Recently, I’ve spent some time revisiting our school’s vision statement, looking in particular at the digital vision and strategy for Simon de Senlis. Around 18 months ago, in my first year as Headteacher, we engaged in a process with all stakeholders called ‘Simon de Senlis Reimagined’ where we redefined the vision for the school, setting our sights on developing ‘curious, industrious, agile learners who make a positive dent in the universe’. This helped give our school a real sense of character and belonging and has been the cornerstone of the improvements that the staff, children and parents have worked so hard to achieve in this time. Now, with many good things embedded and the useful stamp of approval from OFSTED under our belt, it’s time to set our sights on how we make the jump from ‘really good’, to ‘really special’.
A key driver in our school vision is technology and we have enjoyed some great projects such as the ‘Our World; My Future’ presentations at Northampton and work using Windows 8 and cloud technology which have resulted in our participation in the Microsoft Global Showcase Schools Project in 2015. I reference these achivements not as bragging rights or to create an impression of us being the finished article with regards to the use of technology; more because I want to illustrate that however well developed a digital vision may be in a school, it is always the time to keep renewing our sense of purpose around WHY and HOW we use technology. In a ferociously busy school world of conflicting priorities, implementing any new initiative, process or technology must be thought through carefully with a clear rationale and continually pitched well to staff in order for it to become part of common practice.
In November, I was privileged to sit round a table with Headteachers from the five other UK Microsoft Showcase Schools and get a taste for what goes in their organisations. Their commitment to technology and high achievement was outstanding and obvious but more powerful, was their sense of moral purpose: a commitment to sharing their journeys and ideas with other schools for the benefit of schools and teachers in the UK and further afield. I came back from this meeting inspired to be a better Headteacher and to give children at Simon de Senlis even better opportunities to become digitally fluent – an essential competency for their future success.
In order to help this process, I called upon my friend and mentor, Peter Ford, who had worked with us (alongside his Notosh colleagues) through the reimagined process and has an incredible craft for transforming these painful ‘can’t quite see the wood for the trees’ moments into (no less painful) creative processes which help us to generate meaning into the inevitable actions that follow. Peter has been instrumental in the Design Thinking influences which now run through our school, both in the curriculum model and as specific practices and tools which have made our creative processes more disciplined and effective. Returning back to the vision statement was in order to unpick what it was about technology that would enable us to develop curious, industrious and agile learners and empower them to make a dent in the universe.
Below is a SlideShare of the Digital Vision which will develop further in the next few months as we talk, test and prototype our thinking . I share this in the spirit of co-operation or collaboration so that others can have an insight into the process and ask that, should you choose to do something similar, you borrow the process but make the words specific to your school’s unique challenges, vision and community.
Here are four specific areas now cited in our digital vision which link back to our school vision:
We aim to develop digitally fluent learners who are adept and confident with technology. We aim to enhance their learning through technology by allowing children to:
- Discover, capture and curate through technology, creating their own record of the ‘immersion’ phase of learning.
- Prototype learning through different media (text, video, art) to make thinking visible and to receive feedback to improve outcomes.
- Access a greater range of subject ‘experts’ (both internal and external to the school), as well as to share their own expertise as this is developed.
- Reflect upon their own learning, showcase their achievements effectively, and identify next steps for future improvement.
From these threads, specific types of activity are now developing. The use of OneNote, for example, as a collaborative tool for children across a year to collect questions, photographs and notes from their Viking Immersion Day last week in Year 5. In Year 6, the Rainforest topic began with children capturing online resources within OneNote so that they can use these later in the topic to build upon and evaluate. Further into the topic, the use of Sway is planned to showcase and help children evaluate the learning from the topics. An example of how Sway has already been used to showcase learning within the school is here. Some pleasing initial activity and authentic examples where the learning has been better through technology and first steps towards moving these islands of excellence towards consistent practice across the school.
A final helpful reference through this visioning process has been ‘Good to Great’ by Jim Collins and, in particular, his section on how great companies use carefully selected technologies as accelarators of change. The chapter is summarised usefully here in a blog post from Mark Cundiff. Reflecting on Jim Collins’ messages has encouraged me to really focus on where technology can make the biggest difference to our school and to cast aside any ‘nice ideas’ that won’t make the most impact.
I’ll be sharing this process further at the BETT show next week in London, presenting on the Microsoft Stand around the journey at Simon de Senlis so far. I’ll also be sharing more of the design and delivery as we implement the digital strategy throughout 2015.