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Sunday, 10 January 2016

New Learning Spaces

More new teaching and learning spaces available at the new Franklin Building, above CitySport.

As we build towards our new multi-million pound Maritime House Campus, it's always good to hear from others on a similar journey. This week, I came across Dominic Pates who is an Educational Technologist in Learning Enhancement and Development (LEaD) based in the School of Mathematics, Computer Science and Engineering and in the theme of Learning Spaces at City University, London.

I particularly enjoyed reading Dominic's blog post 'New Learning Spaces at the Franklin Building' which I would encourage everyone to read. In it, Dominic discusses the new learning spaces at City University, London. It's wonderful to see the impact these spaces are making on how teachers and students approach their studies. If you wish to find out more, the below video is a good place to start -


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.