Tag Archives: good practice

Time for schools to re-boot technology use in the classroom

Justin Sycamore, managing director at Vocab Express, provides some food for thought for teachers drafting their ICT wish lists.

There is no question about it, education technology whether hardware like digital tablets, or software like educational games, can greatly improve students’ learning. However, a recent study carried out by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts claims expensive digital technology for schools often sits unused in classroom cupboards.

In the last three years, researchers estimated that schools in England alone spent more than £1.4bn on technology, a staggering amount considering tight school budgets, but it is not being used to its full potential. It was reported that the main reason for this, was teachers’ and learners’ lack of understanding in using these costly digital kits.

In an interview with the BBC, Dominic Savage of the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) welcomed the report commenting: “Schools should only invest in technology when they understand what they want to do with it and what it will achieve.”

Here at Vocab Express we support this opinion and believe it is incredibly important for education suppliers to provide resources which are user friendly, support the educator, can be easily updated and strengthen and accelerate learning. There is a rich range of resources available but schools need to be careful not to put excitement at innovation ahead of what actually helps students learn. To all teachers reading this blog and attending the Bett show in January, our advice would be to carefully consider what products will best suit both you and your students. It may be easy to compile an extensive list of flash techy gadgets, but are they straightforward to use? Will you need training to use them? Do they effectively support the work you undertake in lessons? Could they become obsolete in a couple of years? Do they need to be used in conjunction with other products? Is there a more effective alternative?

Suppliers at Bett will be happy to answer any questions and for visitors to trial their products. To find out more information on the show please take a look at the Bett 2013 website where you can find out more about each exhibitor before hand with their exhibitor profiles http://www.bettshow.com/

We would love to hear your thoughts on the use of digital technology in schools!


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#BettChat archive 16th October 2012

(All these tweets took place between 4pm and 5pm on Tuesday 16th October 2012)

Bett‏  @Bett_show

Welcome to #BettChat everyone – today’s topic: top tips for an enjoyable #Bett_Show! Who wants to share some gems first?

Smoothwall‏  @Smoothwall

Re tips for an enjoyable #Bett_Show. Register for the Bett Exhibitor Open Day on the 7th November at Excel #BettChat.

LapSafe Products‏  @LapSafe

Our top tip for an enjoyable @Bett_show? Wear comfy shoes! #Bettchat

Stinky Ink  ‏@stinky_ink

@Sallyb_w Its also our first @Bett_show too and we are really looking forward to it! #BettChat

Smoothwall‏  @Smoothwall

A great opportunity to meet the Bett team, familiarise yourself with the new venue. #BettChat

Boardworks  ‏@BoardworksLtd

#BETTchat is on now! I hope we’ll be seeing you all in January?

Capita SIMS  ‏@CapitaSIMS

Tips for a great @Bett_show, wear comfy shoes and change them half way through the day, get some fresh air and drink water #BETTChat

Smoothwall  ‏@Smoothwall

Decide what you want to get out of the exhibition & create a timetable & allocate certain parts of the day for certain priorities.#BettChat

Technogym‏  @Technogym

We’ll demo ways to get students into active learning, so be ready to get active! Seconding the #tip for comfy clothes & shoes 🙂 #BettChat

Frog‏  @frogtrade

#bettchat. You’ll have a lot to get round on the day so save time and hassle by pre-registering!

Technogym‏  @Technogym

RT @smoothwall: Decide what you want to get out of the exhibition, create a timetable & allocate parts of the day for priorities. #BettChat

Claire Ashton‏  @ClaireAshton

As a teacher, I found arriving two hours before it closed on Saturday worked best, quiet and easy to get about, need a focus too! #BETTChat

Clip Display Ltd‏  @clipltd

From and exhibitor POV: Be open and creative to new ways of presenting your products/services, you need to be unique to stand out #BettChat

Smoothwall‏  @Smoothwall

For exhibitors: Before the event use your website and social networks to let customers know you’re going to be there! #BettChat

Frog‏  @frogtrade

Don’t forget to to pick a nice big sturdy bag to collect all your goodies – the Frog bags are always a popular choice 😉 #BETTChat

Frog‏  @frogtrade

Everyone keeps saying comfy shoes, what’s the health and safety implications of slippers?? #BETTChat?

