New Year Priorities: Leadership

So, 2018 is a weekend or so away, the Christmas turkey and the presents are a distant memory and you’ve probably already fired up the laptop to start getting your head back into ‘work mode’. What’s going to be different in your school this year? What will you focus on improving? We’ve prepared a couple of articles to help you pinpoint your priorities for the year as far as educational technology is concerned. This second article focuses on whole school issues, and is therefore aimed at school leaders, tech leaders or ICT co-ordinators.

It’s now been over a year since the Digital Competency Framework was published, so the first question you need to ask yourself is: ‘Do I understand what the Framework actually requires of my school?’. Hopefully the answer to this will be ‘Yes, absolutely!’, but just in case it’s not, let’s discuss it quickly. The Framework is not an ICT curriculum, it’s not something that can be covered by handing out some ICT lesson plans to teachers or having a tech-savy teacher cover PPA for everyone. The Framework is a set of technology skills that pupils should eventually be using day in, day out with confidence. The Framework skills should be as much part of a pupil’s armoury as their writing skills, forming an integral part of work across subjects. That does not mean specific lessons aren’t needed to learnt the skills. Just as we teach handwriting and spelling, so we should be explicitly teaching these skills. But, as with handwriting and spelling, we then need to ensure pupils use the skills as a part of their daily school life.

So, go take a look at those skills and ask yourself ‘If I walked through my school next week, would I see pupils using these skills as part of their regular day?’ If the answer is no, and that technology skills are still something restricted to those one off lessons when ‘we go to the ICT suite’ then you’ve got some work to do and it’s time to get started. Even if the answer is ‘Yes, I see pupils using technology skills daily’ then that’s not an excuse to rest on your laurels. It’s time to take the next step.

Every school will be on a different step, but wherever you are on the ladder, these are some of the points you will need to consider:

Resources: Does your school have enough technology resources in good working order for teachers to bring into the classroom? Because let’s make one thing clear, if you expect your teachers to plan lessons that bring technology into the classroom on a regular basis then you need to give them technology that won’t let them down. There’s nothing more likely to discourage a teacher than having their carefully planned lesson collapse because half of the laptops don’t work and the other half take 10 minutes to log in. Yes we live in a time of tough budgets, but by accepting that you need to prioritise technology spending and with some careful spending you can reach an acceptable level of resources relatively easily. (See our article on Laptops, ICT Suite, iPads or Chromebooks for some additional advice.)

Vision: Imagine your school 3 years from now. What do you want your pupils to be doing with technology? Hopefully you’ll be saying that you want them to feel comfortable using technology as a day to day tool, something they turn to as simply and hassle-free as they turn to a pencil. Hopefully you’ll be thinking about your pupils using technology to create more than just PowerPoints and newspaper articles, you’ll be thinking of them creating mini-documentaries, websites and multimedia pamphlets that bring their learning to life. You won’t get to such a stage in one term however, so start thinking about which aspects you should prioritise. In many schools, this means starting with the very basics, getting pupils used to navigate around a laptop and typing faster and more accurately. In other schools it will mean becoming more familiar with cloud accounts and working collaboratively, regularly using Office 365, G Suite for Education, J2E or Purple Mash. Or it may mean focusing on those skills that seem a little more technical such as coding, databases or spreadsheets. The important thing is to know where you are today, know where you want to get to and to identify the first step.

Get staff on board: Finally, and most importantly, you need to make sure you get your staff on board. Clearly this involves explaining the Framework to them, and letting them see your vision and your plan of action but it involves more than that. You need your staff to see why this is important. They need to understand and believe that improving your pupils’ digital skills is a vital part of their education. They need to appreciate that asking pupils to type a second draft of a story or create a PowerPoint is not enough anymore. And they need to believe you when you tell them that you will do everything in your power to help them step out of their comfort zone. Tell them that it’s OK to ask for help, tell them that it’s OK to plan a lesson focusing solely on teaching new digital skills and that they won’t be criticised if the quality of their pupils’ language or their grasp of geographical facts in such a lesson are not quite up to standard. Show them where to go to find new ideas (hint: TwT360.com), arrange quality INSET training (hint: Guto Aaron!) on digital skills and give your more tech-savy teachers time to coach those who need help.

Good luck!

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