JISC DigiFest: Thoughts from Day 1

JiscD1I thought I would share some initial thoughts following day one of JISC DigiFest.  The event was launched with a very polished and professional pre-prepared video displayed on screens scattered around the events main hall, focussing on the rate of change in relation to technology and some of the technological implications of technology on the world we live in.   The launch session also included a room height “virtual” event guide introducing the sessions and pointing you in the direction of the appropriate hall.    In terms of the launch of a conference this was the most polished and inspiring launch I have seen albeit on reflection there wasn’t much particularly innovative or technically complex about it.

JiscD1-1The keynote speaker addressed the changing viewpoints of different generations of people focussing particularly on Generation Z, the generation which currently are in our sixth forms, colleges and universities.   I took away two key points from the presentation.   The first was how each generations views were shaped by their experiences particularly between the ages of 12 and 20 year old.   Jonah Stillman used thoughts on space as an example showing how Generation X might have positive views focussing on the successes of the moon landing whereas Millennials may have a more cynical view following the Challenger disaster.   Additionally, Jonah mentioned movies as a social influencer and how those in the Harry Potter generation may view cooperation and trying hard, even where unsuccessful, in a positive manner.  Those born later than this may draw on another series of films, in the hunger games, resulting in a greater tendency towards competition and the need to succeed in line with the movies storyline of everyone for themselves and failure results in death.     The second take away point from the session resulted from the questioning at the end of the session around what some saw as the absoluteness of the boundaries between generations.    I think Jonah’s use of the word “tendency” addressed this concern in that the purpose of the labels was for simplicity and to indicate a general trend and tendency rather than to suggest that all people born on certain dates exhibited a certain trait.  It increasing concerns me that this argument keeps coming up when surely it is clear that there is a need to use simplistic models to help clarity of explanation and that no model, not matter how complex will ever truly capture the real complexity of the world we live in.

My 2nd session was actually the delivery of my own session.   I will be sharing some thoughts in relation to my presentation along with my resources in the near future.   For now I will simply say that the session was not one of my best.   I do however hope that my main message, in the need for greater and broader discussion in relation to citizenship within the now digital world we find ourselves living in was clear.

The third session of the day focussed on  digital literacy programme one particular university had developed.   I found it interesting in this and a later presentation, how digital literacy or digital citizenship appeared to often fall to the library in universities in terms of developing and delivering a programme.    In schools I feel the same topics tend to fall on the IT teaching department rather than libraries however it is interesting that something which should be permissive would find itself localised in educational institutions in a single department rather than being supported across the institution.   It was interesting how the programme the university developed had evolved over time, which seems to me to be the correct approach given how quick technology is changing.  I also found it interesting in that student voice suggested needs which then later students indicated they did not find useful.  In other words students themselves were not an accurate judge of their own wants and needs.     Session five followed a similar topic again looking at digital literacy however the presenters made use of a fairy tales as a vehicle to deliver their message of the pros and cons of the digital world we live in.   I must admit I enjoyed this presentation in its novel approach to delivering the concept in hand.

Session four focussed on partnerships between a university, a local council and a number of corporate organisations focusing in particular on data analysis and business intelligence.  I think schools have some way to go in this area as they regularly gather huge amounts of data however little is actually done with it beyond reporting it to school leaders, parents, etc.   I think the challenge is that schools often lack the resources which a college or university may have at their disposal, such as having data scientists as part of the staff body.   That said, the sessions seemed to indicate the potential for schools to leverage partnerships to fill this gap with minimal to no outlay on their own resources.

My final session of day one focussed on digital transformation, and like the key notes was insightful and inspiring.    Lindsay Herbert discussed the bear in the room, which is similar to the elephant in the room but more dangerous.     I particularly like the way Lindsay stated early on that the world was a “terrible place” citing issues such as the corona virus, fires in Australia, storms across the UK and ongoing technological change.   She then quickly moved on to the fact that we are inherently brave in our attempt to not only exist but to strive to flourish in this world, before then going on to identify various success stories where the bear in the room was tackled.    She left us with 3 main tips, all of which struck a cord with me, in that transformation starts with a worthy cause, requires lots of people and needs to be learned and earned rather than purchased.   The third tip in particular strikes a cord for me as I have encountered change where it has not gone as smoothly as I would have liked, and where significantly more effort was expended than had originally been attended;  In retrospect this may have been the change being earned, plus certainly involved a lot of learning.

