Using Education technology to ensure all students meet their potential
My journey with Education Technology (EdTech) was definitely not planned, thought out or a personal mission. It was, however: slightly accidental, and more closely linked to my desire to make teaching and learning quicker, easier and more fun. At heart, I have always liked to tinker, and it first became apparent to me that EdTech was a strength of mine when I was working as a Deputy Headteacher in Somerset and I was contacted by the specialist from our local education office asking why I was messing around with her SIMS marksheets that she had carefully built and distributed to every single school in the County. After a rather contrite apology, I explained that I wanted to make them better, so they were easier to use and had more impact on staff. And so it all began.
Ever since then, I have continued to explore, tinker and accidentally break things. This last bit is important. Since joining Fortes Education, my curiosity about EdTech has been encouraged and supported, and I am very thankful to work for such an innovative and forward-thinking company. I have also been very lucky with the support provided by my amazing team of teachers who are always willing to try something new, to tinker and explore, and to try to break things. I mention breaking things again because this is a very important part of the process of improvement that we have implemented at Regent International School, as we are always looking at what new technologies can do for us, and equally importantly, what it can’t do for us. Breaking it is part of the process, and helps us to redesign and improve what we do. It also makes integration across the whole school much more effective and efficient as we are able to ensure that most (but never all) glitches have been identified. This is a key message that we pass on to all of our students as well, the importance of not just following the same processes year after year, but always ensuring that we seek to innovate and improve, even if sometimes it means we fail in the process.
Integral to our success at Regent International School has been my team of tech drivers, fellow keen explorers who don’t mind trying some new equipment, programme or app and providing unbiased feedback, as well as valuable user experience. It is this team of people that has driven the implementation and training for all the EdTech that we use throughout the school, ably supported by our IT engineers. The most effective training has often been born out of the curiosity of other teachers wanting to know what they were doing and why. Our most powerful EdTech that we use throughout the school – Teams, Onenote and Fortes AI, was grown organically this way. Once the impact on students’ progress was demonstrated by our tech drivers, our implementation accelerated and the programmes were used consistently throughout the school in under 6 months; the planned implementation for Onenote was 2 years.
At Regent, we use a plethora of EdTech to support students learning, such as, Seesaw, Teams, Fortes AI, Khan Academy, Scratch, to name a few. Additionally some of our EdTech has also helped us to support our parents. Through the teachers’ use of Onenote to store all of our teaching resources, parents are able to support their students at home using the exact teaching materials used in school. In an International School, where in one class, students can have been taught up to 5 different methods for written addition, this is invaluable. It also has a built-in translator, which is a bit handy as well! As a leader at Regent, one of my most satisfying moments was watching a Year 3 student explaining to their parents that is all ok, he would teach them how to use Onenote when they got home and then they could see exactly what he had done that day.
Most importantly, our excellent students also know when not to use EdTech, and this was recognised by our most recent BSO ‘Outstanding’ inspection grading.
I like to think our tech team has now grown to include many more teachers, and over 1000 students who are all happy to teach new staff how to use our technology; but a special mention must be made to our original tech drivers – Rachel Ferguson, Jon Cahill, Shane Mclaughlin, Javaid Russool and Troy Ellison. Thank you team!
Mr. Steve Dobson, Head of Key Stage 2 & 3, Regent International School