Thursday, 30 October 2014

Personal professional development and personal learning networks - @SLTcamp

I started my twitter journey around 18 months ago. Taking the leap to follow people was the first step and I was so lucky to come across a tweet in August 2013 about @SLTcamp. I had really enjoyed taking part in the weekly #sltchat and thought it would be really good PPD to spend an entire weekend with twitter SLT. So I signed up.

After driving for 3 hours the scariest part was arriving in the dark to a youth hostel with no phone signal. I also had never met any of the people who had signed up. I had looked up participants' profiles on twitter in the hope that I would then recognise people when I arrived. I shouldn't have had any worries. As soon as I arrived a fellow camper said I was in the right place and that the teachmeet would be starting in a while, once food and people were ready. Some people had even flown in for the weekend. We were all expecting a great weekend.

Everyone had arrived expecting to participate in healthy discussion and "Chatham House" rules were in place, providing a safe environment for sharing and debating issues and solutions. The Friday evening teachmeet sparked lots of post-presentation chats and many campers stayed up for long discussions and building networks. Evening entertainment, helped break any ice that was hanging around and set the tone for the entire weekend. PPD in a fun environment. Where else can you go to spend an entire weekend building personal learning networks and focussing on your own PPD? @SLTcamp was that opportunity.

I learnt so much from my time with sparky SLT campers that I have signed up again for @SLTcamp 2014. I'm even prepared to drive for over 4 hours this year just to have my PLN and PPD top up for the academic year. As a veteran my expectations are high. I know that if I get as much out of it as I did last year, I will leave with a book full of notes and take another year to implement things that I have learnt.

If you have not signed up for SLT camp 2014 then do read some of last year's blogs. If you are a long standing Headteacher, aspirant senior leader, senior middle leader or even an established member of SLT then the weekend will have something for you. Who knows what "golden nuggets" will end up being shared this year?

Bring your own device (BYOD)

I was tasked with innovation as part of my leadership role in 2013/14 and improving learning experience in 2014/15. My first port of call was to read lots of teacher blogs. Thankfully having made lots of notes @sltcamp in November 2013 I was able to read around pioneering teaching technology in schools.

From Easter 2013 to the end of August, I read, read, read. I knew the success of launching BYOD lay in my trailing and reflecting on how to make best use of the technology. With no student Wi-Fi I asked to teach Year 9 German in an IT room with flipped learning as my pedagogical tool. Attempting to use Edmodo to get students and parents engaged in learning at home to enable practice at school. Student feedback was good and in June 2014 the entire school were enrolled and staff trained. In preparation for BYOD all students signed the newly updated Digital Citizenship agreements and had an assembly on how to use e-learning sensibly.

During summer 2014 I downloaded as many apps to my phone and tablets. Making the most of the long summer break I was able to see which apps worked well on android and apple devices. Day 1 in September staff and students were welcomed back to a Wi-Fi network. Year 7, of course had to be signed up to the agreements and then we were good to go.

In just 38 days at school the amount of use our student Wi-Fi is experiencing is on the increase across all curriculum areas. Without specific training pioneering staff have had the flexibility to trial what works in their areas. ICT Guru certificates have been handed out in our Teaching and Learning briefings and nano-presentations have shared ideas across staff.

Students in my class have used phones, mini ipads and android tablets too. The knack I have found is being flexible and making sure that there is a back up plan. Maths have found QR codes linked to explanation videos on their own Youtube channel allows for students to get "help" as many times as they need it explaining, as well as clear differentiation. Tutors have used the Edmodo app for literacy whole group story writing challenges. MFL colleagues are using it for memorisation techniques using Tellagami, visioprompt, Yakitt kids and early evidence suggests it is helping increase confidence in speaking techniques. Science staff are enjoying padlet, socrative and wordwall to gain quick starter and plenary data to help find out what students have remembered or need additional input for in the following lessons.

After many years I have also moved to an electronic markbook. Having visited Bett 2014 I decided there was a much more powerful way to mark. I use idoceo and it has been a great way to share data, seating plans etc with shared groups. Even staff who only have 1 lesson a fortnight are as up to date with the day to day marking for homework and tests as they can be. I hope my next shared group is with a colleague with an e-markbook.

All of this has been achieved via personal professional development, one CPD course and lots of perseverance. The first set of staff CPD on BYOD begins on Monday. With three tiers for opting in green for using teaching apps, amber for using student apps and red for using teacher/student apps in the same lesson.

BYOD is simply another pedagogical tool, however it is interesting to hear student responses to a non-digital lesson as they begin to get used to using apps to aid learning. I like the ability to use ICT without having to book an ICT room and sharing information immediately via an app reduces delays in learning and feedback. It would be interesting to compare BYOD with 1:1, however the early signs are that BYOD is enhancing the learning experiences without rolling out an expensive 1:1 programme.

A class set of ipads are due to arrive next term. This will be the test to see if we need to consider pushing the parameters of e-learning even further.