Education Scotland’s DigiLearn team are always happy to provide their digital expertise and support to practitioners. In October 2020 the team took part in Shetland Islands Council’s two in-service days for practitioners, which for the first time were held on-line. The DigiLearn team provided a wide range of sessions for staff on everything from digital pedagogy skills to unleashing creativity using digital tools. In this Q&A Jacqueline Casey, Workforce Development Advisor at the time, and James Johnston, Quality Improvement Officer, from Shetland Islands Council, and Tracy Langley, Operational Lead For Remote Teaching for Shetland and Depute e-Sgoil, discuss the sessions.
Why are in-service days important for your staff?
The October In-service days are two dedicated days per year that are focussed on professional learning for our staff, therefore ensuring a varied yet appropriate programme for them each year is vital. Usually our programme is planned and compiled based on the wants, needs and feedback from our frontline staff and management and also any national themes and focus at the time. The opportunity for professional learning is very important for staff development and practice, and also contributes to staff being able to positively influence the lives and experiences of the children and young people they work with in Shetland.
- This was the first time Shetland’s in-service Day has been held on-line. How did you find this compared to previous years?
At the start of COVID-19 we had started our planning, including contacting external trainers from across Britain on the premise that they would be physically visiting us in October. So when we went into lockdown and realised eventually that it wasn’t going to be a short term thing, a quick decision had to be made as to if and how we were going to be able to deliver the programme. It was decided that we would push on to try to organise a fully virtual programme, thinking that it would be far smaller than our usual offering. We also decided on four themes to try to make things a bit more focussed – Health and Wellbeing (for pupils and staff), Digital Skills, Literacy and Numeracy. These themes were decided both based on national themes but also on a reflection of what the year had been like for our staff, and where priorities had needed to shift so rapidly in response to COVID-19.
The actual programme itself went really well, and the feedback we got from our follow up survey was really positive. We were delighted that we could provide such a large and varied programme and of course that the technology all worked on the day!
- What topics were you looking for Education Scotland’s DigiLearn team to cover as part of the in-service days?
We have worked with Education Scotland for digital input for a few years now, and in conjunction with our Digital Skills Lead here in Shetland, to contribute to and build on our Digital Strategy. So we were really happy to be guided by the digital team for our in-service programme – particularly where we were aware that remote teaching and learning had rocketed to the front focus of how teachers and pupils were now living and working. We wanted this theme to be about the delivery of blended teaching and learning, but also about making the best use of the technology available to our staff. Therefore the courses that Susan and her colleagues delivered were:
- Flipped Learning to Support Blended / Mixed Delivery Model
- Digital Tools for Assessment & Feedback
- Digital Pedagogy Skills
- Using Digital Tools to Capture, Create and Share Outdoor Learning Experiences
- Unleashing Creativity Using Digital Tools
- Why did you think these topics in particular would be of interest to practitioners?
The themes of literacy, numeracy, health and wellbeing and digital are present in each year of the October In-Service programme but are usually supplemented by a broad range of other professional learning opportunities. Central Officers, in conjunction with workforce development colleagues took the decision to narrow the focus in 2020 across these core areas in respect of the following considerations:
Manageability – in terms of the online nature of the programme and practitioners skills and knowledge to access learning from remote locations
Alignment – ensuring professional learning supported our strategic priorities with regards to recovery and renewal and reflected our local authority messaging around minimising the number of school improvement priorities
Relevance – understanding the needs of staff and learners and providing a meaningful and motivating programme to meet these needs
Capacity – giving consideration to teachers’ and practitioners’ own ability to consume and implement new learning in the context of the pandemic
Readiness – supporting staff to be confident in delivering within their school’s approach to blended and/or remote learning
The digital skills aspect of the programme stood out by itself but also supported innovation and creativity relevant to the other three areas.
- How do you think practitioners will use the information provided in these sessions?
The October In-Service creates an opportunity to collectively ‘pause and upskill’ but is just one aspect of a cyclical, year round offer of high quality professional learning opportunities. Teachers will use the learning in a number of ways depending on where they are at in their learning journey but broadly speaking the digital approach to professional learning is driving more engagement and collaboration:
Engagement Building on the success of approaches to remote learning in term four of 2020, sharing coursework and homework on digital platformsand engaging with pupils and parents in a more digitally agile way. Monitoring learner engagement and participation and identifying where more support is required.
Collaboration – using digital platforms to collaborate at many levels. For example, withinschools, across departments andlocal authorities as well as engagement at RIC level and participation in national conversations, regional improvement collaboratives and nationally. The ability to share knowledge and practice with colleagues and gather insight and information from national partners has been strengthened.
