SELMAS – The Scary World of Student Leadership

This week I was invited to lead a session at the SELMAS student conference – The Scary World of Student Leadership #swsl. It was a great day, with young leaders (P6-S3)  from across Scotland contributing some fantastic ideas. The main theme of the conference revolved around the question of how schools and education would look in 2023.



My session was split into two sections, with student tasks carried out in cooperative groups:

1. How will technology impact on learning in 2023?

In order to answer this, I wanted first to look at how technology has impacted on learning in the past 10 years (actually, I cheated a bit to include the birth of the Internet and the launch of Google).
(Slides 3-12)

Student task
What will technology in schools look like in 2023
(Slide 13)

2. Sugata Mitra – Hole in the Wall

If the premise of Sugata Mitra’s Hole in the Wall project is valid, then will we really need teachers in 2023, or will technology replace the teacher?
(Slides 14-15)

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Student task
Using available technology, try to answer one of the following questions and then share with your home group:

  • How does a mobile phone work?
  • How does the human body work?
  • Why is the grass green, the clouds white and the sky blue?
  • How would I paint like Leonardo da Vinci?
  • How would I conduct a heart bypass?
  • Categorise the animal world.
  • Why do we dream?
  • Why was Nelson Mandela a successful and influential leader?

The plenary focused on a review of how technology could be used to answer the above by considering these questions:

  1. How did you use the technology to learn?
  2. How will you use the technology to share your learning?
  3. How do you see the role of your teacher in this process?


Using Twitter for Professional Learning – Modern Studies Conference

My presentation and associated links from my session at the Modern Studies Association Conference, Saturday 2nd November 2013 #msacon13


Intro video

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Conference: #msacon13

Session: #msacon13twitter






Castlebrae Community High School Twitter feed @CastlebraeCHS

Forrester High School Twitter feed @ForresterHS


Jumping the Good Ship Android

A brief summary of our 1:1 project so far. In August 2012 we rolled out 140 Toshiba AT-100 Android devices to our entire S1 cohort as part of a pilot 1:1 tablet program for Edinburgh Council. The project has been very successful and we have seen some fantastic ways in which learning has changed for this year group. For more detail on the initial stages of the project, see the blog posts summarising each of the 4 phases: Planning, Preparation, Implementation and Review. There have also been very positive media articles via STV online and Edinburgh Evening News. Hull University have been evaluating the project on behalf of the authority and their interim report has also been exceptionally positive.

Given this positive impact, we have now started the planning process for a second phase with a view to rolling out 1:1 mobile devices to a further year group. I have spent the past 3 months trying to decide what the best platform for this next roll out should be listening to the views of staff, students and various online discussions on Twitter. I have always said that it is important when planning any 1:1 project to identify the most suitable platform at the time of roll-out, and to be prepared to change path in subsequent phases if necessary. After all, so much can happen in the mobile technology market in the space of 12 months.

When we were planning the first phase of our 1:1 program, there were only three realistic options for us to consider: iPad, Android tablets or Netbooks. A year on, the Netbook has all but died away but we now have four potential platforms to choose from: iPad, Android tablets, Windows tablet PCs and Chromebooks. I personally don’t think either Windows or Chromebooks offer a solution yet. Windows mobile solution is still playing catch up and Chromebooks lack the richness of apps that are available for iOS/Android.

When we initially evaluated the mobile platforms early in 2012, the word was that Glow 2 was going to be built around Google Apps. It seemed to me at the time that Android / Google Apps integration would be a sensible way to go forward. Of course, as it turned out Google pulled the plug on their Glow bid at the 11th hour and we are now awaiting a solution based on MS365. It’s not a critical problem, but it was one of the advantages that Android had going for it at the time, and it’s not one it has now. However Android has become a serious contender to iOS in my opinion, and it’s certainly a viable mobile OS for the classroom. Google Play meets our needs and it’s easy enough to download and install apps. The question is, does Android and Android hardware give us the best solution?

As things stand right now, I think that the answer is no, and that after much consideration iPad / iOS is the platform which best meets the needs of our secondary learners. There are two fundamental reasons why I believe we need to change from Android tablets to iPads this year:

1.  Availability of rich learning content

All too regularly I come across a fantastic app only to discover that it’s available only for iOS and not Android. I don’t have an exact figure, but I would guess that maybe one third of the educational apps are designed for iOS only (some great examples are GarageBand, Explain Everything, Foldify, KeyNote, Puppet Pals, Brushes, Geoboard to name but a few). Of course that might change in the future as Android continues to catch up, but as things stand this is a problem.

