Monday, 27 February 2017

Google Drive Webinar

Training from the comfort of your desk: We’ve had a number of requests to run webinars to share particular skills at times that hopefully suit people. The first is on using Google Drive. To make sure we run enough sessions we’ve created an online form that you can use to sign up. (DRET log in required)

Watch out for more similar informal training sessions like this in the coming weeks and months – and of course there are a range of videos at

Friday, 24 February 2017

Google Drive

The eLearning team have been doing lots of training in and around Google Drive.

Google Drive lets you store any file, so you can keep photos, stories, designs, drawings, recordings, videos, documents, anything - all in one place.Your files in Drive can be reached from any smartphone, tablet, or computer. So wherever you go, your files follow.You can quickly invite others to view, download, and collaborate on all the files you want – no email attachment needed. What's even better, is that with a DRET account, you have unlimited secure storage.

Goodbye memory stick and external hard drive!

If you work for DRET, you already have a Google Drive account with unlimited storage. Click here to log in, using your usual DRET log in, or you can find a Google Drive tile on Freedom.

For those of you new to Google Drive, or if you want to introduce it to your colleagues, see our training video here (DRET log in required).

If you would like any further information or training on Google Drive, or any other area of elearning, please get in touch with the eLearning team.

Monday, 20 February 2017

How do you think technology will improve your school in the future?

That’s the question I asked at our Google conference on the 3rd February 2017, whereby three groups of teachers and students took part in an ideas generation activity, which got them thinking about how school/work will be different in the future (3 to 5 years). These ideas needed to focus on the things they would like to see happen to improve their experience in education, as well as having fun, thinking about futuristic sci-fi utopias.

There were many ideas and discussions ongoing throughout the day, and they filled a whole wall in the Google Theatre.
The difficulty in summarising the outcome of this activity into a short paragraph is that firstly, there were so many great ideas to choose from. Secondly, in a year's time we could do the same activity again and the whole focus could shift due to a release of new technology in the next year.

However, many of the ideas did in fact have a common theme, as they focused on a piece of technology to help solve a particular problem, whether that be Virtual Reality to help students learn more about Science or History or simply a tool that allows students to get access to support outside of the lesson. The thing is, technology is changing rapidly, which means it only takes one new advancement to knock everything else out of the park and change the future in education forever.

So, in order to help shape the eLearning vision for the future, what I am working on now is extracting the key ways that technology can help solve a problem in education and look at what we can do now with the technology that is available to enhance teaching and learning. Looking into the future (3 - 5 years), the actual technology we use will more than likely be something we haven’t even heard of yet, although what remains is that we can still be working towards a goal - for example “helping students better prepare for the school day by providing access to timetables, reading materials and lesson resources”.

Also, for anyone that would like to imagine what school could be like in 5 years time, here is a short story based on the ideas generated from the day.

Friday, 17 February 2017

The technology skills we need in the future

If you are an adult over 30 reading this, then since you were at school entire new industries have emerged, and boomed - centred largely around the advances in technology. As a result, we begin the need to question what technology skills our students will need in the future to be ready for the workplace upon leaving education. Whereas once the skills that employers looked for including things like typing speeds and the ability to fill in an Excel spreadsheet,  now skills such as the ability to digitally collaborate, being able to share/store data electronically and social media skills are often also looked for in potential employers.
So during our DRET Vision Day at Google HQ in London, we asked students what they thought would be important tech skills that they will need to have to be successful in the workplace. For added engagement, we let them loose with green screens!
Take a look at the video and the skills that our students think will be invaluable for the future:

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Online Safety Resources

Following our recent posts regarding online safety, we though it useful to write a post regarding where to go for resources that can help adults and young people learn more.

Every school has designated adults responsible for safeguarding - yet we all have a responsibility for it, by nature of our jobs. In the same way, we all have a responsibility for online safety - whether we are the appointed person or not. Teachers, parents, students - we all have responsibilities with regards to online safety, staying safe online and helping others do the same thing.
People have different levels of knowledge and expertise in the subject of online safety depending on their training and experience - and often it can be difficult knowing what to talk about or how to talk about it with young people, or even simply what being safe online means.

So if you want out find out more about online safety, whether you are a teacher looking for resources, a parent looking for help and guidance, a student who wants to know more or how to stay safe online, a club leader, sports coach, or anyone else that works with young people, there are lots of places to visit online that can help. Here are 3 of the best

UK Safer Internet Centre: where you can find online safety tips, advice and resources to help children and young people stay safe online

Childnet: Full of lots of information for young people, teachers/professionals and parents - full of resources and advice

Think You Know: A great place for children and adults alike, with resources broken down into age ranges and groups.

If you would like to know more, or have any questions regarding online safety, then please get in touch - it's everyone's responsibility!

