- Work with your IT Management to form a list of working apps for your whole school.
- Create an Audit for teachers that gauges the strengths and weaknesses of the apps your school uses.
- Use this data to create a forward strategy based on evidence.
- Repeat this audit every year to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of your strategy.
Imagine this scenario: You arrive at your new school, keen to share your resources with your new department. After sitting through the induction presentations and taking notes like an absolute trooper, you finally walk into your Department for the first time….
And smash headlong into a full A4 page of websites and passwords. And this is just for your department. Someone, at some point, heard the phrase “There’s an app for that” and took it to be the school’s digital vision.
Your heart sinks a little.
Your departmental introduction has morphed from sharing teaching and learning practice into bookmarking the new platforms onto your new device which, incidentally, is completely different to the one that your old school trained you on.
Educational technology is a booming industry, one which teachers and students have jumped upon to teach, learn and communicate in ever more creative and effective ways.
This has created an almost impenetrable tangle of online resources, with varying different levels of compatibility in one school. If each of your 14 departments subscribe to applications independently, this jungle of digital resources threatens to quickly sap your school’s digital funding, stifle teacher creativity and lose your students attention during the lessons because they have forgotten their login details for “your” app.
This was the story of our school at the beginning of last year. My long term goal for my school is to prune this jungle to allow creativity and education to flourish, supported by educational technology. We do not want our students lost in our digital environment, we want them to become confident digital leaders. And we want our lessons to be supported, and not lead, by digital learning!
The benchmark for using an app or platform in your daily teaching practice is that it would enhance learning and save the teacher time.
I got an awful lot of help for this from people both in and out of my school. It is always important to seek the advice of people wiser and more experienced. they provided me with the sharp machetes needed to prune our jungle! So, I will always be so grateful to Paul Crossley and his team at Learn IT Academy (@LearnIT_Academy) for their advice on the questions I needed to ask and how it could be delivered to our school.
The first step for this was to create a digital Audit to discover:
- The official function of each app.
2. What the teachers are actually using it for.
3. Their perceived ease of use compared to the function.
4. How often the teacher uses the app.
5. Whether the teacher views the app as a time saver or time drainer.
I mentioned earlier that our school’s digital environment was like a jungle.
In total, from Early Years to Year 13, our IT Management had records of us subscribing to 83 separate platforms. That is 83 separate logins for a child from EY to Year 13
Step One: Find out who’s using what.
Through sorting out the main users of each app, we contacted Heads of Phases and Departments with our lists of apps. Happily they confirmed that some of the apps were no longer being used.
Our Digital jungle was quite considerably thinned to our top 54 apps.
Step two: Select the platforms you want to focus on.
Of these 54 platforms, we selected the platforms that had a direct effect on the whole school teaching and learning of the students or the daily best practice of the teachers. Therefore, apps such as Nearpod and our Learning Management System was included, however platforms such as History Today was not. For the subject specific apps, it was important that those departments made those professional judgement calls on the impact of that app.
We are now down to 32 apps that could have a direct impact on whole school teaching and learning.
Step three: Create the Audit.
The Longest step!
I created an interactive form for all teachers to have a say on every app.
It was very important to get as many teacher as possible from Early Years to Year 13 to complete the form. Therefore I had to make it as pain free as possible.
I created the form using Microsoft Forms. The same can also be done on Google Forms, or Survey Monkey if you are not a Microsoft or Google school.
I also created a separate mini audit of the platform that all the students were expected to use: Our VLE. I created this survey on Survey Monkey
I will provide information on the questions and how and why I built the questionnaires on different platforms in another post.
Step four: Deliver the Audit and collect the information
Before giving out this questionnaire to all teachers, I held a whole staff meeting which explained why we were completing the Audit and what the data was going to be used for in the coming academic year. We completed the Audit during the beginning half of the second term. This gave us plenty of time to analyse the data and devise a software strategy for the coming year.
I gave two weeks for teachers to complete the audit. and one week for students. This lined up with distributing the findings of the audit three weeks after in another whole staff meeting.
The conclusion of this Digital Audit was that we had a clearer picture of the foundations of our school. From this, our Digital Vision and Digital Strategy was born.
I do look forward to this April, where we will be repeating this whole process in order to tweak our existent Digital Strategy to accommodate the needs of our school.