“That sounds a bit technical”; why do Ofsted rarely mention #edtech

The use of technology for learning in schools is inconsistent in my experience. Schools with a reputation for embedding technology effectively into teaching and learning are in short supply. Is this because…

  1. #edtech has no impact on progress?
  2. Training is not prioritised? See OECD report
  3. School are nervous to change the way they use technology as they fear Ofsted won’t like it?
  4. Curriculum needs to change to enable the best use of technology (a greater focus on projects, blended learning or flipped learning?)
  5. Ofsted inspectors don’t agree or know what best practice looks like?

As someone who works with schools and teachers on their use of technology to support learning I encounter some extremely competent, knowledgeable and capable professionals at their most vulnerable when technology and change are thrust upon them. 

Ofsted are working hard to dispell some myths around inspections.

Many school marking policies reference “books” rather than marking and feedback wherever it may occur. I am suggesting to schools working with cloud drives such as office365 or Google Drive that teacher-student interactions captured in Onenote or on a Google Doc can be shared with an ofsted@myschool.org account should they wish to showcase it to inspection teams in addition to their SDP or SEF ( ideally laden with comments and discussions of a truly working document).
This is a response I have heard to such an approach.

“That sounds a bit technical.”

For who? The school, or the Ofsted inspectors?

Are #edtech references infrequent in Ofsted reports because;

  • schools are nervous of going down this route as it is different?
  • we don’t think Ofsted inspectors have the technical nows to navigate a login and shared folders?
  • Ofsted inspectors don’t know what good #edtech for learning looks like so avoid mentioning it in reports?

In an entirely unscientific search I found an area for improvement for a good specialist college.

the use of technology to support and enhance students’ learning and progress is underdeveloped

Ofsted 2015 

If I were being flippant I could claim this suggests to be outstanding schools must use technology but we know this is not an appropriate conclusion. 

It is expanded on in the report. 

Managers should extend the use of technology to support and enhance teaching, learning and assessment by learning from the best practice in colleges, and training staff further in the most effective use of technology such as interactive smartboards and tablets.

Ofsted 2015

This would suggest they have tablets already.

I would love to hear from schools using technology for learning if you make any concessions for Ofsted or have had your use of technology identified as contributing to good or outstanding progress. Ofsted will not specifically reference a technique or apprpach, preferring to speak in general terms to avoid a mass rush to copy the approach. 

I would also love to hear from Ofsted inspectors (on or off the record) about your experience of technology use to support learning and progress.

If you are interested in a summary of technology references in Ofsted reports you should read this post which was written by Mike Cameron in response to a TES article about disruptive technology (causing disruption rather than the type referred to in the Innovator’s Dilemma). Mike has searched a range of reports for references to “tablets”, after the article claimed a report suggested 30% of schools opporate a bring your own device (BYOD) policy. If that many schools do try to engage technology in learning Ofsted reports would be picking up these are strengths or weaknesses? Once again your input would be welcomed as I explore what great #edtech is.

More and more schools are investing in technology and we must ensure this investment has a positve impact on the efficiency of teachers and the learning outcomes of students. Ofsted has a role to play in that and I would like to investigate a bit more.

Enjoy your new year,

Ben

Communicake – Immersion Interviews

We are reviewing how we communicate across the schools within our Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) using design thinking to get an understanding of the problems and in order to potentially come up with effective and innovative solutions to improve the communication across our growing MAT.

The project has begun with a project team taken from the central MAT team, comprising members of the HR, finance, IT support and Education teams that work with all of the schools in the MAT. Catch up on my previous reflections here.

Interviews

As part of the immersion phase of our design thinking project we have undertaken a series of interviews with staff across the wider MAT to improve our understanding of the effective communication that takes place and areas where communication can improve. This phase is also referred to as the empathise phase, so an interview, listening to people’s view on communication will help us get a deeper understanding of the themes that can lead to good or bad communication.

Today we began to review some of the interviews that have already taken place. Summary post-its were placed around three themes.

  • Effective Communication
  • Communication Problems
  • Suggestions

These are the three themes that appeared in every interview and is now on the wall in the communal coffee and tea area so the wider central team can peruse as the kettle boils and their tea bag stews.

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I was made aware that this process can feel messy at first. To an extent it has but I have been fortunate to work with a great team who have shown enthusiasm, trust and commitment to the project. A fellow teacher who has carried out this process herself has been kind enough to share some advice. She encouraged me to use interviews in a recent message:

“Interviews will bring out insights about the communication issues. The immersion phase takes some time and feels a bit messy at first. Everything will start to come together when you make the connections from interviews.”

