NEW BOLTON MARCH 2017 WORKSHOP VENUES ANNOUNCED
- St Paul’s Astley Bridge CE Primary School BOLTON
- St Catherine’s CE Primary, Horwich, BOLTON
- Eagley Junior School, BOLTON
- Kearsley West Primary School, BOLTON
Here’s something that not a lot of people know.
There’s a goal in mind for the web and that is to enable every website address to begin with https:// instead of http:// so that the data that passes between site and sender/visitor is encrypted. Google are big supporters of it amongst others.
Here’s something that not a lot of people know either.
This is the how the various web browsers that people use globally compare and yes, back there in the distance is Internet Explore & Edge with Chrome beating way out in front.
Why are these ‘pub trivia’ facts important?
Well, at the end of January this year, Google’s latest version of Chrome (v56) (the dead popular one) will ultimately start telling visitors to your school website whether it’s secure or not.
What are the benefits of going secure?
What can your school do about it?
Your web site host will have a very easy and quick method of applying a security certificate to your website thus making it secure for visitors and site managers. It’s pretty rare that the school tech support would touch this job so unless they’re the person who built and hosted your website we suggest leaving them well alone. This Google site has a technical guide for how to implement an SSL so if your tech is the person they may want this link. Schools who have a Blippit Site are already compliant with SSL in place.
Our suggestion would be to get the ball rolling tomorrow with a quick email to your provider saying:
We’d like you to apply an SSL certificate to our school website please. We’d like to do this for 12 months initially and need this in place by February or March at the latest. Can you let us know what we need to do on our part to do this e.g. forward an email from the certificate issuing authority to you when it comes?
<School Who Knows What They’re Talking About>”
What happens if we don’t get a security certificate applied to the school website?
You can carry on as you are and everything will stay the same. The main issue is that the world’s most widely used web browser will start telling visitors that your site is not secure and in this day and age that’s probably not what you want.
Good luck & support a more secure web!
LetsEncrypt runs the certificate authority that issues free SSL certificates so cost is no longer a barrier to using HTTPS and both Google and Mozilla to actively promote and recommend the use of HTTPS as standard.
The last literacy-focused app publishing lesson with Year 2 happened last week. Both during and after the lesson we learned a lot about how the writing process was affected, even in more reluctant writers, by the addition of app publishing.
Though the focus was so clearly writing improvement, when the children were asked, the prospect of Mummy or Daddy having the app on their phones was also featuring large in their minds.
Listen now to part 2 with Assistant Head & Literacy Leader Mrs Emma Smallshaw, from Salesbury Primary in Lancashire, in action with her Year 2 class and reflecting afterwards with John Bidder from Blippit about the process as a whole and next steps.
We’ve been focusing on how the process of improving non-chronological report writing could combine with publishing a mobile app using Blippit’s App Maker.
One of the most striking factors was the effect of telling the children that their app would be seen by the world; this would include mum & dad on their mobile phones too. We’ve always believed in the positive effect of having an authentic audience and what was clear was that these children, at such a young age, were highly motivated at the thought.
What you’ll get a sense of in the video is the absolute focus on literacy and writing improvement. What was less easy to capture was the willingness of the children to ‘fix’ their writing to make it better. This is the ‘norm’ for these children it seems and dealing with being told that there’s ‘a problem with’ some part of their writing was not a problem for them. You can get the Viking App Template from Blippit Academy.
Listen to Assistant Head & Literacy Leader Mrs Emma Smallshaw, from Salesbury Primary in Lancashire, in action with her class and reflecting afterwards about the process so far.
Refer-to-Pharmacy allows hospital pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to refer people directly to their community pharmacist for free NHS services such as the New Medicine Service or a Discharge Medication Review.
We’ve been working with Alistair Gray, Clinical Services Lead Pharmacist at East Lancashire Health Trust, on an idea to help spread of the word about Refer-to-Pharmacy. After an initial chat, Alistair quickly saw the potential of having an app, that he had complete control over, to aggregate sources of news, project updates, video, talks/events and so on for anyone wanting to know more about the project.