Day 1 was useful with the keynote and closing session of the day being my highlights.    Have plenty of notes to digest when I get back home.  Roll on day 2.





EdTech Conversations and BETT 2020: Reflections

20200123_115436_resizedAnother year another BETT and guess what?  Once again, I failed to learn from experience and decided to make my way down via train and once again it went wrong.  This time it was simply my first train being late leading to me missing my connecting train.  This had the same concertina impact as I experienced last year leading to me rushing around.  Maybe next year I will learn?   Third time lucky?

On top of this, as I was visiting the EdTech Conversations event at the London Design and Engineering UTC first, I found that the google location for the venue actually took me the wrong way.  Thankfully some helpful students were on hand to assist and point me in the correct direction plus we had a good chat regarding the architecture course the two lads were studying.   One consolation was that at least I decided to take the DLR to the event rather than choosing to do what Ty Goddard had suggested was a 10min walk from BETT to the UTC;   Clearly according to a few audience members who had accepted Ty’s guidance, the walk was significantly more than 10mins.

Now my reason for being at the EdTech Conversations event was to present on School Tech Strategy.   On reflection I think my session was a little bit of a rambling so I must admit to being disappointed with myself.   In addition, I had technical issues with my wireless pointer, something which I should have checked before setting out.    That said, I hope those in attendance understood what I believe to have been my main point in the need for all schools, educators, support staff, etc to work together more, share their experiences, ideas and thoughts and take a more collective approach to education in general.   We all have different views, ideas, experiences, contexts, etc and together we are infinitely stronger than trying to go it alone and often re-invent the wheel.

20200123_140747_resizedIn terms of the other speakers, who presented in a more professional and polished manner than myself, I found Emma Darcy and her discussion with Ty very interesting discussing. I particularly liked her mention of preparing students for “jobs of the future” which fits with my views in the needs to do more in relation to digital citizenship.

I think my highlight from the event would be Laura Knight who despite expressing she didn’t quite agree with my “journey” idiom, went on to say so many things I agreed with.    I loved her focus on the human aspect of strategy in presenting her EdTech leader superpowers and the need to be ambitious, fearless, to find simplicity and to be relentless.    I think the human aspect of EdTech and of strategy in general is often overlooked but given it is people who generally enact strategy we should in fact have people at the forefront of thinking.

20200123_145926_resizedAlso, another highlight was Mark Steed.  Now I have heard mark speak on a number of occasions, but his 6 lessons were particularly interesting.   Like Laura Knight he mentioned the need to focus on people, adding to this regarding a focus on training.   He also highlighted that although his strategy appears to have been very successful it wasn’t without errors.  I think this is an important message in that in reviewing others strategies and approaches it almost always looks like a straight line; they were here then did X and Y and got to there.   The reality thought is that there would likely have been lots of wrong turns, mistakes, problems so its more like they did A, B, C, D, E and A and B didn’t work, C had to be adjusted and became F, and eventually they got to X and Y and success.   I think this is what I was trying to get across with my journey idiom however I don’t think I was successful in this.

Overall the EdTech Conversations event was fun and useful, and I look forward to more discussion-based events like this in the future.

20200123_153225_resizedAs to BETT, after all my rushing around I only ended up with a couple of hours in BETT so can only offer a rather superficial view.   Sadly, this view is that the event generally seemed very much the same as it has in every year I have attended since returning to the UK.   If you had a specific stand or vendor to see, then it would be useful but if you are seeking to browse or to find innovative ideas then I think you would have been disappointed.   This at least was my initial view on reflecting having returned home.     A few days have passed this then I have reflected a bit more and I can see how BETT can be seen as very worthwhile now.   It isn’t in the EdTech conference which the event is, or in the stands of technology vendors.    The strength in BETT lies in the fact the event draws educators and EdTech leaders from across the country and across the world together for 4 days and in the networking this brings.    On hindsight, even in my brief visit, I ended up at one stand where I had conversations with a number of EdTech leaders and as a result came away with plans to connect further and explore ideas and also issues and problems.   But from this comes a question: Can we stimulate the same networking opportunities without the massive cost to vendors to be present at an event like BETT?  A cost they ultimately pass on to their customers; schools.


