A couple of weeks ago I had the immense pleasure of being able to attend the Digitally Confident Conference at The Sage in Gateshead. I also had the honour of presenting, alongside my head teacher Rachel Orr, about our journey towards a digital school.
The conference was organised by the Digitally Confident/Northern Grid team under the leadership of the brilliant Simon Finch and promised to provide ‘CPD for the soul’ to those who attended. Indeed, it was a mix of pedagogy, policy and humour with everyone focusing on doing the very best for our young people and allowing them to be digitally confident. As part of the conference, the presenters were asked to write about what they would do if they were in charge of educational policy – you can read my reflections here.
The mix of people at the conference was excellent and it was good to see old friends and to catch up with people like Claire Lotriet and Zoe Ross, who are doing great things in the world of education. It’s always inspiring to be around such people. It was great to meet José Picardo who shared some fascinating insights into leadership and digital technologies. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Graham Brown-Martin talk about “The Devil in the Data” and the ways in which free apps harvest information from us – it certainly made me think twice about checking app permissions! Jim Knight, Ken Corish, Chris Wilde and Carol Allen also provided fascinating insights into their work with digital technologies and Josie Fraser, who I have followed for years on Twitter, shared her work with Digital Literacies in Leicester schools. Lisa Jane Ashes shared her approach to ‘MAnglish’ and I even bought a signed copy of her book!
Rachel and I shared our vision for our digital school and the way we are moving our school from having IT as an ‘add-on’ to an embedded part of our school eco-system. This is primarily through our bespoke htrschool.net learning platform which is a mix of WordPress and Google Apps for Education (managed with a single-sign on system).
Our presentation covered the following areas:
- The history of our school and the ways in which technologies have been viewed and used by all stakeholders
- The transition towards ‘connected classrooms’ where I shared instances of practice from my classrooms through the safe use of social networks based on Using Twitter in the Primary Classroom (click to download research article).
- Embedding class blogs into the fabric of the classroom to promote new literacy skills
- Embedding social technologies based on our Expedition Everest project (click to find out more).
- Our involvement in the Tesco Eat Happy Project and their online field trips
- Rachel then shared our vision for leadership and the ways in which we are engaging staff, parents, children and governors in the process
- We then shared our exciting new learning platform which incorporates email, blogs, learning hubs, staff and governor hubs and Google Apps for Education through a single sign-on system. Our digital basis for our e-learning work is managed through htrschool.net. We’re really thankful to Renoovo Design for supporting us in the practicalities and security features on htrschool.net – particularly in the Staff and Governor Hub that they developed for us
- We then shared the ways in which we are looking at embedding assessment through digital badges with a focus being that the sky is not the limit to what we can do!
I have to say that one of the fundamentals in having an effective digital school is having a head teacher who recognises that digital technologies are fundamental to giving children the skills they need to be successful in society. We’re so fortunate to be able to have Rachel as our head teacher.
It’s an exciting but busy time for us at school and we have so many things we want to do but we’re having to prioritise. I’ll no doubt share them along the way as we develop and launch them. I think it’s really important that educators continue to share approaches and support each other – that’s why the Digitally Confident Conference is so important because it has that ethos at its core. This was the third Northern Grid conference that I’ve had the pleasure of speaking at and every time I attend one of the events I leave inspired and excited about the great things that are happening for our young people. A huge thanks must go to Simon, Phil and Leanne for their hard work in creating such a brilliant event.
Thank you to the Digitally Confident team for allowing me to use their photographs in this post too!