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!]

Monday, 27 November 2017

Edtech UK Global Summit 2017




The Edtech UK Global Summit took place in London on Friday, and what an interesting day it was - full of engaging discussion and insight into the shape of the edtech industry past, present and future. A summit which continued to set the positive agenda for edtech policy and practice.

The summit brought together policy-makers, start-ups, scale-ups and industry, to learn, share and advance the edtech sphere.Whatever the lense that was being looked through - be it the lense of government policy, classroom practice, primary education, HE or FE, school leadership or classroom delivery - the conversations ebbed and flowed and mostly followed the same themes - there will be and have been failures, there will be and have been massive successes, but overwhelmingly the future is bright and the industry is growing at a spectacular rate; there is more and more investment in edtech both in financial and human form, and across all the seminars the message was clear - for edtech to be succesful, we have to work on creating the right conditions for it to succeed: in this respect, some talked about infrasturcture, some about training, some about investment, but all of these contribute to creating the right conditions for success. Or as Mark Martin aka @Urban_Teacher put it, "Edtech isn't just a helpful tool but a seed that you can nurture and grow! But in order for it to flourish it needs the right conditions,"





Shahneila Saeed, Head of Education, UKIE & Director of Digital Schoolhouse backed that up but in terms of pedagogy, and that no matter what the resource you use, be it edtech or otherwise, it is not so much the resource but the way in which it is used that makes a difference.




Mark Anderson aka @ICTEvangelist talked about teacher training and how increased confidence in using tech helps move teachers into mastery, impact and innovation when using technology and away from simply surviving.




And this was all supercharged from the top down by National Technology Advisor to HM Government's Liam Maxwell explaining how government policy is trying to help create the right conditions for edtech to flourish (as recently reflected in The Budget), both now and in the future.

Throughout all of these sessions, I kept relating back to my own experiences of classroom edtech - the funding I have been offered for buying equipment, the training and time I received to develop myself and others, the confidence I had in using the equipment either myself or with a classroom of children - ie the conditions that I have experienced through my teaching career in terms of using technology. Thankfully they have been mostly positive. It also made me reflect on DRET's vision and delivery of eLearning and edtech, of which I am part of and have helped shape -  and what stands out for me is the similarities, in that that where possible, we are striving to create the right conditions for edtech to flourish in much the same way:

Where possible we are replacing old technology with a thoughtful replacement based on what job the equipment needs to do - Star Classroom being a prime example of this. We are also investing heavily in the infrastructure of our schools, upping bandwidths and connectivity for example.
Through the eLearning Team we offer training and workshops such as Basecamp, Challenge for eLearning and our suite of Core Awards - all of which have been curated with staff and students in mind and are aimed at using technology effectively, picking the right tool for the job and building digital skills. We offer bespoke coaching sessions either in person or via video link-up, for individuals or teams based on their needs. (This is the most important one in terms of building confidence and matching technology to pedagogy for maximising classroom impact for me)
We have an eye on the future in terms of evolving technology use but are also aware of the day to day needs of staff and students (how can Google Drive help move us away from memory sticks and external hard drives being a current example). 
I could go on...

I came away from the summit full of positivity. Not only was it an inspiring day, but it was also a reassuring one in terms of the direction that eLearning is going within DRET: we reflect industry best practice in terms of striving to create the best conditions for technology to make the most impact - funding, opportunity, equipment, training and confidence building. What is also reassuring for me is that the Trust itself has put value in edtech and eLearning in the very fact that we have an eLearning Team - there are plenty of other establishments out there that don't and suffer the consequences that follow large tech investment without training pathways or skill building. 

These views are of course my own - and there is always room for improvement - but as a former classroom teacher who has experienced both sides of the coin in terms of the right conditions for success, it feels like we are well on the right path to making sure that technology is used confidently and is effective, meaningful, and impactful - and isn't just a shiny marketing ploy.




