for safety too.

At Trillium Creek Primary School, the spaces within spaces (or rooms within rooms) were many and varied -

I like to think the above spaces were created at the request of learners to support a particular kind of learning. Ewan McIntosh writes a great blog post about the 'seven spaces for learning' here, in it, he talks about the following -
The Seven Spaces provide a common language that does not make mention of architectural or technological concepts, is totally accessible and lets more members of the school community take part in building a new school or new ways of learning. When the time comes for schools to rethink their physical space or technology deployment, teachers, leaders and students can fall into a trap: rather than thinking about what they know about most (teaching, leading learning and learning for themselves), consultants and architects will attempt to 'teach' them how to 'speak architect' or technology geek talk. The result is that too many educators and learners end up with technology and physical space that is great for teaching the old way, painful for teaching in different styles and which locks learners into a groove for many years to come. The Seven Spaces are changing that.
As we move forward with Maritime House, I hope we can be a community that focuses on leading learning and be prepared to break from the old to foster a new approach for the benefit of all our learners.

Spaces within spaces at Maritime House will be one ingredient in a wider recipe unique to Portland.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Trillium Creek - Reflection One - Overview

As the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy becomes closer to beginning work and ultimately moving into our multi-million pound Maritime House Campus, I am using this time to reflect. To reflect on our experiences, our shared beliefs and our vision for the future. This week, I am thinking particularly about my visit to America in October 2014 and my time in one school in particular, Trillium Creek Primary School.

I went to Portland, Oregon for the CEFPI Annual Conference in October 2014 to present at a Super Seminar. The visit which was fully funded by UK Learning also allowed me to visit a number of innovative schools both in and around Portland and Seattle.  One which stuck long in the mind was Trillium Creek Primary School, click here to see their school website.

At the heart of Trillium Creek Primary School is multidimensional library which has been designed to be the 'living room' and the center of research and inquiry. The open floor plan provides inherent flexibility for student and teacher use and offers a variety of learning environments.

The “tree house” perched on the second floor allows students to meet in small groups or have a quiet space for independent learning. Its natural wood finish and bright colored features are beacons of the student-centered design of the building. Students can return from the second to the first floor of the library via an enclosed slide, I obviously had to try this out -

The addition of the slide in this central and prominent space truly represents the great extent to which the design team went to create a place for children to experience fun and excitement in their school day.

Over the coming days, I will be exploring more how Trillium Creek Primary School inspired me, however, I think above all it was the integrated approach to design that the team took which spoke to me most.

It is my hope that when we reflect on how Maritime House has been designed, we collectively speak with the same passion as the team do at Trillium Creek Primary School. The below video is a great example of this passion -

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Different Approaches to Teaching and Learning

As the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy becomes closer to beginning work and ultimately moving into our multi-million pound Maritime House Campus, I am using this time to reflect. To reflect on our experiences, our shared beliefs and our vision for the future. Tonight, I have been thinking about different approaches to teaching and learning.

At Maritime House learning will be divided into four vertical 'schools within school'. This will allow students, staff and parents to get to know each other and support effective learning and achievement based on a real knowledge and understanding of the individual. It will also allow some vertical grouping in both tutor and academic sessions.

The curriculum will be co-constructed and holistic, with this in mind, I particularly enjoyed watching the below video in which we go inside Manor New Technology High School, where an unwavering commitment to an effective schoolwide PBL model keeps both students and teachers motivated and achieving their best -

Friday, 6 March 2015

STEAM - An integrated approach

As the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy becomes closer to beginning work and ultimately moving into our multi-million pound Maritime House Campus, I am using this time to reflect. Tonight, I reflect on how learning can be inspired through an integrated approach.

While thinking about integrated approaches, I came across this post from the #UKEdChat community. The post highlights how Teachers at a Primary School in Northamptonshire have showcased the work of their pupils when the whole school embraced on a Minecraft inspired project called ‘Bridgecraft’. The cross curriculum project became a whole-school theme at Bridgewater Primary School, with pupils re-creating a real new world for the Minecraft character (Steve) whose world had earlier been destroyed.

The cross curriculum element is explained by teacher Stacey Ramm:

“I’d been doing some training with the University of Northampton in an area called STEAM, which stand for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths – so we felt we’d be looking at those subjects with something that the children had been trying to teach me about – Minecraft. So we wanted to see how we could incorporate something that the children were already engaged with and hijack it for learning in school.”

The school have created a video (see below) which showcases the success of the project – possibly being an inspiration for others – and was supported by their own Bridgecraft Blog, which further highlights some of the work completed during the focus.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Example Blended Learning Model

As the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy becomes closer to beginning work and ultimately moving into our multi-million pound Maritime House Campus, I am using this time to reflect. To reflect on our experiences, our shared beliefs and our vision for the future. Tonight, I have been thinking about a student's experience in particular with regard to how learning is blended between teacher-led, learner-led and Digital Learning aids.

The model we will work with in Maritime House is yet to be finalised with staff, students and parents, however, there is lots of inspiration out there. Only this week, I learnt about the below blended learning model from Peru via this EdSurge article.

EdSurge highlights how in 2012,  'with intense collaboration between school leaders at Innova and IDEO designers, a blended learning model was piloted to test out some of the initial ideas'. The process designed is described below -

Students spend their day rotating through two different configurations. For about five hours of the day, students are grouped in classes of 30. Then for the last three hours, the walls between classrooms are quickly broken down and students are combined into one class of 60. Here’s how it works -

Group time: 30 students collaborate with each other for peer-to-peer learning while one teacher acts solely as a guide. When students enter the class, the teacher proposes a challenge, which the students then tackle in small groups by sketching out solutions, using the internet or other handouts the teacher provides.

Solo time: 60 students work independently through their content skills, using programs like Khan Academy, Time To Know, and Pearson’s My English Learner. While edtech products for Spanish speaking learners are not widely available, Innova has developed its own software, in partnership with Pontificia University Catolica a Peru, called Modus to teach science and literacy skills.

Teachers simply remind students of the skills they should be on pace to learn, where those resources can be accessed, and then give them autonomy to drive their own learning. While the network is piloting a 1:1 laptop program in two schools using Intel Classmate computers, most students currently leave the classroom and attend the media lab when their assignments call for computer-based learning.

Innovation Program: While the students use solo learning time to build independent thinking and management skills, they also use an Innovation Program to spark leadership qualities within their students. Once a year for two weeks, the school stops everything, and every kid from 3rd to 11th grade works on a specific social challenge. Then they display their solution to this social challenge in a science-fair type of display, allowing the community to contrast a 3rd grader’s approach to an 11th grader approach to the s