BETT 2020: Its almost upon us.

bett1Its BETT this week!  Will be popping down to have a brief look on Thursday and also to speak at the EdTech UK Conversations event also on Thursday.   Given the shortness of my visit to BETT I am unlikely to be able to make the most of the various talks and presentations which will be going on.  Sadly, there is little I am able to do about this although I will be planning for a more significant visit to BETT next year assuming my brief visit turns out to be worthwhile.

I expect the BETT event will once again have lots of Interactive Panels and Projectors on display, something which I am not so positive about.    A quick look at the exhibitor list highlights 39 vendors in the Interactive Whiteboard Category;  Am not sure why this 25+ year old technology still occupies such a significant portion of what BETT has to offer.   Of particular interest to my visit will be those exhibitors focussing on STEAM and also AI solutions.   There’s lots of buzz around AI, and I like what Century.Tech are doing, however there are also lots of people saying they are using AI where I am not sure they really are.  I note “Find a stand sharing an AI product that has no AI” on the BETT Bingo card which seems to agree with this perception.   I will also be very interested in any solutions focussed on supporting the development of digital citizenship in schools.  Digital Citizenship has been a particular focus of mine recently and I must admit that the lack of a category for this in the BETT show guide worries me.   My hope however is that vendors covering Digital Citizenship will simply be under different categories.   The Microsoft, iSAMS, Century Tech and Netsupport stands will also all be on my list for a quick visit.

I expect it to be a busy day in terms of travel, BETT and EdTech Conversations.   I look forward to it, to catching up with people and also meeting new people or meeting in real life for the first time.  I will try and share my thoughts and experience shortly after my visit.

ISC Digital, Brighton: Some thoughts

ISC-LaunchThe need for sharing and collaborating across schools was the key message I took away from the Brighton ISC EdTech Summit last week.   We need to share what works, the challenges, the successes, the approaches and the journeys taken.  It is only through this sharing we can be more consistent and effective in our use of EdTech.

ISC-Train2Now before I go any further I need to get the journey off my chest.   A 3 train journey on the way to Brighton including a rush to the 2nd train following a delay on train number 1, followed by missing my planned homeward bound train, which would have been a 2 train journey, and therefore requiring a 4 train trip.  Am not the best traveller on trains especially when no seat is available and the above pushed me to the limit of my patience.    All this plus taxis, so total travel of 7 trains and 4 taxis.    But enough of that, now I have it off my chest, the key thing was the conference itself.

The event started with the launch speech by Ty Goddard and Ian Philips asking all attendees to engage and not just by liking or following on social media, but by contributing to the conversation.   This message was re-iterated by many of the speakers, that there was a need for increasing dialogue and discussion in relation to EdTech, to what works and also to the journeys taken and all of the wrong turns, diversions and U-turns which arise as part of implementing EdTech projects in schools.

ISC-AppleRichard Teversham from Apple was next up highlighting the fact that we now live in a world where every job is a technology job.    I particularly liked his explanation of how we were in the third age, a people age, and that it was people first, before technology.   My own experience seems to agree with this.   Technology is great but it needs someone to understand how it might be used and how it might benefit teaching and learning, then it needs someone to actually use it.   It needs people and these people need to be motivated and interested in how the technology might enable learners, they also need to see the potential.  In relation to potential Richard explained that “with technology great things can happen” and I tend to agree.