Monday, 13 November 2017

New Online Course - Communications

We have another new online course available for you this week called Communications. This course is aimed at new staff that may not be familiar with the communication services we provide at DRET. The key services the course covers are using O365 email on the web, using the calendar and how to use Yammer to enable better communication across teams. This course may also be useful if you are used to using the Outlook desktop app and want to see what the web version also has to offer. Yammer is also a great tool to use across teams, especially if you are working and communicating with people in other schools.

The course will only take approximately 30 minutes to complete and has lots of helpful video guides that you can refer back to at any time. You will also be awarded a certificate after successfully completing the course.

To sign up for this online course fill out this form and select the Communications course. If you are interested in any of the other courses available on the form, you can sign up for more than one by filling out the form again. When you fill out the form you will be given a course code, which you then need to access the course. You can do this by going to Google Classroom, selecting Join Class (+ button at the top) and entering in the course code. You will then have access to the course - don't worry though there is no time limit and you can complete it at your pace.


Thursday, 9 November 2017

Come and get your Memory Stick Withdrawal jabs

With pen drives and external storage on their way out after Christmas, we are doing an increasing number of whole school, team and departmental 'Google Drive Essentials' training sessions.
We are finding that what works well after these sessions is as a follow-up: to offer drop-in 'clinics' whereby anyone with any further questions, problems or issues can drop in and get help from a member of the eLearning team. It's a great combination: initial input en-masse,  then staff get a chance to go away and try it out, then come back to us a week or so later with any individual queries or questions, or for those that really want to take things further, some next steps; it also allows teams to give some thought as to how they want to use Google Drive and come back with questions on how to achieve their goals.

Today we are at Malcolm Arnold Academy, and the walk-in clinic is open. No appointment necessary!



Is your team prepared for life after pen drives? We are here to help.

Please get in touch with me, Guy or Yasmin to arrange whole school, team or departmental training - be it teaching staff, students or admin teams. If you have already had this type of training and would appreciate a follow-up clinic then we can make that happen before Christmas.

If you need a refresher without human interaction - we have plenty of training videos on our training channel on DRET.TV  that should be a good reminder or starting point.

Monday, 6 November 2017

New Online Course - Working in the Cloud

We now have a new online course called Working in the Cloud, which takes you through all the basic features of using Google Drive to store your files. This course is useful for anyone that is looking to ditch the memory stick and move to a secure cloud-based storage system. Google Drive is a great tool that lets you store and share files and folders with staff and students, it’s completely secure and can be accessed at school and at home - in fact anywhere you have an internet connection!


The course will take approximately 1 hour to complete and has lots of helpful video guides to show you how to setup Google Drive. There is also a practical task at the end of the course so you can get used to using it for storing, organising and sharing. You will also be awarded a certificate after successfully completing the course.

To sign up for this online course fill out this form and select the Working in the Cloud course. If you are interested in any of the other courses available on the form, you can sign up for more than one by filling out the form again. When you fill out the form you will be given a course code, which you then need to access the course. You can do this by going to Google Classroom, selecting Join Class (+ button at the top) and entering in the course code. You will then have access to the course - don't worry though there is no time limit and you can complete it at your pace.



Friday, 3 November 2017

500 not out!



This week has been a brilliantly busy one with plenty of eLearning training going on across the Trust.

Yesterday's session at Malcolm Arnold Academy, for example, involved all staff - over 80 people - taking part in a Google Drive Essentials training session in preparation for life after memory sticks and external hard drives. Likewise, over 50 members of staff at Humberston Academy and Skegness Grammar School earlier on in the week took part in Google training. Wednesday saw a group of staff at Lodge Park Academy taking part in a Star Classroom Essentials workshop which enabled staff with new Star Classrooms to use the equipment effectively.

To date this academic year we have now issued over 500 eLearning awards! There are plenty more in the pipeline too, with two Challenge for eLearning cohorts set to start soon and many more training events planned. Next week we are excited to be working with the Core Team's HR department, exploring Google Forms and its benefits.

We are also pleased to announce that we have increasing numbers of Google Certified Educators and Microsoft Innovative Educators in our ranks across the Trust - with more teachers passing their exams this week. Our congratulations to all those who have achieved these external awards.

