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.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Earth Day - April 22nd 2010

Today is Earth Day and millions of people around the world will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of this event by carrying out activities linked to the environment.

Reception children will be looking at Recycling in their ICT lessons, finding out what it is and working in Simple City.

In the spirit of Earth Day, below is the recent edition of Kellett Tellit - please don't print it out!!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

iPad - A Game Changer?

An interesting discussion on the iPad between Will Richardson and Warren Buckleitner, editor of Children's Software Review. I have to say I agree that the iPad has huge potential in the Early Years classroom.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Blogging - A Global Account

I must admit, with the advent of Twitter my efforts at blogging have dwindled somewhat. That's a shame and hopefully I can try to post more often in the future, although workload often dictates that posts are sometimes all too brief.

Blogging is an excellent means of professional development for teachers; it can help them reflect on their practice and pedagogy and also act as a showcase for their work. It can also showcase the work of schools to the parent community and the wider world, including, of course, any prospective students.

Unlike school websites, blogs can be updated quickly with little technical knowledge required and whilst the ideal of developing a conversation is only achieved by the minority of blogs that shouldn't discourage teachers, or classes, from having a go.

This blog doesn't have huge readership - students and parents pop in to see work posted and it doesn't have the in-depth professional reflection of the so-called 'rock star' technology teachers - but even so it does get viewers from locations all over the world.

A reminder to me this week was when I checked the blog feed and saw that during the last five days visitors had arrived from the following places;

Boston, Massachusetts
Prague, Czech Republic
Elmira, New York
Sahuarita, Arizona
Boxborough, Massachusetts
Reading, UK
Distrito Federal, Mexico
Sheffield, UK
Waltham, Massachusetts
Askeby, Storstrom, Denmark
Houston, Texas
Alexandria, Virginia
Madison, Alabama
Meriden, Connecticut
Muncie, Indiana
Falmouth, Maine
Saint Neots, Cambridgeshire, UK
Middlefield, Massachusetts
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
Dublin, Ohio
Rantau Panjang, Perak, Malaysia
Stockton, California

as well as Hong Kong, of course.

A large number were visiting the same post which presumably got mailed around, but it does go to show that blogging is a global communication tool - I must try harder!

Image: NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center

Inspection Time!

So tomorrow's the big day, our OfStEd inspection begins. I thought I'd jot a few thoughts down prior to the event and then see how things develop during the week.

First thing to say is that I'm looking forward to the week. This will be my second OfStEd and it will be very different to the first one. At that point in time OfStEd was still reimageing itself after the days of Chris Woodhead when there was a real feeling in schools that inspections were a vehicle for criticism and little else. I was also a Deputy Headteacher in a large primary for that inspection and the pressures were very intense as I had wide-ranging responsibilities.

The pressure for this inspection is much less - OfStEd is much more focussed these days and whilst it can still be forthright in it's opinions (see Zenna Atkins!) in general they stem from a desire for improvement rather than any kind of hidden agenda.

Whilst the preparation has been demanding, from my own point of view I feel safe in the knowledge that what I do is interesting, challenging and relevant. The top OfStEd category is of course, outstanding. For any school achieving a grade of outstanding it's a testimony to the hard work of staff as a whole. I could never describe my work as 'outstanding' - not because I'm not confident in what I do, it's just not in my nature! It's a personality thing.

In any case, the pervasive nature of ICT within the curriculum means that the work students carry out within their ICT lessons as a whole is now only a small part of their ICT experience in school. In short, KS2 students spend 45 mins a week in the lab but should be spending much more time using ICT in authentic ways within the curriculum. So any comments on ICT within Kellett will hopefully reflect that.

An aspect of inspection which I think is very useful is it gives staff an opportunity to reflect upon their practice and pedagogy and look at what real learning is going on in their classrooms. The greater attention to detail in planning can help to focus ideas and move things forward. I know it has for me!

The evaluation schedule of OfStEd (see illustration for word cloud) talks a lot about schools using new technology but it's not clear what it means by this. PCs aren't new, nor is Microsoft Word or PowerPoint, or e-mail for that matter. What new technology might they see next week? Well, from a personal viewpoint if they come and see me they're going to see Y3&4 students using Google Sketchup to investigate tessellation & symmetry, and Y5&6 creating computer games for students to use within the curriculum. Both of these could be described as "new" technology don't you think? The Sketchup module is a progression for us, moving this excellent software down through the school, from the creative, design activities we use in Y6&7 to activities rooted within the Mathematics curriculum.

