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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.