About six weeks ago, along with my colleague Laura Davies, we were very busy planning for the second five week digital education course that Aspire2Be delivers as part of The Ospreys Education Programme. Almost without blinking, the five weeks have come and gone on what was another incredibly rewarding and satisfying course, both for Laura and me as trainers, but far more importantly, for the teachers who attended.
But how do we know that? How can I confidently say that the teachers found the course of benefit? Well, over the five weekly sessions, as a trainer, you certainly get a chance to get to know your delegates and chat to them and pick up the general vibe. Fortunately, that vibe was positive from day one and largely, that is achieved by following the Aspire2Be mantra – Engage, Inspire, Enthuse. It is always with this objective in mind that Laura and I approach our training and, as a result, we work hard to ensure our sessions are as engaging and enjoyable as possible, and this is certainly the feeling we got during the sessions. However, the only real way we can confidently be guided as to whether we have achieved our aim is by gaining more formal feedback from the teachers concerned.
We use an application (app) called iTunesU as a repository for all the apps and content that we deliver over the whole programme. This app becomes the project book for the delegates who can access an overview of each session and then review it on a weekly basis. It also contains a link to tutorials of the apps delivered, examples of the content created by the apps and links to the App Store for app purchasing purposes if desired. However, one of the key elements of iTunesU is the feedback option. At the end of each session, we open a discussion where the delegates can leave their feedback electronically, and importantly, they have the option to leave it anonymously if they so wish. We encourage them to be open and honest as we don’t just want to hear about the good things, we also need to hear about any things that we can improve upon.
We analyse the feedback immediately after each session, to ensure that anything that needs attention is dealt with instantly, it is a vitally important part of ensuring that the training remains effective, relevant and above all, successful and of benefit to the delegates.
On checking the feedback each week, it is quite easy to then gauge the effectiveness of our training and identify any trends. Over the five weeks of this latest Ospreys programme, three key messages kept recurring, and frankly, I couldn’t be more pleased, these were: cross curricular use of apps; increased confidence by the teachers in using the technology in the classroom, and; an overall enjoyment of attending every week and taking part in the process of learning the new apps. This is exactly what Laura and I hoped for, right at the very start of the programme.
In Week One of the course, Laura and I focussed on the links of Literacy and Numeracy in the Ospreys Schools programme and in particular, prepared the teachers for the impending players visits to their schools by Ospreys players, sessions in which they were to be interviewed by the children. To ensure the very best work would be delivered by the children, we showcased Popplet, Thinglink, Wordfoto and Shadow Puppet as the apps that would best help this work in terms of aiding research and arranging that research into structured question bases. It was important when managing and delivering this session that we, as trainers, understood the needs and demands of the delegates and did not fall into the trap of “app overload” as all this would succeed in doing would be to damage the confidence of the reluctant user of technology. With this in mind, we always ensure that we build in as much hands on usage time as possible for the delegates so that they can really get to grips with the apps. We have found over the years that this is an area that most educators are grateful for, time to practice. Thankfully, the feedback certainly reflected our desire to ensure confidence was built, that the cross curricular dimension was explored and also that an enjoyable forum was created:
Selected Feedback Week One
“Really useful apps. Some will be particularly helpful with moderation as we’ve been looking for ways to share our oracy presentations. The QR codes will definitely help with this.”
“Really useful Apps to use across the curriculum. Thank you.”
“Thank you from a nervous iPad user!”
“Absolutely fantastic course. Two excellent people who were engaging and patient. I can’t wait to go back to show my colleagues , because I have been able to follow all instructions with ease. thank you very much, can’t wait for next week.”
I can’t over emphasise the importance of reading feedback as positive as this. It is vitally important that we as trainers know we are on the right track and that we can continue to monitor our progress as service deliverers in such a positive way.
Week Two of the course was when we shifted focus from numeracy and literacy into the important area of Health and Well Being, a pillar that is core to the Ospreys vision of education for their younger supporters. For this session we focussed on the following apps: Book Creator, Socrative, Comic Life and Pages and in particular, how these apps could be used creatively to deliver a positive and relevant message linked to Health and Well Being.
The feedback was again extremely encouraging, and in particular, an interest in Socrative, an excellent app for use in the Assessment for Learning (AFL) was mentioned by almost all of the delegates. This enabled us to discuss this important topic with the delegates the following week, and as a result, we changed the course and created a bespoke session in week five, where we focussed entirely on AFL and gave several other digital options for engaging with the children in this important area of assessment and evidence gathering.
Selected Feedback Week Two
“Had a fab morning. Loved the Socrative app. A wonderful app for AFL.”
“Another good range of apps which can be used across the curriculum well!”
“Excellent session, can’t wait to go back to school, children have a busy afternoon. Socrative will be an excellent assessment tool and fun. Thank you.”
“Another great week of informative and creative apps that will change the way we do things in our school.”
In terms of welcome feedback, it is probably the last quote that is most pleasing for me. When we read that what the delegates are learning with us is, in turn, influencing positive change at their schools, then we know we are getting something right.
Week Three of the course is a very important one for the both us at Aspire2Be and the Ospreys as it explains how the Stadium Tour has now been transformed into a true digital tour, where we utilise the very latest in iBeacon technology to create a “live” digital environment, that really enhances the learning opportunities for the children during their tour of the home of The Ospreys, the Liberty Stadium. In addition to the iBeacon technology, we provide instruction on the use of a key app that basically allows the tour to be delivered in tandem with the iBeacons via a digital classroom. The app concerned is called Seesaw. This app is one that is starting to change the way education is being delivered. It is basically a digital learning journal where the work of the children can be delivered individually or collectively by being uploaded by the pupil to the teacher’s digital Seesaw classroom, of which the pupils are members. Not only does this help the teacher with regard to assessment and evidence gathering, importantly, it also allows the teacher the option of sharing the work of the children with parents, via the parental part of the app, or with the wider community via the blog section of the app.