With an hour’s training he very quickly made a really convincing job of the first ever ‘Refer to Pharmacy’ app and incredibly within 24 hours a QR Code and link were added to the latest print run design of the new R2P brochure. We feel confident that having an eye for detail, Alistair’s app will continue to evolve – in fact it’s at version 11 at time of writing!The gallery was not found!
Blippit is really happy and proud to support awareness raising of such a great project with it’s roots firmly in the NHS. The fact that Refer-To-Pharmacy is being picked up internationally now too is a really positive sign.
For a change we thought you might find these app stats interesting as we roll into the weekend. These are the estimated number of global app downloads in May 2016.
You will find more statistics at Statista
This week Blippit Social met up with NW based Kidsafe for a chat about safeguarding, child exploitation and the importance of not keeping experiences inside that give a child a ‘yucky feeling’ as Kidsafe describe it.
Blippit Social’s approach & beliefs about the importance of schools having a social approach to parental engagement complement Kidsafe’s work well which is why we’ve some interesting ideas bubbling in the pipeline now that will mean good things for schools in the future.
You’ll have seen how with some sites you can log in using your details from Twitter, Google, Facebook. It’s pretty clever and it makes life simpler in the non-school world. Unfortunately it’s less straightforward, or rather there’s more to consider, to enable this sort of authentication in schools. Google has an impressive solution to this mentioned later in this post. On a practical note, having a log in option for younger users via social media is contra to the policies of pretty much all providers.
With the dream is always to make life simpler for users (while simultaneously keeping things fully usable, secure & customisable) here’s a whistle-stop tour of some available and proven systems that are here to lower technical friction and free up your brain space for learning. They’re in no particular order other than alphabetical.
AirHead caught our eye at BETT 2016 as a very nicely done and deeply integrated web based desktop. Your apps follow you whatever device you’re on and there’s some clever stuff under the hood that allows children and teachers to greatly reduce the number of times they have to log in to different systems. If you want to bring in behaviour, attendance and all that gritty stuff you can do that too with all the big MIS systems listed here.
Google has taken simplification to heart and wrapped some of the most powerful web based productivity tools around it you’re likely to see. Want children to work/write/draw/survey or whatever together online in real time? This will tick those needs off very nicely and wherever you or your children are working it won’t matter. Well worth exploring if you’ve not already done so as us the Chromebook – a technology of which we’re huge fans hence the Chrome Extension we built of Blippit IO.
If you like the tech, then one of the smartest fish under the waterline is GroupCall’s IDaaS (Identity Management for Education). It’s a bit like the magic golden thread that ultimately lets you zip seamlessly and share data securely between systems. Purely for education it has to be a good thing. It does more but check them out for more info on their website.
Microsoft Azure may be starting to appear on your peripheral vision if you’re not directly involved in tech at school. Your network support experts will be well aware of it. One among the many things Azure does is to integrate lots of tools and services that are commonly used across your organisation such as email, where you keep your files and securely manage single login to multiple systems. Microsoft is operating a more open shop these days and MS non-fans may want to check out what is now being catered for under Azure. Chat to Virtue Technologies in Skelmersdale – they know Azure well.
RM Unify is a single sign-on method that curriculum tools such as Blippit allow teachers and children to gain access with. School users log in to RM Unify just once. If user details are updated at school level this is synchronised automatically across all other systems including Blippit if necessary. No more “I’ve forgotten my password!” & plenty of customisation at a local level so schools can point to bought and free stuff at will. It’s also a shop window so if you’re using RM’s MIS you can try, buy and deploy from the browser very easily.
Going back in time…
In 2005, yes that’s 11 years ago, I came across and played with a web based information dashboard/desktop product called ProtoPage. It’s not so much for schools but the whole web based customisable desktop ‘thing’ is right there and has been for the last 11 years. Worth a play if only to fix in your mind, should it need fixing, what a powerful thing having web based desktop can be.
