Before I get into this week’s blog, here’s a reminder of our free EdTech consultation to support you with technology in the classroom

As an Apple ADE, SLE and having many years under my belt as a design teacher and digital leader at Harrogate Grammar School, I’ve much experience to share. I’m excited to announce as digital education consultant here at Homework4, I can help review and refine how you’re using technology in the classroom. This is by building your understanding and knowledge, and in turn your confidence, in moving forward without making costly mistakes or choosing a path not best suited to your school. I’m happy to help get you started by developing an achievable plan to help or strengthen your existing use of technology.

Contact me on 01282 612222 or

What an exciting time to be in the classroom!

It’s such an exciting time in the world of technology, particularly in education. With incredible innovations happening every day with apps, hardware and approaches, we live in a world where digital solutions mean we can create music, photographs, artworks and movies; write code, wander around virtual worlds and communicate instantly with people globally. We can create and publish, blog and share, give and receive feedback. We can watch the news as it happens, learn new skills, share ideas, spark up debates and discussions and have mind-blowing experiences we’d most likely never have if it were not for the amazing digital solutions and creative, visionary minds who develop them. For many of us this can now be achieved using the phone in our pockets.

A need to educate

We’ve a duty as educators to exploit and utilise all the new and exciting opportunities digital technology brings; we’d be neglectful to ignore the growing part these play in our everyday lives now and will do more so in the future. But there are barriers – fear of the unknown, lack of experience and skills deficits, all playing a part in avoiding technology. Some see it as a danger – but crossing the road is dangerous. However, we don’t shy away or warn against it, we educate to make sure our young students understand how to do it safely and responsibly and share the opportunities which might be on the other side. Utilising technology is no different. We just need to educate what the benefits and pitfalls are and steer our colleagues and students to become confident, positive users. In fact, often with the right guidance and support they go way beyond just being users, becoming innovators themselves, finding ways we’d not thought of, taking advantage of the digital world and developing new ideas through their creative endeavours.

Firstly, it has to be said the decision to employ technology to help engage and enhance learning in new innovative ways does not trash the work teachers have done for years and will continue to do without it. A blended diet of tried and tested methods and approaches, alongside new and unexpected ones is surely the way forward.  At a time when teacher workload is of such concern and the pressures of accountability so high, investing in technology which can help and support us has to be a positive step. These should not just be gimmicks though; with a considered approach these technologies provide incredible opportunities to take advantage of.

The Long game

However, there’s a but and it’s a huge but. Planning, training and professional development alongside communicating clear expectation, must be at the heart of using technology effectively.

The long game must be the goal, not a quick solution or jump towards technology for technology sake – this will just fade or fail at the first hurdle. Communicating your guiding principles, which must be based on the educational learning benefits and safety of your students, must be a priority to ensure everyone knows why you’re using these techniques and methods. Let’s be really clear, technology in the hands of any teacher doesn’t automatically make them effective educators. In fact, without real investment in training, the use of technology can be detrimental to the classroom and will ultimately be quickly locked away in a cupboard with claims it’s too complex, doesn’t work or was a waste of money. Sadly, I know many of you are nodding right now as you reflect on being given a shiny new piece of tech you never ever wanted in the first place, without any consultation or instructions of what to do with it!

Providing relevant professional development and training

Alongside the point of deployment, the goal is to provide relevant professional development that addresses the constantly evolving educational technology landscape. There needs to be a well thought out plan that provides a variety of formats to develop the capacity of teachers and students. This needs to combine sound pedagogy with technology-infused learning experiences. 

These should include:

  • Delivering in a variety of formats (e.g. workshops, individual coaching, drop in hours, staff/department meetings, print/video)
  • Providing a robust technology orientation programme for trainee and new teachers
  • Aligning with the particular needs of your staff and students
  • Designing timely experiences that reflect emerging technologies in the classroom
  • Fostering a culture of collaboration and providing platforms for teachers and students to share their ideas and expertise across the whole school

Participating responsibly in a digital world

This new ground needs careful consideration. School communities need to act in ways that are safe, legal and ethical. Their actions will reflect an understanding of the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an inter-connected digital world.