Wise Design Thinker, 2016

How true this has proved to be… While we are not at a stage where we feel we understand enough about communication across our MAT to move to the problem finding or “Define” phase, we have moved forward and themes are beginning to surface that need a little more attention. With the post-it-laden sheets on display next to the tea and coffee we are looking to engage everyone in the project and get them thinking about communication.

Growing the project

In a few weeks time the central team from out MAT meet, as we do each term, and we have a communication project slot on the agenda. The project team want to share our progress, but we have avoided simply standing and speaking about what we have done. True to our design thinking process we are keen to take this opportunity to enhance the immersion phase and go deeper by gathering the input of the wider team. Currently we see this as two activities:

How might we…

A recurring theme is that the role and vision of the MAT is not clearly understood or communicated to staff in the schools. Hence our first task is to ask groups of three to carry out what is often the initial generative task of a design thinking process. Beginning from a statement, in our case; “How might we communicate the role a vision of our MAT to staff?” the statement is reviewed and redefined.

Through interview and scribe the groups will gather their thoughts on this, leading to a review of the themes generated in the interview. This will lead them to redefine the statement of their own. How might we…

  • …induct new staff to MAT schools
  • …share key information with MAT staff
  • …engage all staff with MAT values

We shall see what comes and it should provide the next deeper level of immersion before we move to define and synthesise in order to find good problems to solve.

Team reflections

So far there has been positive feedback for the systematic approach of the IT support team who log calls and have a clear process for communicating problems and updating staff of the progress and solutions. Hence we want each team at our meeting to gather to reflect on their own communication under the following themes:

  • What do we communicate well to staff?
  • Where can we communicate better?
  • What can we change

Each team can then have some suggestions to add to the wall next to the kettle!

I have taken pictures and videos of our deisgn thinking process so far, here is a little video that I will be sharing with the team.

During the discussion about how to utilise our time with the whole central team some one suggested that these kind of tasks would be good to implement with headteachers, school business managers and the staff when we gather together annually at our MAT conference. This was a very encouraging sign as it said to me that the design thinking process can begin to spread throughout the organisation. From the beginning this was my hope, as I believe this way of thinking and problem identifying and solving can have a positive impact on the way we work together.

There are glimmers of ideas that I want to suppress until we have completed the immersion but I am excited that the process is moving forward.

Exciting times…

(1 of 3) Measuring the Impact of Technology on Learning

How do we measure the impact of technology used to support learning?

In the first of three posts I reflect on technology’s role in education and how we can measure the impact as we utilise it in our classrooms.

Learning is a complex system, particularly in schools where we try to turbo charge it from 9am to 3pm. The measure of that learning can often be less complex, such as a letter or number to quantify the learning or benchmark the progress since the last check.

Technology has always been part of learning…

Chalk, slate, paper, pens, books and calculators… but we are specifically referring to new technology that has become so ingrained in our lives, therefore schools are grappling with whether and how to embed this technology in learning. If a school gives every child an iPad, will this improve learning? Of course it won’t, any tool is simply a small part of the system but we have become used to measuring impact on learning so much in schools we need to be able to measure the impact of technology on learning but it is crude and dis-ingenuous to measure the impact simply in results. However, schools can spend heavily on technology when budgets are shrinking and the investment needs to be justified.

Measuring Impact in Schools

The measures we are used to are

  • Results
  • Lesson Observations
  • Progress indicators

If I were to visit your school and say

  1. “Implementing technology to support learning will improve results.”
  2. “Lessons with technology are better than those without.”
  3. “Learning with technology will improve student progress”

I sincerely hope you show me the door as I almost definitely don’t have evidence to back the statements up. Furthermore, if those silver bullets existed you would already be using them.

However, I do strongly believe that there are some learning experiences that technology can enhance, improve and provide that are not possible without it.

 

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There are times we have reflected on lessons and note that mini-whiteboards, post-it notes, laminated cards or highlighters could have made the lesson more successful. This is not because it saves paper, looks pretty but because it improves progress, understanding, explanations, discovery, feedback and so on. Hence, I aspire that technology sits less as an entity on its own and becomes ingrained in learning and teaching. There are fantastic tools freely available to teachers that can enhance feedback (The Education Endowment Foundation and Hattie have research to suggest this has a significantly positive impact on learning. For balance you may wish to also read @LearningSpy’s blog post summarising some objections to the use of effect size and this post questioning the statistics in Hattie’s work) to students or facilitate more effective group work or peer review.