1. Why use social media?
This is an important one to know. Typically schools want their community to ‘get’ their values and ethos. In short, schools want ensure parents can buy into what they’re offering because, while it’s a fantastic product, actually they’re only aware of the tip of the iceberg. Also, a teeny weeny bit of school wants to know what the wider community knows so ‘social’ makes sense.
2. What about the school website?
It doesn’t cut the mustard anymore on it’s own. People only use it when they’re booking holidays or if a disaster happens to cause school to close. The main audience for the school site now, unfortunately, is Ofsted with the occasional new family or grumbly parent looking for pupil premium stats.
3. What about school newsletters?
The ‘news’ and how people consume it has changed radically since social media became established. The weekly/monthly Friday newsletter has become routine, easy to ignore and taken for granted. Its almost invisible. Newsletters consume school time and energy as well as trees. Adding them to the school website feels like a good green idea but in reality it benefits very few, if any, parents. If you have web stats they will bear this out. Linking to resources on the website from social media is a much better way of targeting information and getting parents to share it for you with their networks as well.
4. What do people in your community use every day?
It’s such an obvious question to ask parents that literally no-one does it. Ask some parents what they use on a daily basis in terms of social media platforms. You don’t need to craft a letter to all parents or create something clever using Google Forms. Target a welcome evening for new parents and slip the question in for a show of hands. Make sure that colleagues who need to see the response are there to see it. You’ll get a sense of what people think about it and what if any pros or cons parents might see arising.
5. Can we just dip our toes?
If anyone in school is saying “Let’s just use Twitter for now”, be bold enough to ask why as this is often an anxiety-led response to the idea of social parental engagement in a strange environment where control is not absolute. Don’t proceed past ‘go’ until school is clear on both the needs of parents and the school. These needs will help tell you to choose the best social platforms to use. In my experience at least, using Twitter alone for effective parental engagement is like wafting a wet woolly mammoth dry with a flat cap. You’ll expend lots of energy but will hardly touch the surface and eventually you’ll wonder why you bothered. For some schools, the idea of using Twitter is appealing at first because comeback from any followers will be negligible. In fact with a bit of luck hardly any parents will notice school tweeting. School will however still look cool because of the Twitter logo on the website home page. Avoid the temptation to dip your toes in Facebook for other reasons. More harm can come from a half-hearted conversation starter with parents on Facebook because it reflects badly on school values. Parents are typically very pleased indeed to see you have joined them where they are but pretty let down if school doesn’t show commitment to it.
6. Clarity of purpose
If your school knows where it’s community is and then joins them on a particular platform, such as Facebook, it will really help school to be clear about why it’s there. Agree your overall strategy for communicating with parents throughout the year as social media does not operate on an island. Consider what the stress events for parents are so that you can be well positioned even before they arrive. Timely, concise, low-key and friendly updates lower parental anxiety leading to a calmer community who are able to deal with an upcoming stress point e.g. parents evening, admissions, school closure, non-uniform day (yes even that!) With data you will be able to see when, who, how and where people are engaging.
7. The Parent Journey
Improving the parental journey is often the main ‘why’ behind schools using social media to engage on a more targeted and timely level. Years ago research was done by the Cabinet Office to look into something called ‘the customer journey’. It highlighted how people’s emotional state fluctuated when they had to go through a particular and often bureaucratic process. Imagine, for example, the steps involved in taking a much loved pet the vet, reporting the death of a family member to the local council or even being a competitor on the X Factor. With the right kind of interventions along the way through these processes it is possible to flatten out the emotional spikes for parents along the way resulting in a less ruffled and more appreciative community at the end of it all.
8. Your School Story
Your school has it’s own story arc and each member of staff is a major character in the plot with parents and children moving fluidly from audience to guest stars on a daily basis. There are lots of happy endings, plenty of plot twists and the occasional sad event. If school can be clear from the start about what you will and won’t be sharing with parents from the outset then the chances of having to deal with unexpected topics on-the-fly are reduced.