2. Device (and company) robustness

As I highlighted in my previous 1:1 posts, Toshiba (note: Toshiba and not Android) have let us down. Badly. The project this year has been hampered by a return to base warranty issue which has meant that at times we were without 20% of all devices and the time to repair was on average a completely unacceptable 4-5 weeks. This was down to a manufacturing / build fault, but despite numerous requests for support Toshiba spent 6 months saying there was nothing they could do. Would Apple have sat back if one fifth of their devices rolled out to a school were faulty? I doubt it, and I doubt Apple would allow such build faults to get past their quality control processes. (I should point out that 7 months into the project Toshiba finally visited our school to review all devices, but in my opinion this was too little too late). Would other Android companies such as Asus or Samsung be any different to Toshiba? Possibly, but I don’t know.

Just to be absolutely clear, I am neither an Apple or Android promoter, I just want to ensure we are providing the best educational tech tools to meet the needs of our learners. Currently, in my opinion the iPad is the tablet device which best meets our needs. And next year? Well, who knows…

(I will, however, be sticking with my Samsung Galaxy S3 phone however, as it is way better than an iPhone!).

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Managing the Twitter Information Overload

When I first started teaching 19 years ago, the only way of getting hold of any good resources being used by other schools was to meet with staff from these schools, find out what they were doing, and try and blag a copy (often in paper format).

Things are a little different now. I follow around 750 people on Twitter. A few random footballers, news sites and friends aside, the majority of those that I follow are other teachers across the globe. Teachers who share and retweet a wealth of information every minute. I regularly catch sight of a tweet linking to a resource or an article about which I want to find out more. The problem is, these tweets often appear at the least opportune moments: whilst I’m stuck on a bus with a poor 3G signal; whilst I’m watching the football; or when skimming my timeline in the morning while grabbing breakfast. Until recently I have been using Evernote to capture these tweets, but although Evernote is a great note-taking tool, I find that it is a bit cumbersome for this purpose. I also find that once a link has been stored in Evernote, it tends to get buried away within a notebook never to be seen again.

I’ve recently changed my workflow to make use of two applications which I think are better suited to capturing and organising useful content from Twitter (and indeed the web in general): Pocket and Pinterest.  I have Pocket installed on my phone, tablet and PC and it’s linked to directly from Tweetcaster Pro (my mobile Twitter client). Whenever I see a useful link to a resource or article, I “Add to Pocket” – this is a simple 2 click process which just drops the link into my pocket account. Later, when I have the time, I review the links I have captured using Pocket and I then organise any useful content by saving it to an appropriate board on Pinterest.


Why Pocket?  

The thing I like about Pocket is its simplicity. A couple of clicks on a phone or tablet and the link is saved for access at a later time. Pocket visually displays all captured links with an image and summary text making it much easier to review items of interest.


Why Pinterest

I started using Pinterest about a year ago but didn’t really see any value in it at that time. I’ve recently reorganised my Pinterest account with boards that work for me and now I can see its benefit. Pinterest pins are thumbnail images combined some user defined summary text describing the captured resource/article. This makes the layout of each Pinterest board easy to read, and critically makes it much easier to find things. Pinterest boards are public, and so it’s easy to share either a pin or an entire board with others.

I am still working on organising much of my saved content on Pinterest, but for reference my Pinterest boards are:

Edtech Tools

Online Maths Resources

Using technology to support learning

Android apps for education

Apple apps for education


Maths projects



Twittter logo by Felix Schmidt (licenced under Creative Commons 3.0)

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Implementing 1:1 with Android tablets (Part 4 – Review and Recommendations)

This post is the 4th in a series describing how we set up an Android tablet 1:1 initiative at Forrester High School in Edinburgh. This is a review of our progress and experiences 5 months after we rolled out the tablets to each of our 140 S1 students. There are 3 previous posts in this series on planning, preparation and implementation.