As students join a global community of learners, we should teach them to become outstanding digital citizens who: 

  • Participate safely online
  • Interact and collaborate with others in a respectful and considerate manner
  • Emulate the professional standards
  • Use electronic resources responsibly, legally and ethically
  • Consider the personal and societal impact of all their digital actions
  • Strive for a healthy balance between online and offline activities

Engaging with families and the wider community

It’s vital to proactively inform your community about how and why technology is used in the curriculum and develop a common understanding regarding responsible use inside and outside of school. Use a variety of means to foster relationships with parents, families and community members. 

  • Inform your community regarding how and why technology is used
  • Foster community partnerships and investment in responsible digital citizenship
  • Engage with parents via presentations, outside experts and other public forums

Managing and communicating expectations

Managing and communicating expectations is really important. Ensuring all involved are clear about what is expected of them will avoid difficult and challenging situations in the future. With the best will in the world your user group will be varied and possess their own understanding of technology, how its best used and what it should do. Managing this from the outset will demonstrate you’ve a clear and positive view of why and what technology will achieve in your school and what it won’t. Preparing for every eventuality will save time, reduce friction and ensure all users are comfortable with the whole process. FAQ’s are a great way forward; clear policies such as acceptable and responsible use and misuse are really important to encourage aspiration alongside being clear about boundaries and potential sanctions.

Developing and applying principles when using technology

(these are really important to understand and apply to any decision to use technology)

We should ask these questions when deciding to whether to use technology in the classroom:

  • Will it provide a learning experience that without technology would not be possible?

This is crucial. Whilst tech might help speed things up, provide a substitute or even augment the learning experience (SAMR), the return on investment most be much more. If it adds nothing else new to the learning other than speed or convenience, then there’s little point in the huge investment of time and money. Combining all of your subject and pedagogical knowledge alongside your expertise in using tech, (TPAK) will undoubtedly result in something very special, but this is probably new to you and will require significant investment in learning these new approaches, risk taking and creativity. Working collaboratively and tapping into a growing community of passionate teachers is a great way to move more rapidly towards the best solutions.

  • Will it provide learning tasks that engage students in a way that offers new and exciting approaches to their learning that are in tune with the world we live in?

Having got yours and your students’ hands on this shiny new tech, how will you design the learning to fully embrace the world we now live in? One thing we can’t deny or shy away from is the tech you’re using, which may be new and innovative to you, will not be seen as such by your students who already take it totally for granted, use it freely in their own lives and maybe understand it better than you! In order to utilise technology, you need to be as familiar with it as they are. This is where investment in training and understanding is vital. This might be through your own endeavours, but hopefully be initiated by your school who’re providing the tech in the first place. Understanding and embracing social media is all part of this. Seeing the tech as a window to a global audience may be new to you but is also a really valuable view to hold and engage with. We all agree that personalising the learning to embrace every student is the goal and will ultimately lead to each student developing their individual talents, understanding and skills through ways that best suit them. Technology can provide exhaustive vehicles and pathways for students to do this.

  • Will it combine the very best of well-established learning principles alongside new approaches to teaching?

It’s really important not to distance technology from well-established educational theory and principles as well as the new ones that researchers are continually unearthing, such as through research into neuroscience. New technologies just provide new tools, vehicles and pathways to experience them, bringing to life the subject knowledge, content and personal learning experience students have, in ways that were never possible before. This will no doubt present challenges which reflect the modern world of digital and technological innovations. Developing your expertise to utilise them is at the heart of enabling this; using technologies in your classroom innovatively and with confidence will open up exciting opportunities. This will in turn support the pedagogical approach you decide is best suited to the task or learning desired.

Other benefits beyond learning experiences

Other spinoffs of using technology intelligently are the potential for streamlining simple tasks and financial savings over time. These can vary from online lunchbox food ordering, registration, homework planners, communication with parents, time saving on manual tasks such as merits and rewards, savings in time and money for photocopying and of course school promotion and marketing. All of these can benefit from a technological make-over with the aim of providing more time and money to spend on the things that will make a difference.