9. What about Safeguarding & things that begin with an ‘e’
Safeguarding was commented upon by Ofsted last year in one of the schools we work with in that the work on Facebook (plus other activity that fed into/off it) made a very positive contribution to it. So many schools try to have e-safety meetings for parents that noone turns up to or ‘the wrong people come’. Sometimes, a different tack can work with supporting and educating a school community and it doesn’t always have to include someone standing at the front in the hall for half an hour. Drip feed your parents tips via social media – ideally Facebook – and they’ll share them as well as follow them.
10. Know your audience
Heads know their parental community but they have a heightened awareness of certain parents who colour the Head’s expectations of what will happen if the school uses social media to reach out to it’s community. If you’re a Head Teacher you’ll have certain parents ‘front of mind’ and will often unwittingly apply the vibe these people give on to the rest of your parental community. Phrases heard in the playground such as “Everyone is really unhappy about…” are bound to make Head Teachers uneasy but the reality in my experience is that ‘everyone’ comprises of just one or two slightly high maintenance parents. With social media, you have it in your power to fill the air with positivity and celebrate the great things that the children and staff do every single day. Your majority audience is happy, has got your back and will champion the school far and wide. They have invested their child into your school and parents are very keen to tell others, in this era of buying based on peer recommendation, what a great decision it was they made to send their child to your school. School has a wonderful opportunity to act as a social role model for parents and families and the contribution it can make to safeguarding shouldn’t be underestimated by being in the same space.
Some Lancashire primary schools affected by the recent disastrous floods are finally getting back to business almost as usual. It’s been a horrendous time with highly stressed families, children (mainstream & specialist schools) and last but not least everyone employed at the schools themselves.
To add a little extra stress into the mix, as sub-stations became swamped, power cuts had far reaching effects such as knocking out phone network transmitters. Broadband was no exception going down for many people for many hours.
Take away the ability to heat anything, dry anything, at night time to ‘see’ anything, drink fresh water or flush toilets and add the fact that many families were kitted out for Christmas and you’re only part way there.
With Nativities rehearsed, costumes made, lines learned, relatives invited, tickets part-sold and in already scarce supply due to school fire regulations (which winds people up every year) you could say it was a perfect storm.
Communication is critical in this kind of situation and at times over the last week there were no options open to schools at all. It was grim.
However, in amongst the pockets of communication blackouts, at four of the schools we work with as Blippit Social, the messages that squeezed out from each school’s Facebook presence were amplified and carried along by parents to reach those who needed to know what was or wasn’t happening.
A special mention went out to a local radio station called ‘The Bay’ who by all accounts did a pretty amazing job at getting people home, bypassing destroyed routes with timely and accurate information updates.
Heads knew that if they asked parents to share updates that originated from the school on Facebook that these updates would carry more authority and hopefully more clarity and this does seem to have been the case. Interestingly, when the school updated that it needed help, to gain clarity on the current status across the area, it was effectively counting on the wisdom of the crowds. Some might have said that Heads should have closed down their schools’ presence on Facebook for fear of virtual looting and vandalism but wisely in my view they chose not to.
Together we have learned that the vast majority of parents live up to the bar set for them set by the school. As a model of good practice for how to use social media effectively and reasonably, parents could not be linked to anything better than the school. Less savvy parents most definitely got some fantastic guidance too from their peers – it wasn’t all about the school.
…understanding leadership from a distributed perspective means seeing leadership activities as a situated and social process at the intersection of leaders, followers, and the situation.
(Source: Wikipedia ironically enough!)
Our data for the last month, aggregated across the four schools on Facebook, puts forward a simple view based on experience and evidence and it’s something like this (though the words aren’t right just yet it must be said).
Parent/school social networks can be complementary and highly effective during difficult times thanks to distributed leadership, trust, respect and an increased sense of transparency in the relationships.
Blippit Social monitors all the schools it supports and can explore the social data pretty much on demand. The following report extracts show data for the month leading up to and including the last 36 hours and as such show an interesting contrast to ‘normal’ business.