Reimagining education with transformational technology at Cornerstone – the Digital Academy Trust
The Cornerstone Academy Trust is recognised nationally and internationally as being at the forefront of EdTech for teaching and learning. Find out how they are harnessing technology to collaborate and develop a supportive learning environment.
David James, Head of Education, Cornerstone Academy Trust. Anthony Lees, Deputy Head of School, Westclyst Community Primary School (Cornerstone Academy Trust). Paul Beavis, Scomis Education & Product Specialist
Overview – Reimagining education with transformational technology at Cornerstone
The Cornerstone Academy Trust (TCAT) in Devon is a forward-looking, agile MAT where like-minded schools collaborate and develop in a local, supportive learning environment.
TCAT is recognised nationally and internationally as being at the forefront of EdTech. Find out how the trust is evolving their teaching and learning delivery model even further in response to new opportunities following the pandemic. And how as a DfE EdTech Demonstrator, Cornerstone can support you on your digital teaching and learning journey and how Scomis can help you achieve your vision.
About The Cornerstone Academy Trust (TCAT)
TCAT comprises four primary schools where pupils benefit from a broad and balanced curriculum, and where innovation is at the heart of teaching and learning. Its distinctive, extended curriculum opportunities provide a challenging learning environment that inspires children to achieve high standards and become life-long independent learners.
With strong partnerships locally, regionally, nationally, and globally, TCAT also provides teacher training, professional learning, leadership development and school-to-school support at both primary and secondary levels. As well as being a DfE EdTech Demonstrator, it is a Microsoft Training Academy, a DfE English Hub and a Science Learning Partnership and is also part of the West Country Computer Science Hub.
Scomis has 40 years of experience in providing ICT services to schools, so we understand the challenges you face and know the solutions that are going to help overcome them. By providing flexible access to technical expertise, we aim to help you to get the most out of your ICT and to exploit relevant, new technologies.
The last couple of years has seen a rapid adoption of cloud-based learning platforms by schools and we are pleased to have worked with so many of our customers to make them a success.
Other Related Topics
Explore how and why technology was being used before remote learning, how it’s changed, and look at some examples from Microsoft of how things might evolve in the coming years as we look towards a Hybrid Education future with Jeremie Sutton, Microsoft Senior Executive.
Lara Sorrell, Microsoft EdTech Demonstrator who builds on Jeramie’s presentation by providing a practical demonstration of how Microsoft’s future vision for EdTech is coming alive in the classroom, in the trust and school office.
Find out more about moving your MIS to Arbor with CEO and Executive Head Teacher of The Cornerstone Academy Trust, Jonathan Bishop.
Further reading and reference material
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Offering over 20 hours of appropriate learning content for School Business Leaders. ISBL members can register their attendance against their annual CPD commitment.
>> Welcome to our final session of ScomisLive. My fame is Paul and I’m joins by David James and Anthony Lees from the Cornerstone Academy trust. Cornerstone is a forward-looking agile MAT in Devon, comprising four primary schools. The Trust is recognised nationally and internationally as being at the forefront of EdTech. In this session, we’re going to find out how the trust is evolving their teaching and learning delivery model in response to new opportunities following the pandemic. You’ll find out how as a DFE and tech demonstrator Cornerstone can support you on your digital teaching and learning journey. And how Scomis can help you achieve your vision. With strong partnerships locally, regionally, nationally and globally. TCAT providing teacher training, professional learning, leadership developments and school to school support at primary and secondary levels. As well as being an EdTech demonstrator it is a Microsoft training Academy, DFE English hub and a science and learning partnership and it’s part of the West Country computer science hub. David and Anthony, I’m delighted to have you at ScomisLive.
>> Good to be here.
>> The first thing is we just really wanted to ask you about how you operate and a bit about some of those things that I mentioned in some of your partnerships.
>> OK, first of all as an introduction, we’re a small MAT, relatively small, four schools. Over the years, we’ve grown gradually. We haven’t taken a lot of schools. We have been able to evolve our technology at a gradual pace. Actually, we started our technological journey about 25 years ago, where we very simply put computers in classrooms. That’s as simple as it got. From there, we’ve built on this and we’ve started to put computers in more classrooms and over the years, we’re now at a stage where we are at a one-to-one access across the trust. We’ve used that technology to support the learning that goes on in the classrooms before the pandemic. So, when the pandemic struck suddenly everyone was thrown into this virtual world, this lock down, that required remote teaching, remote learning. We were actually in a really good position because we were already using the technology. So, when it came to the lock down, we were really well placed to support other schools and we had been on our journey and made lots of mistake. We were able to say if you are going to implement technology, probably best not to do this and look at this one. Yeah, been on it for a while.