As the event went on it was highlighted that there was a need to have a clear purpose in using EdTech solutions before any implementation.    I particularly enjoyed an open panel discussion where all attendees were invited to contribute to a discussion about how the impact of EdTech might be measured.   Ty Goddard summed this particular session up well with the suggestion of a need to refocus on establishing “Value” as opposed to “Impact”.    The term “Value” to me is softer and doesn’t conjure up the image of exam results as the sole impact measure, plus it is likely to be more inclusive of the various ways that EdTech might affect (I had to careful avoid using the word impact there!) learners, learning, teachers and teaching. This session also provided me the opportunity to finally meet Bukky Yusuf who I have been interacting with via Twitter for a number of years.   It is always nice to meet edutweeps in real life.   I should note I also met Abid Patel in person for the first time during the course of the conference.

ISC-LouiseThe conference also provided me the opportunity to present and I had the pleasure of presenting with Louise Jones, a fellow Scot.    Her session was a bit of an eye opener particularly when she discussed “voice first” and raised the issue that traditional web searches return 1000’s of answers, but when you ask Alexa you will get only a single answer;  As such what are the implications for our learners where they are likely to increasingly make use of voice first services?   The existence of free web services was also raised and how we need to increasingly ask ourselves why a given service is free and how the service provider is themselves benefiting;  few companies create a service, at their own cost, just for the good of society.  I also liked her discussion of how version history and meta data, and the ability to replay the creation of documents by students might surface information in relation to the students thinking processes.

The whole event was finally wrapped up by Priya Lakhani from CenturyTech with an inspiring talk as to how AI can impact the classroom and also pointing towards what she described as “BS AI”.   The final video of the conference being from Taylor Mali in relation to What teachers make.    If you haven’t seen the video I suggest you watch it as it summed up the conference for me;  I will say no more in order to avoid spoiling it.

It was a very useful, informative and enjoyable day.   I also managed to get my Irn Bru into a few of the photos shared via twitter!   But on a more serious note, the key in the days events is not the day itself but what comes from it and if Ian and Ty’s comments are to be taken as their aim, it is their wish that what comes from the event is further discussion.    I expect that they will be successful in this and that discussion will follow the event.

So, with that in mind I hope to build a group of educators to discuss digital citizenship, an area I am particularly interested in, including curating ideas and resources.    You can register your interest via this Microsoft Form.




EdTech Summit, Brighton

EdTechTitleSlideI had the opportunity to present at the Brighton ISC Digital EdTech summit during the week.  My talk, “Common Sense Safeguarding” focussed on the need for schools to take a broad and more risk based view of online safety as opposed to the previous more compliance driven approach.    Given the number and range of technologies students have access to and also the tools available to bypass protective measures put in place by a school, or even the ability to negate them totally through using 4G, online safety is no longer as simple as it once was.    This therefore needs a broader view to be taken.

In addition, I identified that in our dealing with Online Safety we are not yet effectively addressing the issues which are growing with our increasing use of digital resources and services.    Cyber security, big data, profiling, artificial intelligence and bias, ethics of IT systems and similar broad topics don’t yet have a key place in the general curriculum albeit opportunities exist across different subjects.    We need to ensure these issues are discussed with all students.   It was to that end that I proposed a cross school discussion group focussed on Digital Citizenship.

Overall my view is one that we need to be more aware of the limitation of preventative measures such as web filtering plus need to focus more on user awareness and having discussions with students regarding the wider implications of staying safe and being successful in a digital world.

If you are interested in being part of a group of schools discussing Digital Citizenship please fill out this Microsoft Form and to access my slides from the EdTech Summit please click here.

Microsoft Bootcamp

bootcampLast week I attended a 3-day Microsoft Bootcamp in the Microsoft London offices.   It was a pretty packed programme across the 3 days covering a diverse range of topics however as I sit on the train on the way home let me try and summarise the key points.


The session on accessibility led by Hector Minto (@hminto) is the one that sticks in my mind the most.   In fact from discussing with some others, it stuck in their minds too.    During the session a variety of accessibility tools were demonstrated with the most important factor being that these solutions are already available within Windows 10 and the Office 365 suite.     Some of the ideas where horribly simple;  Horrible in the fact that these simple approaches hadn’t been something I had realised could have a significant impact.    A larger pointer for when demonstrating on screen or a slightly different windows colour scheme were just two of the tips.    Adding Alt text to images in documents and on social media posts was another.    The ability to add subtitles to video via using Microsoft Stream or the use of PowerPoint and inline translation were also discussed.

