Reflections on Leaving the Classroom

Today I can no longer introduce myself as “Maths Teacher” as I leave the classroom. Though I might still use my former job title for introductions at parties to make things simple.

I move from the classroom to take up a training and consultancy role supporting schools looking to implement change and embed technology for the benefit of learning. That is less snappy isn’t it!

As I move on from the classroom after 13 years I thought it worth taking a moment to reflect. Telling other teachers you are leaving the classroom was hard, not just the ones you are leaving your tricky classes with! My own reasons were varied but an opportunity came up at a time I was traveling 54 miles to my school. I have also come to the decision that the way schools work can improve for the benefit of teachers and students. I don’t see myself as someone who would necessarily implement this change from within by moving up so I have another route to take. I have had great feedback from my educational technology (edtech) training and speaking events so I am going to embrace this and work to support schools with change.

Technology

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My Chromebook trial with a year 9 class back in 2013

In my first classroom after PGCE training I had an overhead projector to project notes and develop diagrams on. However, don’t be fooled into thinking I am that old. Within a year I had a Smartboard installed and smartnotebook was my lesson planning tool for years. My own view on interactive whiteboards is they are not a cost-effective resource for schools to invest in, despite replying on mine for many years. It proved invaluable for demonstrating concepts but I feel sure that £2000 per classroom could be spent more effectively. I never had a chance to try out my ideal scenario of whiteboards (normal dry wipe ones) on every wall and surface but I must take this opportunity to apologise to the classroom cleaners who removed dry wipe pen from my desks every day. If there is one legacy I have from my time in Maths classrooms it is writing on desks.

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A-level learning

My embracing of technology for learning was due to two factors. Firstly the summer I tried out twitter and discovered teachers sharing! The second factor was a teacher called Dan File who joined our Maths faculty as an advanced skills teacher (AST). We could be found in school beyond 6pm most of the week getting excited about ways we can change learning in our lessons that didn’t work the way we wanted. He joined us having pioneered instructional videos at his last school and we both set about populating our youtube channels with videos. Exam paper solutions to avoid that boring lesson when you go through the exam paper… instead “watch the videos of the questions you got wrong”. Then children started requesting videos so we moved to revision videos. We tried our own versions of the flipped classroom with classes too.

One part of our work which was most important was our efforts to get parents through the doors of the school to see what we were trying and why we were trying it. We we trying to get their kids more excited about maths and make them achieve more. We were willing to fail infront of our classes trying something and take the feedback on board to improve. We had some of the best results in the school’s history over those years but that wasn’t because of technology, it was because we had a dedicated department open to trying things out. And in subsequent years the politics of education has made it hard to hit those results again… so a bit of luck and timing too.

Trying new things in schools take effort, determination and a bit of nerve to seek forgiveness instead of ask permission.

It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.

Grace Hopper, 1986

Culture

Good culture is easy to break and hard to build, however the school’s culture is critical to success. What makes it possible for teachers to walk through the doors in the morning with a spring in their step instead of dread? Many teachers are going into work with dread, fear, stress and concern. I have been fortunate to work with teachers who are so committed to their students they put phenomenal hours in and take incredible pride in doing all they can to help students achieve. However, in some schools the culture is such that even working at their limit teachers feel they are not doing enough, failing or letting someone down.

Culture is the difference between a teacher spending an evening planning an parental engagement activity or just marking another pile of books.

Culture is the difference between teachers choosing to spend their Saturday at professional development events or sipping on a Lemsip (other medicinal products are available) so they can be ready for next week.

Culture is critical and every school leader will agree, but their words, actions and emails contribute to a culture that doesn’t bring the best out of their colleagues or leaves them unable to manage the workload.

Get the oxytocin flowing and your school will improve more rapidly than you could ever dream. Avoid your school being cortisol factory!

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Read “Why Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek to learn more about hormones and leadership

Leadership

I have spent time in head of faculty roles, working within a school leadership team and alongside school improvement partners in a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT). There are things you learn in leadership and things you discover you bring to it. You learn more about your leadership skills when you leave a role (because that is when people choose to tell you), and the weaknesses… come on, we all know our weaknesses don’t we? The challenge is whether to hide them or address them and I think I have done both at times.

