Monthly Archives: June 2015

Education Technology 2015 Review, Leeds

Rebecca Dalzell Education Manager Webanywhere and Mr Mitchell of Educating Yorkshire

Rebecca Dalzell Education Manager Webanywhere and Mr Mitchell of Educating Yorkshire

Yesterday saw EdTech 15 in Leeds at the Hilton Hotel, hosted by Webanywhere and including a keynote speech from Educating Yorkshire’s Mr Mitchell. I opened the conference sharing what I see to be the 7 big opportunities for EdTech:

Firstly, Developing Skills for Life Long Learning. With graduates these days having an average of 27 jobs in a lifetime, re-skilling will be essential if individuals are to be successful in the modern workplace.Learners of the future will need to have a growth mindset and believe that intelligence is not fixed and can be grown. Secondly, increasing family engagement can be transformed by EdTech. Tools such as homework notification tools for parents can do this and Skype for Education can allow for private and secure communication between teachers and parents when parents are difficult to reach in school. Planning for future education opportunities such as college, as well as career paths, is also very important. With graduates now having debts averaging £30,000 in 2015 (up from £20,000 in 2014) value-adding and employability issues are high on the agendas of Universities and Colleges. Improving teachers’ productivity through new technology and reducing workload is another area for innovation. Meanwhile, closing the gap, continuous professional development and making learning accessible to all are further opportunities where educators and technologist can collaborate.


Education Technology 2015, Leeds

Education Technology 2015, Leeds

Mr Mitchell, who is now Headmaster of the Co-operative Academy in Leeds, and who was born and raised in Dewsbury, talked about importance of Education Ethos. Mr Mitchell described how, when Microsoft changed the default setting for meetings in their Outlook software from 1 hour to 30 minutes, productivity was massively increased globally. Focussing on the simple things can sometimes have the greatest impact.

He continued to remark about the importance of building resilience and the character of both the teacher and the learner. 75% of the issues in High Schools are behavioural, so teaching both teachers and pupils emotional intelligence and how to build relationships can help schools grow and prosper. Sometimes teachers’ lack of emotional intelligence leads to double standards; this is why respect has to be earned. Values are important to underpin everything we do in school, and “we are only as good as the most junior members of our team”. The junior members have to give it all and do what it takes to make the organisation successful. If the culture and values are not lived by our most junior members of staff we will never be successful.


Our very own Ben Wagner then took the audience through some of the latest trends in EdTech and demystified some EdTech jargon. Ben went through various case studies on the practicalities of how EdTech can be implemented to save teachers time and reduce the workload. Flipped classrooms, personalised learning pathways and blended learning stories were discussed in a question-and-answer session.


Rob Faulkner, our e-Safety specialist, gave a talk on how to protect teachers and children online. Rob described some of the security breaches which have hit the press in the last year, including celebrity iCloud photos going missing and massive data loss at Sony Pictures. Poor password management is a major security issue, especially where most individuals use the same password for most of the website and services they consume.

To be prudent online users must use different passwords online for each site, or indeed use password-management software such as LastPass, PasswordSafe or PasswordBox as master keys to their online worlds. Rob advised on 2-factor authentication for popular services such as Facebook and Twitter in order to ensure greater levels of security. 2-factor authentication means, upon logging into a service, you receive a password pin via SMS to ensure you are indeed who you say you are. Rob warned about giving passwords to 3rd parties over the phone, especially if they called you. The latest anti virus software must be used and you should be aware of malware found on app stores by examining the review and reputation of apps online.

If you’re still using Windows XP and are connected to the Internet, you really must upgrade – this no longer receives security patches from Microsoft – and it’s very important you ensure that you are on the latest versions of Adobe Flash and Java in order to safeguard yourself. Remember to challenge your staff and share your knowledge. Don’t be afraid to ask.


Paul Quinn, Assistant Headteacher, The Holy Family Catholic School, Keighley

Paul Quinn, Assistant Headteacher, The Holy Family Catholic School, Keighley

Paul Quinn, Assistant Headmaster of The Holy Family Catholic School, gave his presentation on continued professional development (CPD). New government policy means pay rises are now subject to teacher performance, so more proof is needed to demonstrate you are indeed a good teacher. Senior leaders have to create a culture that allows pupils and staff to excel. Leaders and governors need to use incisive performance management tools. Teachers have been asked by the “powers that be” to reflect and debate on the way they teach. They need to be deeply involved in their professional development.