Capita SIMS‏  @CapitaSIMS

Give people a reason to visit your stand, and not just the freebies! Communicate this before hand to create interest #BETTChat

Bryan Plumb‏  @BryanPlumb

Have an idea what you’d like to see, but wander away from your plans too & be ready to be amazed at some of the lesser known tech #bettchat

Clip Display Ltd‏  @clipltd

Take a look at our apps and advice for some top tips on getting the most out of exhibiting http://www.clipdisplay.com/apps-and-advice #BETTChat

Joanne White‏  @jolwhite

Make sure you carry a bottle of water as you’ll be chatting lots …and some mints 🙂 #bettchat

Smoothwall‏  @Smoothwall

Good one @jolwhite, and make sure you don’t have garlic the night before! #BettChat

Frog‏  @frogtrade

Great tip @BryanPlumb – you definitely need to plan but its always good when you come across something new! #BETTChat

Bett‏  @Bett_show

Some great tips! We would love to hear what is your usual highlight of #Bett_Show? #BettChat

Mango Marketing‏  @Mango_Marketing

For pre-planning don’t forget the stand package includes Mango’s Bett PR support. Email bettpr@mangomarketing.com with any queries #bettchat

Capita SIMS‏  @CapitaSIMS

Think about how to maintain staff motivation, do all of them need to be there all day, four days too much? How can you reward them #BETTChat

Bryan Plumb‏  @BryanPlumb

@Bett_show Putting my feet up with a brew on Sunday? #BettChat  ;o)

ip Display Ltd‏  @clipltd

@CapitaSIMS Great advice! The most successful exhibitors are the ones who send out a pre show marketing message #BETTChat

InfoMentor UK  @infomentoruk

After a tiring day walking around the #BettShow you’ll need refreshment, join our reception at the end of each day at our stand 🙂 #BettChat

WebBased‏  @WebBasedLtd

Check out who’s exhibiting & what you’re interested in seeing beforehand by looking at the online profiles on the Bett website! #BETTChat

selectec‏  @selectec

@Bett_show comfy shoes! #BettChat

Crestron UK ‏  @CrestronUK

#BETTchat With so many exhibitors make sure you plan your time. Visit us (B274) to see how technology can enhance the learning experience

Claire Ashton‏  @ClaireAshton

Highlights for me are spending time with so many colleagues, it’s rare for so many from across the business to get together #BETTChat

Loxit Ltd‏  @loxitltd

Highlight for Bett 2012 had to be the Teachmeet take overs on various stands, superb insight into #edtech and its application #BETTChat

InfoMentor UK  ‏@infomentoruk

#BETTChat Keep a kit of useful items eg screen wipes, stationery & bottled water on your stand to keep your stand & staff running smoothly!

Joanne White‏  @jolwhite

tip for exhibitors.. always smile even on at 3.55 on day 4, visitors do your research before it’s huge and there’s so much to see! #bettchat

Econocom UK‏  @Econocom_UK

@Bett_show You need to have with a clear message for everyone. And maybe try and be different to attract visitors #BettChat #Bett_Show

Claire Ashton‏  @ClaireAshton

For visitors, if you have a specific person or company to speak to, arrange an appointment as they’ll be busy #BETTChat

Pete Johnson‏  @Peter_Porpoise

Do not ever ever ever buy new shoes for @bett_show #BettChat #bitterexperience #blisters

Claire Ashton‏  @ClaireAshton

Again for visitors, we have free coffee vouchers on our stand… others likely do too #BETTChat

Peter   @ClickViewPeter

#bettchat Enjoy the new venue and remember the excellent Olympics!

Smoothwall‏  @Smoothwall

#Bett_show is great opportunity for us to catch up with our existing customers, and demo our solutions to other education users #BettChat

Frog  ‏@frogtrade

The most important thing is – enjoy it! It’s like Christmas for our staff – we love BETT #bettchat

Claire Ashton  ‏@ClaireAshton

@frogtrade We could test it next year, although slippers all day may not be such a good idea #BETTChat

TOPdesk UK‏  @TOPdesk_UK

#BettChat Universities get involved! http://www.unidesk.ac.uk #servicemanagement @BETT_show

Mango Marketing‏  @Mango_Marketing

@selectec @Bett_show – we agree! #Bettchat

Peter ‏  @ClickViewPeter

#bettchat turn up on the last not second week of January!