If you would like more information on DRET's eLearning Awards, you can go to awards.dret.cloud. If you are interested in eLearning training or arranging Core Awards for your team, then please get in touch.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Thoughts from a Chair of Governors

The Star Classroom equipment is a great classroom set up in terms of the hardware and software; but like any tool, it is only effective if used in the right way and in the right hands. One thing that really helps maximise its use is having visionary teachers and school leaders who are able to see not only the immediate benefits, but also the potential. One school that has taken things to the next level is Hogsthorpe Primary school - and here are the thoughts from the Chair of Governors on how they have used Star Classroom to address some of the difficulties they have faced in the past in terms of their location.

"I am extremely proud to be the Chair of Governors for Hogsthorpe Primary Academy. As a DRET Appointed Governor, I feel it is important to work for the best of what the Trust has to offer in terms of enrichment opportunities for the children at Hogsthorpe but also how the use of technology can help make life easier for the hard working staff at the Academy. I will be honest at this point that I have a vested interest in ensuring the IT Technology at Hogsthorpe both works well but is also used without need for the ‘it just doesn’t work’ ethos as I am also the Regional IT Manager for Hogsthorpe, as well as other schools within the Trust.
Hogsthorpe is based on the East Coast and has all of the challenges that come with being in an area that fluctuates with parents in mostly seasonal jobs, and on the end of a very interesting Lincolnshire road network! A small Academy with a small number of dedicated staff can often restrict the amount of time staff are able to leave to access Trust based CPD Opportunities or meetings with other Academies in the Trust. One opportunity was offered to the Local Governing Body in 2016, this was an initiative from Lloyds TSB bank on having ‘E-Governors’ becoming part of the Local Governing Body. This would be a first for the Trust and was being followed with interest by a study at Leeds Beckett University who were keen to see how E-Governors would work for Academies.
This would offer the LGB an opportunity for experienced professionals to join the Governing Body by attending meetings virtually, through Web Conferencing and Phone Conferences. This in turn offered a wealth of expertise to add to the passion of existing Governors. We welcomed two E-Governors to the Local Governing Body and they have been able to take a unique look at our Governors meetings. Here we have two experienced professionals from the financial sector of a large bank dealing purely with facts delivered through reports and views presented at the meetings. Were Governors swayed by visiting the friendly environment of the Academy and filling up on tea and biscuits before meetings? Was the critical friend less critical with two sugars in the tea?  
The setup consists of Lloyds TSB utilising their Cisco Web Conferencing facility along with the Academy’s own Star Classroom Equipment in a mix of technologies. One thing we were keen on was for all Governors to see each other. We are able to use the Star Classroom Web Conference facility while dialling into the phone conferencing facility.
This presented a big wake up call in how we present meetings – there was an immediate need for the Chair to be very clear on who was speaking, a rather odd new element for those used to ‘normal’ Governors meetings. Challenge comes to LGB meetings when the discussion starts to flow and ideas swing around the table. Being disciplined to allow our E-Governors know what is happening in the meeting room is crucial but also keeps the entire meeting disciplined and I welcome this basic principle. There is also a need to present reports in a clear and understandable fashion, we ask Governors to digest lots of data and one meeting could be a success based purely on the challenge of one figure in a lot of reports.
Document titles became very important, while the flow of meetings is crucial to allowing everyone to challenge the senior leadership of the school, it is even more important to know what document everyone is looking at! Documents and reports are shared online and followed through the meeting on the Star Classroom screen so everyone knows where we are upto and what data is being challenged.
These seem very basic elements but are crucial in ensuring the LGB are firing on all cylinders in the meetings. An interesting side-line to the use of technology is that meeting basics come back to the forefront.
Another exciting development that I have been welcomed to is the use of writing moderation across several Trust schools. While I admit to being in awe of the work teachers do, I am by no means expert in how they do it. The past infrastructure of moderation was for staff to hop in the car and sit behind the latest John Deere tractor for very variable amounts of time to meet with other Academies staff and moderate each other’s marking. Introduced across the Trust Region including Hogsthorpe was video conferencing between the schools. I was invited in to see one of our Academies in Scarborough, one in Bridlington and Hogsthorpe speaking in crystal clear sound and video via the Star Classroom equipment. The amount of miles saved was fantastic.
The Year 6 and Year 4 Writing work was scanned in and shared between all schools on Google Drive, from here the marking ladders were put against each piece of writing. The challenge was provided by all staff across realtime video and realtime editing. This was one circumstance where the comfort of the home Academy was most welcome. There was no travel, no emissions and no John Deere Tractors to worry about as experienced staff from across the Trust were working together to improve childrens outcomes. It was great to see and showed just what can be achieved by technology being used simply but effectively.
I sat and watched as the staff entered only a couple of web links to fire up both the video conference and Google Drive. Guiding each other on which sites to go to and which documents were being worked on. The reassurance was in staff making tweaks and suggestions on how to improve moderation online, could documents be shared a few days earlier for staff to work with and then share experiences in moderation meetings? Could this be expanded to other areas of working with other Academies?
All reassuring and driven towards embedding technology into Academy life shows how much of a jump for our Academies the Star Classroom has made."