- Looking to the future – what digital topics do you think will be useful for your practitioners to learn about?
Practitioners will need time to embed new skills and ways of working and so the pace of change needs to be managed effectively. It is important to create the right conditions to ensure that people feel confident, competent and supported in working in a digitally agile way. We have paused the development of a digital and teaching strategy in order to understand and evaluate this period of rapid change and, given the period of significant change within the digital learning and teaching landscapesince March 2020 , revisit some of the consultation questions which were shaping the strategy prior to lockdown. This will ensure we are moving in the right direction, investing our resources and time in the right way and building a digital education workforce where nobody is left behind. In the meantime, for the remainder of this school year, we will take advantage of the range of professional learning opportunities to support our current position and listen to what our teachers need next.
Going forward digital skills training for the use of the Glow platform and Teams, SharePoint, PowerPoint, One Note Class Notebook and the Promethean interactive panels are to be made our standard offering. Our digital skills support package is updated throughout the year to direct all staff to these online courses which they can do at a time that suits them best. One off sessions delivered by Ian Stuart at Microsoft and the Education Scotland team can also be offered as and when needed throughout the year. These can complement each other and also allow for staff to revisit online courses andtutorials if needed.
Local authorities – if you would like advice or support from Education Scotland’s DigiLearn team please contact – Kirsty McFaul via email at Kirsty.McFaul@educationscotland.gov.scot
iDEA Awards, Grove Academy
Gavin Pyott, PT Computing Science
I became aware of the iDEA awards by chance when it was first launched 3 years ago. I can’t explain how glad I am that I did. The programme is so well written and produced that all learners are drawn into the modules and are keen to do more. Due to the positive impact iDEA had with classes in my department l began promoting the awards and encouraging others to use it within their schools. As a result of this l was awarded the title of Teacher Ambassador from iDEA.
The Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award, known as iDEA, is an international programme that helps students develop and demonstrate digital, enterprise and employability skills.
Since its launch, iDEA has established itself as the digital equivalent of The Duke of Edinburgh Award. The iDEA awards are recognised by universities and employers so are a great addition to any student’s CV.
The iDEA awards allow students to map their knowledge and understanding of the digital world through a series of modules (badges).
The badges have been designed to unlock new opportunities and raise awareness of the diverse range of careers in our digital world, all the while allowing students to gain an industry recognised award to help them stand out from the crowd.
To achieve a Bronze Award, students need to earn a minimum of 250 points, including at least 40 points in each of the core categories of the curriculum: Citizen, Worker, Maker and Entrepreneur.
• CITIZEN BADGES cover digital awareness, safety and ethics.
• WORKER BADGES introduce tools and techniques which are useful in the digital workplace.
• MAKER BADGES cover digital creativity and building and making in the digital world.
• ENTREPRENEUR BADGES explain how to originate ideas and bring them to life.
• GAMER BADGES investigate gamification techniques and help people learn how to make games.
These badges are all very informative and explain complex concepts in a straightforward, easy to understand, way. All badges are designed to be interactive, allowing pupils to answer questions as they go, building up their knowledge step-by-step.
To help track student progress iDEA have launched ‘organiser codes’ and the organiser area. This allows you to provide pupils with a simple code to add to their iDEA profiles. This will then pull the progress charts for each pupil together into a handy, easy to use spreadsheet.
After completing the Bronze award, many pupils volunteer to move on to the Silver. Unlike Bronze, the Silver award has been written as a series of topics. Each topic is story-based with students being guided through a real-life scenario as they discover the skills required to progress.
Due to the amazing quality and excellent writing in the badges in the programme the target audience range has really been opened up. I have successfully delivered the iDEA award in S1, S2 and S3. We now have pupils is S4-6 who are also tapping into the programme as it has caught their attention. iDEA also works great in an upper primary setting. My own daughter liked the look of the badges and had a go herself. She successfully completed the Bronze award in Primary 6 and completed her Silver when in Primary 7. Not wanting to stop there she completed a total of 50 Bronze badges to become ‘Badge Champion’ and completed the remaining Silver topic to become a
‘Silver Star’. This determination to complete the modules has been replicated by students in my classes who applied the Pokemon ‘got to get them all’ approach to the badges and awards. I have to admit, I have done this too! The iDEA badges are so interesting and informative I found I couldn’t stop either! As an introduction to a new concept (block chain) or to brush up existing skills the iDEA Award is great CLPL for staff too.
