Encouraging staff to embed technology in the classroom: the birth of the Magnificent 7.

As my blog name suggests, I love teaching with tech. I will have a go at anything – if I think it has purpose and adds value to learning.  I’ve experimented, dabbled and tried with countless apps, devices and ideas.  If it benefits, enhances or engages in learning, then it has value and will be incorporated into my classroom routines- if not then it is out. Its that simple, and I feel that is key.  

I’ve encountered barriers when implementing tech and e-learning in my classroom and the wider school. Many from teachers and parents.  The old “all you do is mess about on iPads”, “what about handwriting?” and “where’s the evidence?” Has crept up time and time again.  I think it’s important to make it known from the  start that in no way does e-learning and technology replace any key skill, or in fact mean that work can’t be evidenced.  Far from it, many amazing and wonderful practical and creative activities can be captured, shared, commented on and manipulated by children, staff who weren’t present and parents, thanks to wonderful apps like Seesaw.  To answer the question of handwriting, yes its an important skill and one that is taught and practiced daily, but my reply is often “if I were not a teacher, I very much doubt I would use handwriting daily.”  My shopping lists are done via reminders on iOS (see my previous post on using Siri to be organised), my diary is organised via Google Calendar, my notes and correspondence are done via text messages, tweets and email. I don’t even send Christmas cards anymore, just a digital message or image. Not because I’m that pretentious, it’s just the way in which the world and my life is moving and changing.  But yes, it is a skill I still hold dear and needs to be taught.  The barrier with parents are overcome by striking a balance. Sometimes the process can be using e-learning to build to a final piece of work.  For example, my class struggle with editing and redrafting, but by using Google Docs it has built confidence, not to mention engagement in writing with reluctant writers (particularly boys).  They are now happy to get ideas down because the safety net is that it is very easy to manipulate and improve sentences – and prove editing via turning on track changes.  Sometimes the end product is a fantastic piece of creative work that has been built up using more traditional methods in analysing, planning, writing and then presenting or performing.  A perfect example of this was when my Year 5 class supported Year 1 to create Christmas Letters to Santa using Spark Video, a magnificent piece of work from Read, Write, Perform by the incredible Lee Parkinson and John Murray. Parents were delighted by what their children had produced, but that couldn’t have been done without the key skills.  The balance just has to be right. This has been key in getting staff on board too.


It can be overwhelming when you want to enhance the learning of the children using tech, especially when you see how many different apps are out there.  They are being used in countless different ways, for countless different things and when there is a person next door to your class (i.e me) who will have a go at anything, its off putting.  I started by introducing Seesaw first, just to show how easy it could be to collect, share, evidence, mark and assess work.  Once the teachers had seen the impact of Seesaw it was an easier way in.  It made their life easier by collecting and marking work quickly and effectively, but also because the children lead it, it was no extra burden for them.  The next step was to introduce other apps which could be used easily and effectively, but evidenced using Seesaw again.  Luckily, I work in an incredibly supportive school.  Teachers are generally willing to have a go, and my Senior Leadership Team are incredibly supportive in my ideas and beliefs.  In preparation for my perfortmance management and a Governors meeting to outline the impact of e-learning across the school and wider curriculum, I decided we wouldn’t go down the route of expecting teachers and children to use a huge array of apps, we would just focus on being brilliant at using a select group for a range of purposes across the curriculum.  It started out as 5 apps, but this was just far too hard. Every time I made a list of 5 key apps, I’d remember others! So finally we settled for what has been dubbed the Magnificent 7. Our mission is to be skilled in only 7 key apps (however, some on the list are a suite and include more than one) and to use them effectively for a wide range of reasons.  
After a tough few days whittling down and editing the list it was ready: Seesaw, G-Suite (formally Google Apps for Education), Book Creator, Explain Everything, Adobe Spark Suite (Spark Post, Video and Page), Padlet and Socrative.

A little bit about how we use them:

Seesaw

  • Collect evidence and mark work
  • Peer assessment and feedback
  • A folder for toolkits to support learning
  • Sharing resources such as website links and videos
  • Parent interaction with children’s learning

G-Suite

We changed our emails from the local authority to our own domain about 8 months ago.  This was for a number or reasons, but the main one was the huge array of extras we couldn’t access.  

  • The staff and children use Gmail to communicate
  • Docs to type and draft
  • Slides to work collaboratively on presentations
  • Drive to save photos and work 
  • Forms and Sheets in maths and science to collect and represent data
  • Translate for our many EAL children
  • Classroom – great for handing out homework and resources for things like computing
  • Expediations to take our children on virtual fields trips, but a few wifi issues are hindering this.

Book Creator

  • Turn written work into beautifullly presented professional ebooks
  • Topic and science work – a place to create a full journal of work which is easy to see progression rather than flicking through Seesaw (and with the latest development of sharing via online a perfect place for parents to access in one place).  Videos of science experiments and explanations are for more meaningful and easier to record than written in a book
  • Evidence of maths mastery
  • Calculation and RWI books to support learning
  • Children with specific learning needs to record work via video and sound buttons – has worked great with dyslexic children

Explain Everything

  • A whiteboard for working out calculations and other ideas – record the screen to assess the process
  • Animations – create backgrounds, animate objects and characters, verbally record the narrative
  • Explain science experiments, photographs by adding annotations and voice recording
  • Talk 4 Maths – show mastery by recording reasoning and thinking, adding evidence such as photos of working out to support ideas, verbally explanations of calculations and processes

Adobe Spark Suite

  • Post – create professional photos for posters, displays and ebooks (Book Creator) by adding text and effects.  
  • Video – make professional quality videos e.g adverts, letters, explanations (calculations, processes such as the water cycle etc), record narrative
  • Page – Present fiction and non-fiction work in a slick professional web page

Padlet

  • Ask a question as a starting point to a lesson or topic – collect the answers and ideas (great for science)
  • Show learning post lesson or topic – collect what children have learnt (great for science)
  • Working wall – constantly update and collect ideas, questions, vocabulary
  • Promote collaboration – magpie walls, sentence types etc
  • Topic wall – collect key ideas and information about different areas
  • Challenges – maths and sentence style challenges posted, children respond with their answers
  • Flipped learning – leave resources and lessons all in one place for children to access at their own pace – drop it into Seesaw
  • Extension task – a quick qr code or Seesaw link for an extnesion task
  • Feedback – give feedback on training, a lesson or others work

Socrative

  • Set assessments and tests (spelling, arithmetic, science and topic post unit) – marks them for you and collates evidence into spreadsheets and charts (saves ours of time marking, assessing and collating)
  • Monitor live so you can instantly prepare who needs extra support for future leases ones and learning 
  • Analyse data from tests
  • Class discussions 
  • Votes

We have just rolled these ideas out in November 2016.  Slowly but surely, they are starting to become embedded in our schools ethos and daily routines.  The children are becoming increasingly confident in using them. Staff are supported by our recently updated and appointed Digital Leaders (in KS2 there are a number of Digital Leaders in each class) who receive training in the apps, experiment with techniques and then offer support and ideas to teachers and children back in the classroom.  It’s proving incredibly successful, becoming a way of school life and most importantly, taking the strain off me.  We are working our way through each of the apps to really hone in on their uses, but when you see the children working on them, you know the future is in magificenmt hands.