The views expressed in the following evaluation of this project are entirely my own. Edinburgh Council has contracted Hull University to carry out a formal evaluation of our 1:1 pilot as well as the three other pilots across the authority: iPads at Sciennes Primary; Android tablets at Broomhouse Primary; and Netbooks at Gracemount High School. Working with Hull University we have completed a baseline survey of staff, students and parents and there will be follow-up surveys at the end of the year. This is in addition to ongoing review meetings with staff from the University.


Apps and usage

We have a wide range of apps being used by departments across the school. Interestingly, many are generic learning or productivity apps rather than curriculum specific apps e.g. Edmodo, Socrative, Evernote, SkitchWordPress, Catch, Kingsoft Office and SimpleMind. We are currently considering the use of Edmodo as the standard mechanism for issuing homework to all of our S1 students. There are some other good examples of how the tablets are being used across the school on our 1:1 blog.

A couple of my personal favourites are:

  • Maths students studying 3D shape, taking photographs of their work and then blogging about it
  • A History class learning about the Egyptians using Minecraft to build pyramids and catacombs.

That’s not to say that there are not great curricular apps being used as well. In Maths we are teaching equations with the aid of the fantastic DragonBox. This is a paid app which normally retails at £3.99 but the publishers have been good enough to let us pilot the resource for free if we feedback our experiences to them.

Of course it’s not just about the apps, and many teachers are just using the devices to access the web. The tablets also come equipped with a camera, and so in Science students have been able to photograph their experiments. In Art, they have taken photographs of themselves which they then use to paint a self-portrait

Our short term aim has been to make the switch from paper to digital sources, and some departments have begun to digitise their resources which students can then download via a wiki or Edmodo. In Computing we have a wiki to support for all our courses, and students are now able to access all of this content on their tablets. I have spoken to a well-known publisher of Maths books about them making their content available to us digitally. The indication was that this might be possible, but it was clear from the conversation that they were not yet geared up for this. I think it will be interesting to see which publishers make content available in this way, and suspect that those who don not move quickly will find themselves in trouble.

One thing that I feel we do need in order to make the most of the devices is an integrated cloud productivity and storage solution. When we decided to go down the Android road, the indication was that Glow 2.0 would be built around Google Apps. However, this solution fell through at the 11th hour and now Microsoft 365 is the platform of choice. Hopefully this will provide a suitable integration experience with our Android tablets.



Firstly the positives…

Although the Toshiba AT-100 has now been on the market for around 18 months (a long time in the tablet world) it’s still a suitable device for the classroom in terms of it’s specification. It runs all apps and online content comfortably and we have yet to encounter any problems with storage capacity. It is a bit bulky and ugly compared to more recently launched tablets, but that’s not really an issue. The AT-100 is still running the Honeycomb version of Android, and although I’ve seen some rumours online we are still waiting for an update to Jelly Bean.

As one might expect, integration with Google tools like GMail and the Google Play Store is seamless. Set up of the devices was easy and we took the approach of having each student configure their Google accounts and then their tablets by themselves.

Supporting an Android tablet is a breeze. If a device doesn’t work as it should (warranty and damage aside), then a factory reset takes about a minute. This is a significant factor to consider when supporting 140+ tablets!


And the negatives…

Sadly we have had major problems with the Toshiba AT-100 tablet. Through  no fault of our own or our students, over the 5 months of this project we have had to return around 30 of our 140 devices under warranty. In virtually every case the symptoms have been the same – no screen display caused by a loosely connected cable becoming dislodged. Toshiba claim this has been because we have received a bad batch, and have now agreed to come out to the school to test (and repair where necessary) each individual tablet. Unfortunately, the impact of sending away so many devices has been considerable, especially as it takes Toshiba weeks to repair and return each device.

In addition to warranty problems, there have been some instances of screen damage caused by pupils (this has justified our decision to buy insurance). Initially I felt that maybe this was down to a lack of care, and in some instances that has probably been the case.  However, the AT-100 the screen doesn’t just crack, it shatters and splinters. On closer inspection I think that this particular model has been fitted with a poor quality screen which does not cope well with the rigours of a school environment.

Losing as many devices as we have through warranty, albeit temporarily, has had an impact on the project. At the end of the day, it’s not a 1:1 project if each pupil does not have a device. Whilst Toshiba have finally agreed to come out to the school to service all of the tablets, their support until now has been disappointing. I think we have probably been unlucky with this particular batch of tablets, but nonetheless I will be looking at different suppliers for the next phase of the project.