If you read anything else on this blog you may spot my interest in deign thinking. I was aware of the term for a while in passing on social media but it was something I understood better and its place in education first via Tom Barrett and Ewan McIntosh. Sometimes referred to as user-focussed design, design thinking is a culture and set of tools that schools can use to super charge their improvement. Get empathy and find the problems you need to be solving before any ideas get thrown around. Develop a culture where ideas are not precious and owned by individuals. I strongly believe that schools who embrace a design thinking culture could reap profound results in the way their staff think and work. Design thinking provides an empathetic view of the way your school works (or doesn’t) and gives the chance for democratised decision making to prevail. Earlier I mentioned making your school oxytocin rich… this is how you can do it.

I wrote abour the results of our maths faculty a few years back. These are sometimes attributed to me as head of faculty. It is easy to let that stick (with good results) and accept #fakenews. The reality is very different and something I have learnt to be more honest about over the years. I was lucky. We are often judged against our best moments, which are often lucky. I had great teachers in the faculty who came to work and worked hard with integrity every day. I had good leadership who asked me direct questions but let me try things. I preceded some of the changes that have taken place to GCSE’s and A-levels in the last few years which have taken measures to make the qualifications more rigorous. My point is, think team. I see some teachers coming into the profession with an expectation that they should be ordained with promotions and more pay too quickly. Teaching is a fickle beast so take your time to tame it before you put your head in its mouth.

Change

To give a clear understanding or my own view of education’s rate of change in relation to other industries consider the London Marathon. If the elite and club runners represent the nibble industries able to change and even lead change then I see education as Lloyd Scott (look him up), well intentioned, honourable, hard working, but so very slow.

The challenge I am taking on, leading schools to embrace technology to support learning, is a backwards problem. I hear “We need to use more technology” but I have to ask “Why?” and the answers are not convincing yet. Here is another reason to utilise a design culture of finding problems worth solving; attainment gap, accessibility, aspirations are all worthy causes and we haven’t even reached the b’s yet. A teacher in US will have his class voluntarily arrive at school 2 hours before school starts to come to his lesson. The reason? He has arranged a video call with someone on the other side of the planet as part of their current topic. Technology made it possible but is not the reason he does it.

Would your kids arrive at school for 6am for your best lesson? This has resonated with me and I pass the baton on to you… but let me know if you want help making it the case!

Thanks

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Here are some of the people who have helped me enjoy, survive and even thrive over the last 13 years… (Making a list like this is dangerous but hey, if you are not on it there are two possible reasons…)

Jeff Place, Jon Chaloner, Jack Mayhew, Hugh Proctor, Dan File, Pete Taylor, Tom Barrett, Ewan McIntosh, Allison Mollica, Jon Neale, Dean Stokes, Oli Trussell, Mark Allen, Donna Tueber, Ashcroft twins, Christina Dimitrantzou, Matt Duffield, Evan Scherr, Dan Taylor, 10a1, Asiq, Glyn digital leaders, Keri Cloete, Martin Giles, Simon Brown, Tom Able Green.

 

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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

Going Google at my School: Y2 – Autumn 2014 Review

Having implemented Google Apps for Education (GAfE) over a year ago it was time to get some feedback. The new academic year has seen a boost in the number of people logging into their school Google account so now the majority are logging in I want to know what they think about the experience.

Staff and Student Feedback

I sent out two Google forms, one to students and one to staff that were similar but some of the questions were adjusted. You can see a copy of the questions via the links below. The survey links were sent out by email twice each.

Student Survey (188 responses out of 1800 students)

Staff Survey (40 responses out of 140 staff)

Both the students and staff were asked to assess the impact they felt GAfE had had on learning. Here is their response:

Students:

1 - very negative 5 - very positive
1 – very negative
5 – very positive

Staff:

1 - very negative 5 - very positive
1 – very negative
5 – very positive

The written feedback provides the most interesting data and there are a few themes that come through in everyone’s comments. These are:

  • Lack of clarity on technology’s role in education
  • A need for consistent use with clear vision from leadership
  • Training for students and staff (i.e. time)
  • Infrastructure issues have limited access
  • Lack of single sign on

Here is my favourite item of staff feedback

“I am still in the Google mis’Ap(p)s stage of conscious incompetency… I’m afraid to say I’m tempted to assume a partial Canutian stance, such that despite realising that the tide has turned (irrevocably) I find myself, nonetheless, wondering whether death by drowning might be preferable.”

