We are award winners!

We are really pleased to have won a Scoot Headline Award 2014.

A massive thank you to everyone who has supported us especially our fantastic customers.  Brett & Lynne

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Technological Solutions

The best devices and how to use them

EdgeFeb2014

For me to receive an invitation to attend a presentation in London is not that unusual, but this one was from Lord Putnam so I was a little more intrigued and decided to attend. When I arrived at the Microsoft Offices I found that the introduction was being given by the inventor of the World Wide Web Tim Berners-Lee. Yes, I got a photo. The event launched “Mind the Gap” a campaign to highlight the fact that half a million school children do not have the internet at home and yet are increasingly being set homework to do online. The digital divide has been a major challenge for world governments especially as so much of our lives now revolve around the internet. Think how many times you go online – to pay your bills, to order goods, to talk to others or to look up things for example. Places of Learning are key players in reducing the divide. For some years I’ve been working with schools to promote Get Online@ Home an initiative backed by Microsoft (and a key part of Mind the Gap) to provide desktop computers with flat screen monitors or laptops for £99 or £149 respectively to families.  These are fully refurbished computers and come with Windows 7 and Microsoft Office. As these computers are broadband ready they are ideal for families who don’t  have a computer or who are looking for a second PC so that children can do their homework without being distracted by other family members  queuing up to go online. I fully support the Mind the Gap campaign and will be promoting Get Online@ Home with schools to target parents. After all no child should be at a disadvantage through something as easily fixed as access to the internet. Mind the Gap has been jointly launched by the e-Learning Foundation charity and Quib.ly a new education website. More details at catshill.com/mindthegap.

Quib.ly is a useful website for parents to help them in the day to day rigours of bringing up children. It is a place where questions can be asked on a variety topics and expert advice can be sought. The questions are varied in both depth and the range of topics covered. Being a multi-national site there can be a US flavour to some of the questions but I can see how Quib.ly could be useful for a parent trying to look up information that they’ve been unable to find elsewhere. To give you a flavour of the site here are a few questions asked and answered: Do social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have a positive effect on the children’s future? If male and female brains are different, should schooling be single sex? How valuable is knitting as a skill and hobby for children? How can I keep my autistic seven year old daughter entertained? Is the PlayStation 4 good value for money? As you can see a wide range of topics are covered. A site to watch.

Computer Coding

Making Digital Literacy Easy

computercoding

Throughout the year I run conferences for teachers that showcase some of the best classroom tools for producing large gains in children’s learning and understanding. It probably sounds as were are talking about expensive technology here but in actual fact some great products are anything but high in terms of tech or even cost. One of the presenters at our last conference was Neil Westwood from Magic Whiteboard. You may remember Neil as a winner of BBC’s Dragons Den in 2008. For those who haven’t seen it, Magic Whiteboard is a flipchart writing material that sticks to anything. My reasons for inviting Neil was to explore the opportunities for using the product in the classroom and it didn’t surprise me to get a number of calls from schools after the conference who had come with all manner of inventive ways to use Magic Whiteboard.

Much of my work in schools has creativity running through it for the simple reason that learning is accelerated by actually doing things. Young people watch more programmes online than by watching TV for this very reason. They can interact with characters and play games related to the item they are watching. Smart phones, tablet PCs and good old computers allow us to interact and become active rather than passive learners. On my website is a “Treasure” page; a list of proven products that can help children learning. One such item of treasure is Just2Easy, a cloud based publishing tool that allows you to produce exciting and feature rich pages and even websites. J2e has been a big hit in schools as it does things as it works as you expect rather than what some software developer expects you to do. For example in J2e you click on the page and start writing or drawing at that place rather than having your text pushed to the left and top of your page. Such freedom is quite liberating.

Those of a certain age may remember when you had to type in code (often from magazines) to get a computer to do anything. It may seem like progress that today all we have to do is download an app to get our computer (yes a smartphone is a computer) to do all wondrous things. The problem is that we’re in danger of losing a generation who think that computer applications and just come out of the ether. The young people that entered code into those early PCs went onto become today’s software developers writing programs that make a significant contribution to the UKs economy. So computer programming is coming back but in a way that is appropriate for the 2010’s. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a brilliant application that allows our young and not so young to create (that word again) all manner of attractive and funky games. It is called Scratch and it is completely free. I’m in the middle of rolling out Scratch Packs to schools containing the best resources and guides to get children writing and debugging programs. And of course Scratch can also be found on the catshill.com treasure page.

