Design Thinking in Schools: Relish Change

Less chocolate is a change I am struggling with, I love the stuff! But non-the-less I am actioning that change thanks to getting a bit more educated about the way my body works. Better education and understanding has helped me embrace change and see it for the longer term benefits and impact.

 

I have been Inspired to write after listening to Jamie Casap, a Googler, talk about change in education. A keynote address I delivered at a few technology conferences including in New Hampshire and Sweden was titled “Change, the only constant?”. I suggest education hasn’t changed that much over time and it be something we as teachers get used to? Jamie, speaking on a Google Hangout on Air with educators split change into two.

Desirable change vs undesirable change

This struck a chord with me. Of course we like change that we perceive to have inherent benefits and are dubious or even avoid change we believe doesn’t improve our lot or in fact makes things worse. Sometimes it takes time or more education for everyone to see a change for the good it can bring and consider it from other people’s perspective or beyond the initial upheaval. I advocate change when I leave my day-job as a maths teacher to train teachers in the use of technology for learning. Do I always manage to frame that change as desirable or beneficial? My feedback forms suggest so, however is this feedback from educators who are already excited by the change technology can bring. Moreover, why would you book yourself on to a course which you felt was not going to be beneficial? I didn’t give my language classes at school the chance when I was 14 and dropped them at the first opportunity. I regret that now. Selling change for its benefits is not an easy job.

 

Later this week I am delivering training to a whole school, which should ensure we get a full and varied range of attitudes and perceptions to the change I am supporting them with. Will they all see the change as beneficial? If the change is to be worthwhile and to be realised then it had better be solving a decent problem or come with a compelling story.

Design Thinking

Design thinking is about finding good problems to solve, problems inherently worth solving. It also focusses on the “user” and take ethnographic data and builds a story around people and how we can help solve their problems. For this reason I think design thinking has a worthwhile and permanent place in education, making curriculum and learning design student centred and personal.

Problem Finding

The school I am supporting with training needs to learn the tools, granted but they won’t use them if there is no purpose. Therefore I want to help them to find desirable change by finding some problems worth solving.

“Technology for Learning or #Edtech is at its most impactful when no-one mentions it.”

Me, just now

Change is not a problem if it is worth doing. If someone has a good problem to solve they are happy to work hard at it and they will find the right tools to make it happen. This is my ever-evolving approach to supporting teachers with technology for learning.

To start finding a problem worth solving try the 5 whys activity. Write down your vision and the challenges in the way of getting there. Find a colleague who is fairly straight talking and get them to ask to why…

5 Whys

You: My challenge is to get teachers using new technology

Friend: Why would they want to use new technology?

You: New technology can provide new learning experiences

Friend: Why are the current learning experiences not good enough?

You: They are… but technology could open them up a wider audience

Friend: Why don’t the teachers already see that opportunity you do?

You: Because they are not keeping track of new technology developments

Friend: Why are they not up to speed on technology that is available?

You: Because they are too busy!?

With a good 5 Whys session you might find yourself with a problem worth solving…

How might we give teachers time to learn about new developments in learning?

Reframing a change from “Here’s a new tool for you to learn” to “We are going to use these new tools to save you time and develop learning” might be the catalyst for teachers to relish change rather than fear it. That is my hope for my upcoming training. Thanks to Jamie for making me think about it that little but more.

Enjoy

Design Thinking in Schools: Shadow a Student

Empathy and understanding the ‘what is’ forms the essential starting point of innovation and underpins design thinking. So what better way to get started in schools than to shadow a student. Check out the shadow a student website, which is aiming to get school leaders living a day in the life of a student.

Sign up to commit to shadow a student and learn more about your school than a month of meetings would tell you.

Try using empathy mapping while you do it, add it to an ethnographic wall in your staffroom and encourage others to add too. Father data from conversations, informal chats and observations made while walking the school. You might be surprised what you find.

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What you find might be the problem worth solving that leads to innovation…

Enjoy

Ben

(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

 

Going Google: Year 2 of #GAfE

In my review of our first year I identified the following areas for development:

  • Focus on Google Drive and collaboration more exclusively
  • Discourage staff from starting with Google Sites
  • Demand more time to train staff and publish a schedule
  • Create a core team of staff to support me and the digital leaders
  • Move perception away from technology being separate to pedagogy

We are a massive three days into the year so ideal time to see if I actually remembered to incorporate any of this into what we are doing at school now…

Focused Training

Combining the first and third point, I launched a new training schedule to staff on the first day, which has been well received so far. I have been particularly pleased as a number of support staff have approached me about attending. I have found that the support staff can be your trojan horse in embedding the use of Google Apps for Education (GAfE). One of the best examples of this is that the PA to our head is moving meeting minutes to Google docs. By exposing the leadership team and governors to its merits you have fewer barriers to leading the change across the school.

The training schedule references our teaching and learning themes for the year to try to embed technology within learning rather than being perceived as something separate.

