Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Closure of the DfE Technology Policy Unit- good news or bad?

The DfE have announced the closure of the Technology Policy Unit which was a very small remnant of Becta in the DfE but had been at the heart of the recent DfE renaissance in the role of new technology in our schools.


Read more about the news here




Some will see this, as Merlin's article portrays, as a backward step when the educational community felt new technology was firmly back on the agenda. I can't agree with that position. We must take Michael Gove at his word  when he said at BETT "we will not prescribe"..."we will encourage, support, disseminate"... So it is to be expected that the leadership will be happening from within the system and Teaching Schools will be at the fore.


This is good news for Teaching Schools and their newly formed New Technology Advisory Board. Whilst we are sympathetic to colleagues who face yet more uncertainty over their own jobs the ‘system’ must seize the opportunity here. This school led system reform is exactly what the Teaching Schools and their New Tech Board is aiming to achieve in partnership with all the relevant strategic partners.


The Board should not be perceived, as some might suggest, as a pressure group. The fact is it was formed with new Teaching Schools at the core who have passed not only rigorous applications to be put in the position to lead on school reform but specifically passed a bidding process to become national lead teaching schools for new technology means now it’s time has come to effect change.


I am assured Teaching Schools will hear about the funding which Gove announced at BETT to support new technology work 'In the new financial year' which could mean an announcement before Easter, which would be good news.


Monday, 5 March 2012

student voice in lesson planning

I’d like to hear from schools and teachers who have involved students in lesson planning


To what extent can students help steer how the lessons are taught?

What are the benefits- do they go beyond extra engagement, or it that enough it itself?


What methods do teachers use, for example:

·         Surveys of how lessons have been taught to inform future lesson plans

·         Emails to classes before lessons to state what the learning outcomes need to be and asking how they’d like to arrive at them

·         Asking students to generate resources that will then be used to teach the whole class with

·         Asking students to write lesson plans- and perhaps deliver them to model the practice they like


Email me if you can help or point me at case studies and research phaigh@notredame-high.co.uk

Friday, 2 March 2012

Teaching Schools get a grip on ICT with new group

After an 18-month hiatus, ICT is back up the agenda and school leaders are already on the move

The end to the post-election silence on ICT for learning and teaching in English schools, signalled by education secretary Michael Gove's speech at London's BETT Show in January, is being followed by the first green shoots of fresh ICT leadership on the post-Becta landscape.



Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Creating a school Facebook page

I get asked how to do this a lot, and I normally just direct people to other blogs- but this one is the best I’ve seen as it’s a step by step video




School Facebook pages are superb for parental engagement- I often find primary schools struggle set up really good, lively, well designed and ‘living web communities’ and even when they do the parents don’t remember to visit them.


Facebook is so much more sensible- to quote Tony Parkin it’s a case of ‘fishing where the fish are’ as the parents are already on Facebook and the school content can find them. It is so good for getting lots of positive news to parents and in emergencies like snow closures it really comes into its own. It can also be a way of driving web traffic into the school web site by making all the news link to the full article on the school web site.


For teaching and learning it needs a bit more thought but I know of several schools now using Facebook as a learning  platform- so it can be done, but don’t have the teachers interacting via their personal Facebook accounts!

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Help! Should we get every child a mobile device to carry and use in lessons?

Dear Paul,

On the subject of technology to improve learning generally can I ask your advice?  I'm chair of governors of a school of 900 pupils.  We are actively considering the possibility of giving a tablet computer to each pupil, and making use of it in teaching and learning.

As Chair I am keen (desperate actually) to avoid the technological trap of investing in technology that goes out of date quickly; that distracts management attention; and that turns out to have little impact on learning.  But the opportunity seems huge too.

So my question is a rather vague one: where can I find best advice about this area?  Do you know of schools that are using tablets (or other per-child devices) in a creative way? Is there any research to look at?

I'm sure you have far too much to do, but if you had any "oh yes, you should look at X and Y" thoughts, I'd love to hear them.



Hi Bob
I've lots of anecdotal experience from supporting schools through this from a delegation from Catalonia last year (where they bought every child a lap top and nothing much changed) down to a schools in the UK like in Hull where there is an interesting story to tell of success in getting poor children home access and other schools where the devices are now as normal in classrooms as books and pens.

The overall message is swamping the students with the devices before the virtual e-learning infrastructure is in place pedagogy well on the way to changing (obvious chicken and egg argument here) has often led to a flop- the teachers don't ask the children to bring and use the devices, the children stop bringing them, the teachers can't ask them to use them and the downward spiral continues.

We've held back on getting every child a device (whether that be us buy or help parents buy) and gone for a hybrid system of our school devices and policies/ technical set up to let children use their own devices but I see this as a stepping stone to each child carrying their own rather than unsustainable hardware refreshes for computers not used in evenings, weekends and holidays. This is because we have normalised the place of the virtual school in many areas of the school to the lack of access to 1:1 is now holding us back not the harder issues to crack of virtual infrastructure, staff confidence and pedagogical change.

