Monday, 22 July 2013

Samsung Chromebook and Google Apps for Education

After having a trial of some earlier in the term, Rhws Primary School have now purchased a number of Samsung Series 3 Chromebooks to use with their pupils. I've been kindly lent one by the school over the summer break to 'try out'. They are very light-weight, have a good 11.5" screen, full sized keyboard, headphone socket, built in mic and web cam, along with two usb ports, a HDMI out and a SD card slot. Impressively it boots up from off in under 10 seconds, no frustrating time spent waiting while Windows loads up. They appear to be excellent value for money, the school paying under £200 for each Chromebook and £19 extra per device for the Chromebook management licenses. The licenses enable the school to manage the Chromebooks from the Google Apps for Education administration panel. This allows them to assign apps and profiles to different groups or individuals. A pupil or teacher from the school logs into the Chromebook using their school Google Apps for Edu username and password and is immediately logged into all their Google services.

A couple of things to bare in mind if you are looking to use these in your school. You can't install software on the device, these are designed to use web based apps only. Therefore you do need to have good wifi access to the internet. As with any new technology you wish to bring into your school, I would always recommend having an in-school trial first. Does it work well in your own school, and for your staff and your pupils?

It should be interesting to observe how these are used by pupils and staff in the new academic year. To ensure full use is made of the various Google tools the school is making changes to the ICT curriculum highlighting the opportunities to teachers where Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides can be used.

I've made a video that you can view below showing the Chromebook and talking about how it ties in with the school's Google Apps for Education accounts.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The Impact of ICT on Pupils' Learning in Primary Schools - Estyn Report

The report shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has been involved with ICT school improvement. Estyn have held up the mirror and confirmed what we already very much knew. It was quite a coincidence that I blogged about the need for a robust, reliable and resilient infrastructure within schools last Thursday evening, and then woke to a BBC Wales breakfast news report saying that this was the main finding of Estyn's report - spooky! For me, the other main highlight of their findings concerns the lack of ICT vision in most schools. Again, this is something that we have been finding in our recent discussions with schools. Even in schools who budget well and sustainably for ICT there is often a lack of vision around what they want ICT to achieve in their school, and very rarely (if ever) the impact it has on standards.

Here are my interpretations of the Estyn main findings. A primary school who uses ICT well would be one where:

- Pupils develop a full range of ICT skills by the end of KS2 (to include data handling and modelling).
- They use ICT to stretch the more able and talented.
- Pupils apply the skills learned in ICT lessons in other subjects.
- They use ICT to improve literacy standards in reading.
- They use video filming, editing and animation to improve pupils’ oracy, presentation, research and writing skills.
- They can show a link between the use of ICT and an improvement in standards.

Teaching and Learning
- Teachers use ICT to engage and enthuse pupils.
- Teachers are confident to deliver ICT the full range of the ICT programme of study in KS2.
- The ICT SoW is implemented effectively across the school.
- They assess and track pupils’ ICT skills against the NC.
- They have a good understanding of ICT standards.

Leadership and Management
- They have a clear vision for ICT.
- They have a clear determination to improve staff capacity, planning and provision for ICT.
- They ensure that all staff have the competence and confidence to use ICT well.
- They ensure there are opportunities for staff development in ICT that meets the learning needs of the pupils.
- They have an ICT plan that priorities key developments.
- They rigorously evaluate the effectiveness of their ICT plan against the impact on the pupils’ ICT or literacy and numeracy skills.
- They take a baseline assessment of pupils’ ICT skills before implementing a project or initiative.
- In Welsh language schools they take the decision to turn on the Welsh language interfaces of key software

At the risk of sounding 'old school' to some people - engage with the NAACE self review framework. By fully engaging in the SRF all these Estyn findings get addressed. Nothing should then be a surprise to you when Estyn come knocking on your door.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Rhws Primary Online - Google Apps for Education Pt4

As discussed in previous posts, much of first year of using Google Apps for Education at Rhws Primary School, has been focussed on the teachers use of the platform and helping them to gain the skills and confidence in working in this particular way. Therefore the school wanted to gather some information from them to find out what had worked well, what not so well, future CPD needs and general thoughts about its use.