If I were to visit your school and say

  1. “Implementing technology saves teachers time.”
  2. “Lessons with technology allow for more personalised learning.”
  3. “Learning with technology will improve student engagement”

I hypothesise that I would be much less likely to be shown the door. Technology can be a distraction, irrelevant or a positive impact on learning and I suggest the measures we use to assess the impact of technology need to be discussed and a clear set of agreed measures brought in to general use. The team at Google for Education tried this with a vote on twitter:

Technology used to enhance personalised learning requires some cultural change in schools as it challenges the teaching styles of many successful teachers, the learning preferences of good children and the digital literacy of both groups. Alongside any implementation of a change to embed technology in learning is a need for training, discussion and a clear vision for learning. The training deficit that I have become aware of as I try to embed technology in learning was highlighted more publicly in late 2015.

On 15 September 2015, The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published a report called “Students, Computers and Learning” on technology in the classroom and snippets from it formed rather sensationalist headlines, including this one on the BBC website.

Computers ‘do not improve’ pupil results, says OECD

The report looks at computer usage across a number of countries and compares outcomes. Using OECD’s Programme for International Assessment (PISA) results from 2012 the report identifies “no appreciable improvements in student achievement in reading, mathematics or science in the countries that had invested heavily in ICT for education”.

Do we ‘invest’ in ICT for Education?

Is investment in ICT for education or technology for learning simply monetary? My school has an investors in people plaque in reception and I am pretty sure that doesn’t mean they pay more than other schools. However, the reference to investment in ICT in the OECD report is a quantitative measure. Despite the media headlines the report is detailed and aware of the data it has and has not used when summarising the findings.

Technology can amplify great teaching, but great technology cannot replace poor teaching.”

OECD: Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connections, 2015

Schools will have to choose the level and focus of investment in technology for learning. Whether that takes the form of devices, training, open discussion, design thinking projects, bring your own device (BYOD) policies or even new learning spaces is a big and difficult decision for school leaders to make. Especially as the impact of these measures are unclear, hence this blog post.

The discussion around technology in schools is often confused,  school leader. There is a distinct difference between school provided technology to support learning and a personal device used by a student. This distinction can be overlooked in the discussion that surfaces via bloggers, newspapers and those with vested interests. An Ofsted spokesperson was quoted in the Times Educational Supplement (TES):

“Pupils bringing personal devices such as laptops or tablets into school can be extremely disruptive and make it difficult for teachers to teach,” an Ofsted spokesperson told TES.

This quote is then translated into this headline:

Ofsted warns against ‘extremely disruptive’ tablets in school

Richard Vaughan – TES December 2015

Here is a response to the TES article, (Ensure you also read a follow up post including Ofsted’s response as the reference to disruptive technology was specifically to do with technology in schools not for the use in learning) including a search through Ofsted reports for references to technology’s impact on learning.

The decision six months ago to equip all students with tablet computers has not been universally welcomed by parents and carers, but the positive impact on students’ learning is obvious. The computers help students to work independently, they give all students equal access to online resources and they provide an excellent communication tool between teachers and students.

Ofsted Report June 2012 – Secondary (School overall judged as Outstanding)

The impact of technology on learning to this inspection was ‘obvious’ so we know it when we see it. The impact measures suggested by this inspector are

  • Independence
  • Equal access
  • Effective communication

Did this school implement tablet computers because they identified weaknesses in these areas? When I work with schools advising them on their use of technology to support learning the first document I request is the school development plan as there is no point developing technology or the use of it in anything that does not support the key focuses of that school. Therefore the measures have to be the same measures schools put in place every day, week term and year.

The OECD report summarises the implications of the findings and suggests that schools are not yet able or ready to embed technology in learning and leverage the potential. I agree, that we are yet to develop a clarity on how we want technology to blend into pedagogy and schools. I feel this provides more support for a drive to agree tangible measures for the impact of technology. What is the problem we are solving? The implications section concluding the OECD report implies the following potential benefits of technology in education:

  • Equality
  • Digital Literacy
  • Teacher and Student Collaboration

I suspect a search through school development plans will find many that want equality, more officially known and closing the gap. A number of approaches can support this and technology, planned and implemented well, can help. However, a poorly executed implementation of technology can bring into sharp focus the inequality between students. We often hear educators present the now familiar concept that “we are preparing our students for jobs that don’t exist yet” (if I had a penny…) and therefore the use of technology in schools is necessary to prepare them for the world they are going into. However, I didn’t have any such preparation and I think I am doing fine. Technology is already allowing teachers to share and collaborate and we have dumped millions of mediocre to poor resources onto our blogs, social media and resource sites.

What would your measures of impact be?

In part 2 of this 3 parts blog series I want to focus on the tool versus the teacher.

 

Comminucake – Immersion

Our design thinking project, focussed on how we communicate across our 16 school Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) has begun… with a scheduled meeting!

“Meetings of peers sitting around a table rarely lead to collaborative actions towards solving a problem.”

Ewan McIntosh – How to come up with great ideas, 2014.