And favourite student contribution

“Chromebooks look like they have potential to be a everyday learning tool.”

We had better find a way to get some!

Best Practice

Blogs

Google Drive/Classroom

  • MfL – Marking and feedback on coursework
    • Presented to MfL faculty
  • PE Faculty – Written work in theory lessons and adoption of Google Classroom. The faculty have also included the use of Google Apps in their quality of standards review.
  • A-level Chemistry – Feedback sheet
  • Y12 Maths use of Google Classroom to enhance peer support and independence.
  • Admin are using forms for a vast amount of communication and data collection with parents and for options/applications.
  • Assistant Head lead successful training session on Child protection with other LMT members using a collaborative document
  • Drama are using Google Drive to share and collaborate
  • Computing use Google Classroom in every lesson to share course material, assign homework and resources. One teacher has reported an increase in homework being submitted on time for her Y11 group.
  • Law have implemented PLCs with Y12 and 13 students having seen a similar approach from Business Studies.
  • SEND are transferring information about students to Folders and sharing so they all have access to up to date information.

Google Sites

  • Data site is in progress.
  • Sites have now been created for every house based on one head of house’s site as a template.
  • ICT BTEC are using Google Sites to create their portfolios.

If you are an avid reader you may notice that Learning Portfolio sites for Y7are not listed. Currently they have not had the impact and exposure I would have liked so they are proving less effective but I continue to try and worm with Heads of Faculty and Teachers to see if they can be useful.

Professional Development

Next Steps

Going forward I have created a timeline, shared with key stakeholders in the school. These include…

  • ICT Director
  • Head of School
  • Line Manager

The timeline provides some next steps under a number of areas of technology for learning and I am recording progress against each one monthly. The key areas for development still revolve around

  1. Culture
  2. Training
  3. Leadership

I have also purchased a copy of Stratosphere by Michael Fullan as people I trust say it is a must read in my position.

Maybe a review on this blog will be necessary.

Enjoy

Ben

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

 

 

 

 

 

Funding #edtech in State Schools (How do I…)

What are we missing by having GAfE but restricted access to devices?

Having taken my school “Google” in September 2013 I feel my focus will need to start moving to our access to devices. Currently we have six computer rooms which are used 90% of the time for timetabled computing/ICT lessons. Teachers scrabble to book any free periods in these rooms but often you find that only one or two of your classes will coincide with an available slot so the use of GAfE in class is very limited. This reduces the potential for:

  • Collaborative, in class, group work. Click here for an example
  • Class feedback on a document.
  • Peer review under the supervision of the teacher.
  • Training students in the required workflow.
  • Using blogs and sites for flipped instruction or providing students with differentiated tasks.

Introducing Devices

I believe there are great learning and teaching benefits to having easily accessible devices, especially as we have GAfE. It will be my job to pursued my colleagues, the parents and students of this. Outside of the learning and teaching other benefits can be reducing the amount of paper etc. but if this is the driver for devices you are probably doing it wrong.

I see two main factors to consider as I begin to plan the best solution for our school (other schools in other contexts may take different approaches).

  1. How do we want learning and teaching to develop?
  2. How do we fund the change?

Case Studies

I have read two case studies of schools that appear to have made the transition to 1:1 devices successfully.

IPACA in UK – read about it here

Hillsborough Middle School in US – read about it here

There is a significant common theme to both of these schools, and that is clear leadership. The school leadership has committed to embracing technology for learning and have driven this with appropriate support for teachers to make the change necessary to get the best out of the tools. Therefore, I have a ‘simple’ task ahead of me… Get the backing of our leadership to move the school towards technology underpinning the learning in our school.

Interestingly I have recently found a case study of a 1:1 device initiative that was not a success.

Strategy

This is something I will be developing with my school leadership and our new academy ICT director over the coming months and as I get closer to a clear strategy I will let you know.