The Holy Family School are increasing in-house training, sharing good practice and compliance for safeguarding using online tools. Teachers are already good at social interaction as they have to entertain and educate people all day, so setting goals and attainment targets is a second nature to teachers.

So what do teachers need help with? Teachers want to reduce paperwork as this can be a barrier to taking work home. Paper can be taken out of the equation with online learning platforms for teachers. Automatic notifications for professional development can help senior leadership teams eliminate low-value tasks such as reminding staff to fill in forms.  Teachers doing their CPD online from home gives them time to reflect away from the hustle and bustle of the classroom. Teachers can share their best practice hints and tips with other teachers in school. More senior staff could even coach newly qualified teachers (NQTs). It was recommended by Paul that, in rolling out an online teacher learning platform, NQTs should be targeted first and then adoption should be built up  from there. When asked about the payback for deploying such a system, Paul described a year two benefit after the year one set up.


Mark McManus Cloud Lead Microsoft Education

Mark McManus Cloud Lead Microsoft Education

Mark McManus closed off the day by showcasing Microsoft’s cloud based offerings starting by explaining Office 365 was for teachers. There are three places for storage on the platform: Email storage of 50GB per user, OneDrive which has uncapped storage and finally a shared storage area where assets and documents can be shared online. Office 365 takes the best of Microsoft’s Office productivity software and takes it online. All staff and students can use Office 365 on up to 10 devices for free, opening up the possibility of less tech-savvy families using the software (providing their school or institution has subscribed to Microsoft). Office 365 not only works online, it works on all types of devices ranging from Apple’s iOS iPhones and iPads to Google’s Android operating system and Google Chromebooks.

The Office 365’s offering is free to all education organisations in the UK and has the same level of functionality as the premium enterprise version of the software. Documents can be download for working offline and then can be re-synced. In a future release you will be able to have greater control on when and where you sync your files. Furthermore, Skype for Business is also free for education users and other apps such as the Newsfeed and Yammer allow you to create private social networks within your school.

Mark continued to explain some the benefits and advantages of Office 365 by explaining the Presence function. A teacher can display to other users whether they are busy or not. Other users can then decide on how to communicate with the the teacher based on this presence status. One teacher explained that from 6pm to 6.30pm daily they would be available for homework help, and found that students used this time to instant message the teacher and conduct private Skype tutorials out-of-hours.

Office 365 is not just Word, Excel and PowerPoint online. Office Mix and the video app allows teachers to create flipped classrooms where audio and quizzes can be added to PowerPoints and these can be shared with students as videos online. Another trend which is happening in school is moving school servers out of the school building and onto the cloud. Some Network Managers and Headteachers get nervous at this thought. Mark’s reply is simple: How many schools have full time security staff? His answer was to explain that, in schools, there are zero staff and even big Universities usually only have about 3 full-time IT security officers. At Microsoft their whole business has been bet on the cloud so they have hundreds of engineers working around the clock to ensure security is of the highest standards. Azure cloud server farms are also 100% carbon neutral which is another reason to make the switch.

Finishing off the day I asked Mark as part of a panel discussion why schools and colleges should chose Microsoft over the other big tech giants such as Apple and Google. Mark explained that if someone is searching for a job online and they enter Microsoft as a keyword, the opportunities are vast. He went on to state that 90% of businesses still use Microsoft technology and it is somewhat an industry standard. Nevertheless, Microsoft has become more open under the new leadership of Satya Nadella, and with the availability of Word and Excel on Apple and Android devices, the stack or technology subset you choose has become less important. Cloud computing is making IT software much more like a utility service such as water, gas and electricity. Just as you can turn the tap on and off you can turn software on and off and scale your deployments with ease. This will allow IT staff at school to do less of the low value repetitive maintenance tasks and conduct higher value higher impact teaching and learning support.

EdTech Europe 2015 Review, Kings Place, London

EdTech Europe 2015

EdTech Europe 2015

This year’s EdTech Europe was held at King’s Place in London near King’s Cross. The event sees investors, entrepreneurs and companies come together to share stories and to discuss the latest innovations, trends and solutions to the big problems facing EdTech.