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Internet Safety and Filtering

As part of the eLearning strategy we're setting up a new filtering system at every academy. As well as looking to make filtering more effective in managing content and warning us of any at risk behaviour, we've chosen a system that should be as unobtrusive and hassle free as possible - because we don't want the cost of making the web safe to be making the web unusable and frustrating.

We're using a product called Smoothwall. A master filtering unit maintains what the rules are and synchronises with lists of proscribed sites and terms from sources such as the Internet Watch Foundation and the Home Office, plus any additional black or white lists. We maintain one set of lists of sites that are and aren’t allowed, and one set of keywords that imply risk (eg in an internet search).

We already know who the people are on our system, so we can place them into a series of levels that decides what they can and can’t access appropriate to their role.

Each academy has its own filter that uses the master database plus the directory of users on our system. They will have a named member of staff who receives both routine reports on use as well as emergency alerts (for example when at risk behaviour is identified). They are also able to blacklist and whitelist sites on a fast track system.

No filtering system is perfect. The scale of the challenge of making the web safe without preventing people from accessing what they need is huge. We know that the filter is one part of the puzzle - far more important is the education of students to handle the risks of being online well, and the care and attention of the staff in our academies who work with children and parents as needed.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Drawing with iPad Notes

Last week I had the opportunity to visit Mr Boswell’s Maths class at Wold Primary School and was able to see some great ways to make Effective Maths more engaging. For a portion of the lesson, the children were sat on the floor, gathered around the big screen and practising adding 10’s. Mr Boswell had split the screen into two halves so the children could see the Effective Maths activity on one side, and on the other side, there was a space for working out answers to the problems.
What you can see on the right-hand side of the screen is the iPad notes app - the iPad had been mirrored using AirServer and the drawing tools that are available in the notes app transform the screen into a digital mini whiteboard. Therefore, the teacher can be stood with the iPad out the way of the board, so as not to struggle writing on the board whilst the children are sat around it, and still be able to show the working out of the sums as they are working through them as a class.
Also, with the ability to switch between pen colours, Mr Boswell was able to help the children differentiate between Tens and Ones - and match it to the Effective Maths activity.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Safer Internet Day 2017

It's a bit of a misleading title really. Shouldn't we be safe on the internet every day? Shouldn't we be teaching internet safety all of the time - not just for one day a year? Of course we should, and of course we do. However, Safer Internet Day provides schools with an opportunity to talk to pupils about a specific focus or area of internet safety, and the UK Safer Internet Centre provides schools with lots of age-appropriate resources, assemblies, and talking points to discuss with students of all ages.

I visited Charles Read Academy last week and along with Miss King, ran sessions for Year 7 pupils centred around the power of image. We were joined by governors and school leaders, which provided a great opportunity to talk about the power of online images from all viewpoints and age ranges.

Much of the discussion centred around 'selfies' - and the difference, if any, of the type of selfies posted by boys and girls. Of course we were generalising, but talk of filters, pouts, collecting likes and showing off filled the room - especially when we split into boy and girl groups for discussing the topic.

What was consistent though, and not specific to gender, was the opinion that we should all be careful what we post. Our discussions lead us to matching consequences to actions, and what happens if we post the wrong type of image. One of the adults shared a story about how his son was asked in a job interview about the song he had sung and posted on YouTube - the employer had 'Googled' him before the job interview. This highlighted to pupils the fact that no matter how temporary the app or fleeting the image on a social media account, whatever you post can be, and will be, online forever - our digital footprint.

Throughout the lessons, we talked about the need to use a 'moral compass' - because sometimes it's not as easy as right or wrong. Every online decision, just like in real life, often requires judgement calls that aren't necessarily black or white, right or wrong - and the need for a moral compass helps guide us through the decision making process, especially when deciding on posting images online.

We decided that a general, and very useful guide to what we should post online included:

Do I have permission from everyone in the image?
Would my parents/teacher be happy with me if they saw this image?
Will this image upset anyone?
Are my privacy settings locked?
Is my image misleading?
This image will be around forever. Will I be happy with that in 10 years?

And of course, as with most things online - if in doubt, ask a responsible adult.

The pupils at Charles Read were engaging, thoughtful and inquisitive. They contributed to our lively discussions and were eloquent in their responses - many had experiences of sharing images online, and were very reflective when sharing their experiences. They listened to each other and were respectful of others' opinions.

For us adults, it's important to remember that just like in real life, children do make mistakes. It's reassuring to know that there are organisations like the UK Safer Internet Centre who provide resources, help and guidance to help children and young people stay safe online.

If you have any questions or comments, or would like some advice on anything related to online safety, then please get in touch.

For all of the UK Safer Internet Centre resources, click here
If you are worried or feel unsafe about something online, visit Ceops website here

Make Practical Elements of Lessons More Accessible with AirServer

Here is a great idea to boost engagement and make practical elements more accessible in class using two simple tools - the iPad camera and AirServer. For anyone that is not familiar with AirServer, it is a service that lets you mirror what is on your iPad screen, onto the big screen.

