Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Walking down Waterloo Road…again

I admit it – Waterloo Road is my guilty pleasure… but I’d managed to abstain for a couple of years until I succumbed again last night.
Yet again the educational technology issues came thick and fast… good product placement from Promethean continues! Two issues ‘dealt with' related to storylines that have apparently run for a while – the cyberbullying of a girl via text & social media and the ‘gaming addiction’ of the son of the headteacher (Neil Pearson of ‘Drop the Dead Donkey’ fame)'s.
Bonnie Kincaid: Victim of Cyber-bullying
Given that the show aired the day before Safer Internet Day you could praise the writers for tackling these themes… but then…  
The way in which the cyberbullying was dealt with included some good advice – change your number, take screenshots, don’t reply were all worthy but the seeming failure to engage expert, professional advice such as contacting CEOP meant that chances at resolution were dispensed with in order to give free rein to dramatic license. 
That plot device enabled the headteacher to ask his ‘gaming addicted’ son to give him some advice about how he could protect the girl’s phone.  Of more concern the girl then handed over phone and laptop to said son – and PIN and PASSWORD – without… in this episode anyway… any significant warning or denouement as a result.

In future stories (if only they weren't canning the show this year ) I'd be looking forward to see how Waterloo Road deals with parents being asked to buy an iPad (other devices are available) for a BYOD project… would have been fun…  protests... deprivation pleas... theft (by students, local muggers, wholesale clear-out by organised crime syndicate)... fears of multiple wifi-caused maladies... devices not working and Ofsted-observed lessons being ruined ..... but then that's real life...

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Monday, 20 January 2014

I'm being stalked...

It happens every day. I am being stalked by the phrase BYOD: Bring your Own Device. There are emails, promotional leaflets, marketing merchandise, phone calls… in fact I’ve just received another one asking if my school has ‘…joined the BYOD movement yet?’

I’ve spent over 15 years working on projects that have aimed to place powerful computing devices in the hands of pupils for them to use as tools to maximise their learning and achievement. That’s from the first strains of Microsoft’s Martini Learning in 1998 to a 2000 device roll-out in two Academies in East Sussex.

Those years have given me plenty of time to think not only about the practicalities of such schemes, but also the ethics of such initiatives. I’ve outlined some moral principles below which need to be considered before a school launches such a scheme. These principles may conflict and there’s no guarantee that you and school project teams won’t have differing perspectives on them.

Does the potential good of the scheme outweigh the negatives?
To think about: do BYOD programmes achieve the benefits for learning , achievement and development that are claimed for them? And what do we need to do to ensure that they do

Does a student’s right to bring their device infringe the rights of others for whom it has consequences?
To think about: how can the student’s right not to ‘power down’ their use of ICT whilst at school not infringe a teacher’s right to direct to what takes place in their classrooms?

Is the scheme you are considering fair and does it promote equality?
To think about: what are you going to do enable all students to participate? Subsidise? Hardship grants? Provide school loan devices?

How does the scheme promote your responsibility to care for your students?
To think about: does your scheme increase the vulnerability of your students to physical threat, cyber-bullying and how can you guard against those issues?

How can your scheme promote positive virtues?
To think about: how can your BYOD programme encourage the right sort of behaviour from students?

Trying to turn back time and tide – imagine a Cher-lookalike playing King Canute – is not an option… but we need to ensure that we are engaging with these ethical issues as well as the practical ones that must be resolved before we  ‘…join the BYOD movement…’

This blog was derived from a presentation made at the Edexec Live: ICT Matters conference in November 2013

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Thursday, 28 February 2013

(in the style of Spartacus: I am a school governor!)

So some honesty... I am a school governor. The Secretary of State and the HMCI need to know that I am neither a hero ... nor a villain. Like many school governors I have a multiplicity of work commitments as well as other community commitments (oh... and a family...) and I acknowledge that there is more that I could do to support the school where I am currently 'governing'. To do more for the school I would have to do less elsewhere and withdraw my participation in the two charities for whom I am a Trustee.

If I was paid for my governing, as some have suggested, it would not draw me away from those other responsibilities because I am passionately committed to those things as well and would not abandon them for a 'mess of potage'. I also believe the school benefits from everything else I'm involved with and would fear that professionalising my input might actually reduce the richness of its value.