Thanks to Mr Jacklin for his views and insight. It's great to be working with such forward thinkers.
If his words resonate with you, and you would like more information on video conferencing, collaborative working or anything else mentioned, then please get in touch with the eLearning Team.
You can follow Hogsthorpe on Twitter @hogsthorpePA and keep up to date with Star Classroom @star_classroom

Friday, 27 October 2017

Latest Featured Resources

Searching for resources?


Our Trust-wide Resource Library at resources.dret.cloud is full of Key Stage searchable resources, ready for downloading and adapting.

For those outside of the David Ross Education Trust, and those without a dret.cloud login, we regularly feature useful resources that are available for all to use. Last month we featured a set of History resources on the American West for example.

This month, and in keeping with the Halloween theme at this time of year, we feature a set of English resources aimed at Key Stage 3 pupils on the theme of 'Monsters'. In these folders you will find more than 8 lesson's worth of beastly materials dedicated to designing and describing monsters, comparing monsters such as Dracula and Frankenstein's monster and creating spooooky settings that monsters might like to call home: a real scream.....










Find and download the full set of ghastly 'Monsters' resources in our 'Featured Resources' pages at resources.dret.cloud. They are a thriller....



(Credit: L Morley, Charnwood College)

Friday, 20 October 2017

iPad Essentials Awards


Members of Malcolm Arnold Academy's Creative Design Department this week earned their 'iPad Essentials' Awards following a successful workshop.

A few minutes after the initial setup,  the team were taking and editing photos, installing apps from our Self Service app store, getting creative with Snapseed, sharing files with each other on Google Drive and mirroring to the classroom board - the enthusiasm was contagious!

The iPad itself fits perfectly with a Creative Design department - using the camera as a visualiser to see demonstrations clearly on the classroom board is often a game changer for teachers, and with tonnes of creative apps available there is a wealth of possibilities. Everyday tasks like taking pictures of student's work and printing them become far easier - with teachers able to take photos and upload to Google Drive, enabling technicians to be able to print at a later date: hassle free and saving lots of time.

In a few weeks, we will be back working with the team and running a workshop on video making and animation - we look forward to seeing how everyone is getting on!

The iPads, along with integrating some of our other services like DRET TV, and using other eLearning tools such as Google Classroom, is an exciting direction that HoD Mrs Prince wants to take the department in - and one which we believe will really have an impact in and out of the classroom. Watch this space!

If you are interested in seeing what the Malcolm Arnold Creative Design Department are doing, you can follow them on Twitter @mrsprincessmaa or follow the eLearning team @star_classroom.
If you are interested in eLearning training for your team or department, then please get in touch with the eLearning Team. Our Core Awards can be found at awards.dret.cloud

Monday, 16 October 2017

#MondaysDebate Project Uses Technology to Bring Together Thousands of Students

Doing anything at scale across 12000 students and 2000 staff can be a real challenge - but sometimes something as simple as a great idea linked to technologies you're already using can take on a life of its own.

