URL: string(12) "rm-education"

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Why digital assessment?

Digital assessment is much more than a practical tool to assist remote teaching; instead, it's about offering young people the best possible quality of education and allowing them to prove their capability in a credible way. While in many cases, universities have been flying the flag for digital assessments for some time, schools and the FE sector are now starting to embrace it too. Technology is already widely embedded within the everyday lives and learning experiences of students, and yet digital assessment technologies often lag behind, thus creating a weakness in the overall system. Unlike the paper and pen, through digital testing and assessment, teachers gain a much deeper understanding of how students learn and their overall approach to tasks. Similarly, learners can benefit from a much more engaging assessment experience and in many cases, can receive immediate feedback on their performance which allows for short cycle interventions to address gaps in understanding. And while access to devices is a challenge we are yet to overcome, digital assessments authentically test skills in ways that pen and paper exams cannot – from problem-solving to critical thinking – all fundamental processes that students will go on to use throughout their careers.

Developing real-world and on-the-job skills

All too often exams have become removed from the working world, yet in experience, pupils are hungry for learning and assessments that are more akin to what they’d be doing in the 'real' world of work and life. A great example is accountancy accreditation where we are already assessing students using exactly the same technology/IT they use in their day jobs. As we move increasingly towards a 'skills society', and against the backdrop of a rapidly-evolving jobs market driven by automation and AI (artificial intelligence), as well as a drive in new technical jobs – such as coders and developers – there is a very strong argument that assessments need to reflect this wider range of skills.
"Additionally, digital assessment also provides a wealth of data. This means teachers and examination organisations can generate a much greater level of actionable insights, and in turn, drive improvements to both the learner taking the assessment and to the assessment itself"
We are seeing great examples of modern assessment design, combined with powerful digital assessment technology that provides an assessment experience that's 'Google-proof', whilst still focusing on higher order skills like knowledge interpretation and application, communication, problem-solving and increasingly testing team-work and collaboration skills.

Higher quality and improved hours

Not only is digital assessment a better approach to the modern job market and a more authentic experience for the learner, but it can also open-up a world of benefits for teachers, examiners and awarding organisations. As Ofsted reported, teachers work 12 hours a week – more than the average full-time employee. However, there's growing evidence that digital assessment can play a key role in reducing elements of this workload. With the appropriate deployment of automation and AI, it's entirely possible for digital assessment systems to automatically generate questions and assessment tasks to score and grade student responses and to provide, often immediate, feedback to the learner about their performance. Clearly this level of automation is not appropriate in all cases and, at no stage is the role of the teacher undermined. In fact, it’s the exact opposite; such an approach would permit the teacher to focus on high-quality interventions, leaving technology to take away much of the 'heavy lifting', freeing up teachers to build stronger connections with pupils. Additionally, digital assessment also provides a wealth of data. This means teachers and examination organisations can generate a much greater level of actionable insights, and in turn, drive improvements to both the learner taking the assessment and to the assessment itself.  This is a win-win situation for teachers, reducing their time spent marking while offering improved actionable feedback and insights to the benefit learners.

Improving teacher pupil relationships

Another time-saving advantage of digital assessment, when combined with good assessment and question design, is the ability to highlight ‘common misunderstandings’ in subjects, rather than just ‘wrong answers’. This equips teachers with the ability to see not only what an individual pupil has learnt, but also what they still need to learn. And quite often this can be done in real-time, allowing the teacher to make on-the-fly adjustments to their teaching. For the learner, this results in a far more personal learning experience – especially when intertwined with the additional time that teachers  gain from a the reduction in marking. What this means is that teachers can build stronger connections with individual learners and this is a virtuous circle; it can have a material impact on the learner’s engagement with their education and their eventual academic outcome. However, it's important to remember that no solution is one-size-fits-all, and there are different forms of assessment for different subjects, pupils and schools. For example: in subjects that often have clearly right or wrong responses (like maths and science) on-screen testing makes it far easier to enable the creation of assessments that accommodate the full range of student abilities. In more subjective areas like language, art and music for example, there’s a growing trend towards peer-to-peer assessment and using principles like adaptive comparative judgement to give a greater depth of feedback to students, allowing teachers to use their professional expertise to maximum effect.