When we were planning the project, we discussed the merits of both Android and iOS platforms and decided to go with the Android. Twelve months have elapsed and as we consider a further roll-out we are again facing the same question about platform. My personal view is that the reasons for going with Android a year ago are still valid now, and indeed as a platform it is now virtually level with iOS. All of the problems which we have encountered have been on a manufacturing level. We have discovered that the build quality of some Android devices is simply not as good as their Apple counterparts, although over the past year it is clear that this gap is narrowing.

One concern which I did have at the start was in relation to the availability of apps for Android compared with iOS. It’s certainly true that some apps such as GarageBand are only available for Apple devices, but it is generally the case now that apps are developed for both platforms. At the end of the day, although there there are some  differences, I think that both platforms are well suited to the needs of a 1:1 education solution, particularly in a secondary school.



On reflection, it is my feeling that S1 were probably not the best year group with whom to launch the program. S1 students see a wide number of different subjects each week, often for just a single period. This makes it difficult for departments to build in meaningful learning opportunities with which to use the tablets. As learners move up the school they spend longer in their chosen subjects and embedding 1:1 technology will become more natural for teachers. Our current S1 are soon to become S2 and at that point I feel that they will find greater opportunities to use their tablets more effectively in their new curriculum areas.



So, what have we learned in the 12 months since we started planning the project and the 5 months since we rolled the tablets out to our S1 students? What are the things I would do differently if I was to start this project again?

  • Parental ‘ownership’: As mentioned previously in this post, inevitably some tablet screens have been damaged by the pupils, albeit accidentally in the majority of cases. However, because the school has paid for and insured the device it has been disappointing to note on a few occasions that the attitude of pupils has been an expectation that their device will be automatically replaced/repaired without considering that they might have looked after it better. In other words they do not show the same sense of responsibility towards the device as they would had it been something that their parents had paid for. I think parents need to have some kind of financial stake in the project in order to encourage a greater responsibility from the students. Perhaps parents pay might for the insurance premium and manage any claims. Or perhaps they might pay a deposit at the start of the program which could then be used to pay for any damage to devices.
  • Cohort: If we were beginning this project again, I would look to launch it with our S2 cohort. However, as our current S1 students are soon to move into S2, my preference will be to roll the next phase of tablets out to our new S3 as opposed to simply repeating the process with our new S1.
  • Gorilla Glass: When I looked at the specification of the device during the planning phase, I considered the processor, the available storage space and the operating system. I didn’t give much thought to the screen strength. When we procure our next phase of tablets, the screen specification will be a significant factor. Most tablet devices now come with Gorilla Glass 2, and Gorilla Glass 3 will be launched later this year. It is my opinion that any tablet being used in a school environment should have Gorilla Glass 2 or above.
  • Robust Cases: For this initial phase of the project we purchased some basic off-the-shelf cases which are attractive enough and support the tablets relatively well. However, I think it would be worthwhile investing a little more budget in a case which is designed to offer a tablet some extra protection.
  • Spares: The cost of a 1:1 program is hardly insignificant, but if the budget can be squeezed just a little further I think it would be worth holding spare devices (around 3-5%) in school. This would provide short term cover for any devices which need to be sent away for repair.


Next Steps

As a school we are now starting to plan for a further year group roll out. We are about to increase our bandwidth at which point we will be in a position to investigate a BYOD program to support those year groups who have not been issued with a tablet device. We are also extending the learning experiences and resources which we have been able to build into our curriculum because of 1:1.


So…is 1:1 the right model for secondary schools?

In a word, yes. 1:1 is the model which schools have to adopt. It is simply not a question of if, but when. A 1:1 model can change the way learning happens in a school, supporting 21st Century skills. Today’s students need to be able to have access to rich and engaging learning opportunities and tools, and be constantly online in order to access the resources they need to support their learning.


More posts on our 1:1 Android roll-out

Part 1 – Planning

Part 2 – Preparation

Part 3 – Implementation

Part 5- Long Term Review


The final post in this series will be written when we have had 1:1 in place for a year.

Implementing 1:1 with Android tablets (Part 3 – Implementation)

This post is the third in a series detailing the way in which we implemented a 1:1 program using Android devices at Forrester High School in Edinburgh. The post focuses on the implementation phase. To read the previous posts on planning go here, and preparation go here.