Earlier articles

Are your Children Safe Online?

Bring your Own Device

An Education

Are your children safe online?

safeonline

In my last feature I mentioned the fledgling Business in Education network, a group of local businesses working together to not only promote their services and products more effectively but also working  on collaborative projects to help schools. One such project is the trialling of a product or service in a school that leads to to a case study. This collaborative approach works for both schools and businesses as schools make great test beds. Teachers and pupils are extremely honest about what their needs are. In the 1980’s I taught at a new school that was designed by architects who forget to involve the customer. All of which meant that this pretty building had corridors in the wrong place and rooms that were the wrong size. The shame of this was that the school was bulldozed just few years ago. So lessons need to be learnt in order to avoid wasting more money. 

Delivering online or e-safety messages to parents gives me the opportunity to hear a number of stories about the dangers of the online world. One of the areas we cover at these presentation is the use of social media such as Facebook. When I ask parents if their children are chatting online, the response tends to either yes or definitely not. It is this second response that interests me. So how do you know your children aren’t talking to their friends or even strangers? Do they have their own laptop or mobile phone? Do they have an Xbox connected to the internet? Evidence concludes that parents need to have an open and honest dialogue with their children because the reality is that most children do have an online profile and are chatting to others. As a teacher I know that education is the key to staying safe online. To paraphrase Professor Stephen Heppell, we don’t throw our children of the pier when they are 16 and expect them to be able to swim so why don’t we teach young people to use social media before they run the risk of coming into danger? Actually a lot of schools do just this. Safe “chat rooms” restricted to a particular class and monitored by the teacher are something that I promote in schools and I would all educators to do the same. I do feel sorry for parents and teachers though. You need to be 13 to register for a Facebook account but some six year olds are pressuring their parents to set up an account for them. Is this the digital equivalent of a supermarket putting sweets at child level?

To finish with I want to clear a misconception. I was talking with Suzanne Smits from Morrells Handwriting Ltd who is passionate about children and writing. Over the last few decades our society has been increasingly moving towards using electronic devices to communicate. I am sitting on a train writing this feature on a small laptop. I did think about writing it on paper but the laptop won the day for me. My smart phone is also becoming my preferred office tool and I’m now writing emails, tweeting and posting LinkedIn from that device. But we need to think what this doing in the long terms to our children’s writing skills. Suzanne makes the point that young people need to spend time writing with a pen. The misconception comes about when people think that keyboard/touch screen = bad; pen = good. Like everything else in life it is a case of a balanced approach and the need to think of the problems we are building up for the future by not letting children learn how to use a pen. Which seems the right time to stop typing, close this laptop and write myself a to do list.

Bring Your Own Device

Making tracks with technology in schools

BYOD

Many of the changes thrust upon schools by successive governments are unwelcome as they just create more work for little perceived gain; however one initiative has had a major effect on how places of education operate. Introduced in 1989, local management means that schools plan their use of resources (including staff) in accordance with their own needs and priorities. More recently schools have been increasingly using outside service providers from as diverse a range as electricians and IT support to health and fitness. This is great as it means schools can use local, quality suppliers that offer excellent value for money. A downside of this autonomy is that schools need to step up their game when it comes to evaluating and managing all those providers and for smaller schools this can be a major challenge. This is where having a school business manager makes all the difference as that manager can ensure best practice and leave the head and senior staff to concentrate on the learning and teaching. For local businesses looking to work with schools I would recommend attending one of the Business in Education courses, details can be found at www.busined.com/events

Mention Facebook to most school leaders and you will probably get a “Oh no!” type of reaction. The reality for many schools is that Facebook is nothing but trouble. From bullying to intimidation and concerns about privacy the problems can be significant. And those issues can affect pupils, school staff and parents. Schools of course have a duty of care to ensure that pupils are aware of the potential problems when using social media. We tell children that they need to be at least 13 to have a profile on Facebook and they shouldn’t post photos online that they wouldn’t want their mom to see.  As a school consultant I am called upon to advise them around this potential minefield.  This can include running online safety sessions for parents, pupils and teachers and I urge everyone to take a look at the brilliant materials CEOP have placed on www.thinkyouknow.co.uk

One of the other challenges facing our schools is how to make use of computer technology. As the online world becomes more and more a part of our daily lives, schools are having to make choices about the best way to provide access to computer hardware. From the early days of the personal computer to the present, the school computer suite with rows of networked PCs has been ubiquitous. But times are changing. Children need access to technology more than once or twice a week and they need to be able to continue their work at home. Witness the rise of the mobile device such as small form laptop and the tablet computer. Bring your own device (BYOD) is increasingly being looked at as a way of allowing young people to use computers as and when they need to. Children bringing in their own devices sounds an ideal solution but there are many issues – Who is going to be responsible if a machine is damaged? Will the device be compatible with the school network? Could viruses be introduced? These are some of the issues that schools are going to have to address over the coming terms.