Our Monday Debate programme is intended to engage all our students in debates about issues and current affairs - to make it work we've used several parts of our eLearning Toolkit.

Microsoft Stream (or as we call it, dret.tv) gives us a private video sharing service that allows us to publish each week a series of age appropriate stimulus videos that we know every teacher can access to use with their groups in the way that best works for them.



Microsoft Yammer allows us to run a professional social network in which staff can plan and propose ideas for the project, and share the outcomes from their groups with their colleagues.



Google Forms, with the ability to upload footage, will soon allow staff to upload videos from their discussions to share - ideally we'd have all staff uploading directly to Microsoft Stream, but one of the issues we've struggled with the new product (compared to Office 365 Video) is the limit on the number of contributors, which is not likely to be an issue for one school, but is an issue for a group of 34!

This week the topic of discussion was the impact of technology on our lives. Some comments from Edward Heneage Primary in Grimsby.
‘I wouldn’t mind having less technology because there are plenty of other games to play and a lot of other things to keep you occupied. For example: I could practise my favourite sport, play out, play board games, practise school work, play cars and lots of other things. You could, if you have another sibling, play around the house with them.’

‘I could play on the field with my pets instead.’

‘I agree that technology is important  but we do need to spend less time using it as it is affecting our family life.’

‘I would be like an empty shell if I had no technology because I use it all the time. I think teenagers love technology because they get bored with normal life and they find it fun to be on line. When people don’t use technology, and they go outside, it lets them appreciate and enjoy the environment.’
The general consensus was that whilst they enjoyed using technology the film made them understand that they should not use it as much as they do!


Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Badges, Certificates, Awards

We have issued over 300 internal eLearning awards this academic year so far, following either face-to-face training sessions or via our collection of online courses. The most popular awards to date have been Google Drive Essentials, iPad Essentials and Star Classroom Essentials - core awards which are a gateway to our Challenge for eLearning CPD pathway.

In addition to this in-house collection of awards, which can be found at awards.dret.cloud, staff have been working hard to gain external eLearning qualifications and awards which recognise skills in using technology for better learning and student outcomes. These external awards include:

Google Certified Educator 
Apple Teacher
Microsoft Innovative Educator
Class Dojo Mentor

DRET schools including Charles Read Academy, Havelock Academy and Bringhurst Primary to name just a few now have teachers that have been awarded external awards and qualifications by Google, Apple and Microsoft - with lots more to follow. What's great about these awards is that they aren't a simple box-ticking exercise, but require applicants to demonstrate proficiency and know how to use the tools to enhance the classroom experience.

Congratulations to all those staff members who have achieved awards so far this year - and we have lots more to follow we are sure of that.

If you are interested in earning eLearning awards, head over to awards.dret.cloud to see our in-house collection, or get in touch with the eLearning team for more information about the external awards.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Ditch the memory stick - a teacher's perspective

After Christmas, external storage devices will cease to work on our school systems - here's some thoughts on moving to cloud storage from Mr Brannigan at Bringhurst Primary School in Leicestershire:




Goodbye memory stick, hello Google Drive


Twelve. That's the number of memory sticks I’ve gone through in 7 years.

When I started my teacher training, lecturers used to joke about memory sticks - “It’s got my life’s work on it”. It wasn’t until I started gathering resources after resources; worksheets that covered every lesson and topic; and countless assessment evidence and test results that I started to sit up and take notice to what those lecturers were saying. This thing really IS my life!

Each memory stick earned its place on the same keyring as my car keys. As I used up the memory in one, another, with a much bigger storage capacity, took its place. Then I bought memory sticks with complicated encryption keys and fancy LED lights. But what became latest accessory quickly challenged the top spot against my phone. What would happen if I lost it? Or if I left it in school? Or it got damaged or corrupted?

We’ve all had that sinking feeling when one of these situations happen. I’ve had it all. I began the arduous task of daily backups of the memory stick to my school computer and home computer and I backed up those backups!!! For years I searched for an easier way to backup my data. Then I attended the Star Classroom training and Guy, Ben and Yasmin had the solution. Google Drive.