I know that the leadership of the school needs both challenge and support from me as a 'critical friend' ... and that's what I do ... but I understand the Head needs to know she has my 100% support before - and as - and after - I bring the challenge.

So do I like the new dashboard... yes...I'm an at-a-glance, grab-the-big-picture person so it works for me and does the job that all data should do... prompts the 'why?' question.

However the $64k question is: Will the new dashboard help me do my governing job... Answer: No. It is a mere 'skimming the surface' of a school profile... yes a mile-o-meter and speedometer... but no warning lights, no fuel gauge, no rev counter...it's telling me what has happened and if it comes out in February every year there's a danger that looking that far back in the rear-view mirror might take our gaze off the road in front of this year's cohort...Our Head already works on providing us with a detailed dashboard at every Standards and  Achievement Committee meeting, and updates it with 'live 'data for any and every time she meets with a group of Governors. That's useful!

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Tuesday, 29 January 2013

My BETT 2013 Seminar: Governors & ICT

Steve Warburton’s BETT 2013 session, ‘Everything governors should know about ICT but might be ‘afraid’ to ask’, will be held in Learn Live Theatre C from 15.15 -16.00 on Thursday 31 January 2013

 What school governors should know about ICT, but are afraid to ask

Governorship is built upon the principle that anybody can be a school governor. It’s a role that does not require
professional qualifications, A*-Cs in GCSE maths and English, serving an apprenticeship or even re-election in some categories. It is actually a triumph of priceless, passionate and committed volunteerism in a world where there is a price-tag on everything.

Schools spend around £250m a year on ICT (Source: British Educational Suppliers’ Association ICT (BESA) in UK State Schools 2012). Often it is the most significant element of a school’s nonbuilding capital expenditure and, says BESA, as a percentage of the budget it is increasing year-on-year. Governors sign the cheque for that expenditure but often know very little about ICT, especially in an educational setting.

Why should governors know something about ICT?
Whenever I’m asked what a school governor does, I try and summarise the role as ‘challenging and supporting the school’s leadership to help them develop the best possible school for the children who go there.’ I think it is very difficult to fulfil both aspects of this role – the challenge and the support - in relation to ICT without understanding some key principles about ICT in education. What follow are some examples of questions
gathered from governors in my own recent survey. These are all questions that they had not asked at governing
body meetings when they discussed the issue of ICT expenditure and use.

How much does it really cost?
Issues here include not only the initial outlay involved in the expenditure, but also total cost of ownership
(TCO) of licensing, service, support and consumables over the life of the equipment or software purchased. There is also the ‘what will it cost if you delay or don’t spend at all?’ question, either in terms of negative effects on your school,  or potential increased future costs.

I saw the Panorama TV programme in September. So are all leases to be avoided?
The Panorama programme shone a spotlight on companies that set out to take advantage of schools and tie them to extremely disadvantageous contracts for technology equipment. Schools were tempted by ‘too good to be true’ deals that were indeed, too good! 149 schools were duped, but they were preyed upon by companies who knew about the increasing strictures on school spending and the demise of technology-focused
funding since 2010. But not all leases are bad; schools need to know of the very clear and helpful guidelines released by BECTA pre-2010, and since by the DfE.

Does it make a difference to the achievement of pupils?
This is a crucial question for governors who are required by Ofsted to answer the ‘impact’ question for all that happens in school. Research across the last two decades suggests that in particular situations, the use of ICT has had a direct and significant impact on children’s achievement, but this significant impact cannot necessarily be repeated across all schools in any situation. Even if the impact cannot be directly and conclusively proven, the question has to be asked, ‘what would have happened to achievement if we had not spent money on ICT in the classroom?’

Other questions include:
Does it have an impact on pupils’ futures?
What’s more important, infrastructure or devices?
We spent a lot of money on ICT in 2007, why is the headteacher asking for as much again in 2012?
Why should teachers have an iPad?
Is it possible to ‘go green’ and save money on ICT?
Will we be able to afford it in the future?
So many questions, that I won’t be afraid to answer on Thursday afternoon of Bett 2013.