The other big issue is the choice of hardware- I've met with Apple resellers who have shown me clever software for managing a school wide fleet of iPads but obviously they are expensive and a departure from the largely windows/ PC architecture of most schools. We feel the new generation of netbooks, perhaps with flip over screens, ultra fast boot to browser etc have the flexibility to serve curriculum area who all want something different. The tablet market is moving fast though...


My blog post for The Guardian on becoming a Teaching School

Teaching schools revolution

The leader of one of the first teaching school alliances on the inspirational collaborations that are having a huge impact on education
 "The more we helped others, the better we got"

Read it here http://bit.ly/teachingschoolsblog


Wednesday, 25 January 2012

An example of the emails I'm getting

From: Sarah
Sent: 25 January 2012 19:57
To: Haigh, Mr P
Subject: Help
Dear Paul, can you give me some advice
Our head has taken Gove at his word and is axing ICT as quickly as he can. On the back of that I suspect that having a head of what will be a very very small department is not going to be seen as sustainable. With that in mind I want to get to him to give him alternatives for my role!
I hear you are masterminding the concept of "digital literacy". Could you let me into your plans for the future of ICT in schools and any ideas of what i could morph my role into. Our school is backward with technology with a head with who thinks only traditional subjects should be valued so i will probably need to move on but want to do it from a strong position!

Hi Sarah
If your head is taking all that Gove is saying at his word then the future is bright- new technology is central to delivery of all subjects and key to running a 21st century school. If he's picking and choosing and sees the opportunity to ditch a subject he doesn't get then not all is rosy. Make sure he's reading http://www.education.gov.uk/a00201823/digital-technology-in-schools to understand the breadth of the DfE ideas.
Around taught ICT then yes I think now you should think about digital literacy for all- think KS3 and the skills students need to be 21st century students, independent learners, safe online, able to manage online identities and don't forget those office applications as professional and personal life skills, but don't be a slave to traditional locally installed applications, reflect the shifting landscape with web apps like Google apps and also get up to date with things that have happened since the old programme of study was written- web2.0, social media, mobile devices, smart phones, tablets, e-book readers internet access from range of devices- digital TV, games consoles, iPod, Kindles etc
This could be delivered as discreet lessons/ and or by embedding into other subjects (I'd argue both)- if he goes for the latter then the challenge is the CPD for the subject teachers and the mapping and tracking that it is done- a job to be done by someone and it needs to stay up to date in a fast moving field. If he sticks with discreet lessons then you are liberated from long projects flogging applications spreadsheets or databases that most computer uses only need an introduction to and you can bring in some fun like designing mobile device apps or design a web2.0 social media campaign-you can argue that by delivering digital literacy well the students will be better equipped to learn independently in the 'traditional subjects'. If the head is stuck on traditional subjects tell him how cuts at universities mean increasingly more of courses are delivered through independent and online learning, as is professional CPD in the workplace not to mention the jobs the kids will have require digital literacy- remind him of the world your school is preparing the kids for.
As for computing aim to give all students the chance to experience coding in KS3- look at extra curricula clubs to engage the geeks as well as giving everyone a taster in lessons and then use this as a way in to a KS4 computer science option and market it based on UK heritage in computing/ our future economy means we should be taking computing as seriously as maths and science as the foundations of a UK knowledge based economy. Work with the maths and science departments to give computing the gravitas- even get history on board- see reference to WW2 below.
Then have a good GCSE in computing option in KS4 and use the student/ parent voice to tell you if traditional ICT isn't required, perhaps business options can cover that market?
Get your Head to wake up and smell the coffee by showing him the passage in Gove's speech that if the exam boards come up with the right specs he'd like computing to be part of the Ebacc- computing is a new traditional subject (and not that new, since modern computing started in the 1940s with the war time code breakers and Alan Turing et al)
Finally your ace card is Silicon Fen- Cambridgeshire is a world hot spot for new tech companies so you should be preparing school leavers for jobs in them, use your freedom to strike up partnership with local IT companies to design an engaging curriculum that trades on your regional pride and their needs for future employees, get some business partnerships and sponsorships to give the kids some real career aspirations.
Finally tell your head to buy http://bit.ly/haighybook and you get networking with the people shaping the future via twitter and their blogs e.g. this http://jimanning.com/2012/01/putting-my-money-where-my-mouth-is/ has just flashed by on the #tag #futureteched (also follow #codingforkids and #ukedchat) so you know what people are up to and can copy them.
And yes, if you can't change your head's mind and he's not 58 years old take your talent elsewhere- all other right minded schools are looking to a renaissance in the role of new technology and the place of computing, those who are seeing it as a chance to ditch ICT are missing the point and will end up running schools that aren't fit for 21st century purpose.