To see more from Mr Pyott you can visit his Twitter feed on @MrPyott
To see more from Grove Academy, please visit their Twitter feed on @Grove_Academy
You can find out more on iDEA Awards via https://idea.org.uk/
When the prospect of a lockdown became apparent I, as an RCT teacher for the whole school, began to panic. My main concern was how will we be able to continue to develop the skills that they have spent the past 9 months working on with myself in Digital Technologies/STEM?
So when the lockdown resulted in both home and online learning, I had to think outside the box. I was aware that not all of our children would have access to a device to participate in online learning or even have the tools to complete the schemes of work we had planned on doing in the coming weeks.
For the home learning packs, I created STEM Challenge Grids – one for infants (P1-3) and one for upper (P4-7) classes, which you can see below. These grids encompassed previous learning since the beginning of the session, allowing the children to consolidate their learning. They were encouraged to share their progress with us via our school twitter account, or through an email (which we then shared, with permission, to our twitter feed).
I then had to start thinking of ways to continue the STEM learning as the lockdown progressed and the above grids would be getting completed.
This was when I decided to brave the camera and give the whole school STEM challenges twice a week (a Monday and a Thursday), each week would focus on a different letter of STEM for both challenges. This allowed the children to experience some old and some new learning in fun ways. The videos I make are done in one take, whether it works or not, and if it doesn’t work I will often keep persevering until I get it right so they see the process of evaluating and adapting, or if I would like them to figure it out without me giving them the answer, I will stop and challenge them to complete it better than I did!
These challenges are posted on our school twitter feed and the Microsoft Team channels for our P4-7 and ESA children.
Some of the challenges that we have had so far include:
★ Creating a ramp for an easter egg that smashes the egg at the end
★ Creating a paper ball using origami (which also doubled up as a water balloon)
★ Scavenger Hunts – maths and electronic focus
★ Designing a BeeBot and then creating a maze for it to go through, writing with 3 different levels of code ★ Chemical Reactions with Vinegar and Bicarbonate of Soda
★ Pushing pencils through a bag of water
★ Fitting through a piece of paper
★ Creating patterns
★ Growing a rainbow
★ Completing Barefoot online games
★ Completing Hour of Code games
Similar to the grids, I encourage the children to share how they got on and the feedback from the children has been great. They have been up for the challenges set, and some have even replicated the videos I’ve made (and done them so much better!). The children sometimes share videos or photographs of their challenges at different stages through email, uploading to Teams or the school twitter feed.
Through these STEM challenges, the learners and their families are exposed to different areas of STEM and are enjoying it. Which will definitely help us in the future as we drive STEM forward within our setting – so maybe rather than being apprehensive about how we would continue developing skills we had worked so hard on since August, I should have been jumping for joy as now they learners can share their STEM learning experiences first hand with their families and get them involved!
(Glow account required)
Our school community are, on the whole, fairly confident and upbeat just now. To understand why I receive such positive views from across the parents, pupils and staff, I have to give a bit of background “pre-Covid”. Argyll and Bute Council have a great IT Team that have been promoting the use of G-Suite (Google Apps through Glow) for a few years now. We in Oban High School had a number of really enthusiastic staff who saw the potential of Google, ran with the training and led peer CLPL.
Around the same time we built a new school and added a Promethean Board to every classroom and gave every teacher an iPad, which they were trained to use alongside the Google Apps. This led to an explosion of online learning via Google Classroom.
The necessity to use the new technology and Google apps, along with regular training, ensured some of our staff were ready for the next step on our journey: live learning and teaching between two schools. As I lead both Oban and Tiree High Schools, it was fairly easy to merge the timetables to allow for the delivery of live lessons to and from each school. This increased the level of subject choice available to senior pupils and ensured effective leadership across the sea; consistent curriculum development and a wealth of shared CLPL.
Admin; Art; Biology; Business Management; Computing; Computer Games Design; Geography; Music Technology; Physics; and PE. Yes, PE! Theses subjects have all been delivered between our schools as part of the merged timetable or, as in the case of PE, to cover a staffing issue.
How does it work? Well, the experience gained by staff in Oban as a result of the introduction of the new technology and mainstream use of G-Suite certainly helped reduce much apprehension. All our teachers were used to setting up and using Google Classrooms (GCs), how to uploading assignments, marking work and conversing through GCs. Colleagues were used to creating Google Docs, Slides or Sheets and to saving and organising onto Google Drive. The only add-on was the move to live learning through Google Meet.
