Education ICT 2015 – Post-Event Blog
“What we’ve got with technology is the opportunity to build better learning, to build learning that is seductive and engaging and effective and fast – and that can mend the world.” With this concluding statement to his Keynote Address, Stephen Heppell kicked off this year’s Education ICT event. Education practitioners came together to further their understanding of this area that can frustrate in its constantly shifting tools and techniques, yet has, as Professor Heppell says, a profound and growing transformative power.
Professor Stephen Heppell’s opening keynote address galvanised the conference to the potential of ICT in the years to come. Explaining that technology, though not optional, had to be engaging, Professor Heppell identified understanding the implications of personal technology, of companies needing to learn about learning and of strengthening the conversation between the private sector and education as key to moving forward. He further identified a great danger in education, of children receiving more and more engagement from their technology and less and less from their curriculum. He did however end more sanguinely, saying “This next decade is going to be the most exciting decade of your lives. It’s global, it’s connected, it’s exhilarating, it’s scary and it’s the most fun you’ve ever had with your clothes on!”
Kenneth Fyfe of Hewlett Packard and Tim Howlett of Portsmouth Grammar School were next to speak on the conference. Kenneth Fyfe set out Hewlett Packard’s policy – that “students should have access to high quality education- anytime, anywhere” and the key pillars of learning and access that support this goal. Highlighting the plethora of tools HP provides, Mr Howlett went on to explain how HP had enabled his school to regularly revitalise its printer fleet at drastically reduced costs, and also introduce a new card sweeping system which helped streamline the system and reduce wastage.
Sarah Hurrell was next on the agenda, introducing delegates to a detailed understanding of the opportunities offered by the Crown Commercial Services in its work in procurement. Her presentation highlighted the key priorities and deliverables of the CCS:
Sarah particularly focused on the new ICT Services for Education agreement, superseding the previous BECTA agreement, which provides “a flexible and quick route for education establishments to meet technology needs and provides access to a diverse pool of suppliers of all sizes.”
After a break for refreshments and networking, delegates were greeted by a Keynote Address from Mark Wallbank, Head of the Schools Commercial Team at the Department for Education. Mr Wallbank explained the seven key principles of efficiency underlining the commercial team’s approach, the considerations that need to take place to avoid any legal liabilities when procuring, as well as providing practical buying tips. Most of all he wanted to emphasize how essential ICT was, that it was in fact “the fourth utility”, or as one delegate put it:
Mr Wallbank finished by providing guidance to sources of information for further research.
Mr Wallbank’s keynote was followed by Adam Stewart and Gary Spracklen’s lively talk on “Teaching, not tech-ing”, dealing with the thorny issue of how to enable rather than hinder learning with technology. Mr Stewart kicked off by explaining the resources Google offers as part of its ‘apps for education’ and its “10x” mantra, described here by one delegate:
Mr Spracklen followed this with an explanation of how his school had implemented a transformation of its ICT approach, abandoning the old focus on windows desktops and emphasizing how students are “device agnostic”, not caring about the operating system used but simply intuitively understanding how to use functional technology.
Bob Allen and Rachel Jones followed next talking on cultivating a 1:1 BYOD approach to ICT learning. Mr Allen emphaiszed that it’s not about what device it is, but why you are using it. Ms Jones went on to explain how engaging stakeholders was key – be that parents in hands-on sessions in the evenings, teachers in training and in-class support and of course the students, who were found to be surprisingly conservative in their ICT usage, but were inspired by the school’s “digital leaders” programme that gave the students the opportunity to teach both their peers and teachers on how to use digital technology.
The final session of the morning dealt with the rapidly changing area associated with the new subject of computing. Bill Mitchell elaborated engagingly upon the nature of the new curriculum and how ICT itself has changed our world:
“The world is digital. It’s no longer just a physical world, a chemical world, a biological world, it’s digital. What you do in your lives is going to be determined by what you do in that digital world. So, you need to be able to function in that digital world, make sense of it and be able to contribute to it.”
Mr Mitchell went on to explain how the computing curriculum has been future-proofed by focusing not on tech or code, but on the ideas, principles and concepts that underline computational thinking. Moreover, Mr Mitchell explained that these understandings are transferrable, here with the example of how computation can be used to teach English and vice-versa:
With the rapid rollout of the new Computing subject, Mr Mitchell highlighted the key challenge to be equipping, supporting and encouraging teachers to teach computing.
After lunch, attendees heard from Jessica Cecil on how the BBC is encouraging coding and digital creativity, of realising the inspiration that can come from and penetrating into places where people are comfortable, with faces and voices they are comfortable with. Ms Cecil identified how the three different demographic groups of under 12s, teenagers/young adults and over 24s all required different approaches. Furthermore, Jessica explained the new ambition of a microbits for ever year 7 in the UK and how “we want this to have a lasting impact on the coding and computing skills of a generation.”
Cathy Ellis next charted the digial journey of her school in Portsmouth, of a journey from desk based to flexible learning. Cathy noted that her institution, nudged by the 2014 FELTAG report was forced to rethink its approach. They focused on developing “T-Shaped” skills and creating a Digital Futures Structure which went through three distinct phases of Designing, Developing and Delivering.
Key to her school’s approach was not just thinking about the problem but also acting with experimentation and prototyping.
Stuart Lewis delivered the final speech of the day. He focused on how to develop ICT infrastructure to produce engaging learning environments. He recounted how in 2003 no computer in the school even had a Microsoft license, and how the school could only be described as being in absolute “system failure”. Facing a constrained financial situation, his school was able to create a vision to train and resource teachers, encourage innovation, procure carefully, create robust systems and nurture a can-do system. This helped to fulfil his ambition for digital ambition, that “I want a chromebook to seem like a set of pencils.”
Finishing the day was what Simon Shaw referred to as “the gardener’s question time of ICT in education”. CaS master teacher Melanie Dennig spoke on computer science and how to maintain the digital literacy and ICT skills development that we need. Kate Broadriib of Wildern School talked on BYOD and embedding handheld devices across the curriculum, particularly in having students as digital leaders and encouraging students to lead teachers. Abderrahmane Benjeddi, founder of RiskIT spoke on the scheme he pioneered of having teachers take a week once per year to try something they have not tried before. Neil Iles, ICT Strategic Lead and Innovation Officer of the London Borough of Lewisham talked on procurement and how to ensure data security.