We held a meeting with all the parents of our soon-to-be S1 pupils before the summer holidays, outlining the Home School Agreement and highlighting the roles and expectations of parents and pupils. We discussed personal safety and how to  look after the device, responsible use and e-safety. Surprisingly when we opened up the floor there were very few questions.



We wanted to distribute the tablets to our new S1 pupils as soon as they started at secondary school, and so a week into the new term we held another meeting for all parents and pupils. That evening the hall was packed – of our 140 new S1 cohort there were only 2 individuals not represented. I revisited the key points of the Home School Agreement in more detail explaining the e-safety provision that the school would provide, and how the tablets would be used in the classroom. After questions there followed probably one of the most bizarre moments of my teaching career where the Head Teacher, Business Manager and I formed three queues and distributed a tablet to each S1 pupil as they and a parent signed the Home-School Agreement. In just under half an hour we managed to distribute nearly 150 tablets between us.


Initial Feedback

I have been involved in a number of ICT initiatives during my time in education, going back 15 years to when we first installed a computer with web access in every classroom. These initiatives have always followed an all-too-familiar pattern – they have been led and delivered by the ICT / Computing departments in school. As soon as we rolled out our Android tablets however, it was clear that this time things would be different. A number of staff were confident enough to embrace the technology and introduce it to their classes without having to rely on direction from me. Within a fortnight apps like Edmodo, Evernote, Skitch and Socrative were being used by S1 across the school, a Maths class was blogging with WordPress and I saw a History class who were studying the Egyptians using Minecraft to build their own pyramids.



Although the tablets were being used by some staff in innovative and engaging ways from the outset, it  was important that we found ways to share this good practice across the whole school to support all staff. We are attempting to do this in a number of ways

  • We have established a 1:1 working party with a representative from each department. The aim is to use this as a forum to share good practice and then for members to take back aspects of good practice to share with their own departments.
  • We have created a 1:1 blog which staff use to share the ways in which they use the devices in their teaching.
  • We have produced a 1:1 wiki with links to useful apps and resources.
  • We offer training to staff delivered either in-house, or by Edinburgh Council’s Digital Learning Team


For the next post in this series I will review the project as it stands now (five months in), sharing the positives and negatives and offering some recommendations for schools who are thinking about an Android 1:1 initiative.


More posts on our 1:1 Android roll-out

Part 1 – Planning

Part 2 – Preparation

Part 4 – Initial Review

Part 5- Long Term Review

Implementing 1:1 with Android tablets (Part 2 – Preparation)

This post is the second in a series detailing the way in which we implemented a 1:1 program using Android devices at Forrester High School in Edinburgh. The post focuses on the preparation phase. To read the previous post on planning, go here.


Purchasing student devices

Having made the decision to roll out with Android tablets, specifically the Toshiba AT-100, the next stage was to purchase the devices and any additional extras. The first thing that surprised and disappointed me here was Toshiba’s reluctance to shift on cost. The best price they were prepared to offer us was £244 ex VAT. This equates to just under £300 with the VAT included, and does not represent much of a discount on the Amazon price of just over £300 considering we were purchasing around 150 devices. These negotiations were carried out at a time when every 1:1 initiative around the globe seemed to be for iPads – it seemed to me that this was an opportunity for Toshiba to offer us a much more attractive price in order to give them a foothold in the Android education market. In the end, the best they could do was to negotiate a discount on our insurance premium.

This brings me to the “extras”. What else should be considered when purchasing devices for a 1:1 program? There are really three main factors at start-up: insurance; extended warranty; and cases.

Although the tablets are owned by the school, we expect students to have them with them at all times and this includes taking them home. We paid just over £30 to insure each device over a 3 year period, and although this added over £4500 to the overall project cost, we felt that for the first stage of our initiative this was a premium worth paying simply for the peace of mind that it offers. In fact since the project has started I have concerns about the build of the AT-100 tablet, and in particular the glass used for the screen (there will be more on this in a later post). Given this, I think that the insurance premium has been a worthwhile investment.

Many tablets come with a single year warranty, but Toshiba was shipping the AT-100 with a two year warranty cover. As we are planning for these devices to have a three year lifespan, and as we had already taken out insurance, there seemed little value in paying for an extended warranty for the final year. A large number of devices would need to fail in the third year of the program to make the extended warranty cost worthwhile.