The “new normal” our teachers faced was that some of the children’s smiling faces were now on a screen; their voices on a speaker. A class is still a class though. The exposition, the tasks, the Q&A and the plenaries are all shared experiences. When doing group work, the Tiree pupils can join an Oban group on the screen using a smaller speaker or vice versa. When they wish to ask a question, the teacher responds one-to-one over their headset. The cameras and screens allow the teacher to see every child in their (expanded) class at all times.
Concern with anything new is natural; safeguarding is a must. To begin with, we only used this with S4-6 classes. No class can exceed its SNCT maximum. IT support is on tap; a line manager is only a call away in the event of a behavioural issue; the office for a medical issue. We have now expanded this across the whole school at our teachers’ request.
What makes it work?
- Investment by the Local Authority.
- A core of experienced staff, keen to support colleagues and provide on-going training.
- The purchase of good cameras, teacher headsets and pupil speakers to capture the whole class “look and feel” to make the pupils in the remote location feel genuinely part of the class.
- The consistent and coherent use of one software suite of Apps: Google or Microsoft,
- A safeguarding protocol to give confidence to staff engaging in live delivery.
- Pupil buy-in – achieved by capturing the essence and experience of being in a larger traditional class environment, leading to an increased feeling of belonging to that class.
Learning and teaching from home has proved remarkably similar to what we already deliver, with the caveat that it has still been a very steep learning curve. The key difference is the need for safeguarding guidance to both staff and pupils; and a relaxation of accepted norms. We must be professional at all times in the way in which we interact with our pupils; we must have support in place for when the rules are not followed and we must keep stressing that we’re all in a “class” when on online… but we also have to accept our four-legged friends may still appear on screen at times.
Equity for children? A recurring theme in this discussion but just as important for our staff. If there is not a device available or there are not enough devices in the home, every child, and every member of staff, is given an iPad, Chromebook and/or data Dongle. IT support is available to ensure every child can access the devices; teachers take children through getting onto Glow, Google Classroom or how to use any of the Apps. Each child is in a Clan (House system) and a pastoral team member liaises weekly with every vulnerable family or any pupil or parent who asks for help. We do Welfare and Engagement checks weekly. Those not engaging receive a call or a visit to the house where we offer pastoral, IT or curricular support for those who are reluctant to ask but need support; whether online, over the phone or on the door step – two meters distant. We’re here to help.
Delivering a virtual learning experience is not easy for anyone but it will get easier. As each day goes by we learn from our experiences and accept that change is good; or at least necessary. The “new normal” of remote learning in the future will not be new; just normal: the normality a consequence of us investing in both technology; from supporting and training our colleagues; and from teaching our children well in whatever manner we can. It works now; it will work even better with practice.
All support materials are uploaded and shared on the school website below,
As a teacher of Computer Science I’ve always looked for ways to remove barriers to learning and make the curriculum more accessible. One of the biggest hurdles to this has been the complex nature of managing the installation and use of IDEs (Integrated Development Environments) to teach computer programming. Without a burning passion for the subject, you can forget getting a young person to download something like Microsoft Visual Studio or Eclipse at home.
A few years ago, whilst looking for a solution to my concerns I switched to repl.it to teach computer programming with the language Python. Repl.it is an online development environment which is completely browser based and requires no software installations on the user’s device. It is device and operating system agnostic, so it will work on desktops, laptops, mobile and tablet devices.
An example of the repl.it programming interface (Python 3.8)
Repl.it provides tools for assessment, through their Assignments tool which provides the student with a set of instructions, a pre-populated piece of code as a starting point and a console window. The student can then submit the assignment to the teacher for written feedback and receives a notification when this is sent to them. Repl.it assignments also allow for test conditions to be set to provide some level of instant feedback to the student.
An example of an assignment in Repl.it showing student code, instructions, console and feedback area.
This has enabled my students and I to make a smooth transition from classroom teaching to remote learning for National 5 and Higher Computing Science during the COVID-19 lockdown. Although using online tools for home learning has always been a part of my pedagogical practice at this school, I’ve adapted my methods slightly. At Speyside High School, learners are currently using a combination of Google Classroom, Scholar, repl.it and YouTube videos that I have created to begin their new Senior Phase courses.
To create learning materials, I am using OBS Studio to capture my screen and webcam, which means I am then able to explain concepts to the students as if I was teaching a class and seamlessly flip between my course material and my live coding environment on repl.it.
The tools mentioned in this blogpost are all free to use for teachers.
PT Computing & Technical / Speyside High School
Speyside High @speysiderector