#TheFeed is back for the March/April 2017 edition, and focusses on Accessibility. In the latest issue you’ll find stories from schools specialising in SEND, studies from the British Dyslexia Association, and the latest on technologies that can aid SEND learners and those who teach them.
This extract is written by Paula Lowry, Headteacher of School at Saint Joseph's Catholic and Church of England Primary, and also Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert. In this article, Paula discusses the progress her school has made with the advancements of technology, and how this has developed learning within the classroom.
More information about the schools, together with details and timetables of the CPD programmes on offer, together with information on booking are available here.
Head over to Docs.com to browse all the latest stories from this edition of #TheFeed.
#TheFeed - Showcase School: Collaboration, Engagement, & Enhanced Teaching and Learning
Our Microsoft journey - Saint Joseph's Primary and Nursery School & Bolsover Junior School
by Paula Lowry
Looking back on the journey that the schools have taken with technology in the last 18 months is unbelievable. Both Saint Joseph’s Primary and Nursery school and Bolsover Junior school are located in economically deprived areas in Derbyshire and our vision for technology grew from a desire to give the children in our schools the very best start, to prepare them for global learning and to raise aspirations.
"This vision has been fulfilled beyond our expectations and the positive impact it has had on the children and staff has to be seen to be believed."
In the summer of 2015, the schools embarked upon a journey with Microsoft. This began with the wider management team across both schools using OneNote - we were astounded by the ease at which we could collaborate and share documents and notes and this sparked the idea of using it not only with the staff but with the children. After this initial trial the decision was made to launch it across both schools with all staff with all key Stage 2 pupils, people may have believed that this gave us a mountain to climb but we built in a rigorous staff development programme to ensure that the roll out was able to take place with a view to going paperless from September 2015. The vision for this was driven by Rowena Herbert, Executive Head teacher, along with myself and Kristy Griffin. One of the problems that people often face with new initiatives in school, particularly with technology, is that staff can be reticent and reluctant to try something new – especially as they may feel that they don’t have the skills. We had a positive ‘we can do it attitude’ towards the project and this became contagious amongst the rest of the staff; who may have been considered to be ‘technophobes’ embraced the new approach and were telling others how amazing it was! Our aim to be paperless was fully embedded by October 2015.
At this point in the journey we hadn’t been accredited or even recognised for the amazing work we were doing; Mark Labio, one of the Managing Directors of Mercury AVS, put forward the idea of becoming a Microsoft Showcase school and for myself and Kristy to become Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts – we embarked on this next steps a little tentatively; not believing that what we were doing was ground breaking – but from talking to Mandeep Atwal and visiting other schools we knew that it was. In November 2015 we were given the recognition we deserved and from there the schools have grown from strength to strength.
"Anyone who knows our Head teacher, Rowena Herbert, will know that she is passionate about moving to the next challenge and striving to be better than we already are."
We began to look at the other waffles in Office 365 that we weren’t utilising and exploring how this could further enhance teaching and learning. We explored using Office Mix to reduce teacher’s work load – this add in to PowerPoint enabled teachers to plan in a much more productive way, utilising the mix tools to enhance pupil’s engagement during delivery and the notes section to add teaching points that in the past would have gone on a traditional planning proforma.
This took off quickly so we then moved on to SWAY, this had a dual purpose – we taught the children how to use SWAY to present work and it was also used by staff to plan and provide independent activities. One of the unique points of Saint Joseph’s is that the school has an Early Years unit as well as Key Stage One – traditionally technology with younger children is far more difficult to embed; staff in early years fully embraced the technology to enhance teaching but using it with learning is far more difficult, however technology has really come to life as our teachers began to use Skype to remove the walls within their classrooms.
This really came to life during the Skype-a-Thon 2016 when the children in our Nursery and Reception communicated with classrooms around the world singing and collaborating and the impact which this had upon their speaking and listening skills at such a young age was amazing to see.
"This is not the end for us but just the beginning, more recently we have embarked on Online Homework using Microsoft classroom, engaging parents is our next hurdle to overcome and this is still in its infancy, as well as the homework we have recently used Forms to survey parents – we had the biggest response that we have ever had and analysing the data is so much easier!"
Using Microsoft technologies, the CPD offered through the Microsoft Educator Community (MEC) as well as establishing links and contacts with other schools has transformed the learning experience for the children in our schools and St Josephs and Bolsover are great places to learn. We feel that together with Microsoft the technology we use daily is enhancing our children’s curriculum and both inspiring them and equipping them to explore the world around them. Just over a year on in our journey and we continue to feel this is just the beginning and the steps we will continue to make with Microsoft will keep enabling us to ensure the very best learning for all of our children.