IBIS Capital explained that education technology is the reset button for global economies. The jobs of the future need people to work with computers and some jobs are more at risk to the digital revolution than others.

The Head of Google Education, Liz Sprout, focussed her talk on what skills business leaders need in the modern workplace. Google conducted an extensive worldwide survey of business CEOs. Problem solving skills came top closely followed by teamwork, communication skills and critical thinking.

Google expeditions is driven by a new phenomenon called Google Cardboard. In essence Google Cardboard is a headset made out of cardboard and lenses with a smartphone attached to enable virtual reality experiences in the classroom. Kids in classrooms can be taken to places they have never been before. The cheap wearable devices can be purchased cost effectively for whole classrooms and change pupils entire outlook on learning through immersive virtual reality. Kids can go to up to 50 different world locations and teachers and can teach lessons in ways they have never done before.

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Sean Gilligan at EdTech Europe 2015, Kings Place, London

Another talk involved Rob Grimshaw of TES Global, Karine Allouche Salanon CEO of Pearson English Business Solutions and John Martin CEO of Sanoma learning focused on the teacher being at the centre if the education system. According to the panel, it’s the teacher that is the killer app. Finland’s PISA scores are significantly higher than that of the UK and France and thus there living standards and earning potentials are higher. Apparently a 25 points difference in PISA score represents $100,000 of lost earnings over a workers life time.

Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet  Co-Founder  EdTech Europe

Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet
EdTech Europe

2U’s founder Rob Cohen talked about their services to take top universities in the USA online. They explained how student enrolment and attraction tended to have a local bias. Prospective students living further away from a campus were less likely to enrol, even if the course was online. 2U are offering online degrees for universities at the same cost and with same certificate. Whilst the university is in control of enrolment and certification, 2U provides the content, recruitment service and enables the traditional universities journey to widen their reach online.

SOLE Self Organised Learning Environment

SOLE Self Organised Learning Environment

A further panel involved Maurice de Hond, the founder of the Steve Jobs School based in The Netherlands, A French School Lycee International de Londres and Anne Preston, a Researcher from SOLE Central at Newcastle University. Maurice de Hond explained that simply adding new technology to old schools is an expensive exercise. What is actually needed is a new learning experience and classroom environment. Sugata Mitra is resident at Newcastle University and has been spending many years on his School in the Cloud project which is all about SOLE (Self Organised Learning Environments). In SOLEs, the role of the teacher changes from the transmitter of information to more of a coach and a researcher of data analytics. This new model allows for self paced, personalisation of learning and adaptive learning which is tailor made to the needs of the learners. There is no lesson plan and the learning is unstructured i.e. self organised. This way if one pupil is struggling they are given more time to catch up with the rest of the class. This is what some people believe will be the smart classroom of the future.

Solar Powered iPads for Learning

Solar Powered iPads for Learning

OneBillion is a project help provided learning and teaching solution to children in Malawi. In Malawi there are usually 9,000 pupils in a school with classroom sizes of 250 pupils per class. OneBillion use solar powered iPads to increase the learning opportunities for these children, and the curriculum is delivered in the local language. A similar project running in Kenya by Avanti Communications Group beams broadband into schools using satellites. Often the developing world is moving quicker towards a mobile first, cloud first approach to teaching and learning, given the lack of fixed line internet and the availability of 3G and 4G. These stories are touching ways that education technology can make a real impact on the life chances of people in poorer nations. Certainly, the much shorter school days on the African continent can be extended by the use of digital technology. EdTech can be an education leveller, and can reach students less fortunate than ourselves.

Khan Academy Self Paced Learning

Khan Academy Self Paced Learning

Indeed Sal Khan of Kahn Academy was then beamed into the lecture auditorium to talk about his massively successful not-for-profit education platform. Khan Academy first came under the spotlight when Bill Gates mentioned the project in a TED talk a few years back. The platform allows millions of students globally, in different languages, to study self paced Maths, Physics, Biology and Chemistry. The idea started when Sal was teaching his cousins Maths over the internet by posting Maths videos to YouTube. The most touching story was to see a Princeton STEM graduate come top of his class using Khan Academy. The student went on to state that he would not have made it to University if it was not for the Khan Academy and that the platform had changed his life. He had been failing time and time again in the traditional classroom and it was only the introduction of Khan Academy that saved him on his learning journey. Khan Academy is now in the process of broadening its reach, both in terms of subjects and in terms of languages.

