Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Outstanding.... What now?

I must admit, I dislike the word intensely, it's not something I think a school should ever say about itself, but I guess if somebody else says it about you then it's ok.

So OfStEd has declared that we are outstanding in every item of it's schedule. That's a fantastic achievement and a testimony to the hard work of the staff who consistently deliver across a huge range of school experiences.

From a technology point of view it will be interesting to see what the inspectors say. They were able to see a wide range of technology usage and commented to me on how the teachers and students were engaged with what they were doing. They certainly saw some innovative uses of technology; Web 2.0 (Shelfari), online Mind Mapping (Mind 42), Nintendo DS within Literacy, iTouch to support phonic awareness etc. OK, so these ideas aren't original but they are in the upper band of classroom innovation.

The report will hopefully highlight these as signs of a school that is continuing to improve. The need to continue improvement is keenly felt within the technology department - any tech department that wishes to be seen as outstanding must be constantly striving to improve, as the landscape changes continually.

I was delighted to see that Scott McLeod commented on my previous posting on OfStEd and I return to his words to help me evaluate what we need to do next.

The following extract from his closing comments at ASB Unplugged has been hijacked by me with some of my own additions.

"Most of you have yet to put a computer in every kid’s hands;"

No we haven't. We are 121 in secondary but in primary we're 124 - that's a decent ratio that I'm pleased with, but not when I see machines not being used. With other international schools in the region looking to extend their 121 programme into primary it may be something that we will consider in the future. Ultimately though, it's what you do with your kit that counts.

"Most of you have yet to incorporate online courses into your curricula in any kind of substantive way."

Guilty as charged - this is a huge challenge for us and will occupy large amounts of staff time during the forthcoming year.

"Few of you are teaching students to be empowered - not just responsible - digital citizens in our new information landscape."

We are making inroads here; schools have a responsibilty to ensure they produce ethical, resilient digital citizens, and we work hard on that. It does need to be a whole school approach and we need to enhance our staff development models.

"Few of you have a staff full of educators that are modeling active participation in that landscape."

Staff need to become more active in using the web as a means of professional development. This is explicit in the ISTE standards for teachers and we will be looking to implement these more widely in the future. It would be great to see more staff actively fostering a digital footprint and developing themselves as professionals online. We have teachers who are now using Twitter as a development tool and we need to encourage more to do so. By engaging with educators on a global level, the impact upon classrooms can be tremendous.

"As far as I can tell, none of you has robust student assessments at every grade level that target higher-level, more cognitively-complex thinking and doing and being."

Getting there. We have been looking at higher order thinking skills but we haven't managed to consistently develop them within units that use technology. We are aware of this and have made some progress.

"None of you has moved to a truly personalized learning environment for every student, one in which students’ progress is facilitated and perhaps assessed by technology and is organized around student competence and completion rather than age and grade level."

In truth we're a long way off this although various initiatives have helped us down this road. We're built around what Heppell might call the Victorian model as are most schools and I could only see us ever nibbling at this.

So, that's Scott McLeod's challenge for school improvement. I'm going to add a few more that I'd like to see us tackle!

We should be questioning our curriculum and examining it in the light of what technology can enable us to do and what our students can produce. We can't keep going on about 21st Century Learning without identifying what's 20th Century Learning and questioning it's validity. It's no good saying to hit HOTS we should be podcasting if we can't say what those podcasts should replace... newspaper reports, postcard and letter writing?

We need to look at how we can use technology not as a replacement tool but as a transformation tool. Let's use the new tools we have to collaborate, create and problem solve. We've made some good progress here but there's still a long way to go.

We need to foster a feeling of innovation, creativity and excitement consistently throughout the whole school by capturing the expertise we have and highlighting it and building upon it.

As all schools and organisations do we need to take a good long hard look at ourselves regarding the environment by using our technology in a greener way and utilising it to help us become more ethical and resonsible in our use of resources.

So, outstanding we may be and that's great news, but we've still got huge amounts of work to do and there's no question that we will be striving to achieve much more in the coming year.

The tag cloud is from our ICT School Improvement Plan (SIP) for the forthcoming year.

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