Digitally Organic

I started writing a blog post last night that had taken nearly a year of thinking about. It was (is) called “February Made Me Shiver” and was based on one of my less successful adventures. I felt it needed writing.

There was a connection with this particular blog post and the idea, which I had been talking about with a cohort of Scitt students last week, that blogging, as well as being a great teaching and learning tool,  is also hugely valuable for personal reflections. Go back through my blog archives and you’ll see what I mean.

(At this point I’m thinking that  this writing just wouldn’t do very well in the upcoming KS1 writing assessment….writing can only be worthwhile or “high quality” if it is technically correct with lots of things in it which can be ticked off as being “evidenced”. I have somewhere a photograph taken when I was queuing up with thousands upon thousands of other people to go inside Anfield after the Hillsborough Disaster. Arriving at where the then Kemlyn Road Stand was (now the Centenary Stand) there was a banner (the photograph) that said, “Look after them Shank’s”. The apostrophe shouldn’t have been included and I noticed it. Sometimes the message is more important.)

Well it was February last year and I had been booked to deliver a course that I had done (with success according to the feedback) before, but instead of driving to Manchester and arriving in good time to find the venue and prepare for the day’s events, this time I had to travel to London. I had been told that it was a venue close to Euston station which meant getting the first train from Liverpool would get me there in enough time. It wasn’t close to Euston, it wasn’t even near!  I had to carry three lumpy, tricky items on the Underground…my suitcase handle broke, everything fell down the escalator, there were course participants already at the venue, I set up hurriedly, the WiFi (for an internet based course) was poor, the room was hot, there wasn’t any tables for laptops just rows of seats, the room was too small and so on and so on….and so when I hear the words “February made me shiver” in American Pie I think of that day. It was a pretty rubbish day. If you were there, you’ll know.

However, as I was writing the first few sentences of “February Made Me Shiver” I came across  #DojoChatEU on Twitter and got involved:

One of the discussion points was about a whole school approach to using technology and I tweeted that, “Blogging is brilliant for starting and continuing with an organic digital journey.” and I got this reply from Ben Hall.

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Well, to be honest I didn’t come up with the phrase organic digital journey, that was @greenparkschool ‘s Ms Robinson (very non techy and doesn’t mind admitting it but uses techy tools very well). It does however sum up Green Park’s digital approach very well.

The term digital journey is based around the idea that we have never had a long term plan or examined research to discover what works and doesn’t work it terms of educational technology (which is not to say either isn’t valuable). We started our school blog in 2005 and it is still going today. It has been an incredibly valuable tool for yes, sharing our school’s activities, but much more in developing the digital skills of teachers and pupils ( and a few more besides).

We don’t have cupboards with expensive unused technology in. We do use every bit of technology that we have in school. We don’t have an ICT Suite but we do have a Beautiful Room. We have Chromebooks and iPads that are used across the school and used in each and every classroom. We do have teachers and pupils who want to use technology and use it creatively for teaching and learning and admin and to make the life of a teacher (and pupil) a little bit easier – our investigation into boys attitudes towards writing proved this. We love it when our pupils go home and create their own work and share it with their teachers. We like to use the internet everyday in every class but need more equipment to achieve this. We do know that there can be difficulties with technology …… but there can be difficulties with anything. We have contacts around the world and we work with local schools with out children teaching their children how to …. and they do it very well. Non Green Park teachers come to our school and go away with different ideas. We have Scitt students who get a grasp of our technology can impact learning and sometimes people come to our school to look round and take ideas back to their own schools and sometime even blog about it.

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We even have Sparkly Letters (completely lo-tech) that have connected our pupils to national and world leaders in the world of technology…… I could, and often do, go on but the point is that within school, this change has grown organically. Sometimes things take time. Our use of Google Apps for Education started five years ago but it only really took off maybe two years ago. Ask now (teachers or pupils) whether they teach or learn without these tools now……I know what they would say. Other tools happen to be in the right time at the right place for the right reason. Collecting evidence for Ofsted and a rather grumpy, have to do more work on top of all of the work we already do because we know Ofsted are calling in the next twelve months, was a perfect case of digital tools providing the solution to the problem. One of the Inspectors took this back to his own school.

No, not everything is perfect, but Ofsted said lots of (not in the report of course) very nice things about our digital approach which was good but the real reason we use this stuff is because it makes a difference.

The thought of last year’s February does make me shiver and although it is (sunny) but cold today, it was Ben Hall’s (@hengehall) tweet last night that diverted me away from that day in London and pointed me in a completely different direction.

Green Park have a tree as their symbol.

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