It is clearly for all of us to do our bit, and generally this only requires making small changes to our normal practices.

The “MEC” or Microsoft Educator Community

I have been aware of the MEC and the variety of resources available within it for some time.   The three-day event however highlighted how the MEC could be used as a vehicle for CPD.   I, myself, have recently seen the power of training codes and badges on motivating people to undertake CPD in relation to educational technology and the event only served to strengthen this view.   One of the keys tasks I believe I now need to undertake is to curate the MEC content which I believe is most valid and will have the biggest impact with staff at my school.

Microsoft Teams

A fair amount of the event was focused on how Teams could be used in schools, colleges and universities.    It was notable that the actual platform used throughout all three days, to facilitate collaboration, discussion and sharing, was in fact Microsoft Teams.   People were posting questions, links and other content so that all attendees could benefit from the shared knowledge and experience of the group.   I can clearly see the benefits of using Teams to support educators from across department, across a school or even across institutions to get together and work collectively to bring about continual improvement and to tackle challenges.

A number of the events sessions included remote sessions delivered from the Seattle and also Glasgow, a reasonably diverse choice in locations.    These highlighted how Teams could facilitate opportunities for learning more akin to that experience by the increasing number of remote workers which now exist.   This also, again, highlighted where Stream could play its part in the recording of such meetings complete with the automatic creation of subtitles which were easily searchable by users.

Microsoft OneNote

A number of individuals shared how they were using OneNote in their institution.   I found a particular presentation by Esam Baboukhanto be very interesting.    Esam pre-prepared regular checklists and review questions in OneNote in order to get students to take greater responsibility for their learning.   He also mentioned the use of review questions which students were required to undertaken to get them to revisit learning in order to aid better memory retention.    The use of OneNote as a tool to aid such spaced retrieval practice was something which I hadn’t considered however I can easily see how this might work well.


It was a tiring three days with lots going on.   The event itself was specific to FE and HE, whereas my current context is that of an independent school.   I had decided to attend given the large number of students we have which study A-Levels which otherwise they would study in an FE institution.    In hindsight I made the right call as the event was very worthwhile.   I left with plenty of notes and an equally high number of points either for consideration or for action.    All attendees also left with Microsoft Trainer accreditation, thereby able to deliver training and issue training codes via the Microsoft training platform.   For those who are considering attending a Bootcamp I would definitely recommend it.

I am also looking forward to continuing online discussions via Teams with those who attended the event and with others who have attended previous events.   I suspect, despite what was an excellent event, I am still to experience the true benefits of the event.   I suspect such benefit lies in the network and community of individuals sharing their ideas, resources and thoughts on the Microsoft platform, and on other EdTech following attending a Bootcamp.


CIO Summit 2019

20190926_105249Interesting day at the CIO Summit down in London yesterday.   This was my annual visit to an event focusing on IT in the wider, including corporate, world rather than within the education sector.   I make an effort to do this simply to try and get a wider view of IT, digital transformation and digital innovation to help provide some context to my work in school.   There were four key messages which definitely resonated with me.

Its about the problem we are solving, not the Tech.

The CDIO of HMRC, Jacky Wright, outlined the importance of focussing on the problems you are seeking to solve rather than coding, or the technology you have available.   This is a message I have often heard Mark Anderson (@ICTEvangelist) state in relation to education, in that it is not about the technology, it is about Teaching and Learning.   In a more recent post I think he hit the nail on the head when he said its not really #edtech after all, its simply #Ed.  It would seem that this need to focus on the end outcome or product and not be distracted by shiny or new technology is something which impacts on the wider IT world rather than just education.

Culture eats strategy

The importance of organisational culture was stated by a number of presenters.   Like a focus on the problem being solved, mentioned above, a focus on culture was identified as being more important than the Tech being used.   I liked Rackspaces mission of providing a “Fantastical Experience” as both setting the tone and culture which they seek to achieve within the organisation.   I wonder whether schools could be a little more inspirational in the missions they set rather than the usual “developing the best learners” or “preparing students to the future” style of mission which we commonly see.  At the end of the day the culture of an organisation is key in what it achieves or does not achieve.   The people, the leadership team and the staff, shape the culture.


