VIEWS & OPINION How schools can produce an effective

and efficient digital strategy Comment by AL KINGSLEY, CEO of NetSupport and chair of a multi-academy trust

Whilst the shift to digital platforms over the past year has facilitated the continuation of our personal and professional lives, it also brought with it a number of challenges around safeguarding, cyber security and continuity. With this new pressure on schools’ software and networks, it has never been more important to identify a long-term digital strategy that takes this new context into account.

Why is a digital strategy important? To properly reap benefits from it, technology should be something in place to serve you and your work – not the other way around and a digital strategy enables this to be the case. Incorporating technology into the classroom can aid the teaching process by improving accessibility for students, supporting personalised learning, supporting access to different resources, or reducing marking times through online tools to test your learners. Yet, without a clear strategy and purpose EdTech can go unused or even become a hindrance. An efficient and effective digital strategy ensures schools can maximise their EdTech investment – and enhance the experience of school staff and students alike.

How do I implement a digital strategy? As with every strategy, it is important to have the broadest set of voices around the table to so you are clear on what you want to achieve, why and what the priorities are and ultimately what shapes your vision. That coproduction will subsequently ensure everyone in more likely to be onboard with the subsequent strategy. As the overarching aim of any digital strategy is to support the whole school, which is only possible if staff feel comfortable and confident using

the technology. From a teaching perspective, the critical enabler of a successful digital strategy is teacher confidence, only then can EdTech be fully embedded into the classroom and achieve the impact they are designed to make – which is why training and support is a key step in the roll-out of any digital strategy.

For a successful strategy, you will need: • A clear and consistent vision of what you are trying to achieve. • Alignments with the school development plan shaping priorities to focus on initially. • Planned and sustained CPD for staff and students to ensure any new approaches have best chance of success. Identifying existing staff with experience of solutions to be the flagbearers and “got to” people. • To ensure the underlying infrastructure is in place to support these efforts, such as: sufficient Wi-Fi bandwidth, access to devices, access to software. • To identify approaches to monitor and track impact and gather evidence where appropriate, • To avoid trying to do too much too quickly, less is more,

How to measure its impact? When measuring the impact of the use of technology in the classroom, it is important to look at both the qualitative and quantitative improvements and impacts. There are a variety of key enhancements you should be looking for: • • • • • • • • • •

Time saving Cost saving

Supporting and enhancing learning Supporting and enhancing teaching Ease of use

Ease of sharing Consistency of approach

Improved communication (Staff, Students, Parents, Community) Improved collaboration

Positive impact on wellbeing.

The benefits you find are often subtle and require the right attitudes to learning from students and uses of technology by educators.

“Thank you, Alexa” - nurturing respectful behaviour starts young

Comment by EMMA GRAY, Head at St Margaret’s Junior School in Hertfordshire

Nurturing respectful behaviour has always been an integral part of the fabric of early years and primary education. But now more than ever, we need to equip children with the tool kit to understand not only what it means to be respectful but also, what it means to be respected. As educators over the last 18 months, we have certainly had time to

reflect on our values and the importance of both the conscious and subconscious messages that we are passing on to young people today. From the events of the Covid pandemic to the Black Lives Matter movement, the impact of climate change and the rise of reported unwanted behaviours highlighted more recently by Everyone’s invited, should rightly encourage us to stop and reflect on the post-covid curriculum. In view of these global movements and the impact these will have on our children and future society, as schools we have a duty to look at how we can start to move forward again, taking small steps, in our own environment, with particular focus on how we can model the right behaviours to young people. Do you say ‘thank you’ to Alexa? Or say ‘sorry’ to Siri? These enquiries

might seem light hearted, but they are pertinent questions to ask of ourselves, the children we teach and the families we are part of; after all nurturing respectful behaviour in the young (from the outset) relies on

June 2021

strong, mutually driven partnerships between school and home. How young children see their older siblings, family members and teachers, how they speak to Artificial intelligence (AI) and voice operated tech, will have a ripple effect on the influence of their behaviour, manners and even the respectful behaviour of our youngest children. Taking a moment to think about our daily interactions, do we

encourage children to say: ‘good morning’, when they first see someone or even when they first talk to Alexa, or do we allow commands as our first point of contact? Similarly insisting on a ‘thank you’ when someone puts us first, helps us, comforts us or shares something with us. These small gestures start a respectful conversation. In classrooms and playgrounds from nursery upwards, creating foundations for respectful interactions is key. For instance, a child who does not want to participate in a game can say ‘no’, without hard feelings or a negative impact on another child’s emotions. Saying ‘no’, suggesting a new game, wanting to play alone or playing with someone else should all be acceptable actions. In my experience, the youngest children respond well to being taught to

physically put their hands up and say a keyword like “Stop, I don’t like that” as well as being encouraged to take a step backwards, allowing their peers and supportive adults to spot the behaviour and make a change in themselves. Young children can often stand very close to each other, which can escalate behaviour and lead to low level pushing or touching. Encouraging space allows more thinking time and a physical trigger. As children get older similar techniques can support them in knowing it is ok to say ‘no’, spotting the change in themselves or recognising it within others. We need to model the right behaviours and explicitly provide

opportunities for children to interact with each other and the world around them, with respect at the heart. This interaction may be via technology, with each other, with our pets, grown-ups, family, friends or strangers, but the old saying “treat others as we would wish to be treated” is as prevalent today as it ever was and maybe even more so. 21

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