>> When the pandemic hit, were you collaborating and sharing information across all your four primaries or collaborating individually?
>> Yeah, there’s, I suppose that is definitely one of the benefits of using your digital platform and getting the most out of it. We were able to across our trust the teachers were able to plan together using the digital platform, but also, they were able to deliver the lessons across the trust. So that meant it frees up teachers to be supporting children on a more personal level as well as delivering the same education that you would have got if you were in school.
>> And obviously some of the digital learning platforms that you use, such as 365, they’re not just remote teaching and learning, not just for the pandemic. So, as we’re coming out of the pandemic, you’re still using them for regular teaching and learning both in school and at home?
>> Yeah, absolutely. I think, CEO Jonathan Bishop had a clear vision that he wanted us to feel like one school across four campuses. So that use of the digital platform means that regardless of blended learning and virtual and Covid and all those things that have impacted strongly in the last couple of years, we have always, as the trust has grown, which that idea of scaling what we do in one site and extending it across the others. So as Dave said, teachers working in collaboration with their parallel year groups across the other schools using the digital platform to plan together, to co-deliver sometimes across sites, to review learning together and really to support other teachers even though physically they’re not in the same space.
>> Within the digital learning platform, are there any particular digital tools that you use a lot, embedded across all your schools?
ANTHONY: All of our schools are Microsoft show case schools. We’re talking about Office 365 and Teams for us. Of those Teams has been the one that I think we have found game changing in the last few years and the schools that we’ve worked with have said the same thing. It’s because schools talk about, where do you go next with your technology? The vision is simplification. Make the technology more seamless so it gets out of the way of teaching and learning. Teams does that compared to all of the separate disparate technologies, even within the office environment, now with Teams you can have the dialogue, the ongoing file sharing and multiauthor. Can you have the white board programme that teachers use and learners’ access, which we’ll talk through and it’s all in one place. It means that teachers have to learn one thing and model that to their pupils or students and it’s this one environment that pulls all of those different parts together.
>> So, what does it look like on a daily basis for teachers and students? Are they coming into school, immediately given their devices out of their bags, going to their desks, signing in? Is that the way you do it?
DAVID: It could do. It all depends on what the children are doing. If the task that they’ve been asked to do requires using a computer, then they’ll access it through the computer. If anything, I think the computers need to be seen as an extra tool in the pencil case. They get their pen, they get their writing book and they get their computer. And that sits with them on the desk and it acts as their personal white board. Whatever the teacher’s notes are, whatever the resources are that the teacher is displaying on their screen is what the child will see on their personal computer and on top of that any extra assignments that are being given to the children. The child will then write in their book, write in their maths book with the support, with the resources, everything there at their fingertips. That’s really clear to make sure everyone is aware of. When you go to a one-to-one programme, it’s not about giving children computers to complete their work on. It’s about giving them an extra resource to support them in their learning.
>> And as the work shares out that way, do the children get the opportunity to access it off site at home to reinforce their learning?
DAVID: The beauty of Office 365 and the tools.
ANTHONY: Absolutely. One of the reasons we’ve felt that so strongly a good choice for schools to make is because of the universal layout on all apps. So, it means that, sorry all platforms. It means that in school, certainly here, teachers are teaching off a Microsoft surface, wirelessly projecting to a screen. And pupils are then accessing their learning on a surface go, the smaller version. The lots of schools we work with, the teachers might be teaching with a touch board plugged into a laptop or desktop. Most of the time it’s a Windows device. Learners might be accessing on iPads or on chrome books or on laptops or on any blend of those.
>> Even Xbox, PlayStation.
ANTHONY: When they go home absolutely. Xbox in the bedroom, the family laptop, a kindle, anything. And because of the way that the Teams apps particularly things like one note, Teams, those tools, because they look the same, across platforms, it’s really clear for the teacher when they’re modelling and for the learner when they’re accessing it that it looks the same. It doesn’t look different on a different type of device.
>> I know from speaking it other schools, a lot of schools worry about a one-to-one device, because it’s not the technology, it’s the logistics. And in my day, the excuse was obviously that you know the dog ate your homework and sometimes it’s a struggle to get kids to bring in pens and pencils and calculators. How do you manage the fact, do you have many children who forget to bring their devices in and what happens if they don’t have access to a device or … they leave it at home?