A number of presenters discussed the issue of sustainability in relation to technology.   This is a challenging area given that technology may be both part of the solution and part of the problem.   In being the problem, as we consume more data, use more technology and even personally have more devices, we need more power.   We also consume valuable resources in the manufacturing processes plus make use of valuable metals in the various tech products.   This all adds up to using more energy at a time when we want to be using less.    Thankfully tech can also be the solution here in using AI to match availability and demand, in harnessing greater amounts of renewable energy with greater levels of efficiency and in supporting remote collaboration reducing energy consumption associated with travel.     A particular area of discussion in relation to sustainability was that of the supplier chain.   It was highlighted that organisations need to be aware of the energy consumption of the third parties they use rather than treating this as an issue for the third party.  If you are using Microsoft or Google cloud services, the resultant energy usage associated with their data centres, as used to store and process your data, needs to be considered in thinking about your organisations carbon footprint and energy usage.   In addition, looking at devices, including PCs, printers, etc, we also need to consider how suppliers source their resources, manage energy use during production and also to what extent their devices can be recycled, refurbished or reused.

Cyber Security

This topic was always likely to arise as part of discussion.   I found the presentation by Brigadier Alan Hill particularly interesting in discussion his views.   The key issue is ensuring that the risk associated with cyber security is understood at a board level and then working on constant review, testing and preparation for cyber events.      As he identified any plan made won’t survive an encounter with the enemy however the act of having and more importantly testing a plan will at least make you and your team as prepared as they possibly can be for when, and not if, a cyber incident happens.

This was my 2nd CIO Summit event and once again I found it to be useful and informative.   Towards the end of the event the importance of sharing ideas and best practice with IT peers was discussed and for me attendance at this event is a key part of this.   Our best chance for innovation and for security is collaboration and cooperation;  we are all in this together.  And so as I write this on the train on the way home I look forward to reviewing my many pages of notes and identifying the actions to take as a result of this event.   I cant wait for next year.

Reflections on the Bryanston Edu Summit

Twitter_20190605_092616I recently attended the Bryanston Education Summit, with this being my third visit for what was the third annual education summit.    As has been the case in previous years the weather smiled on the event.   Having now had a little time to reflect I thought I would share my take away’s from the event.

The need for reflection

Sir Anthony Seldon’s keynote began with a breathing exercise where he encouraged all in attendance to get involved, providing all a moment of mindfulness.  This was a bit of a departure from the normal start to a presentation which might highlight the key questions of the session or the key topics.  The purpose of this activity was to highlight the need to stop and reflect.   Sir Anthony also suggested the need for us to stop and ask “am I being the best I can be?”    This message is one I believe strongly in as our fast and frenetic lives often mean we are focussed on getting things done and checking off tasks from our to-do lists, simply moving from one activity to the next.    In education things can get particularly busy as is evidenced by the continued discussions as to workload.   The issue with this is that we don’t have time to reflect on our core values and on what really matters, on being the best we can be.    Without time to reflect we may be very busy however we may be having little impact or may simply be doing the wrong things.  In order to address this we need to provide ourselves both the permission and time to stop and reflect.   I will admit that finding the time isn’t necessarily easy but we need to prioritise and provide ourselves regular opportunities to reflect.  I also think there is value in doing this to model best practice for the students in our care.   Otherwise all they will see is their teachers rushing from task to task, forever busy, and for them this will shape their view of what is normal.


The session on leadership by Michael Buchanan included mention of trust and the need for leaders to provide their teams the “permission to be themselves”.    I think this needs to permeate through the culture of a successful school to include formal teams such as departments, but also informal teams and all the way through to how teachers lead the students in their care.

In Alex Beard’s session he referred to the need to try and remove things from teachers where they don’t have an impact on teaching and learning going on to suggest that such time might be used to develop technology skills, understanding of cognitive science and subject expertise.   To me this links to trust in that the most obvious thing to remove, or at least the thing which appears most obvious to me, is any task of an administrative nature which is related to accountability.   If we trust teachers we wouldn’t need as much of the paperwork and data to prove that what needs to be done was being done.

