It’s been a while since I’ve blogged on EdTech stuff. I definitely felt like I’d lost my mojo somewhat, and was getting bogged down in frustrating situations at work combined with a lack of time to try out and get excited about new ideas. Going to Innovate My School Live today in Liverpool has got me feeling all creative again.
After a horrific start to they day, travel-wise (my hour long journey took nearly two and a half; I think if I’d gotten stuck in one more serious snarl I was going to throw my toys out of the pram and go home!), I arrived at Barlows Primary School in Fazakerley having only missed the meet and greet and first session.
There were two main things I was expecting from the day: information about setting up and managing 1:1 learning using tablets (or other platforms); and, given that it was held at a primary school, ideas on how to build on IT use in earlier key stages in order to develop our transition and build on their prior knowledge as they hit key stage 3 with us.
The first session I was there for was with Steve Moss (@stevmoss), which was exactly what I wanted to hear. Steve discussed, at length, how the planning and preparation for implementing 1:1 learning is crucial to success. He was quite clear that the platform is less important than the intended outcomes. It’s something for me to build in to my arguments with my school as they strive to become iOS-only in mobile learning, and I strive to include a range of platforms. I was pleasantly surprised to find that going by Steve’s method, I’m about half way through – exactly where I’d expect to be.
Following on from Steve was Amanda Anders from Roscoe Primary School, talking about their Ofsted journey from special measures to good, and how IT has played a part in their overall school improvement. Despite it being a case study from a primary school, I picked up several ideas and points for consideration as we move towards stripping out and replacing our infrastructure. I particularly liked her point about surrounding herself with ‘I can’ people, which is something I’ve had to do myself. It’s really important to acknowledge that different perspectives that others can bring to your vision and plans. It also helps when rolling out new software or hardware!
We then moved into the ‘speed dating’ section. I admit, here I was a little bored. It was heavily geared towards primary, as expected, but of the six vendors, one of them told me outright that they weren’t available for secondaries, and one (who I know does cater to secondary schools) simply ignored the fact that I said I was secondary and didn’t bother to show me how their product works for older students. There was another one that was strictly primary, but I actually really enjoyed his presentation and wanted to play with the software! I may have fangirled over the VII Network screen, but I wasn’t the only one!
What struck me, both during the session and later when several of us were discussing what we’d heard over lunch, was how easy it would be to get sucked into buying from some of these companies who charge exorbitant rates if you don’t know ways around things. In the course of about fifteen minutes, we came up with two alternatives to purchasing ebooks by the individual copy, and cheaper ways to mirror devices onto IWBs without using the expensive Apple TV option.
After lunch was a session I’d been looking forward to – John Rudkin (@AppleADE_UK) from Tablet Academy talking Apple vs Android vs Windows. Unfortunately, I was left feeling a little annoyed. John did declare his bias upfront (several times, in fact), and the fact that he’s an ADE gives it away as well. However, I was left feeling that you’re somehow doing something wrong by choosing Android over Apple. I don’t think it was necessarily intended that way, but making comments about how downloading third party apps on Android leaves you open to malware without also explaining that it’s an option that needs to be turned on (and therefore can be managed), or making it clear that you’re equally open to malware every time you use the internet on a PC, made it far from a fair presentation of options. As far as I’m concerned (someone who uses Apple at school – under duress – and Android at home – happily), that flexibility is a major positive, not a concern. In the same way that we teach students to stay safe online and to be good digital citizens, we should also be teaching them about how to protect their devices.
I really enjoyed the last formal session of the day – Nick Dempster and his year 6 students talking about how they use their iPads every day. Yes, I enjoyed hearing about their iPad use! As Steve Moss pointed out again in the panel discussion which ended the day, it’s not about the platform, but the creations. Students talked about how simple things like email make their learning easier – it was great to see them owning the technology and, as a result, owning their learning. It also reminded me that I was planning on using Aurasma, both to create a word wall and to create a bit of a ‘what we do’ for parent tours and open evening. Seeing 10 year olds do it today kind of kicked my backside into moving it up the priority list.
Thanks to Innovate My School for putting on the event. It’s certainly given me food for thought, and got me excited about stretching my technology use all over again.