29 Jul

A year in Ed Tech – a reflection

As a school year closes, I thought to take the opportunity to reflect on what I've learnt this year working in busy primary schools primarily and with Ed Tech! It has been an interesting year – everyone is talking about coding – the curriculum is changing – assessment has gone – and budgets are tighter than ever! But for my own 'ed tech' journey it is the second year of a two year project with the schools!

A few key items stand out:

Bring staff with you!

This was the second year I had worked with the schools and it was clear that the value of certain tools was increasing. Particular the sharing and communicating aspect. From parent questionnaires on google drive to staff meetings with a Padlet running in the background. Staff were able to suggest, use and even advocate these simple collaboration tools. Interestingly, last year was about the technology and the paper way – this year seemed to be more about the tech way. Why this was the case seems harder to answer. Perhaps staff were getting used to tools? Perhaps they were genuinely beginning to feel useful rather than something I had pushed on them?

 

It's not all about iPads…

A glance through this site and you would be forgiven for thinking I worked mainly with iPads. (Though I think that's improving!) It's true that I did, at one point, but now the tools are everywhere. From deciding to get laptops for the younger year groups to the many, many coding applications on PC it became clear that we didn't want to ditch Windows just yet. Interestingly my attention is now turning to the many android options around…

 

Things can go wrong ..

And they have! From failed projects, broken tech and curriculum plans that just didn't work. What I've realised is that as teachers we put ourselves under a huge amount of pressure. Sometimes there just is not time!

Projects can always be deferred, budgets should include some losses, and teachers should be cut some slack. After all, there is nothing wrong with high aspirations!

 

But children always love the effort…

Any extra projects, any additional work put in and the pupils always, always, love it! Teachers embrace the use of tech because it (should) make things easier – it should take something complex and simplify it. Some things which were not possible become possible and the 'wow' factor never gets dull! Highlights? Tweeting astronauts… Visiting Digital art galleries… Skype with other schools across the globe… But for teachers, realising the value a class blog can bring can make all the difference.

It's easier with friends…

I'm lucky, I have met and worked with amazing teachers over the years. They work so hard to make things work, and often with ed tech advocates, they work to make things work for others! But along this year i've worked with Apps4Good, Code Club, various design studios and some brilliant volunteers. After all, it should all be about collaboration….

 

20 Jul

Twitter for school – How to get started!

Twitter as a social media network is well and truly established now. Chances are that you also have a personal twitter account. I prefer using twitter to facebook for schools as it just feels that little more ‘secure’ and easy to manage the connections.

Support and help for teachers using twitter is also available – and the great twitter account @battt provides plenty of links; resources and advice for using twitter as a teacher.

As an educational network tool I have found Twitter invaluable. Creating school accounts has allowed us to link with parents, the local community and to engage in national and international events. This has directly impacted on the pupils in schools and has created some real ‘buzz’ moments. See this post about our twitter conversation with astronauts! Our schools have linked with local authors, shared events through a local news hashtag, received support and sponsorship from local businesses (and then been able to thank them) as well as countless other smaller connections with parents.

Where to begin?

Choose a name!

Sounds simple – but you need to make sure your school is identifiable!

Read / adapt / create a policy.
You should already have an e-safety / safeguarding policy – and the schools’ use of social media should be part of this. Referencing Twitter directly will ensure that you:
– are clear about the use of photographs of children / use of names etc.
– name the staff who are responsible for updating the account.
– ensure that the account only ‘follows’ those that the school want to; it is not a personal account.
– ensure there is a ‘professional’ feel to the account and nothing is said that could reflect on the school

For clear guidance, and example policies take a look at the always useful ESafety Adviser site.

 

Spread the word! 

I started by linking the twitter accounts on the website and advertising it on the school newsletter. Staff enthusiasm can also be harnessed – although it’s worth limiting who has access to the account. Reassure staff that if they follow the school account the schoo l account won’t follow them unless they want it to.

Offer Support

If you are serious about enganging the community you will need to support them in the use of the media. Holding a Parents’ guide to twitter session can be really useful – and people tend to find it genuinely useful. It can also be a good time to discuss more general social networking concerns.

Get Tweeting!

Besides general admin type notices you can start by tweeting places where the school visits-  or linking up with events such as World Book Day! Local schools and local businesses can also be great Twitter pals as you can share events and exchange local news. If you have a school facebook account it is possible to link the two.

 

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It then needs to be integrated with the school ‘life’ with Tweets sent on a regualar basis by the same member of staff. Integration with the website should also be set up so the tweets can be read there.

Have you had any great success stories with your school twitter account? I would love to hear them!

Thanks for reading!