Initially, I was very skeptical. I had tried the Google Apps before and found them useful but I wasn’t sure it was the solution to replace my memory stick. The similarities between teachers and their memory sticks and Gollum and his ring were increasing. I dived into the deep end and downloaded the Google Drive app which placed a Google Drive folder on my class computer. I did the same to my computer at home and I was amazed by the simplicity of syncing the folder, ensuring that each was up-to-date. I would type my planning at the weekend, come in on Monday and turn on my computer, and in seconds my work from Sunday was there on the Google Drive folder on the class computer. As I was working on a document and clicked save, again the Google Drive app whirled into life and synced my changes straight away. When I was travelling on the train and my headteacher needed a document sent to her, I could do it through the Google Drive app on my phone in a few clicks.


Since January I haven’t touched a memory stick and I haven’t missed it one bit! So good riddance memory sticks and hello simplicity!
____

Our thanks to Mr Brannigan for sharing his thoughts. If you or your team would like more information on moving over to Google Drive and the benefits it brings, or any other type of eLearning training, then please get in touch with the eLearning Team. If you have a DRET.cloud login then you can view all of our training videos, including Google Drive, at training.dret.tv

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Google Slides new additions

For many, it's a straight-up battle of PowerPoint vs Google Slides for making slideshows or teaching resources. Since the introduction of Office Mix to PowerPoint, many teachers we work with use both: Office Mix enabling looped video creation which often acts as the extra adult in the room, and Slides being a sharable slide deck full of lesson content.

Recently Google has added lots more features to Slides, and the great thing about G Suite updates is that many new features that get added are suggestions made by the people that actually use the product, i.e people like us. The new features, although subtle, are actually ones that we would use on a near-daily basis.
The ability to link and sync slides from other presentations is a great addition - so means you no longer have to copy slides from previous presentations. Great for teachers who perhaps want to use yesterday's plenary slide as today's starter slide for example, or create new slide decks but use slides from previous presentations.
The ability to add diagrams and add-ons adds extra functionality to presentations, and being able to see slides in Grid View makes moving slides around much easier, especially if tailoring your slides to different audiences.

The new feature we are most excited about is the ability to use Google Keep in Slides - if you are a regular reader of this blog you know how much we love Keep - so integrating Keep into anything will always be a winner for us. In fact, anything that aids efficiency whilst being simple to operate is surely a winner for all, right?

To see a full rundown of all the new features in Slides, mouse over to this link to hear it straight from the horse's mouth.

If you want to organise eLearning training for your team, then please get in touch with the eLearning Team - or if you are a DRET staff member you can see over 75 training videos on DRET.TV including how to use Google Keep.



Friday, 29 September 2017

Google Drive File Stream - Coming Soon!!

Google Drive File Stream is a service provided by Google that allows you to access, save and work on files from Google Drive on your computer. It looks like a USB drive on your computer and it works like one - except you don’t need to carry anything around with you.

There are many benefits to using File Stream, including the unlimited amount of storage available and the ability to access your files anywhere at anytime. File Stream is being implemented across the Trust over the next few weeks, and you will be notified when it is ready for use at your school.

There are two training videos available to help you get started using Google Drive File Stream. The first video is aimed at anyone that isn’t yet familiar with Google Drive, this video shows you how easy it is to use this new drive opposed to using your memory stick - the process of saving files is pretty much the same!

Click the image above to play the video Google Drive File Stream - Part 1 - Ditching the Memory Stick

The second part video shows how an existing user of Google Drive can use File Stream together - for en easier and accessible way to store and retrieve their files.

Click the image above to play the video Google Drive File Stream - Part 2 - An Addition to Working on the Web
File Stream is a very useful service that will hopefully bridge the gap between a team of people that have different ways of working. Some staff already use Google Drive and share files and folders and others still use Staff Shared. Google Drive File Stream is a stepping stone between the two, as it means that people still used to storing files on external or PC drives can still follow the same procedure, yet they are storing their files in a place that it accessible to everyone in the team and can be accessed at home too.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Mozilla Thimble - the best way to understand HTML is....

