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Showing posts from 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'…

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 colleag…

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: Diar…

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 …

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…

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…

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, …

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 al…

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 hones…

Latest Featured 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 thri…

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 w…

#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 a…

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…

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 challenge…

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 previ…

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!


The second part video shows how an existing user of Google Drive can use File Stream together - for en easier and…

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 …

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 s…

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 …

Recommended Reading Lists

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…

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 ToolMozilla 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 websit…