Steve Warburton’s session, ‘Everything governors should know about ICT but might be ‘afraid’ to ask’, will be held in Learn Live Theatre C from 15.15 -16.00 on Thursday 31 January 2013

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Tuesday, 9 October 2012

BYOD: A View from the Rucksack


Decided to make a habit of tongue-in-cheek contributions to the NAACE Technology in Education Advice Network publications,,, this time on BYOD. Restricted to 350 words so it's a bit of a caricature but here goes...

Day 1
Whoa… what happened then… it’s 8.10am and I’ve just been picked up (put in my case…there’s a turn-up) and put in Digit’s rucksack. Apart from a quick email/facebook check in the morning I usually have a good sleep during the day! Maybe this is why he put me on charge last night!

Day 1 – Later…but still too early…
I’m in school with Digit! Bit of a false start though because he got me out in French to use an online translator but although we could find the wifi signal, it was encrypted and no-one seemed to know what to do apart from send us to the ICT guys. They told Digit what the code was – and moaned about ‘teachers not reading their emails because if they had done then…,’ and didn’t they ‘predict that this would happen and it’d be more work for them…’

Was a relief to get out of the rucksack – I was next to last week’s sweaty rugby sock – and properly take part in a History lesson. I sat on the desk at the beginning and Digit fiddled with my on-off button a couple of times and did some nervous practice swipes before the teacher glared at him. I got into action – Wikipedia, then putting the details into a Timeline app - when they were working in groups. Teacher had to come round and see what Digit had been doing on me though, as there was no way of sharing me on his projector display.

Day 1 – Later still 
Didn’t escape from the rucksack for the Maths lesson… teacher said something about no need for those ‘new fangled’ things to learn in his lesson. But Science was another story… I know Digit normally struggles with Science but he fairly flew through this lesson and I was worked really hard…his partner was using another type of B-Y-O (apparently it’s our codename) and we couldn’t transfer info at first but they decided to log in to a shared Google doc and they were sorted! Digit said it was his best ever experiment write-up!

Day 1… still going strong…
Was in an assembly and overheard a teacher talking about the ‘temptations of B-Y-O’… apparently they’re very worried about Digit and his mates being targeted by people who want to steal us B-Y-Os (would appreciate someone explaining what that means…) …still, don’t think that will dissuade Digit from bring me to school… it’s the end of the easy life for me…

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Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Moving On Up... in the Cloud...

As a member of the NAACE Technology in Education Advice Network, I was invited to contribute to their first 'Guidance' document on cloud computing... With my tongue firmly in my cheek, I wrote the following in response to the question they posed... 

There is much talk of schools using free online systems or 'cloud computing' to replace software and systems that they have previously bought. There are pros and cons involved in doing this. What are the key questions schools should be asking before making such a move?

Exactly. There’s much TALK about it… if I was a Head of a School considering ‘the cloud’, I'd first try and find out exactly what it's all about... surely someone's written an article I can understand somewhere...

Next the question: ‘Has anybody already been and DONE it? And what do they say about it? And not just in the short-term or at the school where the hardware supplier has invested to prove the concept!

Who’s already taken the leap of faith from a system where I can tell my Network Manager/Technician to fix it, to resources that are ‘out there’ in the ether (sometimes the cloud metaphor really isn’t helpful!).

As a school leader I’ll know that someone might have got to my Finance Manager / Bursar and baited the trap with promises of untold savings that could be made in the long-term if they just spend x amount now… so I’ll need to know what the upfront costs are going to be – for the Broadband provision to enable us to take advantage of all the pluses of cloud computing, for the necessary backup systems, for staff training to take us over the hump of adopting new technology and systems.

I’d also want to know whether I was going to get any surprises 9 months later… of the ‘to make it work better (as it should..) you’ll really need to invest (aka spend more) on a better this, that or other…

I’d consult my crystal ball to see if 'cloud' is just a flavour of the month approach to the age-old resources problem… or is it actually THE BEST WAY of delivering the services I want or just the cheapest? What is better… 25gb of storage via skydrive or physical storage on the school’s network?

