Maintaining impact and momentum is a difficult goal to accomplish in any element of life, be it work or play. Initially, you experience an overwhelming sense of enthusiasm and believe you can drastically change your impact on whatever the focus of your attention may be on. You then begin to implement the many different ways you will achieve said goal, using a whole host of tools that have been made available to you. However, your initial enthusiasm may then begin to wane; other things need doing and before long, you realise that the impact that could have been achieved takes a back seat. As a teacher, I experienced this all too often and it was particularly prevalent when I had received a new initiative or idea that I was adamant would have lasting impact.
In my role as Programme Manager for Aspire2Be, I have recently worked with a host of wonderful teachers and Learning Support Assistants (LSAs) on the Isle of Guernsey. As a company, we have been asked to design and deliver a continual professional development program focussed on the use of technology and how it can provide a sustained impact across schools on the island. Phase 1 began in the Spring term and before I continue I have to say, what a hugely rewarding and exciting project it is to be a part of. The vision that the States of Guernsey has for their schools is not only inspiring but refreshing, and has allowed us as a company to work with them collaboratively to implement state wide change.
Before we proceed, allow me to take a few steps back. After initial discussions, naturally the next stage was to plan and it prompted me to reflect on previous endeavours in the classroom and to ask why some ideas were more successful than others.
What are the key factors that will determine whether we achieve long lasting impact?
How can we ensure that change is scaffolded so that every one can contribute?
What will this impact look like?
As ex educators, we pride ourselves on being able to provide something that most other education technology companies cannot – relevant experience and impact across every level of education. The company was formed on the basis that we are not an IT company but an education company. Technology is of course at the heart of what we do but it is driven by teaching and learning. From my perspective, I of course want to ensure that training has purpose and inspires but more importantly, it has to have long lasting impact or it will inevitably fade into obscurity as another ‘it could have been great…’ moment.
Our work with Guernsey educators is based upon a model where the skills and knowledge that staff develop will form a network of expertise on the island that can then be disseminated to others in their schools. Both teachers and LSAs will attend to ensure that there is coverage to everyone within a school and, prior to this, leadership teams will have undergone extensive ed tech reviews and strategic workshops so that training can be delivered in line with their school wide objectives. Not an easy task but one we were hugely excited about.
With a model such as this, where you rely on attendees to train others at their school, there is always a risk that it eventually becomes lost. The never ending list of other tasks (that every educator will be familiar with) can get in the way and stifle progress. For us, this had to be planned for and addressed as part of the CPD we delivered in phase 1. Ultimately, our skills lie not only in the delivery, but our ability to guide and advise based on our own experience of implementing change in various educational institutions.
In conjunction with the States of Guernsey, in particular Lucy Witham (Education Development Officer) we developed a two week programme where we would work with teachers and LSAs to develop the use of Google Apps for Education (GAFE) as a key teaching and learning tool. Additionally, there would be an opportunity for teachers to enrol in a PGCert qualification through the University of South Wales with potential for teaching placements to be established in Guernsey and South Wales as part of initial teacher training.
We began phase 1 in the Spring and on a sunny Monday morning, we were welcomed by Victor Lane (IT advisory teacher for Guernsey) who made us feel most welcome. As an educator on the island for many years, it was a pleasure to work with him throughout the week and being able to call upon someone of his knowledge meant we had a direct line to the needs of the staff we were working with. Soon after, our first group of LSAs arrived, many of whom were slightly anxious about the week. They had little experience of not only GAFE but technology beyond the typical Office based packages.
This week was all about developing confidence in the use of Google apps and delegates engaged in a variety of contextualised scenarios around teaching and learning. Before this, we established a base line by reflecting on current practice:
What type of communication systems do we use internally?
How do we communicate with other schools/agencies?
How do we communicate with parents?
How do we communicate with students?
How do we showcase learning for a wider audience?
Teachers also completed the same task so that all could see the benefits of cloud based collaboration. Our emphasis here was clear: there is huge potential to change the ways in which we work as well as the learning opportunities we provide for students. With the pressure that educators experience, we are passionate about changing workflow patterns and demonstrating ways we can work that little bit smarter. Over the course of 3 themed days, staff completed school based scenarios and, for those who wished, the opportunity to achieve Google Certified Educator Level 1. This was the icing on the cake for some and whilst it wasn’t the aim for the week, it was certainly a nice achievement to toast over the weekend!
Week 2 began with a slightly different focus for our LSAs, as there was a desire for training on the effective use of iPads. Whilst Martyn Hancock (Aspire2Be Technical Manager), joined me to plan and deliver the training for week 1, it was Dave Brayley (Aspire2Be Senior Trainer), who did the same for week 2. Over the course of the week, Dave took our group of LSAs through a select choice of apps with a specific focus:
Developing Oracy – Concept consolidation
Assessment for Learning – Planning for intervention
Cross curricular learning – Apps to Inspire
We are very particular about not only the software we use, but also the number of apps we focus on. We insist on providing time for deep reflection as well as exploration. It is clear from the educators we work with (and also our own experiences) that too much in one hit just gets lost. We focus on no more that 2 to 3 apps per session – any more than that and the momentum and enthusiasm is easily lost. Along with the learning.
For the teachers, they had the week to think about how they would implement GAFE to influence their roles and more poignantly, a specific element of their teaching. The saying ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ is a saying for reason, and one that every educator should think about when it comes to using technology. Start small and work up. This was you can ensure your goals are measurable and are achieving the objectives you started with. Consequently, each teacher chose 1 or 2 points from their school development plan, linked it to an areas within their own classroom and pedagogy, before creating an action plan and resources to help achieve it. We concluded the week with every member of staff presenting to their peers on their plans so that everyone could benefit from discussion and collaboration.
We are delighted with the feedback and extremely proud that our training can have such impact on educators’ working lives. Moreover, inspiring them to want to push boundaries with their pedagogy inspires our willingness to improve what we do; however, the real feedback is what takes place back in school. Often feedback can hide the actual learning, or indeed lack of learning, that has taken place and needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. We can only be sure something is successful when the feedback relates to long lasting impact, otherwise, it can only ever be a reflection of a single moment. Our aim is to ensure that the feedback we receive will be similar in coming months or years, not days.
Phase 1 has come and gone and we are now working on phase 2 ready for September. This will be similar to the previous phase but with a few tweaks based on suggestions and requirements from the educators we worked with. Every educator should reflect, adapt, and adjust based on the resulting impact of their work and we do exactly the same. We are excited to begin the next leg and to see how our guidance has impacted not only teaching and learning but, most importantly, how they are collaborating to spread this impact between schools. After all, no school is an island…..