Leading from the middle on educational technology

As an innovator of educational practice I am passionate about ensuring that students have the best possible educational experience.  With the world that the students we now teach being a digital world it makes perfect sense that we get students used to the things that they will be using in the work place.

As a middle leader I see it as my responsibility to ensure that this is developed in the school I work in.  It may not be my specific role but as with all innovators we see a need for change and we look to meet that need.

I am blessed to be supported outside of my school by some fantastic educators (who also happen to be Apple Distinguished Educators) John Jones, Nick Davies, Nock Dempster, Gavin Smart, Mark Anderson and Daniel Edwards to name just those I have worked directly with.  These people inspire me in the things they are doing in their schools with technology and I envy the way their schools embrace technology.

This is where the leading from the middle element comes in.  Within my area (sport) I have innovated the teams approach to delivery, we use iPad and iPod devices to engage students in their learning and to give them new and exciting opportunities to learn in new ways.  As a middle leader though I want this to cut across the whole school.  If it works in sport then it will surely work in all areas of the school as they teach the same students.

The challenge was to find some outstanding educators and to engage them in a programme of support and guidance in using technology to support learning.  I must say that at the City Academy we are blessed with an amazing staff that are willing to try new things and embrace change.  I set up a morning session where I demoed apps to the group and we then discussed potential uses in the classroom.  The key here was not to just replicate what we had done in sport but by using the SAMR model, getting staff to see how the technology could enhance the learning in their own subjects.

In the group we have English, Maths, Science, Sport, MFL and Drama teachers.  Each of these areas has a unique approach to how they deliver things but the core theme is that the technology can engage students and open up new opportunities in and out of the classroom.

The next steps are to demonstrate impact.  Now I am a firm advocate of marginal gains.  If one small thing on its own does not show impact, that does not mean it should not take place.  With the introduction of technology the marginal gains are important, if it engages a learner to want to listen in class, to try something new, to complete a homework or to watch a video about a topic then it all will add up to an improvement, over time.

I have asked the team to set up a blog for their class that they are using the iPad with.  A chance to document their work and to share their experiences with parents at home.  This serves two purposes.  It will be a place to see impact and development of staff and also a chance to engage the community in what goes on in the classroom.

My role in leading this project is a real challenge.  I am relying on staff volunteering their time and effort (of which I am eternally grateful)  These staff have other pressures on them but are keen to embrace new techniques and can see how it ultimately helps the students in their lessons.  Early discussions are extremely positive and i have coupled this movement with another project, getting staff to share their own personal developments through a breakfast teachmeet.

The breakfast teachmeet is again run on a voluntary basis before school and involves 1 presentation from a member of staff on something they are doing.  In these sessions it is great to see staff feel empowered and wanting to share the great things they are doing.  I firmly believe that in all the pressures on teachers, celebrating success is essential and this approach gives staff a real boost.  One of the team I lead on technology is presenting next week on her project looking at flipped learning and how she is using technology to help students, after christmas another member of the team is doing a presentation on the blogging we are doing.  When looking at impact of what you are doing, this says a lot and gives me the drive to continue and prove the value to the school and the wider community.

Leading from the middle in this way is hard, none of the staff have to listen, it is not in directed time and will be additional work.  Leading this way however is the most rewarding thing I do outside of seeing students flourish.  For the very reason it is hard it is equally rewarding.  I could sit each week in empty rooms but I don’t, I sit with a team of excellent teachers that want to improve and dedicate their time to doing that.  With the passion I have and the support of these teachers we will make a difference.  Watch this space………

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