The last thing that we had to consider purchasing was cases. We bought the standard faux-leather Toshiba cases for around £15 which at the time seemed decent enough. However, as I write this 5 months into the project I would definitely go back and look more closely at cases specifically designed to give better protection to tablets.


Purchasing staff devices

It was not part of the original strategy, but staff raised concerns that they would have difficulty supporting 1:1 without having their own device to work with. At that point (May 2012) Toshiba announced the launch of the AT-300 tablet (to replace the AT-100), so we provided each member of teaching staff  with one of these tablets to use with their classes.



A number of in-house training sessions were organised between August and December, with sessions delivered by staff at the school and Edinburgh Council’s Digital Learning Team. As with most schools we have a wide range of IT expertise and ability, with some staff ready to run as soon as the tablets were distributed to students and others needing much greater support. We have found that offering training on a need-to-have basis is the most effective approach and this will continue into 2013.

Aside from training, it was important to make sure that all staff were aware of the short and long term aims of the project. In the short term we would look to replace existing paper resources with digital equivalents – this reduction in photocopying would help to finance the project. However the medium-long term goal would be to replace existing flat and static content with dynamic and interactive activities and resources. Furthermore, we would seek to use the technology to encourage creativity and build greater independent learning skills among our students.


Home-school agreement

I think that for a 1:1 program to be a success, students should have ownership of the device even if technically it still belongs to the school. This means that they take the device home with them, they can customise and add apps as they wish, and that they have a responsibility for ensuring that it is looked after and fully charged each day. Given this level of responsibility, it was important that we had in place a clear set of guidelines which we would agree with students and parents. We set out a three way agreement between the school, the student and the parent (thanks go to Steven Whyte from Gracemount High School who developed the original document for his 1:1 Netbook roll-out which we adapted to meet our needs). These guidelines were agreed by all parties taking part in the project at the start of the implementation phase, and before any tablets are distributed.

A copy of the guidelines can be downloaded here: FHS S1 Tablet Home School Agreement


More posts on our 1:1 Android roll-out

Part 1 – Planning

Part 3 – Implementation

Part 4 – Initial Review

Part 5- Long Term Review


Implementing 1:1 with Android tablets (Part 1 – Planning)

In August 2012 we rolled out the first phase of our 1:1 program at Forrester High School in Edinburgh. This post, which details the planning phase, is the first of five posts which will explain what we did at each stage of the project, sharing any lessons that were learned along the way.


What is 1:1?

I am sure most people reading this blog will know the definition, but I have been asked what it actually means a couple of times recently. The term 1:1 refers to the ratio of students to computers, and means that every student in a school has their own “computer” device. As things stand at Forrester we have technically only reached a 1:1 ratio with one of our year groups, but our strategy is to scale up the program to ensure that all students in our school have 1:1 device access within 2-3 years.



Although 1:1 means ensuring each student has their own device, there is really an additional requirement to make this work effectively. It is unrealistic to assume that any technology available today can be used to its full potential without also having access to the Internet. That’s not to say that there aren’t a fantastic range of educational apps and programs which can run without Internet connectivity, but access to the web is critical in order to get the most from a 1:1 program.

The Edinburgh schools’ network is managed centrally. At the end of 2011 it was announced that all primary and secondary schools would have wireless network facilities provided as well as increased broadband provision. This initiative gave us the green light to go ahead plan how we would implement a 1:1 strategy for our school. We started off by taking the ferry to Islay to meet with Ian Stuart  from Islay High School where they have had a 1:1 initiative in place for 4 years. The trip gave us the opportunity to see good practice and to reflect on how our 1:1 model would look. I would definitely recommend visiting other schools to see how they have implemented 1:1 even although different schools will have different starting points and requirements.


Platform / Device

I considered a variety of different devices when thinking about 1:1, from iPods Touches and mobile phones, through to netbooks, Chromebooks and laptops. Over the past 18 months I have reached the conclusion that tablets are the best suited device for classroom use. They are portable, becoming relatively affordable, have wifi access and can be installed with a range of free or low cost apps suitable for supporting learning. Clearly there are some things which a tablet will not be capable of, but our strategy has also been to retain a number of “ICT suites” of desktop computers which can be used for higher end tasks such as software development, video and audio editing etc.