DAVID: We don’t allow our devices to go home. That is an option that schools may want to consider. We didn’t go for that, because we felt that it is a tool that they need in school and for that exact reason you don’t want, if they forget it or it’s broken, with us it’s at the school and solely there. We don’t have that issue. But I know lots of schools have their bring your own device policy set up. And that, when it comes to managing those devices, that’s where schools have really got to be aware, if they are going to start to introduce bring your own device or even their own device programme, you’ve got to have some other thoughts behind-the-scenes, how are we going to manage the devices? keep them up to date? How are we going to ensure that they’re running as well …
>> Keep them charged.
DAVID: Yeah, simple as that.
>> Fabulous. Obviously, it’s taken you a while to get to where you are today. From your journey, what would you have liked to know before making this journey? You know for schools that maybe have a learning platform and they’ve used for Covid but they’re not using it for regular day-to-day teaching, to move to one-to-one device, what were the pit falls and what were perhaps some of the unexpected benefits that you found?
ANTHONY: I think for a lot of the schools we’ve worked with, we’ve shared the message that putting the technology in place is probably the minor part of what to do. Getting to a one-to-one device programme if you commit to leasing and things like that, that’s the smaller part of the issue. The much bigger one and as soon as we start to talk with schools this is what happens, you go down this rabbit hole of different knock-on effects. But actually, it’s the strategy that is the hard part. It’s knowing if we’re going to put in place non-negotiables for all our teachers, who should they be? If we’re going to set out a time scale of starting from this number of devices and this level of technology to here, what does that journey look like along each step and where are we trying to get to? Otherwise, you end up with a situation where the tail bags the dog and the technology is the driver rather than the curriculum intent becoming the driver and the technology working towards that. That of all things is probably the biggest thing that is discussion with schools and making sure that leadership role is very clear on where they want to get to and why the technology is being put in.
>> It sounds like you’ve obviously got a clear vision and a clear culture. It’s embedded throughout the school. Do you involve parents in those discussions as well? Because obviously they’re important school stakeholders?
DAVID: Yeah, of course. The parents, you know, we try and involve the parents as much as possible. We even run training sessions for parents to make sure that they’re as much up to speed with the use of technology as the children are. We want the parents to be involved with their children’s work so when they go home and access not just during the pandemic, but even now before, it was a case of we want parents to support children in what they’re doing in school. And going back to your previous question about any lessons learned from our journey, I suppose I think reassuring to everyone considering if they’re at the beginning of their journey or they want to evolve it, that we are now at a stage where first of all the digital platform is the most robust it’s ever been. Going back 20 years and you’ll recall –
>> It used to be a bit clunky.
DAVID: The platforms that were in place in the past is enough to put any head teacher or leader off from introducing a digital strategy. And I get that completely. But now especially during the lock down, all the dibbling tall platforms invested massively in making sure that they are not only robust but they are really suitable for the classroom. And then, in terms of technology, I think we’re at a stage now where the technology has reduced in price and gone up in quality, now that as a, again, as a school you can feel confident in knowing that your devices are going to be quite robust and are going to last the duration. That’s something I suppose also we can talk about, which is how long do you keep a device for. Really good question that divides people. Lots of schools, they might find themselves in a position where they have a pot of money that they want to spend on and they go let’s focus on devices because we have this pot of money. As soon as you bought those devices and you take ownership of them, they’re yours. They’ll be yours for five, ten years. Unfortunately, computers have a shelf life. They have – and it’s not that long. Five years at most before it really starts to get slow. And we’d think about replacing. But then you need another pot of money to invest into it. I suppose, as a school, if it’s a priority of schools, then we would recommend the lease option to purchase devices and pay off on a three-year lease, matching the warranty of the device that. Way not only do you cut your cost but also you are every year on an annual basis, but you’re reducing the need to keep computers stable and managed.