Indeed, not everyone could make it despite the enticing title “Communicake”; because where do we communicate best… over cake! Not that I am making conclusions at this early stage of the design thinking process, of course.

Project Team

A project team, consisting of at least one representative from each department of the central team, met two weeks ago to begin immersing ourselves in communication. Each team member received a notebook for them to record ideas and bugs related to communication. These observations will be key to the immersion phase as we gather a detailed collection of how communication currently works in our organisation. Not, how we think it works, or how it should work but how it does work day to day.

Immersion Tools

The tools for the immersion will be:

  • Notebooks – Ideas wallet and bugs list
  • Communicake board – Pin board by the coffee and cakes in our office
  • Interviews – It is vital we speak to as many employees across our MAT as possible

First Meeting

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The conversation was productive at beginning to consider the wide scope of communication. Some key questions emerged in-between preferences for face to face over electronic tools for communication. The questions were:

  • How many emails are sent across our organisation everyday?
  • How do private company central offices work?
  • Has every member of the MAT central team visited every school?
  • How many schools have a busy staffroom?
  • Where is our staffroom (one was created the day after)
  • Which schools consider themselves as being “good” at communication?

I have to admit to feeling I had not done a good job of facilitating the beginning of this design thinking process. I am fortunate to have some excellent colleagues who pushed the conversation forward and quickly picked up on the concept of design thinking from my brief description. However, over the week following our project getting started people are highlighting poor or good communication where it may have been overlooked before. For instance, someone has been asked to look at decorating our new office and we ended up discussing whether we should consider communication before deciding what goes on the walls. Hence the person given the task of purchasing decorations is joining us for the next gathering (can’t being myself to call it a meeting). Maybe this design thinking is as effective as I have read?

Next…

  • Review Ideas and Bugs
  • Identify next level of detail required in immersion
  • Interview techniques and tools

 

Making a Dent – The Project Team

After an inspirational two days in Toulouse and a desire to implement lasting change in my organisation, I have been given the support and permission to start a design thinking process for how we communicate across our Multi-Academy Trust (MAT).

As our MAT grows towards 20 schools we will need to be able to communicate effectively across all schools and via the central team that I work in. It feels like just adding more email accounts would not be the solution, so what is? Far be it for me to answer that question, we have many talented people across our organisation so I hope to facilitate their ideas through a design thinking process.

Create the project team

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We need to create a project team who will begin this journey that I hope will embed across the entire MAT. It needs to be:

  • Representative of the entire organisation
  • Keen to be part of a process of innovation

The team will need to understand that their daily job descriptions are left at the door for this process

“Innovation does not respect departmental boundaries” McIntosh, Ewan. How to Come Up with Great Ideas. Edinburgh: NoTosh, 2014. Print.

I was going to send an email but my CEO made an astute observation and suggestion. If we are looking for innovative ways to communicate effectively then maybe the recruitment should be communicated in an interesting way… tous chez!

Lets design think this with 100 ideas in 10 minutes:

  1. email with a long explanation of the project
  2. email a video of me talking about the project
  3. email a poster about the project
  4. put up a poster in the office
  5. fly a plane with a banner over the school
  6. have a treasure hunt and project team is the ones who complete it first
  7. send a word by email each day to show poor communication
  8. create a video via a QR code
  9. send everyone a copy of Ewan’s book with a note inside
  10. pin up paper with little tear off slips like you had a uni to get a room-mate
  11. Have a person with a “golf sale” sign while I sit in an office waiting for people to come and have a look
  12. buy advertising on TV during Gogglebox
  13. create a radio advert to broadcast
  14. set off the fire alarm and stand in the playground with a loud-hailer to inform everyone of the project
  15. send a survey where people assess which role they fulfil in a team, then pick the right mixture.
  16. Put numbers underneath everyone’s desk and randomly select people to join the team
  17. Set off carrier pigeons from Cornwall with a message inviting colleagues to join the team
  18. Use the force to make them want to join the team “this is not the method of communication you are looking for”
  19. Offer cake and tea in a meeting room and then announce my project
  20. Send a Google form around where people can
    1. watch a video
    2. identify their role in a team
    3. express an interest in getting involved
  21. Have a meeting (you can tell I am running out of ideas…and ten minutes is up!)

I have demonstrated why one needs a project team to power the ideas along and lead to innovative change. Now to get one…

After various attempts at making a video, animated gifs and other media I decided that we all communicate best over an impromptu piece of cake. Consequently I am going to lay on cake and that will lure people to my invitation to get involved:

Communication Flyer
The actual link is not included, just in case you all wanted to join the team.

First question… Why do we need to communicate any differently?

Enjoy

B Rouse