Professional Learning

Cath Scutt’s session focussed on the status of the teaching profession.    She quickly identified her concern with the idea that we need to “raise” the status of the profession in that this creates a “deficit” model.    It suggests that there is something wrong or deficient.   This is similar to the concept of Professional Development which has always for me suggested a deficit;   I have therefore always preferred the term “professional learning”.   For me the key issue here is the need for a culture in education similar to the Japanese term Kaizen, or continual improvement, as mentioned by Alex Beard in his presentation.    We should be seeking to improve, or better learn, not because there is a deficiency, but because we have to if we want to be the best we can be and if we want to enable our students to be the best they can be.


The session focussing on Hattie’s research into visible learning highlighted the importance of teacher self efficacy to student outcomes and also on the need for “teachers who are learners.”   I believe technology can help with both of these issues.   Take for example twitter.   It allows for discussion and sharing of ideas, for us to question our own practices and ideas.    I think as a tool to both self reflect and also to search out new solutions, twitter is excellent.   It also allows us to stretch beyond our own local context and connect with different educational institutions with differing age ranges, focal areas, internal structures and from different parts of the world.    This can only help us both in being more self aware and in being learners as well as teachers.


The third annual Bryanston education summit was an interesting and useful event.  The above only briefly summarises some of the key points of the pages of notes I found myself coming away with.   I suspect as I have more time to reflect other points will likely surface for me.   One area which I haven’t mentioned for example is the impact of technology on student outcomes.   The provided Hattie data indicates 1:1 laptops only have a minor positive impact on student outcomes however, as was suggested in the session, there is a lot of context to be considered in this.  This is something I will likely discuss in a blog post in the near future.     For now I will conclude that my key take away wasn’t a particular leadership approach or curriculum model or learning model.   The key message I heard from sessions was a need to focus on softer aspects of education, on reflecting, on trusting and on working together to ensure the educational experience we provide is the best it can be.

I enjoyed this years event and now hope to be able to put in practice some of what I have learned.   I look forward to next years Bryanston Education Summit.

ISBA IT Strategy and Cyber Security Conference

The main conference venue before things began on Wednesday

On Wednesday I had the opportunity to present a session at the ISBA’s IT Strategy and Cyber Security Conference in London.   I had previously volunteered to contribute to the conference and was expecting and had planned for a small breakout session anticipating around 20 people.   On the day upon arriving at the conference I found out that my breakout session would be following Mark Steed’s keynote speech in the main conference venue and therefore with quite a few more than 20 people.

The session very much focused on my thoughts and experiences around cyber security with key messages around the extent of the risk we all face plus the opposing extremes of over confidence in security efforts or a constant need for heavy security measures at the expense of school operational efficiency.    I described my approach as being one of a “healthy” paranoia and of a robust risk assessment and risk recording process.

You can read my slides from the session here.


BETT 2019

bett1Am sat on the train as I write this returning home from BETT 2019.   Last year I didn’t manage to attend however this year I made an effort and decided to make my way down to the London ExCel on the Saturday.   So what were my impressions and thoughts?

Firstly, I must note it was a bit of a whistle stop tour due to a cancelled train which apparently had sustained damage to its windscreen leading to it being cancelled.   As such I had to wait for a later train and re-plan my journey.   Secondly, I was on this occasion travelling directly to the event via train, the underground and the DLR.   This was the first time I had taken this travel route to BETT and I sadly underestimated the amount of time it would take to make my way from Paddington station over to the Excel, leading to things being a bit rushed as I tried to make my way back for my return train ride home.