Mango Marketing‏  @Mango_Marketing

@Peter_Porpoise We second this! #feelyourpain #bettchat

ClickView UK  ‏@ClickViewUK

Our office team get to leave their desks for 4 days and meet our customers in person. It’s like going to the Oscars for them…! #bettchat

Claire Ashton‏  @ClaireAshton

It will be cold outside but may be warm inside! Olympia always was but new venue so who knows? Try to dress for all eventualities #BETTChat

Clip Display Ltd‏  @clipltd

@CapitaSIMS Great point & often not thought about! The staff on the stand are incredibly important for a successful event #BETTChat

Pete Johnson  ‏@Peter_Porpoise

make sure your stand build takes into account (lockable) space for coats and bags for your staff #bettchat

Pete Johnson‏  @Peter_Porpoise

be as pleasant to the person approaching at 3.59 on Saturday as you are to peeps on 1st day – they might just be from a MOE 🙂 #bettchat

Smoothwall‏  @Smoothwall

Plan your journey to the #Bett_Show in advance by using the travel guidehttp://www.excel-london.co.uk/visitors/interactivebigpicturemap … #BettChat

Clip Display Ltd‏  @clipltd

Do your sums and work out just what success looks like! Try our lead target calculator for exhibitors… http://www.clipdisplay.com/apps-and-advice/lead-target-calculator … #BETTChat

Mango Marketing  ‏@Mango_Marketing

Think about on-stand events to tempt visitors & don’t forget to use #Bett_Show (official hashtag, 1 tweet per second during show) #bettchat

Mango Marketing‏  @Mango_Marketing

Data pens are invaluable during busy times – have somebody qualify leads so you can follow up post-show for best ROI #bettchat

Clip Display Ltd‏  @clipltd

@Mango_Marketing Definitely! Download our free to use Lead Capture App to collect & rate leads: http://www.clipdisplay.com/apps-and-advice/lead-capture-app/ … #BETTChat

InfoMentor UK  ‏@infomentoruk

We believe that every school is different, visitors aren’t just leads. Capture conversations not just badge scans 🙂 #Bettchat

Serco E & L‏  @Serco_Education

Visitors and exhibitors should check out the @BETT_show arena – it looks very impressive and is right next to our stand #BettChat

Claire Ashton‏  @ClaireAshton

@infomentoruk We find we need paper too! Electronic ways of capturing interest are never enough, both together can work #BETTChat

Mango Marketing‏  @Mango_Marketing

Have a think about what you could give teachers visiting your stand that could make life easier – top tips, insight, research etc #bettchat

Mango Marketing‏  @Mango_Marketing

@ClaireAshton @infomentoruk We agree! Using them both together is the best way – follow up is better for everyone then! #Bettchat

Bryan Plumb‏  @BryanPlumb

@Mango_Marketing Or alternatively, one of these https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Ai5JRBzCQAAIlrQ.jpg:large … #bettchat

Capita SIMS  ‏@CapitaSIMS

One more tip, give school presenters name badges and explain exactly what BETT is like. They won’t be used to a transient audience #BETTChat

Capita SIMS‏  @CapitaSIMS

@clipltd Thanks! We familiarise colleagues with the presenters, try to engage with them all day with customers #BETTChat

Bett‏  @Bett_show

And #BettChat is over for another week – thanks everyone! Some great tips. Remember to tweet us your suggestions for next week’s topic!

Clip Display Ltd‏  @clipltd

Thanks @Bett_show! Best of luck to everyone taking part in #BETT_Show! We hope you have a great event #BETTChat

InfoMentor UK‏ @infomentoruk

Good luck to everyone exhibiting and to everyone visiting, have a fantastic time and we look forward to seeing you there #bettchat

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New term, new focus

“A new school year means a new set of challenges”. David Cregan at St. Matthew’s Academy shares with us all of the new things they are doing this year.

Changing curriculum

There is of course a significant emphasis on the changing curriculum and the government has effectively decided to strip things back, which we certainly see as a positive. A key part of the original academy ethos and ideal is looking for something to plug that freedom into. This isn’t new to us, but we would encourage other primary schools to follow the International Primary Curriculum which has proven a real success at St. Matthew’s. This particular curriculum gives us broad themes through which we can structure all subjects. The theme is communicated to parents as well, so if they are going to take their child out for the day, they can try to focus it on those topics; it is a really encouraging exercise and is extremely engaging.


One of the biggest focuses this year is phonics, and St. Matthew’s Academy has received matched funding to implement a new programme throughout the school. It will involve classes every morning where children will be put into ‘stage not age’ groups; so for example, we might have a child in Year 1 working with a child in Year 3, because that is where they are phonically. We have always been keen to encourage children of different ages to work together and these classes are a vehicle for enabling this to happen.

Reading scheme

Reading is critical and making sure a child’s reading age keeps pace with their chronological age is a key challenge for us, and is something we constantly monitor. This simple system allows us to pair children off depending on their reading age and if a child’s chronological age isn’t the same as other pupils we have reading groups which are also ‘stage not age’, meaning that pupils are not being left behind. A constant challenge is simply finding enough adults to read with the children and this is critical if a child’s parent does not speak or read English.

