Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Life After Pen Drives

From 1st January 2018 external hard discs and pen drives (essentially any storage connected to a computer by USB) are no longer permitted on David Ross Education Trust IT systems.

Survival Guide

We've shared a number of articles and videos about good alternatives to USB storage, there really is no reason to carry on using them.


But What If?

The "ban" is a change to the terms of use of IT systems across the Trust. Initially at least, there is no technical block - if you plug in a USB drive tomorrow it will work (but don't, you'll be in breach of our terms of use and your account will be suspended).

If you have a legitimate special case (eg an exam board requirement) contact itsupport@dret.co.uk and a written authorisation will be given to cover that situation (and that situation only). In an emergency a senior member of staff can allow use, however that must later be confirmed in writing.

Why?

Taking away a service people use is always going to be an inconvenience for someone. Things have however got to the point that a decision had to be made because:

  • Better alternatives now exist that not only allow you to access your files from anywhere, store as much data as you need and work on your personal as well as work devices, they also allow for better sharing and collaboration. 
  • They represent a security risk - our auditors highlight this on every visit and the defence that "staff need them because they are used to them" has now reached the point where it is unsustainable.
  • They represent a data protection risk. Although we all know that we shouldn't put personal data on unencrypted storage, when people use them habitually, eventually it will happen. We cannot take the risk of people's private data being lost.
  • They fail - this year we have had three cases of teachers that had all of their teaching resources on a drive they had carried to and from work every day fail - and everything was lost. Because the data was kept "off the system" no proper backup was available.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Two Stars and a Wish from 2017

Looking forward to 2018, here are three of my favourite posts from 2017. Thank you to everyone, both colleagues at DRET and from the wider education community that have shared ideas with us and given us feedback on the materials shared here. Remember some of the very best material is collated at http://tips.dret.cloud

Moderation Using Digital Tools was a really popular post by Ben in March. It arose from groups of colleagues asking for ways to do something important and useful in a less time consuming and more effective way. Technology often promises to make lives easier and work better but doesn't always deliver: this approach building on two tools that have become mainstream for us in 2017 - collaboration on a document online and video conferencing lived up to the bill.

One from Yasmin that I think marked an important step forward this year concerned DRET.TV - introducing DRET.TV 2.0 - Office 365 Video surprised us by the speed it was adopted in the second half of 2016-17 with teachers creating channels and video content to share with their classes and each other with an incredibly rich mix of ideas. Learning that Microsoft were going to close the service and replace it with Stream wasn't a great surprise - we put in a huge amount of work to re-imagine DRET.TV this summer using the new tool, keeping the metaphor of a "class channel" in a service that is actually far more flexible and powerful (and complex) and I think the new-look system has gone from strength to strength supporting new initiatives such as the Monday Debate. The Monday Debate channel does something dead simple - creates a space to put out videos every week to be shared and commented on. It allows a small number of colleagues to prepare and share material each week so that every single class across our 34 schools can engage in an age-appropriate discussion about a common topic and share their thoughts.

Two years ago without Stream or Yammer we would have struggled to be honest, probably sending huge attachments to each school to go on their network and having no idea at all of the impact or use of particular videos to inform future planning. Now it is child's play to support and deliver.

The wish, and coincidentally not just our most popular blog post of the year, but in terms of spin-offs and emails from interested people outside DRET, is the whole "ditch that pen drive" thing. We took a decision back in August to ban external hard drives and pen drives from use in our schools - to do with data protection and security - but it has turned into a discussion about how to use technology effectively and better in ways we hadn't imagined. Today, as I write this is the day 1 of the new era.

Here is my original blog post, but do check the whole Google Drive thread of the blog for a host of ideas and spin off material that came out of it. I know that as a team it has led us to some really interesting conversations about how people can not just access their material where and when they need to (in ways far better than using some medieval bit of plastic and metal on a lanyard) but also collaborate and share much more effectively.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Making lists and checking them twice




At this time of year we're making lists (and checking them twice) in both our personal and professional lives: things we need to do at work before the end of the term, presents we still need to buy or shopping lists for the festive period - and the lists go on...

So we thought it a good time to revisit our posts on Google Keep. Keep is a fantastic note-making app (along the same lines as Sticky Notes, Evernote etc) which you can add lists, photos and handwritten annotations to - and then in true Google style, whichever device or computer you are using, you have access to all of them. So making a shopping list in your lunch hour at work means it comes with you to Tesco in the evening. Making a to-do list for the last few days of term whilst sitting in front of the tv means you can log in to your PC tomorrow and have the list in front of you. Really handy, and so simple to use.