Getting started and some resources

Perhaps the most challenging part of all of this, beyond funding and infrastructure is gaining knowledge, ideas and inspiration to develop your skills and approaches.

Where to begin? Clearly the big players in technology have so much to offer…

Apple, Microsoft, Google etc., all have a broad range of experience, free resources and programme teachers can engage in to gain knowledge and recognition. For example, Apple have an online training programme ‘Apple teacher’ and every other year run training events globally for the Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) programme. Linked to the Apple teacher programme, there are many free resources on iBooks.  Microsoft have similar training events and facilities for teachers in the UK and beyond. Google provide a broad range of free tools for teachers, these are all worth exploring.

Following EdTech bloggers is also another brilliant way to gain knowledge, discover resources, apps and connect with a wide audience across the world of like-minded educators. Below will get you started.

@russell1955 (Russell Stannard) Winner of the British Council Technology Award 2010, Russell runs and tweets about using technology in education.

@hannahtyreman (Hannah Tyreman) Hannah reflects and writes about her experiences as an English teacher in Post 16 education, CPD leadership and her current role as Online Learning Specialist at the Chartered College of Teaching.

 @GrahamBM (Graham Brown-Martin) Graham is the founder of Learning Without Frontiers, a global think tank that brought together renowned educators, technologists and creatives to share provocative and challenging ideas about the future of learning.

@Doug_Lemov (Doug Lemov) Doug is the author of the international bestseller Teach Like a Champion. He’s the co-author with TLAC team colleagues of Practice Perfect, Reading Reconsidered: A Practical Guide to Rigorous Literacy Instruction. In addition to his work studying teachers he’s the front man in the nation’s foremost Kenny G cover band. His favourite words are “Huzzah” and “Yam”. He’s also founder of @UncommonSchools.

@alicekeeler (Alice Keeler) Alice is a Google certified teacher and author of ’50 Things You Can Do With Google Classroom’. She tweets regularly about #EdTech.

@LordJimKnight (Lord Jim Knight) Jim is the Chief Education and External Officer at TES, visiting professor at the London Knowledge Lab of the Institute of Education and a member of the House of Lords. He shares his thoughts about teaching, learning and education.

@KLMorgan_2 (Kathryn Morgan) Kathryn is the Director of Professional Development and Research-Based Learning at the Prince Albert Community Trust in Birmingham. She’s part of the #SLTchat team, as well as the UKEd_WMids account. She believes the quality of a school can only truly be measured by the effectiveness of its teachers

@OhLottie (Claire Lotriet) Claire is an assistant  headteacher, author and EdTech columnist for the @TES. She is an Naace award winner and Google certified teacher.

@Informed_Edu (David Weston) As the CEO and founder of @TeacherDevTrust, and Chair of @educationgovuk CPD Group, David is an inspiring man. He’s also the founder of@OutTeacher (check out his great TEDx talk here). As well as an author and former maths and physics teacher.

@ICTEvangelist (Mark Anderson) Mark has been an assistant headteacher, head of faculty, head of department, teacher and governor. Now he’s an award-winning educator, speaker, consultant, blogger and author.

 @AdvocateforEd (The Edvocate) The Edvocate is an online magazine devoted to fighting for education equity, reform and innovation, including the use of technology in education. Check out:

 @web20classroom (Steven Anderson) Steven has been named one of the top 50 innovators in education and is a keen educator, speaker, blogger, author and learning evangelist.

I’ll be writing more blogs with more specific ideas and guidance later in the year. I hope you’ve found this helpful and informative and I’ve highlighted some pointers for you to move forward with deploying and using technology better. If you’d like more specific help please get in contact and we can discuss your particular situation in more detail.

In the meantime, the Government are pushing forward with a new strategy, here’s a summary document (published April 2019), giving you an insight into how they see the future of technology in the classroom.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Stephen Woollard

Education Consultant Homework4


T 01282 612222