Enjoy

Ben Rouse

 

 

Google Educator Groups

Google launched Google Educator Groups (GEG), which are for educators in geographical areas to connect about using Google tools in and out of the classroom for learning.

Connecting

If you are a Google using teacher in UK:

  1. Join our community
  2. Bring a colleague

Some groups are growing fast and some have hosted events already. In the UK we have around 150 members in a Google+ community and a twitter account @GEG_UK followed by fewer people.

Getting the group off the ground has lead me to think about a few things:

  • How many teachers have access to Google Apps for Education in the UK at this point in time?
  • Are they interested in connecting with other teaching using the tools?
  • Are schools considering Google Apps for Education as a VLE alternative?
  • Are there teachers using their own personal Google account for their classes failing to get interest from school leaders for Google Apps for Education?
  • How can we get every teacher using Google Apps for EDucation to connect to the GEG UK?

Purpose

I have been involved in setting up the GEG UK and we have been discussing what the role of the group could be and how to grow it. So far much of the conversation has been via Google+ and we have broadcast several Hangouts on Air to discuss ideas about the group. Discussion seems to return to some key ideas about engaging the wider teaching community in the tools we find work well in our classrooms and across our schools.

Thanks to Mark Allen for creating this poster

Events

How can we speak to school leaders about Google Apps for Education and do they want to hear it? Do they appreciate what GAfE could do for their organisation and do they see technology as part of effective teaching and learning? It would be facinating to hear from school leaders not currently using GAfE and hear their view on technology for education. This desire has lead us to look at being present at conferences school leaders attend. If you host school leaders and would like to facilitate this discussion please let us know.

Can we get every teacher in the UK at a Google Apps for Education School to join our community and attend at least one event.

Sharing Best Practice

I feel that above all the GEG’s can be a place to find and share quality learning and teaching with others utilising Google tools. This can help others see the pedagogical value of technology in education.

If you read this please bring a colleague to the Google+ GEG UK community and grow the network.

Enjoy

Ben Rouse

Going Google at my School: Part 2 – Got me some Digital Leaders!

Having set up my school with Google Apps for Education (GAfE) I have found that I am a wanted man. I have created a blog and instructional videos for staff and students, which demonstrate some of the basics needed to use Google Drive with classes. However, people seem to prefer the live version but with a fairly full teaching timetable of 39 hours per fortnight including a day and a half off site it is proving difficult to nip all the problems in the bud as quickly as I would like. This increases the chance of some people giving up on transferring their classes to Google Drive.

We are just over two and a half months in we have about half the school (2000 students and staff) accessing the learning portal and Google Drive over the course of a week with peaks of 400 users each day. At present access to computer rooms and devices is limited.

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Help has arrived!!

I have set up my team of digital leaders who are extremely enthusiastic and willing to help staff and students realise the potential of GAfE. I have created a sub-organisation in GAfE admin and turned Google+ on for these students so they can communicate and use the hangouts. They have already started planning their use of hangouts on air for podcasts/webinars and training. Simon from realsmart, who have set up the Google to SIMs link provided a great hangout so I was able to set up the groups.

I have not turned G+ on for the other students as our main focus is currently on access and Google Drive. 

I set up a Google Document and this is what happened:

DL discussion doc

It shows the potentially untapped skills and drive that the students can bring to school developments and I get very excited every time we meet up or I read the document. I aim to empower them to approach teachers about carrying out joint planning to assist the teachers in incorporating new technologies into lessons. I know from conversations that many teachers want to improve their use of technology for learning but lack the time or confidence to get things off the ground.

What next with the digital Leaders?

  • Re-order their badges as I ordered massive ones that would be a bit conspicuous.
  • Introduce them officially to the school.
  • Put staff training in the diary, lead by digital leaders.

They are going to make me look amazing and I believe that it will improve their skills beyond the usual focus on academic rigor (sorry Mr Gove)

For further information on digital leaders you can visit the digital leader network, which shares blogs and information on teachers working with digital leaders across the uk.

Please feel free to feedback or ask questions via the comments or on twitter @mr_brouse or Google+

Ben Rouse