>> That’s really important because without those warranties, you know, a one-to-one scheme the point is that every child has access to a device. It doesn’t work if you have some students that don’t have access. It’s not equitable. So that insurance seems key. You know at Scomis we’ve done a – we do a lot of work supporting schools with learning platforms, be it Google work space or 365. You’re right, they’re so intuitive to use these days, in the past when they were virtual learning environments, teachers would spend more time creating the resources and creating the structure than teaching. Now it’s so quick you can only spend a few minutes prepping your resources to keep your students all busy and occupied for the whole class. But the other thing we’ve found is although you’re saying about refreshing your devices on a regular cycle, the cost of devices has come down. When you get to things like the new cheaper surface range or chrome books, you know, these are sub£200 devices and because all the processing is done on the internet, these devices are really cost effective. They don’t need to be super powerful machines because all the work’s done on the Cloud. You know, we’re finding more and more schools aren’t put off by the costs these days. With leasing and other schemes, and other schools use parental contribution schemes, it makes it more affordable. But the other thing I guess we need to mention it’s no good bringing devices into a school and expecting them to work. You need the infrastructure and some foundations. Again, at Scomis we help schools with their wireless infrastructure and network infrastructure. Because without those solid foundations, you’re not going to have the band width inside the school to run those devices. So, do you ever find that if all the kids are using the devices at the same time, they must be hammering your internet connection. Do you have issues with things slowing down?
ANTHONY: You have hit on a good point, that’s a change in the last few years. Previously, it was all about devices and getting the device and the – you could get by having shaky WiFi or not particularly good Broadband because the majority of providers that provided curriculum content had a box that you had in your server room that cached quietly overnight and every day learners would access the resource from the cached box. Now, most of those services have gone, they’ve lost the box and gone straight to the Cloud and learners access straight from the device to the internet. The conversation has changed very much with schools about let’s get your Broadband up to scratch. Let’s get your infrastructure of cabelling, your WiFi routers, all of those access points and for a lot of schools, that means big Old Vic torn buildings where you can’t get the WiFi through the wall. You have to have an access point in every school. That looks different everywhere. But it’s the same tussle about getting the infrastructure correct and then you can, what you’ve spent on that you save on the devices that are so much more cost effective now.
>> The other bonus for learners at home they don’t necessarily need a fancy device. As long as they have internet access and a web browser, they can sign in and access it through the web browser. It might look slightly different, but you know, they can still access that information in realtime.
DAVID: We found that during the pandemic especially, when supporting schools, lots of children were accessing it even on their parents’ phones. Majority of households have a mobile device that you’re able to access the internet on. Even just to get access to the questions, if you have some homework on something like that. You can lock at the questions. But yeah, we found that smart TVs with an internet browser, your Xboxes and PlayStations that all support Teams and Google on the browser makes accessibility really easy. For people, for schools and parents, they need to consider actually there are other ways to access it. It’s not just about having an expensive computer in the home.
>> And you know, the thing we touched on, the pre-reck winning share sits of having this, you mentioned staff training earlier. Although these systems are fairly intuitive how do you support your colleagues? How do you share good practice?
ANTHONY: In all these things, the transition to Cloud first approach has made a big difference. you were talking about the devices and things like that, I was picturing that army of technicians that most schools think they need to have. By having young devices on a replenishment cycle you just don’t have those things needing to be – nobody’s running around doing the maintenance to make these devices limp on. In the same way, you don’t need somebody who is constantly fixing it and moving forward because the devices are in a good state. As an organisation, can you focus on innovation and moving forward with the teaching and learning, rather than just keeping the devices going. The same thing goes with the Cloud-based approach. Taking the learning platform to the cloud rather than a server locally and the same thing with all of the curriculum content. So, we would be looking at maybe the software we used to have on the devices that needed someone to continually manage it, someone to come in and do training on supporting it. Now that’s not really an issue, because on our devices, they’re surface devices, Microsoft devices running Windows 11. They’re running the Office suite as the desktop apps that are installed and the Teams app and that’s it. Bar maybe one or two things that cannot be accessed from the Cloud. And everything else is through Cloud-based subscriptions. That means that the management of those, you know, the constant changing of users and things like that, the adding of services, the maintaining of services is done remotely. The support for that for schools remote as well. Now all of, you know to go back to the real question about perhaps training and support, we have a week, several different strategies for this. One of them is a weekly meeting with teachers, which is at the end of the week. We have an hour’s training at the end of the school day. It will be either in house by one of the staff members who has a skill in some area. And it’s a pedagogical skill, to do with teaching and learning. There will be a technical element where that person is showing the rest of the team across the schools how to do something. Or it may be one of those subscriptions, that provider is remoting in and doing a training session across the schools. So that economy of scale and approach but cloud based in all ways makes it much easier to do that.