The children in this foundations class are frequently trying different types of foods, on this day they were trying Chinese food. It turns out that AirServer stretches further than the room you are in, as the teacher was able to prepare the food from the kitchen in a room next door and share the process via the big screen. The children were all very excited watching the food they were about to try, being prepared in front of their eyes. They were all gathered around the board and identifying the different types of foods as they came on the screen. What’s more, everyone was able to participate because they could all see the board, instead of having to crowd into a small environment to see.

In this example, it has worked really well in a foundation setting but can easily be applied to other year groups and subjects where maybe you have small areas that disable the whole class from being able to see i.e. Science experiments or practical workshops in Design and Technology.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

A StrongCore for Future Professional Development for eLearning

We had a wonderful opportunity to visit Google UK with a large group of staff and students last week, which we've reported on our website, tweeted about at length and written up by Lucy and Levi from Thomas Hinderwell Academy in Scarborough. The day was interesting in many ways - bringing together people from all over England, meeting some great people at Google who talked about their organisational culture and business and trying some cool technology (VR being the one that got photographed most and probably got the biggest Oo and Ah on the day).

Around that though, we were busy. We ran three workshops to further develop our vision and longer term thinking for eLearning. We're currently working through a genuinely ambitious and exciting project to accelerate the adoption of new technologies, increase our confidence and agility in using them and build deep rooted improvement networks - but if theory is to be believed, that time is exactly the one to start thinking about what comes next.

Ben and Yasmin will pick up on their sessions in later posts - mine was about professional development for staff both to prepare for the future and to exploit the opportunities on offer.

Groups of staff and students separated and worked apart on the same activity - to highlight the key priorities, and then came together to share and discuss. Some things every group agreed on and others led to some very interesting discussion, what I'd like to share here are a few of the headlines that came through pretty much every time (and please do comment back either on the blog or via Twitter).

The Core

I won't pretend to summarise our Trust's educational vision here, although I think the simple phrase "the best that the independent sector offers and the state education sector provides" goes a long way to expressing it - but as with every school, when you unpack that a lot of layers of detail come out.

Both the staff and the students very quickly moved on from talking about technology, to talking about culture. It is likely that the presentation from James Leonard earlier where he discussed teams at Google and psychological safety is the reason for that.  The research at Google about effective teams and the notion of creating a place where people felt safe to contribute and learn from each other resonated strongly with staff and students about what we see in a successful classroom. Naturally then, things that lead to that and underpin that were the highest priorities in discussion.

Things like giving good, clear feedback and knowing student's strengths and areas for development, and being able to listen, stood out as being nothing new, but things students in particular do not want to see in any way downplayed or reduced as we fast-forward to the future. Balanced life also came out strongly with comments from students like "we would rather our teacher came back on Monday after a restful or fun weekend" and "we do not expect teachers to be available online 24/7, they need to have a life - just because we can post something online does not mean we expect an instant reply."

The Other Core

Of course we did also talk about tech, and there was a wide wide range of views on what skills need to be prioritised and how they should be developed.

Firstly we talked about a number of things that can now be taken "as read" for most people and don't need to be formally trained - although perhaps they may need support when a member of staff doesn't have them. These basic literacies need to be mapped out and defined but staff and students don't see them as forming part of our professional development landscape.

Secondly we talked about many areas that could be called "content creation" skills - making digital material and sharing it. On balance there was probably more interest and enthusiasm for sharing than making with a good proportion of the people there (but not all) feeling that selection of material is much more important that making it for staff.

Thirdly, and for me the key point we talked about "what really are the basic skills." Students felt that confidence in using a few tools well, seamlessly, woven through every lesson, is far more important than having a wide range of apps and "toys." We all agreed that making sure staff can reliably and confidently combine some basic things well is far more effective and can then allow them to extend themselves and innovate from a strong base should be our top priority. I've written (elsewhere) about some similar ideas from the HE sector (see Gilly Salmon's paper on Flying not Flapping) and we had already thought in those terms for Star Classroom - do a few core things well and then see what people come up with to exploit them is an underpinning approach in what we're trying to do - but we'd never articulated that or shared it, so to have it presented back so strongly was really positive.

That probably links back to the idea of psychological safety again which Google shared right at the start. Provide a safe place where people are confident to try and have the skills to consistently do so and great things can happen.

What I'm working on now is to flesh out those ideas into a proposed plan that covers:

  • Things we assume everyone should be able to do and support where there are gaps.
  • Further defining a core set of skills (and tools) to emphasise in our training and professional development where we will get the greatest possible return in happy people, outstanding experiences and great lessons for our efforts. 
  • Supporting the sharing of ideas and approaches that build on those core areas, and allow us to keep updating it as the landscape evolves.