Denbigh High School’s vision statement is “high achievement for all is our shared responsibility.” Part of the Chiltern Learning Trust and located in Luton, the school serves one of the most socio-economically deprived areas and communities in the region, yet the pupils make outstanding progress and reach exceptionally high levels of attainment in relation to their starting points.
The school has developed a five year Technology for Learning Strategy that supports all areas of the School Improvement Plan (SIP). The effective use of mobile technology to engage, inspire and raise attainment for all pupils underpins all aspects of the curriculum and it is used to monitor, evaluate and improve the performance of both students and staff. The strategy itself is embedded within the School Improvement Plan under Priority 2: “Quality of teaching, learning and assessment.” In terms of monitoring progress, each year that the strategy has been delivered, it has linked to a clear set of aims and objectives on the School Improvement Plan. The notion of “concept-guided development of technology use” (de Koster, Volman, Kuiper 2017) has been imperative to the successful ongoing delivery of the strategy.
Delivering the strategy
Prior to the introduction of the Technology for Learning Strategy, pupils were surveyed to ascertain their access to mobile devices at home and identify any barriers to future learning. Those students with limited access to technology were supported via the schools SEN department, which ensured that they were not disadvantaged by their access to devices as the school increased it’s use of technology for learning.
As per Christensen and Knezek (2016), staff received appropriate supportive training on the pedagogy of integrating these devices as well as useful strategies for classroom management of technology, prior to the rollout of the strategy. As a result, teachers took the new tools they had been given and incorporated them into their teaching and learning to improve engagement and raise attainment. Subjects were taught in new and innovative ways – for example, the use of Google Earth was brought into Geography lessons, where previously OS maps had solely been used. This enhanced and enriched the existing curriculum. Methods of assessment evolved – for example, the increased use of mobile technologies allowed for online assessment tools such as Kahoot and Google Classroom to be embedded across the school. The school marking policy was adapted to reflect the move towards more online submission and marking of work, but this did not lose any of the rigour of the previous process which celebrates “pace, productivity and pride”. Instead, the pupil-teacher dialogue is now evidenced using online marking tools as well as in books.
Other examples of inspiring pedagogy include:
- The delivery of the “flipped classroom” model in many subjects; making use of online podcasts to ensure the learning starts before the lesson even begins.
- The use of green screen technology to create a wide range of learning resources including advertisements for Media Studies, “real world” scenarios for MFL, pledges for Internet Safety Week and historical documentaries where pupils “report from” WW1 and the French Revolution.
- The creation of interactive Google Sites for Support for Learning and Staff CPD, which share best practice and provide “anytime, anywhere” access to a wide range of in-school created multimedia resources.
- The delivery of the “Apps For Good” programme where pupils design and create apps to solve real world problems. Denbigh pupils have had considerable success with this programme, reaching the national finals on three separate occasions and winning two awards. The school has also been recognised as the Apps For Good School of the Year.
- The use of Google Hangouts to engage directly with industry experts, such as a computer build project where staff from AMD supported pupils with a live link from America, and International Women’s Day, where pupils spoke to senior female staff at Spotify.
- The rollout this year of a Chromebook initiative which allows all pupils in Year 7 and 8 to access a Chromebook in lessons to support and enhance their learning.
Delivering a five year strategy will always have its challenges and lessons to be learned (Johnson et al, 2016). It became apparent that it was imperative for the strategy to be flexible and able to adapt and develop according to need and based upon key areas of focus such as school outcomes.
Two of the main challenges encountered are explained in more detail below:
- The importance of technology being allowed to “evolve”. The nature of technology is that it never stands still and is constantly developing. This can result in hardware and software becoming outdated, with practice following suit. It is vital to build into any Technology for Learning Strategy the ability for software to be updated, preferably automatically and with minimum cost. Where possible, software selected should be device agnostic, as this allows for whatever future direction a school wishes to take.
- In the same way that successful use of technology is never a “fait accompli” in school, neither is staff training. It is important to clarify at this stage that “staff training” does not apply only to teaching staff – all administration and support staff must be included for whole-school impact. The nature of the school environment is such that staff will move on, new members will arrive, and cycles of training must be robust enough to reflect and address this. Where possible, staff should be able to access online support, as well as more traditional learning as part of after-school sessions and professional development days. In the same way that there is expected to be differentiation and challenge in the classroom, staff members of all ability levels should be catered for.
All schools have different needs in relation to how they want to use technology for learning. This depends on school priorities, existing networks and infrastructures, and previous technology-based purchases. By being clear of the learning objectives, schools can develop and then drive forward a bespoke Technology for Learning Strategy. The content will vary on a school-by-school basis but, without exception, the strategy has to be supported by all stakeholders in school to be delivered effectively.