It's incredibly simple but can also be supercharged - Docs and Slides now have a 'Keep Notepad' under the 'tools' drop-down menu so you can see your notes within Docs and Slides. Coupled with the ability to tag your notes and colour code them, we are finding new ways of using Keep all the time.

For this time of year though, we love it as a simple to-do list maker. There's nothing more satisfying than being able to tick things off a list!

All of our posts on Google Keep, including training videos on how to use it, can be found here, covering everything from the simple to the supercharged.

Now, where did I put that shopping list.....


Monday, 11 December 2017

School closures not as they used to be

The 'Snow Bomb' that hit over the weekend has led to school closures in some areas today. 

Thankfully, with the way we work and teach these days, coupled with the way pupils learn, it doesn't necessarily have to mean a wasted day.

Our eBook library at books.dret.cloud has already seen a spike in hits this morning. Stuck knowing what to read? Why not check our recommended reading lists at reading.dret.cloud.

With tools such as Google Classroom being used widely across the Trust, teachers can stay in touch with their students remotely as required - either using it as a message board, or setting work, directing students to websites or eBooks, or other general updates that don't need face to face interaction.

With such a widespread geography of schools, we have been keen on video conferencing for ages - but on days like today, these tools really come into their own. We love Appear.in and Google Meet for meeting online, and I for one plan on using it lots today with colleagues up and down the country.

It's also days like today where tools like Google Drive really stand out. An unexpected planning day for teachers, or catch up admin days for office staff? No problem - you can access all your files without needing to be at school or needing to access the 'shared area'. A bonus revision day for students, or wanting to carry on their work away from school? Again, no problem if their files are saved on Google Drive! Need to hand something in to the teacher or the teacher needs to share something with students? I think you get the idea...

For our staff, we have online CPD that can be undertaken remotely at awards.dret.cloud without needing to be in school. Already today we have seen staff taking advantage of a school closure by signing up for courses which is fantastic to see.

Times really have changed! Remember the days when there was nothing else to do apart from pull the duvet back over your head and hibernate for the day?!

If you are a DRET staff member or student, you can see all of our training videos on the tools mentioned above at training.dret.tv or if you want to practice video conferencing then I can be your guinea pig if you need someone to call.

At least this weather is a good excuse for an extra spoonful of marshmallows in the hot chocolate ☕

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

eBook library by the numbers

Our eBook library at books.dret.cloud is a great tool for staff and students, and one that is growing every day.

Behind the scenes, we regularly study the analytics to understand how the library is being used. We thought that with the library growing in popularity all of the time across the Trust, this would be a good time to share some of the numbers.

Since the start of the school year, the most popular book in terms of total reading time has been the classic 'The Machine Gunners' by Robert Westall - and great to see this being the first book that has been read for a combined time of over 24 hours! Jeff Kinney holds second and third spot respectively with two Wimpy Kid stories - always popular and we have recently added more copies to reflect this.

Most Read Books since 1st September (total reading hours):
1st: The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall. Total time: 24 hrs 17 mins
2nd: The Third Wheel (Diary of a Wimpy Kid book 7) by Jeff Kinney. Total time: 19hrs 17 mins
3rd: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down (book 11) by Jeff Kinney. Total time: 13hrs 53mins

Looking at the rest of the top ten most read books, Roald Dahl (6th and 10th) has 2 entries (can you guess which books - answer at the bottom of this post), and there is another Wimpy Kid entry. Louis Sachar (4th), Norman Hunter (5th), Colin McNaughton (7th) and John Green (8th) are the authors whose books complete the top 10.

The most popular non-fiction book to date is AQA GCSE Science Student's Book by Christine Woodward, which is a great resource for students. As a result, we have purchased more copies for rental!

We currently have over 1000 eBooks available for loan and at the time of writing the average reading time this academic year is an impressive 1 hour 8 mins.

In the last 30 days the stats are equally impressive:
754 books have been borrowed
17753 pages have been read
Total reading time = 203 hours 7 minutes

Some impressive stats here, and what is the most important is that these numbers are on the rise. We will continue to monitor the data and hopefully post again later this year with a comparison!

If you are a staff member of a DRET school and would like to arrange a training session for your staff or students on how to use the eBook library, then please get in touch with the eLearning team as we are eager to hear from you. Don't forget you can find all the Trust's recommended reading lists at Reading.dret.cloud and can access the eBook library itself via dret.cloud.

Keep on Reading!



[The answer to the Roald Dahl question = Danny, Champion of the World and James and the Giant Peach!]