ICT Co-ordinators Conference

The autumn ICT Co-ordinators Conference was held at 1pm, Tuesday 5th November at Hawbush School, Brierley Hill, West Midlands.

Highlights of the event included Scratch and the new ICT programme of study, J2Launch from J2e, Mobile devices from RM Education, School Radio from Russell Prue and Dragon’s Den winners Magic Whiteboard who will be working with us to launch a fantastic new project. Also the usual freebies and the ever popular chance to share hints and tips.

ICT Conference

 

70% of those attending these conferences find them “Very useful” and the remaining 30% say that they are “Extremely worthwhile”.
So the conclusion is that this is a must attend event.

Contact us to find out how your school can attend these fantastic conferences.

Crime Commissioner endorses Online Safety for Parents

“I’ve known Brett for over twenty years and he has worked for a number of years with the Dudley Safe and Sound Community Partnership in delivering his Online Safety for Parents presentation. As the feedback he has received has been excellent he is now looking to roll the presentation to other partnerships in the region and I am very happy to recommend the take up of this initiative in other West Midland partnerships”

Bob Jones

 

Bob Jones and Brett Laniosh

Ofsted said…

“Pupils have an excellent grounding in ICT and a very wide range of skills”

This is a great example of how being a Learning Partnership school brings tangible benefits. Find out why having your own independent ICT consultant is so important.

Jayne Brock is Head Teacher at Our Lady and St Kenelm Primary School, Halesowen (a delighted Catshill Learning Partnership school who have just had a brilliant Ofsted inspection).

Our Lady and St Kenelm

Involve the Experts

In its 2012 report, Ofsted commented on the small numbers of schools who had actively involved external specialists in school IT. With the re-writing of the National Curriculum which is due to be introduced in 2014 with an increased focus on programming and animation, a large number of teachers could be excused for feeling out of depth in terms of their own knowledge and skills. For the schools that have ventured into building partnerships with specialists, the involvement of external companies to provide staff training, parents workshops or extra-curricular activities for pupils has had a powerful impact on the ability of schools to deliver the IT curriculum effectively. Often schools can link up in local areas, sharing the cost and promoting a spirit of collaboration between professionals to equip staff with the knowledge and skills to teach more challenging aspects of the curriculum such as movie making and animation, giving teachers what they need most in training: first-hand experience and the time to practise. If schools are to empower their teachers to deliver a cutting-edge curriculum for the 21st century within the time and money constraints, then the intervention of specialist IT companies could be an essential part of the plan.

What is clear is that, however teachers keep their knowledge and skills up-to-date in the fast-changing world of IT, schools need to actively plan opportunities as part of their long term improvement plans. Relying on an ad hoc approach to staff training is unlikely to address the problem.

Isn’t it time you joined the Learning Partnership community? Find out more.

Do your pupils update your website?

How many people in your school update your website – one, two, five, ten?

Do you find it difficult and time-consuming to update your website?

Wouldn’t it be great to have a website that was maintained by a hundred or more web designers to create great content with enthusiasm and at no cost to the school?

You can use your existing website, or design a brand new website, that has pages created and updated by your pupils.

Watch the videos below and allow the pupils to explain how it works.

Pupils explain how they create pages for the school websiteWhy pupils are key to a great school website

Most school sites can be created by pupils in half a day!

 

Why your pupils should be creating their own pages on your school website:

tick Classes can have their own pages and they keep them up to date

tick Teachers love having the ability to update their pages instantly

 tick No special software is needed

tick Pages can be updated in school or at home

tick A fantastic motivator for learning

 

Contact us now to find out how your pupils can help develop your school website.

Learning Platform – White elephant or gateway to enlightenment?

A learning platform can be a powerful tool that improves communication across the whole school community and beyond.

It can also be an expensive, confusing and woefully underused white elephant.

These children explain how their learning platform is used as a meaningful and powerful communication tool to deliver 24/7 learning.

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Contact us  now to find out how we can transform online learning in your school.