Having made the decision to roll out tablets, the next consideration was to choose a platform – Apple or Android. The obvious choice was Apple – the iPad has been rolled out in 1:1 programs across the world, and has a wide range of educational apps supporting it. But Apple is a closed environment and there are known difficulties in managing large scale Apple device roll-outs. Android on the other hand offers an open environment which I felt would make it easier to set up and configure multiple devices in a school.

We trialled a number of tablet devices, but the one which we thought the most suitable for school use was the Toshiba AT-100. It was reasonably priced and looked as though it was quite a rugged device, suitable for a school environment.

At the time of making this decision, that tablet market was changing at pace, and still is. I have been comfortable with the view that choosing a tablet platform and model one year does not mean that this will necessarily be a fixed environment for subsequent  years. I think that schools need to consider the most appropriate device at the time of purchase, but also be prepared to change that position in the future simply because the world of mobile computing is changing so quickly.



The roll at our school is nearly 700 and it would not be practical or financially feasible to consider a 1:1 roll out for every student from day 1. Instead we decided to focus on an individual year group. Initially we considered using a funding model where parents are asked to buy into a lease scheme paying around £10-15 per month over a period of two years for their device. However, there were concerns that politically this could be viewed as asking parents to pay for their children’s education and so this idea was shelved. From our visit to Islay, we were interested to learn just how much money they had been able to save in terms of photocopying when moving to 1:1. It was clear that these would not be initial savings, but over time we felt it would be possible to fund the project by reducing photocopying across the school and providing materials electronically. Given this, we decided to pay for the initiative through school budget in the first year, although we later received additional funding from our local authority to pilot the roll-out.



Having decided to roll out the initial 1:1 program with a single year group, we needed to decide which one. In Scottish secondary schools our students attend up to 6 years of education, with the first year (S1) students beginning at age 11-12. Students can choose to leave at any point between the end of S4 and S6.

We also had to consider a realistic lifespan for the devices we were going to purchase. I believe that a tablet device being used in a secondary school environment should have a maximum lifespan of 3 years (we are of course used to dealing with technology in schools which is no longer fit for purpose and which  can often be 6+ years old!).

Given all of these factors, we took the decision to make S1 our initial cohort for implementing 1:1. This would allow us to apply the same strategy over subsequent  years and within a 3 year period we would have provided all of our S1-3 students with their own device. This strategy does however leave us with a problem in the senior school (S4-6). It does not seem practical to issue our senior students with a tablet device on the basis that they may leave school within a year. Although we have yet to reach a decision on how to manage this, I am continually brought round to thinking that the best solution would be for our senior pupils to bring their own devices into school (BYOD). Clearly there are potential issues with BYOD in schools in terms of device specification, ownership, insurance etc. However, at the moment we are not yet ready to implement BYOD in the senior school because we still have a limited bandwidth, but this is something we will be looking at later in 2013.


More posts on our 1:1 Android roll-out

Part 2 – Preparation

Part 3 – Implementation

Part 4 – Initial Review

Part 5- Long Term Review

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Open Badges – A digital solution for recognising achievement in schools?

I have been interested in the concept of Open Badges for the past few months but it’s only in the past few days that I have been able to connect all aspects and actually issue a digital badge. In short, Open Badges is an open source project designed to make the accreditation of learning and achievement become a global standard. It is designed to support a broad range of different badge issuers, and allow any user to earn badges across different issuers, web sites and experiences, then combine them into a single collection tied to their identity. Note that as Open Badges is an open source project, I have refrained from referring to it as Mozilla Open Badges.

I already use a number of tools with students which issue badges to recognise some form of achievement (e.g. Edmodo or CodeAcademy). I have seen the positive impact that can be gained from issuing a badge for “unlocking” a particular skill or as acknowledgement of a piece of work. However, currently badges awarded within these resources stay with those resources i.e. an Edmodo badge is only accessible from Edmodo, while the CodeAcademy badge can only be viewed by logging into CodeAcademy. What Open Badges seeks to achieve is a global standard currency in badges which, in theory, can remain with the learner for life. Any Open Badges issued are stored in a single online location – the backpack.