The questions were devised and then easily built using Google Forms which was shared with the teachers. The web form was submitted online and the results automatically populated into a Google Spreadsheet for analysis. A summary of responses is also automatically created, some of which you can see at the end of this blog.

A couple of questions from the online questionnaire
The results from the questionnaire have proved to be very positive from the teaching staff and will give the senior leadership team ideas on how to further develop the platform and support the staff in its use.

Here's a sample of some of the comments provided by the staff in the questionnaire:

"Obviously takes time to become accustomed to new technology but it has made so many things much easier. Reports have been so much more straight forward and the planning is easier to share and collaborate with others."

"Very user-friendly. Even if I've missed the training (part-timers!!) the apps are easy to navigate. Icons/menus are self-explanatory."

"Excellent for Own Learning - reviewing, planning, creating (sometimes collaboratively), sharing and presenting. Pupils absolutely love (and benefit from) the collaborative capabilities of Rhws Online. There has been a significant increase in the levels of participation among ALL pupils in my class when they are allowed to work collaboratively (in pairs, or larger groups) on one single piece of work. They also thoroughly enjoy using the 'instant messenger' tool to communicate both in school, during lessons, and at home. As well, their individual ICT capabilities, skills and confidence has also shown a marked improvement. They are using all the different functions (apps) on their Rhws Online accounts confidently, independently and for a real purpose."

"have had a bit of a steep learning curve, and initially had problems accessing everything because of computer or software compatibility, however now I could not be without it. I am still learning and am slowly starting to use more and more of the features. Communication is so much easier now!"

"It is easy to use and is a brilliant tool to enable collaboration and instant communication."

The following are screen shots showing a summary of the results:

Thursday, 11 July 2013

The Future is in the Cloud - as long as you have the infrastructure

I've been thinking about the cloud in education for some time, hence my posts about Google Apps for Edu or Microsoft 365. So it was with interest that I read this blog post by Matt Britland titled "What is the future of technology in education?" In the post Matt proposes that the future of technology in education "is in the cloud". I tend to agree with nearly all that he says in the post. Freely available core tools available from any device, anytime, anywhere. Alongside online storage in the form of Google Drive or Skydrive. As Matt says, schools "will not need software installed, servers or local file storage." I'm sure certain large cost savings can be made by schools, along with removing the stress many of them feel in trying to maintain and upgrade a traditional server network. If a school also looks at the option of subscribing to some online content or tools providers that support specific areas of the curriculum, filling in any gaps in coverage, then most of the ICT tools for a school (especially a primary school) are covered. BYOD becomes easier to manage. Devices don't have to be connected to the schools internal network, and the security issues associated with that. Any web enabled device could be brought in and connected to the internet to access the relevant tools and services through an appropriately filtered connection. Everything delivered through the web.

Sound wonderful, yes? However, the caveat to working this way is that schools will need a robust, resilient and reliable infrastructure, along with a quick internet connection. I'm currently visiting primary schools around SE Wales and infrastructure and internet connectivity is a concern of many of the schools. It is very difficult for me to engage head teachers in conversations about how technology can enhance learning and teaching, help improve their organisation and management processes, when the technology is just so unreliable or doesn't work. Hopefully the Learning in Digital Wales (LiDW grant) from Welsh Government will deliver some of the necessary infrastructure improvements needed to local authorities and schools.

"We want Wales to be a world leader in digital learning, therefore we need to be able to offer our schools fast, consistent and reliable broadband services," said First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones.  

We certainly do. In the autumn term the Welsh Government will begin its roll out of the Hwb+ learning platform to schools. Lets hope all our schools are in a postion to maximise the potential of working in the cloud.