Mental Arithmetic

Proposed reforms of the maths curriculum suggest a large emphasis on children knowing their times tables and knowing different number rules and bonds. In line with this, we will be having mental arithmetic tests as part of the morning routine and we’ve also reformed our planner, which sets what we expect a child to be able to achieve by a certain stage. Those will be reviewed three times a year with parents and will include things that parents can do with their children as well, supporting parental engagement. Our parental liaison officer will also run sessions after school where we’ll show parents different ways that they can teach their child times tables and other maths exercises. Our parents need help to support their children and we aim to distribute materials using our VLE, website and social media channels such as Twitter.


Collaboration is currently a key focus for the DfE and it very much fits with the ethos of St. Matthew’s. Our logo is a six pointed star and each point is a different length, representing the educational opportunity that we offer for each individual child. Building links with other schools, whilst building aspirations for our pupils, who could potentially go to those schools to do scholarships is important for us, some of our pupils now study Latin at a local private girls’ school, for example. Whilst we don’t want to lose pupils, we feel it is important that we show the mobility that is available to them.

The future

The school was set up five years ago, and as the equipment we first invested in comes up for renewal we are deciding on
the next device that we might need for implementation. We now have a much broader digital broadband network that can take more devices, so we now have the thorny decision between Android which meshes with our industry standard Microsoft system and highly versatile Apple iPads. This has led to us creating some innovation in certain areas in the school to make a full assessment for governors this year.

Linked to this, we are looking to create a fully immersive multi-media room which is going to be our innovation centre. It will be a room where our pupils can be immersed in the International Primary Curriculum topics, so if they are learning about parliament for example, they will get to see exactly what that is like. It will also be a place where parents can come and see exhibitions of their child’s work, which is a crucial element to promoting the understanding and embracing of the new curriculum by students and parents.

We use Bett to benchmark resources; see what is new and crucially being used to support real learning. That is the most significant consideration when making any purchase as it is now the key criteria for OFSTED supporting pupil progression for us this year, so we look forward to visiting the show!

For more news and views from Bett visitors and exhibitors, download 2013’s Bett Update

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ICT: Challenging but exciting times ahead

Terry FreedmanTerry Freedman share his views and gives advice on the challenges that lie ahead for teachers with regards to ICT and education in general.

The challenge of waiting for the new curriculum, CPD, keeping up with new technologies, finding out the best and most cost-effective way of using technology across all subjects to engage pupils, budgetary restrictions, creating the next generation of innovators etc.

What a year 2012 was! First we celebrated the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Then we celebrated the Olympics and the Paralympics. One of the Olympic venues was the Excel centre, the new home of the Bett show. Perhaps fittingly, the events held there included boxing and weightlifting…. So, should we in the ICT community be celebrating – or commiserating with one another?

Well, let’s just stand back for a few moments and look at the overall picture. Mainstream schools no longer have to follow the Programme of Study for ICT (although they do have to teach ICT in some form or other). As part and parcel of this, schools do not have to abide by the Attainment Targets and their associated Levels. There is no longer a designated central budget for schools to spend on ICT.

Even Ofsted is taking a hands-off approach in the sense that inspectors will be looking for evidence of learning taking place, which means that teachers can use ICT in their lessons how they like as long as their pupils are making the progress expected of them. Slavish adherence to detailed lesson plans is no longer required (although lessons will still be expected to have been planned!). Even the much-publicised observation by Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw that mobile phones can be disruptive in lessons and that he didn’t allow them to be used in his school was not an edict to ban them from the classroom but, I think, a challenge: if you’re going to allow them in school make sure they are used purposefully. As for advice on how to do so, there are no longer official agencies to guide you, and time and money for CPD are, as ever, difficult to come by.

If we had to sum up all of this in a single phrase it would be, I think, “Laissez-faire”, which literally means “let it be”. This is either incredibly liberating, rather scary, or a little of both.

Last year, I invited people to respond to an online survey about the trends seen at Bett 2012 and what the future might hold. The two stand-out features were more and more cloudbased applications, and more mobile, mainly tablet, devices. These two trends are not unrelated, of course.

On a purely anecdotal level, it would seem that schools are becoming more and more interested in one-toone computing as a way of engaging learners and making anytime-anywhere access to the internet a reality. There have been number of trials involving the use of tablets such as iPads. While there are advantages of giving students a tablet of their own, such as the fact that they can use it wherever they happen to be, there are challenges involved too, namely the expense at a time when there are no ringfenced funds for ICT. How have schools squared this particular circle?