Perhaps the biggest opportunity is life long learning; mapping the skills needed for graduates and the workforce at large to learn the skills needed for their ideal job and then to stay in that job. Understanding what the consumer (i.e. the learner) wants and then mapping out a learning path for these individuals would provide the personalisation of learning needed for career success.

Education spending continues to rise without a proportionate improvement in standards and learning outcomes. Education technology has the power to change this as long as the software, content and devices are easy for teachers to use. Shifts are happening in learning. Technology does not equal engagement. Information is all around us, Google can tell you the answer to anything. What is more important is how you understand the information and how you apply it.

Questions are more important than answers. We don’t know what the future will be so how can we teach for this? We know that graduates today will have 27 different jobs in their lifetime. The boundaries between working and learning are merging. Industry aligned curriculum is needed at the pace that the tech industry moves. Everyone is a tech company; Goldman Sachs now has more developers than Facebook. Industries are going digital. This means we can reach more people and we can engage them in different ways. Learning technology has to have great user experience; it must work on mobile phones and fit around people’s lives. Once this happens we will have passionate, excited audiences, who from their personal dashboards and feedback will be able to change the world.

Following EdTech Europe we will be hosting an EdTech Conference in Leeds more details are here:

Growth mindsets and gaining feedback for self improvement

Growth Mindset Stretch Beyond

Growth Mindset Stretch Beyond

I was talking to the Vice Chancellor of The University of Bradford, Brain Cantor, about a business problem I had, and he surprised me with his remarks. He said “You can grow round that problem, can’t you?” At the time I didn’t really understand what he meant, but now I think I do. A growth mindset comes from the belief that intelligence is not fixed, and that it can be developed. Just as a tree needs water and minerals to grow, so too does the human brain. Some people give up when a challenge comes along, but others persist. Their are those who quickly become successful, but their fear of failure holds them back. People often take negative feedback in a defensive way, when actually they should learn from this criticism. Growth mindsets result in a higher overall achievement, instead of reaching a career plateau.

Show me any successful person and not far away you will see their coach or mentor. We all need real-time feedback on our performance. We need to “coach the coaches”, and using technology there are positive ways to iteratively improve the quality of what we do. Having just purchased an Apple Watch I want to know how many calories I have burnt today, I want to speed up my communication and always be on time for meetings. The feedback from my Apple Watch will allow this and hopefully (fingers crossed) will not be another distraction in my busy life.

Another example of this would be teacher-annotated videos on teaching best-practices, which could be shared with the teaching community. Teachers would then be able to learn from their peer group and perhaps teachers in rural areas could tap into the expertise found with teaching communities in big cities.

Learning platforms aren’t just for students they can be used for teachers. A teacher CPD portal can connect educators with each other and to educational experts. They can help teachers reflect on their own practice and provide educators support to master new strategies. Being online these resources are available on-demand. Furthermore, content can be curated online so teachers can find appropriate support and ideas quickly.

The classroom hasn’t changed that much since Victorian times, and embracing new technology to create more value for teacher satisfaction and student experience has to be a no-brainer. As Bill Gates says, the big issue in Education is the quality of teaching, so any mechanism that empower teachers to learn from the best will only help improve the life chances and prosperity of our future generations.

Productivity in the economy is the ultimate goal, and we need to catch up with the French and Germans by investing more in research and development, the quality of management and indeed lifelong education, if we are to compete in a global marketplace. By the time the French and Germans have hit Thursday afternoon it takes Britain until Friday afternoon to catch up. Let’s skill-up our teachers to the next level. For teachers to have a growth mindset we need to look at new ways of developing and leveraging advances in technology, be it learning platforms or Apple Watches. The reason I got an Apple Watch was to improve my time management skills and to gain more real-time feedback. Feedback can sometimes hurt, but without it we will keep on doing what we have always done!

Totara for Teacher Training