>> You know, from Scomis’ perspective, Cloud is fantastic because as you say, it means that we can remotely support it. In the hold days we would have needed technicians on site, boots on the ground. For schools that do have their own in-house IT team, because it’s such a low management overhead, because all the devices are managed on the Cloud themselves and you don’t need to install or call in each individual device to fix it or to deploy software, it does mean that those staff can be freed up because they’re not doing the spanner work day-to-day work, they can be freed up really to support the teachers in the best use of the app. So, it’s – it’s gone from the nuts and bolts and fixing things on site in cupboards and server rooms to actually …
DAVID: There’s nothing more frustrating for a teacher than to turn up to the classroom and be expected to teach using technology and the technology not working. And that would put any teacher off. It would put any leadership team off saying let’s not bother. When it doesn’t work, you say let’s go back to the normal. Chalk board and pens and books. And I think, for starters, yes you need the infrastructure there. You need the quality in the devices and digital platform which is there now. And then next is the staff upskilling and confidence building in staff. I think lots of people may fear technology because of their experiences in the past. It’s clear to say now that actually we’re at a point where it is the most robust, the easiest it can be to use. We need to make sure that teachers feel confident in their technology, in the delivery, in every element. Then it is transformational. It will not only make your teaching more enjoyable and more successful, but also, it will make you feel better about technology in general.
>> I must admit, years ago, there was a perception by teachers that booking an IT room or using IT was a hassle. You’re right if things didn’t work, kids would get restless. There would be classroom management issues. But you know, the great thing now is that as you said earlier, these tools now just work. They’re 100% reliable. The other benefits to that are that actually it actually in some ways frees up teacher’s time I would say, rather than just become another thing to have to do. Also, it gives you work/life balance. You can prep and do things from home. You don’t necessarily need to be on a school site. We all know from the pandemic with virtual parents’ evenings and things, the fact as a teacher now you can remote in from home, did a parents’ evening rather than stay in a cold school building until 8pm. I think the penny has dropped, maybe the pandemic’s had something to do with that. Actually, I think one of the only benefits of the pandemic is that actually a lot of schools have thought actually this wasn’t the scary as we thought. We can do it and when it comes to the kids, do you have any issues with the kids? Are they digital native?
DAVID: They’re the least of your worries. As a school leader and trying it make the changes in schools, children are so confident in the use of technology. I think we all see it when we go to restaurants, children have iPads from a yes young age, whether it’s right or wrong, it’s used as a tool to entertain. Already, children are already swiping and they understand the use of touch screens. That’s only going to evolve as they get older. We have found that throughout all of our schools, the children are super confident, even with new technology. They find a new device they will press the buts and find out before think teacher does what everything does, the ins and out of that software.
>> We often come across examples where the students are helping the teachers. You’ve got this thing wherein the past, students haven’t really been worried about breaking something. They’ve been digital native and just run with it. Whereas staff may have been a bit worried that they might do something wrong. And they’ve had a bit of a fear of using tech nor the first time, especially the first time in a class are students in case it doesn’t go to plan. But I think, the nice things with these digital learning platforms is that you can’t break them. As a teacher, you can ask students if they have a better idea of doing things and learn from them. The other thing do you do anything with student supporting other students with use of the tech?
ANTHONY: Absolutely. I think what you were saying there, your pupils know if you’re pretending, if you’re not being yourself and being open and say let’s go on this journey together. That pulls them on side more than anything else. There’s always that pupil that knows a bit more than you do, about whatever it is.
>> Isn’t there just!
ANTHONY: Leveraging that is powerful. We’ve used students to be that kind of digital leader role where they take that responsibility for helping other classes or doing some of the regular, you know there’s jobs that need to be done across the school that don’t need a technician to do that. Even things like paper supplies and printer cartridges and that kind of thing. That’s one example. But going and talking to the librarian about updating the PowerPoint on the library screen with the new book recommendations, all of those things that your students really want to get involved in and have ownership of, that kind of task that really moves the organisation forwards and puts technology at the heart of teaching and learning but in a very purposeful curriculum driven way.
>> And saying about librarian and having things up on the display board. Some of the set ups we’ve done for schools, we create share point areas, or in Google, work space for Google sites, they’re like virtual notice boards. Because these systems are collaborative by design, you can have a document, you can share it with other people. Some people could have read only access, some could edit it, but it means you can change and update documents. The great thing about these systems is it’s the sharing. You’re not having to reinvent the wheel. You can share resources. Do you ever have any issues when it comes to sharing about students, let’s say, plagiarising each other’s work? It’s very easy to share documents and hand them in electronically. How do you cope with that?