The Y5&6 module will be using 2DIY, by definition it's new because we've only had it for six weeks! This is definitely an example of how in a 21st Century classroom the teachers should be learning alongside the students - already the students have had more time on the software than me so we'll definitely be exploring together.

So that's me sorted, don't know how it will go down with the inspectors but I know the students will be engaged and challenged - I don't think you can ask for more.

What might they see elsewhere? It's difficult to find the time to work out what everybody's doing - it's easy to get wrapped up in making sure you will be ok - but I am expecting them to see;

Web 2.0 technology being used. Year 6 will be leading the way on this - having already used Primary Pad and Glogster (as well as Guitar Hero!) they will be collaborating online using Mind42 and Shelfari - hopefully the inspectors will clearly see here how new technology can impact upon learning - now that is outstanding in my mind!

Games as a stimulus for writing. Having used Rollercoaster Tycoon, Year 5 will be tackling a range of writing activities stemming from their time creating their own theme parks.

Laptops New technology? Not sure, but they will hopefully see that as a school we are committed to mobile learning.

Multimedia. They should see students constantly expressing themselves through audio, video and images - our relatively small resource of digital cameras, Flip video, Vado video and TTS Digital microphones will be as popular as ever during inspection week.

Nintendo DS - Year 2 will be using DS consoles and the game Nintendogs as a stimulus for their classroom activities. Inspired by the work of teachers such as Anna Rosvoll in Scotland this module is one of the things I'm hoping to get to see in the next couple of weeks - I'm fascinated to see how it goes.

iTouch - we love them! They work - immediately! Our small team of iTouches have proven to be very popular and have already impacted upon learning. I have no hesitation in describing Katrina Hall's work in Y1 using the iTouch as outstanding. These appear to be booked out for most of the week - I just hope we can find time to recharge them!!

So that's just a flavour of what's going on and what the inspectors might see. There's lots more too, Chinese Studies will be using laptops extensively, as will other year groups, and PE will be using digital video to analyse their work.

Do I have any misgivings or concerns about the week ahead? Well, if the school network falls over that could be problematic, but not much we can do about that. There will always be technical niggles, iTouch apart, ed-tech hasn't got to the light bulb stage yet (switch it on and it works) - but dealing with that in the classroom is part and parcel of the job - whilst it's true our support structures are stretched I've never been in a school that admits to having too much technical support!

What else... if I was honest I'd have to say that the National Curriculum is not exactly an inspiration for embedding authentic technology within the curriculum. Our move towards ISTE is a reflection of our desire to be more creative in our work and also to focus upon the professional development of our staff. I hope they see that reflected in what we do.

So, what would I like them to say about our use of technology?

I'd certainly like them to say that we are innovative in our approach, I'd like them to note that technology is being used for creative purposes as well as problem solving and that although research type activities and basic software skills are still part of what we do they are no longer the core.

That we are beginning to come to terms with what it means to enable our students to become responsible and active digital citizens in the 21st Century - we still have a long way to go on this but so does everybody!

I'd like them to highlight that some staff are prepared to work outside their comfort zone (no matter what that zone is) and commend them for it.

They should take note of staff who are developing themselves professionally through sharing and collaborating with teachers outside of their own school - this is a key characteristic of outstanding teachers in the 21st Century and a part of the ISTE standards for teaching staff.

I would also like them to highlight the outstanding (there, I said it!) progress we have made in the past couple of years, we've really moved technology along during that time. But at the same time it's important for them to be clear that we still have a huge amount of work to do, or in the words of Scott McLeod...

"I'm not sure you appreciate how far you still have to go."

Good luck to everybody this week.

Friday, 16 April 2010

iPad in School?

Thanks to miss Hall we got a chance to have a look at an iPad today. Below is a video of Ava using Dino Mixer - an application which has been used a lot in P1 as part of their study of dinosaurs.

The iPad looks like it could have a wide range of uses in school and we'll be looking at how we might use them and how many we might purchase in the near future.