They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and to overcome their financial constraints some schools are starting to look at the idea of Bring Your Own Device, which is something I have been researching of late. This side-steps the financial burden associated with buying and upgrading a large number of devices. However, BYOD brings its own potential headaches which schools need to think through before doing anything. In other words, BYOD is not a quick fix, and a few building blocks need to be in place before it can start to be implemented.

Interestingly, on the subject of budgets and spending, things are not all doom and gloom. According to recent research from BESA (An assessment of digital content sales in UK schools, April 2012), sales of digital content have risen, especially in primary schools. The result, is that a 5% increase in spending is predicted for 2012. That’s a welcome sign because it would seem to suggest that an absence of designated funding for ICT may not lead to an overall fall in spending on it.

The research does not provide reasons for this, but it could be that the disapplication of the ICT Programme of Study from September has led schools to rethink what they are doing in ICT and try something new. Providing a curriculum that will inspire the next generation of e-learners, is a challenge and a half – but how exciting to be able to wipe the slate clean and start completely anew!

In my opinion, the only way to cope with all these challenges is to become something of a researcher. That doesn’t mean walking around in a white coat and carrying a clipboard, but taking the time and effort to find out what other people are trying. Even if you don’t have much time, that would be a worthwhile investment. There are several ways you can do so. I’d say going to the Bett show is an absolute must – and I’m not saying that just because I am writing this for a Bett publication! Bett is an excellent opportunity to get to see the latest products, hear what people are doing in their own classrooms, and to meet other people facing the same challenges as you.

If you’re not already on Twitter, sign up now! The days when people told everyone what they are having for breakfast seem to have gone, thankfully. Search for #edtech or #ictineducation and follow a few of the people who appear in the list. I’ve found this invaluable for finding out about new resources, reports and websites.

Go to http://www.technorati.com and search for blogs on educational technology or ICT in education, and fi nd one or two that you like the look of.

There are two good things about having a laissez-faire environment. First, nobody can truly say they have the answer. The time is right for trying new things out, whether in terms of the curriculum (should you have a greater emphasis on computer programming), assessment (how do you judge standards?) or technology (tablets or laptops?). Second, because of that I sense a real excitement in the air, and a greater than ever willingness to share.

Have a good Bett!

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Using data to ensure that every child matters

Rosie Simmonds is head teacher at Leverington Primary Academy, where 96 per cent of pupils achieve Level 4 or above in their SATS.  The school was rated as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted and recently became an academy. Here Rosie talks about how, despite their achievements, they still face the challenges that all schools face – ensuring every child matters. 

Raising pupil attainment has been no mean feat at my school.  Over a third of our pupils are on the SEN register and we face high mobility of our school population.  In just one term, the proportion of children having free school meals almost doubled. Therefore, we need to work hard to maintain the levels of achievement we have spent so long building.

As an academy, we have more freedom to make decisions about the curriculum and the resources that we purchase for the educational benefit and welfare for our children.  However, it also means we are also more closely under the spotlight so we need to ensure our pupils continue to achieve.

Alongside good teaching and learning, using data to track pupil progress is key to this.

We enter achievement, behaviour and attendance data on to our SIMS management information system (MIS). We use this information to track a pupil’s performance to see where we can help support them more effectively. 

We had a boy, for example, who arrived from another school following permanent exclusion in Year 4.  He was at Level 1 in all subjects at Key Stage 1, his attendance was poor due to ill health and he had ADHD.  From his first day, I monitored his attendance and behaviour in our MIS as well as his achievement against short term targets that we set.   

By looking at data relating to his behaviour and performance in individual subjects, it was clear that when he was struggling to understand something, he would misbehave and distract other pupils. 

This helped us to make decisions about how we could intervene to improve his behaviour and achievement.  To keep the pupil included, we used ‘time out’ strategies, a one to one rapid reading programme and enrolled him in a social skills group to improve his self-esteem and confidence.

As well as feedback from teachers, data on the MIS showed us the impact of this intervention and the pupil is now on target to achieve Level 4 in English, Maths and Science by the end of Year 6.  The improvement in his behaviour encouraged his parents to get more involved too and his mum asks for help from time to time. 

We look at the data of children who are high achievers too as it is important that we do not lose sight of their needs.  An intelligent pupil that is not stretched will show signs of poor behaviour or disengagement from learning. By being able to spot these trends on our MIS we are able to step in earlier to provide more challenging work and offer enrichment activities.  

I firmly believe that data has a vital role in ensuring a school can understand and monitor to meet the needs of every child, and to help schools support their pupils in achieving more.

Rosie will be taking a seminar at this year’s BETT show. “Using Data to Meet your Every Child Matters Obligations” will take place at 14:30 on 11th January in Conference Room One.  You can book a place by contacting 0207 728 3898.

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