DAVID: There’s an education element to that. Right from the off, when we talk about teaching, e-safety and the use of technology and appropriate use of technology. Plagiarism comes under that. It is absolutely something that we want children to understand what is right and what is wrong when it comes to copying and pasting. Because there are so many situations actually in school where we tell children be quiet, do your writing on your own, don’t talk to one another. It’s your piece of work. As soon as they get out in the real world, it’s I want you all to work together as a team and share ideas and come up with a plan. There has to be opportunities for children to do that within school. So, they need to know how to communicate, how to collaborate. And what work they can share with each other. Yeah, it’s all down to education. You need to teach children what is plagiarism and what isn’t.
>> And if you have got the whole class working collaboratively. I don’t know, teacher has shared a white board or you’ve got, creating a poster and all the children are contributing to it from their devices, do you use the built-in insight tools so you can check that all students are actually participating? Rather than just your usual suspects who will do a lot of the work and the others who keep their head down and stay quiet? Do you use things like insights or things in Teams just to check on that?
ANTHONY: Yes, we do. You know, using those tools is part of, that’s what we consider the bread and butter of the teacher’s role. I think it’s in all these things you just mentioned, it is around training staff, supporting them, getting to the point of confidence with all those things. We would consider there’s probably four big things your learning platform needs to do. The first is about communication and being able to have dialogue, maybe in Teams channels and chat with learners and between peers, but also between staff. We would want to be able to file share and have the files accessed by only the people that should have permission to those files, including multiauthorring. We would want the teacher to be able to share the learning that is on the front screen all day every day and for learners to be able to access that and we would want the teacher to be able to set more formal assignment type work, where the platform handles the heavy lifting of giving it to learners, them working on it, the teacher grading it based on criteria set in advance. Those four key things make your learning platform a really robust way to not replace the classroom, but support it. And for us, the phrase that we use over and over with the schools that we work with and the teachers, is about taking the friction out of the move from face-to-face teaching and learning to any sort of blended or virtual provision. When you went back to your first question, in how are you well placed to do this as an EdTech demonstrator? We had in place a system where Teams was already in use. One note was the class white board and as the rich media text book that the teacher put everything in and that learners then whenever they happen to have a device, whether it’s in a one-to-one setting, whether it’s a few device that’s roam around classrooms, whether it’s a bank of devices at the back, whatever that model looks like at whatever stage in your journey, that kind of provision can support that and scale to match the hardware and the intention. That’s where we were well placed at the start. That’s where we’re fast tracking schools to get to, to think about these are the things you can do, but let’s not have a completely different approach to teaching and learning when someone’s off ill or isolating or at a time of lockdown, should it happen again. Let’s develop a general teaching and learning routine that means that when some learners aren’t synchronous at the same time or aren’t physically in the same space, the model of teaching and learning doesn’t change. It’s just the equipment needed to deliver it might have to be tweaked slightly. That means that teachers aren’t suddenly having the rug pulled out from them when some children aren’t there or are watching later or watching from home.
DAVID: Also, just in terms of engagement, using insights to track when children are engaging, first of all you can’t be a teacher for doing that. Going round the classroom making sure. But also, if children aren’t engaging, maybe it’s something to do with the quality of the resource and that’s where the technology can allow for so much, so many exciting things and videos and pictures and activities that are all interactive. All part of the child’s assignment. As long as you can engage that child with interesting work, you probably don’t need to look on insights because you can guarantee the children will be on that all the time and wanting to learn and give me the next one, I want the next activity.
>> That’s the thing we often come across is when we’re talking to schools or maybe when we deliver training, is that when schools first started using these learning platforms themselves, it all ended up being Word documents and spread sheets. It wasn’t particularly stimulating. I think this is the trick that some schools are missing. They have come on a long way now. It’s about using, as you say, like the one note as a digital classroom. The teacher can put the resources and students can have their own pages and obviously the students can access it at any time. That’s a cost saving to a school. You know you’re not printing booklets.
DAVID: Massive saving on printing.
>> The other thing, the fact that it’s more interesting. It’s more engaging and more interactive. This is some of the things when schools sometimes first use these learning platforms, it’s like using the school network. It’s we will put a document on a central location and people will all access it. And they’ll save it into their own area. One of the huge benefits as you say, doing the heavy lifting is to actually get staff and students or the teachers to use the automatic work flow. So, you don’t have to tell students where to look or where to put a document. It gets pushed out to them as notifications. As long as they sign on, they can see what they have to do. It’s like a mission control, teachers have an overview at all times who has done the work, who hasn’t. If anyone needs help. I think when we had a conversation some weeks ago, I think you mentioned is it reading progress.
