Green Park Primary School – Change for all the right reasons

Yesterday, thanks to a random tweet about Chromebooks by Green Park Primary computing lead Pete Rafferty (@Raff31), I had the great pleasure of spending a morning there with the children, teachers & Head Teacher Mrs Hains.

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One of the areas I’m always really interested in is how schools make things happen, why they happened in the first place and what’s the outcome at the end of it all.  The time spent in year 3 & 6 was so interesting that many things, though not necessarily in this order, shot through my mind
  • if Ofsted walked in now, unannounced, where would they put themselves & how would they begin to understand what was happening
  • technology is often seen as an isolator of children; a shutting down of a child to those around them. Not so particularly in the Year 3 lesson. The level of conversation leading to division of labour and ongoing review of improvements was really quite special.
  • the children can choose the right tool for them; they use a white board to jot down the essence of information from a web page then the Chromebooks to edit and add it into their work. Less & less copy & paste
  • distributing leadership across the class is a much-hammered phrase down the years but when the teacher ‘believes’ and hands over the reigns it’s a powerful thing in a one-to-one situation
  • shift happens; peer review/AfL is non-threatening here and being shared to the big screen is no biggie
    • children invite others to collaborate on their work including the teacher
  • risk taking is a gradual process but clearly the Head has, with teachers, nurtured a culture with Pete that mistakes happen but that’s life and so long as they’re learned from that’s fine.  The lesson is not to not take risks again.
  • they’ve done it the right way round; network wireless infrastructure is bolstered to take the demands of busy children & teachers
  • lives are touched by tech where it’s advantageous for it to be so e.g. Google Drive enabling job shares to work seamlessly on report moderation

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Miss Lewis-Brown (Yr 3) was the guide and the side not the sage on the stage.  Capturing notes on her iPad during the lesson and I believe filing them away using Evernote it was pretty inspiring that though the technology was so conspicuous it wasn’t the star.

On tech note, I’m a big fan of Chromebooks in schools for some practical reasons to do with reducing

  • technical support burden on ICT people i.e. you can forget about updates & antivirus
  • waiting time when people log in to the Chromebooks i.e. you’re talking about seconds
  • cost overheads and worries about ratios e.g. you’re looking at around £160 ex vat per Chromebook
  • the digital divide i.e. some of these children asked for a Chromebook instead of an iPad this Christmas

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Managing ongoing change that leads to the kind of images you see here takes nerve and leadership but it’s definitely achievable.  With the support of the Head, Pete has gently guided his colleagues along a path driven by need and potential which I could imagine influencing the secondary school provision.  One of the feeder schools has in fact recognised this already and is laying the ground with Office 365 where the children’s collaborative working skills will be transferrable.  Just some of the challenges will be in
  • exploiting the opportunities Office 365 this has to offer
  • nurturing digital leadership as a desirable attribute in students
  • ramping up the network infrastructure services in a larger setting (££)

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By coincidence the BBC published a story today about a campaign by employers that puts a value of £88 Bn on soft skills.  Food for thought.

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