Although when we talk about coding we often think students need to learn programming languages, getting to grips with the HTML (hypertext markup language) that is used to build the World Wide Web is probably one of the most useful and engaging places to work.

When I need to make a website, my current tool of choice is the new Google Sites setup because although it limits what I can do in many ways, it gets the job done and makes a multi-page site with all of the clutter behind the scenes that I shouldn't have to worry about taken care of. With the old Google Sites though I had the ability to dig underneath and manually add my own HTML code in to get the result "just so" - and that knowledge of learning to code in HTML has been incredibly useful to me. That's one reason, when we talk about students learning to code, that I am so passionate about teaching how to write your own web and understand HTML. Even if all you do is tweak that YouTube embed code to make it the way you want it, the confidence to understand tags and muck about with them is really useful.

Thimble by Mozilla, is my favourite tool not just to teach coding in HTML, but also to actually hand code little bits myself (handy for knocking up an email signature for example).


The model is simple - on the left panel you can edit your code and on the right you see the page build itself live as you go.


The editor colour codes things, so if you make a mistake it generally does help you spot it (much easier than writing it in Notepad and then worrying you can't find your missing /> in your masterpiece.


The viewer updates as you type (although it is kind enough to let you finish a command before it updates the view as otherwise it would be very distracting to having it constantly flickering and changing as you type)

This view exposes the mistake I made with the size of the YouTube video frame

You can also set it to show the site as it will look on a computer screen or on a phone.


Finally, one thing that always has confused me with HTML is style sheets. Style sheets allow you to have one place where the presentation of your page is managed, and good practice is to not put too much formatting in the design itself as it is messy and complex to keep it up to date. I learned to code HTML before style sheets were a thing (yes, I am that old), so I've never used them, but Thimble makes yours for you and it is always there for you to go into and edit, and again as you change fonts, layout and colour the screen on the right adjusts in real time to give you feedback.

Thimble is free, you can make an account there and you can publish your pages from it. I perhaps wouldn't try to make a big multi-page site with it (but then, as I said, I'd just use Google Sites for that because life is too short).

If you don't know HTML commands but want to give it a try, it is useful to have a second tab open on your browser with a reference of some kind to all the commands you can use - there are many, my favourite is the W3Schools site.

iOS 11 new features

iOS 11 landed last week, and we've been putting it through its paces. Ignoring a couple of glitches that will soon be patched, it's a fantastic upgrade from 10 in our opinion - especially from a class teacher's point of view; and even more so when looking it at it through our Star Classroom lense.

Firstly, the Control Centre has been overhauled and combined with the App Launcher. Saves time, and also allows you to add your own buttons to the Control Centre. Nice.

Secondly, the Dock now has a space for recently used apps. Again, time-saving and far more practical especially when jumping between apps in front of a class. Speedy.

The best new features in our Star Classroom opinion? The ability to add markups to screenshots and photos. We are huge advocates of the importance of providing feedback to a class via the big screen at the front by using the iPad as a visualiser - but now with the ability to add markups, you can add written feedback to student's work on the big screen without needing the interactive board as your writing tool. Efficient.

Our latest training video is our first look at iOS 11 and looks in more depth at the above features, from the perspective of a class teacher. Well worth a look. More videos are on their way too, so watch this space.


Click the image to watch the video

For more information, or to arrange any eLearning training, contact elearning@dret.co.uk

Monday, 25 September 2017

eLearning for Everyone

Although our team does a lot of work in classrooms with teachers and students - it’s important to note that eLearning is useful for any role in the Trust. When technology is purposefully used, it can save you precious minutes or hours in a day and help you work more effectively.


Last week we issued a Governor Access to DRET Services video which demonstrated where to find key information and what services the Trust offers to help Governors in their role.
We hope this video will help someone working in a governance role or similar to find access to information quicker, gain access to useful training materials, communicate with others in the Trust better and get updated news.  