However, I’d also want someone to remind me of what’s important and that schools – especially those faced with the prospect of revenue-only based investment for the foreseeable future – should actively investigate what savings they could make via 'cloud' for re-investment in technology that goes into the hands of the pupils and teachers…

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Friday, 4 November 2011

Contribution to SMART secondary e-newsletter

I recently contributed to SMART's secondary e-newsletter. Interesting slant required re. 'Thinking about becoming an Academy?' and 'New Tech interface'. Hope I got things right! 

Many school senior management teams are debating the move to Academy status and how to ensure that it is a success for all involved.  So, we sought out leaders who had been through the process and asked them to share their learning.

Steve Warburton has been involved in secondary school leadership for the past 15 years, both as Director of Education for Thomas Deacon Academy and more latterly acting as a consultant working with Hereford Academy.

You have been involved in the setting up of two Academies, Thomas Deacon and Hereford Academy.   How have the experiences differed from one to the other?
“During the Thomas Deacon development I was the Headteacher of one of the three predecessor schools.  We worked with the sponsors over three years to plan, not only the coming together of the staff and 2200 students, but also the design and development of a £40m building.  As well as being full of practical challenges, it was also something of a political minefield!  At Hereford, my role was very different and focused on ensuring the school got the ICT solution it needed for its new building.”

What lessons would you pass on about setting up an Academy?
“One lesson well-learnt was the importance of avoiding silos of activity and ensuring, as far as possible, that architects, builders, specialist contractors and educationalists were all aware and involved in each other’s workstreams.  Another was the value of an interpreter, so that all the respective areas of expertise could speak the same language and share a common understanding.  Lastly, although not all Academy staff can be involved in all decision-making, they all need to be communicated with regularly about what is happening and what decisions are being made, and why.”

Some schools are not getting a new build but are converting in status.  What would you advise Academies to really focus on, if they are looking for some definitive transformation in achievement?
“I believe the leaders of converting Academies are realising that it is important for their school communities to get some very early ‘wins’ as a result of the conversion process.  The freedoms and financial flexibility give them the opportunity to show real benefits for students and staff.  The conversion process itself, and the necessary consultation, also gives an opportunity to build a real consensus about the schools’ vision with parents and the local community.”

How did the Academies you worked with incorporate ICT in their vision to deliver their learning?
“Both Academies developed an ICT vision around the concept of equipping the teacher and the learning space to support the engagement of the learner.   Both needed robust networks to manage a computer to student ratio of better than 1:2.  This was to support the drive to deliver everywhere, everytime learning, but they chose different avenues to reach this goal.  One chose thin-clients, and one chose a fleet of netbook trolleys.   Both have chosen to standardise their ‘device range’ as far as possible to reduce the barriers to staff use.  For example, both specified that their voting technology, visualisers and interactive whiteboards would all come from the same provider, SMART.”

Schools are still generally geared up around the teaching of one to many in classrooms.  Have these Academies identified flexible learning spaces to use in everyday teaching and, if so, how have they incorporated ICT in these areas?
“At both Hereford and Thomas Deacon, flexible larger spaces were specified as everyday elements of the teaching provision.  Two conjoined lecture theatres were backed up by six large study areas at Thomas Deacon, whilst at Hereford, Extended Learning Zones feature in all the key learning areas.   At Thomas Deacon we had to ‘retro-fit’ presentational technology into these spaces and used plasma screens on trolleys with attached PCs and interactive slates.  In Hereford we were more fortunate in that mobile interactive whiteboards and collaborative tables were designed into the solution from the beginning.”

Are there specific technologies and products that can quickly make an impact on teaching practice to help teachers achieve improved learning targets?
“I would put a visualiser at the head of the queue.  As a device it naturally fits with powerful teaching and learning principles such as Assessment for Learning and is intuitive to use.   The most powerful, but with a bigger adoption hump, is the deployment of voting technology, although exciting developments around mobile device ‘apps’ could help here.”

Lastly, what would you say are the most exciting and rewarding results in becoming an Academy?
“The responsibilities of Academy leadership are particularly diverse and the accountability very direct.  But you also know that you have the opportunity to make a significant impact on the lives of thousands of young people.  It is your ability to inspire and innovate, strategise and lead that can make the difference.”

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