Unsurprisingly, Seesaw had a very positive impact on the teachers.
Selected Feedback Week Three
“Terrific ideas again. Seesaw looks like the future of AFL and fun! Thanks both.”
“Great apps, particularly Seesaw. Will be using that. Thank you.”
“Can see lots of opportunities for using Seesaw, looking forward to our stadium visit.”
At Aspire2Be, we also use Seesaw as the basis of our Ambassador programme, more of which can be seen here.
For Week Four, the emphasis moved into the science and technology of rugby, and allowed us to use the actual training data of Ospreys players in order to make the presentation and understanding of performance data and the science behind it to come alive. The apps showcased in week four were Numbers (spreadsheets), Infographics for Pages, Skitch, Coaches Eye and Explain Everything. The powerful message of this session was how – using the same base data for each app – data can be presented in a myriad of ways, depending on the desire of the student and the expectation of the audience. Reflecting again on “Engage, Inspire and Enthuse” it really allows reluctant learners to be creative with their data presentation, and lift what can be perceived as a dull exercise into a very creative and engaging one. This approach has the added benefit of the student really understanding and then being able to tell the story behind the data, rather than just regurgitating a list of numbers into graphs and tables. Again, the response from the teachers was extremely positive!
Selected Feedback Week Four
“Going to take a full week next week to introduce as many of the apps as possible to Key Stage 2 in preparation for starting our theme. Absolutely excellent instructions given as how to use the apps and ideas of where to implement them. Skitch looks like an interesting and versatile app. So far the children have used Thinklink, Popplet, Comic Life and Seesaw with excellent work produced.”
“More amazing possibilities explained superbly. Am looking forward to using Coach’s Eye with my sports teams…The next Dan Biggar is about to be unearthed!”
“I am soooooo excited to go back to school. I can’t believe how much I have learnt with yourselves. You have developed my confidence within delivering and developing ICT thank you.”
Again, one of the most pleasing comments was the last one that focussed on confidence. It’s my simple view that you can learn as much as you want about apps and technology, but if you don’t develop the confidence required to use them to their full capability in class for the benefit of the children, then you will probably fail.
In Week Five, we delivered our bespoke AFL session, where we focussed on apps that assist in helping teachers gauge the learning progress of pupils in a meaningful but fun and engaging way, which also provide the answer to that very 21st century demand – data and evidence. The apps we featured were Showbie, Padlet, Kahoot and Plickers. Without going in to too much detail, Showbie is an app where teachers can set up a classroom digitally, which allows them to issue and assess tasks in the form of assignments. It is a two-way process that allows dialogue with the student – a very powerful tool. Padlet is a brilliant app that encourages collaboration and peer to peer assessment in an extremely engaging way, that also allows the teacher to understand where students are in terms of learning at any point in time, across any particular topic. Kahoot and Plickers are similar to Socrative in that they are quiz based apps that allow students to have fun in their learning, without realising that they are actually being assessed. Kahoot is a favourite because of its inherent engaging, competitive and fun interface, where Plickers is a brilliant tool if you are a school that operates without enough devices to have one each as it can be run across a class of 30 children from just one mobile device. Like Socrative, Kahoot and Plickers both have functionality that allow the downloading of a spreadsheet with all student responses in order that their work can be assessed and evidenced away from the lesson. The teacher’s feedback of week five again reflected the useful nature of this specific session on AFL.
Selected Feedback Week Five
“More great apps introduced today. Particularly like Kahoot, Showbie and Padlet for discussion. Will try these out.”
“The last 5 weeks has provided me with a fantastic array of new apps and ideas. All will help to engage and enhance the learning in my classroom. The pupils have already responded positively to the new possibilities and they are running with things already. The likes of Seesaw and Showbie have revolutionised the way homework, AFL and communication can be developed in school and at home. Thank you both for all the wonderful ideas. Your expertise and experience has been invaluable in explaining the possibilities in relevant and up to date ways.”
“Whole course been amazing. So many fantastic apps that are so useful in class and the children have loved using.”
“Fabulous apps once again, can definitely use Kahoot – easy to set up, Padlet will support my planning with the children, children will be able to see what they would like to contribute straight away. Children have used Popplet and Thinglink successfully and have thought that Photospeak was hilarious. Confidence has grown over the past few weeks, thank you.”
Again, at the risk of labouring the point, the confidence issue referred to in the final piece of feedback is key. Educators understand that largely, the digital world is the home of the student, not necessarily the experienced teacher, and this fear of the student suddenly knowing more than the teacher is very real for many educators. One of my main aims in my training, is for teachers to embrace this, and go with the flow a bit more – education is changing and we all have to adapt. But, and this is an important but, the teacher will always be a step ahead, if they can ensure that the technology they deliver, whether it is app based or otherwise, is delivered from a base of sound, tried and tested pedagogy, relevant to both the student and the curriculum and delivered in an engaging and inspirational manner.
I’m quite confident that in this latest Ospreys Education programme, we at Aspire2Be have helped an excellent group of teachers achieve just that. How do I know?
Simple really, it’s all in the feedback.