As to the conference itself the highlight was a discussion with people at Microsoft in relation to the Surface line of devices.    It was good to sit down and chat about the products and their potential for use in education.    The device I write this post on is my Surface Go which I continue to use as my main device in testing how it might stand up in prolonged use.   So far so good is my view but I hope to know more as we trial with a number of enthusiastic teachers as part of a pilot.    During the meeting with Microsoft I was introduced to their new stylus which is designed specifically for education, apparently being more robust as well as cheaper.    The reduction in cost when compared with the main stylus is a welcome one as it will make the overall Surface Go platform including keyboard and stylus more affordable for schools.   Personally, I think you need the full package of stylus and keyboard/case to make best use of the device.   This new stylus comes with a loop attachment at the end so it can be hung from your neck to prevent loss.   The loop means the eraser option is no longer at the back of the stylus but is now a button on the body.    I liked having erase as a button on the back of the stylus as it fitted my mental model of HB pencils with an eraser on the end, however I am unsure the children we currently teach have the same exposure to HB pencils and therefore although this worked well for me the change to a button on the body may make no difference to them.   I didn’t ask if it was still magnetic like its more expensive brother, however I suspect the answer will be no.  That said I don’t think this would be a deal breaker.     Overall it was a useful meeting to discuss thoughts around Microsoft, the surface and office 365 in particular.

It was nice upon arriving to bump briefly into Mark Anderson just outside the ExCel along with Al Kinglsey.    Due to being in a bit of rush to make my Microsoft meeting I was unable to spend any real time with Mark and Al, which is a pity given I hadn’t actually met Al previously in real life, knowing him only via twitter.    Hopefully I will have time to catch up with both of them properly in the near future.

I am going to jump once more on the number of interactive panel vendors again as again there were lots of them.   Now I know someone previously commented that BETT is an educational technology show so it should be expected to see panels on show, however given the increasing pace of technology I just keep hoping to see more new and interesting technologies and less IWBs or equivalents.     I will however acknowledge that I found myself looking at interactive panels on this occasion as we seek to review our classroom technologies, so if I was looking at IWB equivalents, others must be doing the same so there clearly is a market and therefore an opportunity for those vendors showing of interactive projectors and panels.  I will also acknowledge I continue to have a bit of an issue with IWBs and therefore I am primed and more sensitive to spotting them wherever they are.    I will this time say I did see some interesting stands, beyond IWBs however with the rushed nature of things I didn’t have sufficient time to really explore them.   Will need to bear this in mind for next year.

Cyber security was a little bit of a discussion I had with a school management system vendor which plan to move towards forcing Multi-Factor Authentication on their users.   On one hand this will be a bit of a shock for some and will be met with cries of inconvenience however on another hand I can see exactly where they are coming from.   Schools are being actively targeted due to the large amounts of student and parent data they hold, combined with the busy nature of teachers daily lives, which often lead to simple passwords.     In addition, we have breaches of the likes of Edmodo resulting in significant sets of teacher credentials being available online.   I myself tried a schools name against the HaveIBeenPwned password checker and found hundreds of instances of the use of this as a password, which was subsequently involved in a data breach.   I suspect similarly easily predicted passwords will be in use in schools the world over.

My visit to Bett also saw me visit the ANME stand and catch up with Rick who I had worked with some years ago.    It was good to catch up and I will definitely be getting my team involved in ANME.   I was particularly interested by the start up of a group focusing on the data management side of things.   This fits with our current exploration of PowerBI as a solution to making data more accessible and easily analysed and presented such that school leaders and teachers can make informed and data driven decisions.   As such we will definitely looking to get involved in discussion and sharing of ideas around data management.

I also had a brief discussion with Adobe in relation to licensing following some worried posts I picked up on an Educational IT forum.    The worries lay around a move by Adobe from device licensing towards user based licensing.   This would for some result in significant cost implications.   Thankfully the rep I spoke to told me that licensing would remain the same, but would be a shared device licensing scheme meaning login details would need to be set up for all students using the Adobe applications.    Apparently Adobe are looking at the provisioning side of this including single sign on to try and make the end user experience in this changed model work more seamlessly with this due to be addressed around April this year.   We also had some discussion as to how schools might be offered more flexibility to have some shared device licensing and some user based licensing.   This might be useful for students studying A-Level or BTec Art subjects in that the license would allow the students to install the software on home machines.


And so BETT 2019 has come and gone.    It was an early start to get to BETT by train but worthwhile.    Here’s looking forward to BETT 2020 and hopefully making it a less rushed experience.

See you all in a years time!!!

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