The key message here is that without seeing or knowing about the eLearning services available, you won’t get the chance to use them or benefit from them. The eLearning team has created lots of videos to help staff with eLearning tools. So, if you’re interested in finding a new way of working or becoming more savvy with IT - check out our Training Channel on DRET TV. We would also be happy to help talk through any of these services with you and recommend training sessions for you and your teams - you can contact us on elearning@dret.co.uk.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert

Microsoft Innovative Educators (MIEs) use Microsoft tools in the classroom and have learned the fundamentals of applying technology in education. 
This is the first step on an exciting journey of joining a professional network of enthusiastic educators who come together to learn, share, and grow.
Using Microsoft's online Educator Community, individuals can connect and collaborate, find training and lessons, and earn badges and certificates based on their achievements.

Here at DRET we have an increasing number of staff who have achieved the award of MIE which is fantastic, and great recognition of the skills our staff have.


Taking it further, Microsoft have an enhanced award called Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert:



Recognizing Innovation at Microsoft, we believe that technology alone cannot build 21st century skills in students. Technology is an accelerator, but alone it does not enable change. We believe in the power of the educator, and the impact educators can have when they are brought together and recognized for their achievements.

The Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Expert program is an exclusive program created to recognize global educator visionaries who are using technology to pave the way for their peers in the effective use of technology for better learning and student outcomes.

MIE Experts help Microsoft to lead innovation in education. They advocate and share their thoughts on effective use of technology in education with peers and policy makers. They provide insight for Microsoft on new products and tools for education, and they exchange best practices as they work together to promote innovation in teaching and learning.



There are only several thousand of these educators around the world and we are pleased to say that one of our Charles Read Academy teachers has been recognised by Microsoft and achieved the award.


Ms Burrell proudly wearing her OneNote cape!

An amazing achievement by Ms Burrell, and we would like to pass on our congratulations! 

Look out for a guest blog post from Ms Burrell soon detailing how she uses OneNote Class Notebook effectively in the classroom with her students.

If you would like more information on the MIE awards, click here. Google also has a series of awards - to find out about those, click here.
If you are DRET Staff and interested in achieving these external awards or in our own in-house awards, get in touch with the eLearning team or visit awards.dret.cloud

Fake News with X Ray Goggles

Understanding how the web is built, and that it is built by people is a vital part of digital literacy. The truth is something we need to find, not blindly believe from the first website in the search results.

The Idea

The idea of this activity is to help students understand the nature of news and information on the internet by presenting them with subtly different versions of web pages they may already know. As well as a good fun way to start to topic (Vikings Invade Northampton!) it can lead to discussion about how to cross-check information, a different kind of writing task where students rewrite popular websites and create highly credible stories of their own, or simply create engaging material to put old events into a modern context.

The original article: the class know they came third in the Winter Cup - they were there.

The doctored article, now the school walked away as winners.

The Tool

Mozilla X Ray Goggles is a very simple tool that allows the user to remix a web page. They present it as part of the Foundation's work on digital literacy and creatively remixing the web (and include some lesson materials).

At the website you bookmark the X Ray Goggles tool.



Once you've added it to your browser you can activate X Ray Goggles at any time on (theoretically) any website. Suddenly you can click on text to change it, click on images to change them. Having made your "alternative reality page" you could screenshot it to use the image in lessons, or simply have the edited page open in your browser at the start of the lesson.

How

Either in advance of the lesson, or during it, call up the web page and activate your X Ray Goggles  (it would be useful to follow that up by demonstrating changing the web page, even if the class don't then do it themselves).

Click on text and then start to edit the page.

Other ideas for using

This really lends itself to a writing activity (creative, reporting, persuasive all come to mind).

  • Perhaps students will change the adverts on a popular website to ones for products and copy text of their own.
  • News is a rich source of writing stimulus - perhaps redrafting their story onto several websites, and each time adjusting the style and tone of the piece to fit.
  • Creating "fake news" to run alongside another project or topic.


To find this and other teaching ideas and top tips, visit tips.dret.cloud