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


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?


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:


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


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


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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


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.


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.


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

Going Google at my school: Part 1- Promotion

Leading on Technology for Learning

I am leading my school’s transition to using Google Apps for Education (GAfE).  This series of blog posts is intended to share my school’s journey so other institutions can learn from us if you are considering leading change in the way you develop technology for learning.

My Background

I spent the last three years as Head of Mathematics but as you will see from my previous posts on this blog my heart lies in developing the use of appropriate technology for the benefit of learning. Creating a professional twitter account @mr_brouse was the catalyst for developing technology for learning and it has culminated in being given the backing to take the school away from a traditional Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and towards GAfE. I do not have any technical ability with computing… this has not been an issue so far.

Which platform to use?

Frog, RMUnify, Office 365 and Google were the main considerations in order to achieve these goals:

  1. Single Sign on
  2. Collaboration
  3. Access learning anywhere anytime
  4. Engage learners
  5. Use current and relevant technology

My own preference has been towards global providers with the status to ensure their platform is current and updated regularly. My experience has been that products specifically designed for education lag behind current technology. Frog appears to be an exception to this as they focus more on being a “glue” for other applications such as Google Drive.

RMUnify made waves at BETT2013 but on closer inspection it has not yet integrated SIMs and Google such that they could provide the single sign on it appeared to promise.

I spent time in conversation with Microsoft and was able to look at Office365 and how it can be utilised in schools. In many ways it appeared like a viable option up until I tried to create a site in sharepoint, which made my blood boil and come to the realisation I would need to request that the school employ a team of developers. Onenote is brilliant and a great tool to use if your school has Office3665 and windows devices. If you are interested in using Office 365 have a look at Charlotte Beckhurst’s blog or see how some students are taking the lead as the offperts (office 365 experts)

Going Google

Rather than simply taking the free GAfE account attached to the school domain we have utilised Realsmartcloud to link a GAfE to SIMs (System which contains our class data) so teachers can share with their classes just using the class code. It also ensures that if students change classes we do not have to manually align the students in GAfE and SIMs.

Launching any technology to a staff body with a full range of technical ability is a challenge. Explaining “the cloud” is not a simple process, in fact I found it more useful to reference large buildings containing servers. To help with the launch I create a technology for learning blog containing posts with instructional videos on creating sites and sharing in Google Drive.


Start simple and focus on one task for staff to complete. For GAfE start with “My Drive” and sharing with students

While sites are easy to create and can be used to give the students access to a number of resources the sharing capabilities of Google Drive can have a greater impact on learning. Advise staff not to just upload everything they have to Google Drive, but to carefully set up shared folders that can give students access to resources and the ability to submit work.

Get everyone on a computer and logged in as soon as possible

Some staff were very keen to get started but have been restricted by students not having logged in. Year 7 and 8 received their logins in their computing lessons but as the subject is optional for years 9 to 13 it proved more difficult to get logins to students such that they could login immediately. I am now hurriedly putting together a schedule to get each form into a computer room during form time to increase the percentage of students that have logged in.

Show the simple and most impressive bits to everyone

In the case of GAfE I like to showcase a shared folder and documents in Google Drive by getting someone to create a document, share it with you and then you start writing on it so it appears on their screen. Google Forms are also a simple way of getting people’s attention of for feedback they are invaluable.

Make people need to login

The most effective way of doing this was to have the ICT room booking form placed on our splash site. Thanks to our deputy head for this master-stroke!

Does it address our goals?

  1. Single Sign on – no. We have set up the accounts to have the same username as the staff and students have for the school network. The passwords are different…
  2. Collaboration – The potential for this with GAfE is in no doubt but getting staff and students to embrace this will take time.
  3. Access learning anywhere anytime – Initially there were some logon problems with new staff and new students which RealSmart worked hard with us to resolve. All on track now.
  4. Engage learners – Some enthusiastic students are very keen to be involved and their leadership will be vital to spread the engagement in GAfE
  5. Use current and relevant technology – Our previous VLE suffered from being perceived as “clunky” as it did not have the development backing it up that the students are becoming increasingly used to. They recognise Google as being current however it is apparent that students do not have the technical knowledge a number of adults give them credit for.

Once the students have all been through a computer room I hope to spend time developing student digital leaders who can manage staff and student training. Look out for my next posts on integrating Google Apps for Education in a secondary school.

Ben Rouse