When I first investigated Open Badges, I could see how it could be implemented and earned myself a couple of test badges online via but at the time the process for issuing badges was a bit daunting. Last Saturday I attended a Computers At School Scotland session hosted by Doug Belshaw where he explained that badges could now be issued using a WordPress plugin, WPBadger. I installed WPBadger on this blog following these instructions and then these instructions, and created and uploaded a simple PNG badge. From there I was able to issue my badge to anyone with a valid email address. As our school website is also built using WordPress, in theory we would be able to issue badges from there although as things stand I don’t think the current version of WPBadger is really suited to the kind of scale that would be required in a secondary school. An alternative is to use, which is probably easier to set up but still doesn’t seem as though it could cope be easily used with a large number of badges and awards.

I think there are a range of ways in which Open Badges might be awarded in a secondary school, for example:

Skills-based learning
Students complete an aspect of a course e.g. the Code Guru badge for completing a range of practical programming tasks, the Algebra Level 1 badge for completing the algebra unit in S1

Students pass a unit assessment, or complete the practical tasks required to achieve a unit assessment

Students gain 30 smart stamps, or perhaps receive 50 ClassDojo points

A digital version of the Duke of Edinburgh award, or a badge for being in the school football team which won their league

Clearly this would result in a potentially large number of badges being issued to learners each year, but I don’t see this as a problem. Open Badges provides a backpack for storing digital badges which can be organised into categories determined by the user. In Scotland we will require all our students to produce a profile during S3, and one of the biggest problems I foresee during this process is that young people often struggle to identify what their achievements are or have been. Using Open Badges they will have access to every badge they have ever been awarded. Furthermore, parents will also be able to see the achievements of their child via the Open Badges backpack.

In summary, I think that Open Badges is pretty much spot on in terms of an approach to digitally recognising the achievements of our students and providing them with a mechanism for managing and sharing those awards. The success of Open Badges will come when we are able to accredit students via those online resources we are using daily in our classrooms, and also when there is a better mechanism for a single organisation issuer being able to easily  roll out a range of different badges to a number of different learners.

Mozillaopenbadges.png is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.



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Class Dojo – putting the emphasis on positive behaviour

Class Dojo calls itself “Real-time Behaviour Management Software” and that’s pretty much what it is. In short it is a free online tool which allows the class teacher to manage and record behaviour and provide instant feedback to the class. Class Dojo encourages learners to take responsibility for their own behaviour, and puts the focus on positive instead of negative behaviour.

I first set up Class Dojo about 4 months ago and it has quickly become one of my favourite and most used classroom resources. Classes can be set up in under a minute – just copy and paste an electronic list of pupil names and you are good to go. Class Dojo produces an avatar for each pupil, and Dojo points can be awarded for positive (or negative) behaviour by clicking the avatar and deciding on the criteria for the award.


Once we were up and running I was impressed by the positive reaction from my classes. They are always looking to do positive things in class to gain a Dojo point, whether that is helping me, helping their peers, producing good work or just behaving in a positive manner. I have found that Class Dojo firmly shifts the emphasis and ethos from negative to positive behaviour.

Below are a list of some of the ways in which I use Class Dojo:


Reward good work and positive behaviour regularly

One of the areas where Class Dojo wins over other positive behaviour programs such as stamps or stickers is that it can be acessed quickly. I often keep the Dojo window up on my IWB throughout the lesson and the key to its success is the regular award of Dojo points for good work and positive behaviour.


Reward pupils remotely

Class Dojo has a mobile site (with an app currently in production) and so by using a smart phone I can award Dojo points while moving around my classroom. These still register in real time on the IWB (which pupils love to see).


Award whole class points

When a class is working well, or has worked well, I award all who are present a Dojo point. The simple interface makes it easy to select the entire class and/or individual pupils.


Double Dojo Friday

This is a concept one of my classes came up with where Dojo points are doubled on a Friday.


Pupils give themselves Dojos

Keeping Class Dojo up on the IWB makes it possible for pupils to award themselves and others Dojo points.  For example, at the start of the lesson, pupils note the learning intentions in their jotter and then come out to the IWB and award themselves a positive Dojo point. Alternatively, if a pupil feels that one of their peers has really helped them in class, they can come out and award their peer a Dojo point.


At the end of each term I give the pupils in each class with the most Dojo points a small prize and send home a positive award postcard. All class Dojo points are then reset ready for the next term.

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