DAVID: Amazing tools in the Office suite especially. I imagine across all platforms, that are now really supporting children with, that find it difficult to access the work. And that could be with their CND. It could be with English as an additional language. So many tools to help. Reading progress being one of them. I’m just thinking immersive reader, in fact we offer lots of support through demonstrator programme on supporting schools using the SEND tools.
>> I was going to ask you, the next thing on my list was really where should schools go for support?
ANTHONY: In relation to those tools particularly, you know there’s lots of things you can buy into. There’s lots of products out there. We have found that by using things that Dave just talked about, those tools that are baked into the learning platform and those programmes, that don’t need any additional subscription or any downloaded plug in, every learner has it already.
>> And it’s seamless.
ANTHONY: And bit teacher modelling that, using it regularly, using immersive reader to change things about the text, highlight verbs, highlight adjectives, make it read at a certain speed, things like that. It takes that stigma away from the learners using it. All those tools, things like PowerPoint being able to translate for you, a learner can have that on their device and as the teacher talks, it will translate it into whatever their first language is. They can open things like immersive reader and have that experience all the time. Because the teacher makes it acceptable by using it occasionally themselves, every learner knows how to use it. Nobody is stood out by being the one person choosing to use it themselves.
>> I must admit those tools are ideal for SEND students. But also, for mainstream staff and students as well. I use a lot of those tools myself. The voice dictation, the fact that I can dictate into a doc, it will do the spell check and I can turn it into a different language.
DAVID: The captions from Teams calls and PowerPoint, yeah, it’s all really helpful. And like Ant said it’s all part of the tools that they’re currently using and most people just aren’t aware of it. Yes, you can register for support. If you just do an internet browser and type in EdTech demonstrator programme. Apply for support. We are one of those EdTech demonstrators, there’s about 35 in the country. If you search for Cornerstone EdTech demonstrator, we’ll be able to certainly get in touch with us, we’ll be able to help and support in a variety of ways, ranging from the strategy piece that leaders need support with, down to supporting teachers in the classroom, pedagogical. But also, the technical side of what happens in the classroom. And we do a variety of things like audits where we come into school and actually unpick with teachers, with Sencos, what the next step should be. A whole variety of support. It’s fully funded. It’s worth applying for. I suppose one thing we can’t, we can certainly offer advice, but the infrastructure side is over to you guys.
>> Yes exactly. We also do audits. What we’ve found is that a lot of schools set up their digital learning platforms in a hurry because of the pandemic. Obviously, what we do is we make sure that they’re set up in a structured and safe way, because if a school has had to fudge something up, then you know, we will check that the permissions are right. again, it gives staff the confidence if you set up the rules and the policies and the back end, teacher doesn’t have to worry about it. They can’t do anything that bad because it’s been set up in a safe manner. Obviously, we will help schools with 365 or Google work space. We’re agnostic, but also with the device management. I think the device management is the really key bit now. There’s such a low technical overhead. When you set these devices up, they’re managed devices. The other huge benefit is that if the students are taking a school owned device offsite and it’s managed, it can be locked down. Again, students can’t bypass things or install their own software. It’s a safe learning environment. Goodness me. I’ve just looked at how long we’ve been. And we better come to an end in a moment. I think we’ve probably got a couple of minutes to take a couple of questions. We aren’t going to be able to answer them all. If it’s OK, I will capture them and then we’ll put a Q&A and send it out to delegates after the session.
ANTHONY: Sounds good.
>> Yes money. We have talked about leasing. One-to-one devices someone asks – how can you afford it?
DAVID: Well, that’s a really good question. I suppose, like I said before, don’t be put off. The price of devices have come down massively. You don’t always need to go for the most expensive. At the same time, it’s understanding what one-to-one actually means. You could have a bank of only five computers in your classroom that children can work one-to-one on rather than buying everyone a computer and having to manage that all in one go. By all means that’s the ultimate goal for some schools. But by starting off small it’s certainly a way that makes it more affordable. Also, some practice in the classroom, just basics in terms of you can buy big interactive screens that cost several thousand, how we’ve saved money is very simply give the teacher the device, the tablet that they are able to digital ink on. That becomes the interactive part of the technology. The screen behind can be a very basic big 75-inch TV that you can buy from the local Curry’s store for not very much money any more, considering. And so, the cost of the device, the cost of the screen and then you can wirelessly project. That’s only £35 I think for that equipment. Then the teacher is free to roam around the class, face the children as they’re teaching, write on the board, using their tablet screen. It transforms education. It’s taking it to that next level. By doing all that, you could probably kit out a teacher for £1,500. Use the money you would have spent thousands on the interactive board and put it towards some computers.