While preparing for the first day of school in front of the entire staff I received some great advice from one of our assistant headteachers. She suggested that I only demonstrate simple tools as anything too ‘flashy’ would only suggest to some people that they have already missed the technology for learning boat. So I stuck to these…

  • Timer – typing “set timer to 2 minutes” into the omnibox in chrome.
  • Search tools – selecting the reading level of the results of a search

This had the right effect, a number of reluctant staff are ready to try a bit more technology out in their classes and are interested in attedning the training.

Google Classroom

During the last academic year I became aware that a number of staff had begun to create sites but had not completed them or used them for learning. Sites proved to be a time-consuming distraction for teachers and the successful sites were the ones created by our student digital leaders. We are however using sites for the new year 7 student’s learning portfolio where they will display their project work from each subject. The reduced focus on sites has proved to be for the best as we now have Google Classroom, which provides a way for teachers to share resources and deadlines with their class, including a discussion forum too.

The model that seems to be developing is that the students can utilise sites to collate their work, teachers use Classroom to distribute work and manage assignment workflow, with Google Drive providing the basis for collaboration.

Change is the only constant

If you are embarking on a similar journey be prepared for regular changes to the tools. There is a new Google Drive interface which you can choose to use at the moment, and it will be pushed to everyone soon enough. Google forms have new customisable themes and the sharing interface in docs changed today.

Some staff approach technology with algorithms: Click here then there and that comes up. By adopting Google you are challenging your staff to be more adaptable. Not a bad thing, but remember to be patient and calm!

Gmail versus Outlook

We have used outlook at our school for years (as most have) and we are moving closer to a strategy for incorporating Gmail. I look forward to sharing our solution as this seems to be a familiar battleground for schools adopting GAfE.

Enjoy

Ben Rouse

 

 

 

 

 

Going Google at my school: Year 1 Review

Since choosing the leave behind any Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) and facilitate learning via Google Apps for Education I have been writing about some of the challenges and initiatives to embed technology in the learning of our students.

Here are the posts

Going Google at my school posts September 2013 – July 2014

Successes:

  • Student digital leaders are very motivated
  • Technical team have got behind the Google Apps for Education and supported change to Gmail for students
  • Usage statistics are consistent at around 60-70% of users every week.
  • Google Documents overtook Uploads to Google Drive by February

Areas for improvement:

  • Focus on Google Drive and collaboration more exclusively
  • Discourage staff from starting with Google Sites
  • Demand more time to train staff and publish a schedule
  • Create a core team of staff to support me and the digital leaders
  • Move perception away from technology being separate to pedagogy

Next year:

  • Building capacity for staff to support me with
    • Digital Leaders
    • Learning Portfolios
    • Administration
    • Training
  • Schedule of Training with badges to earn from each session
  • Focus on
    • Learning Portfolios for Year 7
    • Classroom/Google Drive pedagogy
  • Embedding technology for learning throughout learning and teaching strategy

The other challenge will be to secure investment in infrastructure and look at potential models for introducing devices to support learning. This ultimately needs to be accompanied by a review of how we teach and how we want to develop our students. In relation to this have a read of this post about technology and learning.

There are a lot of “top tips” posts and posters knocking about. Kasey Bell produces the best ones and here is one for anyone nurturing teachers to the power of technology in learning.

Thanks to Kasey Bell for creating and sharing this great poster.

Enjoy

Ben Rouse

 

 

Going Google at my school: Part 5 – Presenting to Governors

Overlooking the fact that I referred to 15123 and “one hundred and fifty one hundred and twenty three” (I teach mathematics) and forgot that the governors didn’t need a link on the main site as they have all they need shared in Google drive (this doesn’t seem a particular error until you recall I was there presenting on technology for learning)… the presentation I gave to the governing body on the progress of technology for learning at our school was a success.

In order to make an attempt to stick to my allotted 15 minutes I spent the evening prior to the governors meeting creating a screen-captured video of the items I wanted to demonstrate. I chose this over presentation slides or a live demo as the first is restrictive and boring and the second is fraught with danger of slow connection or getting lost in tabs on a browser.

The video gave a tour of the following aspects of the school’s development of technology for learning since June 2013:

  • WordPress splash site for students and staff to login provided by realsmart
  • Sites created by faculties linked off the splash site
  • Sites that allow “login with Google” students can use (codeacademy, desmos, padlet, etc)
  • Google Drive
  • Why involving the students is essential and how the digital leaders had begun to impact upon the use of technology for learning.
  • Usage statistics via the Google admin site
  • Feedback from the Chromebook trial

In summary I presented that the tools for learning are in place and the take up is gathering pace but it will take time for it to embed in our practice. The devices were generally welcomed and seen as a benefit to learning by staff and students who used them, however our infrastructure lacks the ability to support a number of devices in one place.

I hope that some progress can be made on the infrastructure at the school in order to see the potential of the Google Apps for Education (GAfE) tools that teachers and students are discovering day by day as something they can use to enhance learning in our school.

Thank you to C-learning for the chromebook trial, realsmart for their training and MIS to Google link, staff who have given the tools a go and the students who are engaging with the learning opportunities through GAfE.

Keep evolving educational technology for learning.

Ben Rouse