>> Yeah. Great answer. Let’s see probably got time just for a couple brief ones. We mentioned digital tools before, is EdTech suitable for SEND students. We did touch on voice dictation, the screen reader, any other particular tools that you would suggest for SEND students.
DAVID: There are so many. Get in touch and we can support you massively. We have one of our EdTech specialists is one of our SENCOs in our schools. He has an insight into so many tools that are just there. Every time I hear him speak about them, I’m always blown away. They’re just, they’re not only amazing, but they’re there. They’re ready to be used part of the technology already.
>> And yeah, just one final question we’ve got time for, someone asking how do schools deal with internet safety considerations when devices are being used by students off site. I guess what they mean by this is in school you have full internet, but at home it’s traditionally unfiltered.
ANTHONY: Really good question. I think the filtering is only part of the story. In school yes, we have filtering. We typed to err on the side of less filtering rather than more, in that if we block out most of the internet our learners aren’t really learning to manage their browsers in a safe environment.
>> It’s not preparing them for adult life.
ANTHONY: On the other hand, it’s the monitoring that is most powerful in supporting learners. On all our devices we’re running software locally that key logs and that therefore anything that’s typed by a staff member, a learner or anybody is flagged. it goes through the database of that provider and when it hits a key word that is a concern, depending on severity of the key word we get an e-mail or phone call depending on how concerning it is. And that means that teacher can then address it with those learners in the same way that when pupils fall out in the playground and they need, the most powerful form of learning is to unpick what happens in the real world. Equally, we also have with Teams it’s possible to have server-side monitoring, which means and this has given us an interesting insight into the dialogue of our pupils at home, because we find lots of them maybe are going online gaming and doing that out of school, which is something that’s been encouraged a lot through lock down to have that socialisation. But they’re using maybe Teams as their method for chat and communication while they do that. Because that’s monitored on the server side rather than on the device, we therefore can access those conversations and help them unpick some of their social issues and when they fall out and when they’re recommending things to each other than maybe are not age appropriate, that kind of thing.
>> I think you’re right, this is some of the things that schools are worried about, and wary of. It’s previously been a barrier to schools using devices, but now …
DAVID: Something to consider, but nothing to worry B.
ANTHONY: Yes, it’s going to happen and it’s better off happening on a school device where you can address it rather than it going underground to something like a different chat app that you don’t know about.
>> Fantastic. Well, I think we’re going to have to call it a wrap there. We are running out of time. Once again, I wanted to thank you this afternoon for joining me, David and Anthony. I’ve enjoyed our conversation. I’d like to hand over briefly to Debbie and Hilary who are going to say a few words to bring ScomisLive to a close.
DEBBIE: So, we hope that you’ve enjoyed ScomisLive as much as we have. We set out to provoke your curiosity, to give you ideas and clear pathways your organisations, staff and students can take to achieve best practice. We’ve not only explored the future of EdTech, but we’ve also explored much broader challenges that will resonate with all of us, from well-being and resilience, through to inclusivity, strategy and leadership. We’ve heard big and sometimes radical ideas from our keynote speakers. We’ve heard about a direction of travel for the next few years from key players in the EdTech arena. And we’ve heard how colleagues in the sectors are tackling challenges here and now with the support of Scomis.
HILARY: Weed a like to say a big thank you to everyone that’s contributed to ScomisLive. Our visionary keynote speakers, Zoe, Daniel, Zigata and Emma. The exceptional leaders from ParentPay and ESS SIMS. Arbour, Google and Microsoft. And partners that supported the event, G tech, ISBL, the South West Grid for Learning. The learning foundation and Babcock LDP. And enormous thank you goes to the schools and trusts that have given us such helpful insight through sessions they’ve kindly delivered. And also, a thank you to the Scomis team that have worked tirelessly behind-the-scenes to make ScomisLive a success. Most of all, thank you for joining us. We hope that you’re inspired by the possibilities that we presented to you and that you’re taking away learnings and insights that will have a positive impact on you, your staff and ultimately the children in our schools. And don’t forget, that Scomis is always here to help, take care, and we hope to hear from you very soon. Thank you very much.
DEBBIE: Thank you everybody.