Making the transition

Despite the undeniable benefits of digital assessment, for many educational institutions the pace and scale of transitioning to it is highly dependent on the circumstances of the organisations, whether it's a question of funding, the needs of their pupils or the wider social context. A great first step is to take an agile approach to the transition, starting first by introducing digital assessment for a particular subject or course of study, one where the time-saving benefits will be the most meaningful for all parties.  Then – with a blended approach where teachers continue to deliver physical assessment in the interim – digital assessments can be scaled up with ease to suit a full transition in the future. There’s been undeniable progress made to introduce technology in schools, equipping teachers and pupils with the means to continue their education despite the biggest disruption in a generation – but now it’s time to build on these new skills and appetite for change. With blended learning likely to evolve from the current focus on remote learning, the same needs to apply with assessment by embracing digital assessment as a means to supplement this new found tech-enabled commitment.
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  [post_title] => 'The most authentic assessment is digital' [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-most-authentic-assessment-is-digital [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-02-15 15:20:46 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-02-15 15:20:46 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://edtechnology.co.uk/?p=38509 [menu_order] => 492 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 33374 [post_author] => 2089 [post_date] => 2020-09-23 09:27:29 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-09-23 08:27:29 [post_content] => Hands up who had a Business Continuity Plan for their school at the start of March this year? Keep your hand up if that plan included what you would do in the event of a pandemic forcing you to close your school gates to all but the vulnerable and the children of key workers. The reality is that whilst a handful of leaders had some form of idea what they would do should something terrible happen to their school, very few could have ever envisaged a scenario where they would have to close with barely two days’ notice, and stay closed for almost a whole term. From talking with a number of schools that RM works with, it was very clear that those that reacted the best were establishments that had recognised the role technology could play within the operation of their school long before the prime minister made his announcement on 20th March. Schools who had a technology vision and were well on the way to implementing it… Schools with an internal champion who fought for their share of the school’s limited budget funding, and argued for a slice of valuable teacher inset time to train colleagues… Schools who recognised the short-termism of buying cheap IT equipment that had a very limited use… And schools who appreciated that a technology partner with strength in depth could make all the difference when the chips were down.

The Lessons Learnt

Well, we are where we are – we cannot turn the clock back – but we can learn the lessons, and we can ensure that there are some positives from the pain and suffering that the pandemic has brought. 1. Develop an IT strategy for your school. Technology is all around us and having a clear IT strategy up-front allows you to make decisions that will stand the test of time – as explained by an Academy in Stoke-on-Trent: “This made us realise the fundamental role technology plays in empowering, engaging, supporting, collaborating and enhancing teaching and learning”. 2. Be brave and go for it! No-one knew what the right answer was, but doing nothing was definitely the wrong one. In the words of a West Midlands’ primary: “Staff and children are so much more confident in using technology – simply because they have had to be – they had no choice.” 3. Set expectations with parents. This has been as much a new experience for parents as for staff and pupils. “It has brought our school community closer, with parents seeing just how much work has gone into ensuring we kept teaching,” said a primary school in Kent. 4. Do not stifle experimentation. Whilst working remotely, many staff and pupils quickly discovered new functionality and how they could apply it in the school environment. “When someone said ‘Why don’t we use MS Teams’, I knew we had won,” said a secondary school in Reading. 5. Cheap PCs are cheap for a reason. Whilst school budgets are always difficult, the more modern your devices are, the faster they will run, and the easier they will be to use. “Teachers are much more likely to engage with technology if it just works – no long boot up times nor system crashes,” believes a secondary school in Oxfordshire. 6. Invest in a reliable technology partner. Schools cannot be expected to be experts in everything that happens within a school. A partner – RM or anyone else – gives you someone to look out for you, someone to turn to and guide whilst you focus on what you are judged against: how best to teach your pupils. “Whilst the price has to be right, for me the business case is all about allowing me to sleep soundly at night,” said a school trust in Hull. 7. Be lucky! It was the golfer Gary Player who said that the more he practised the luckier he got. In the words of a secondary school in Reading, “I wouldn’t call it luck, but with hindsight we made some very wise decisions over the past few years.”

The Future

So as we all start a new school year, we should reflect on some of these lessons and, in particular, our hopes for the future. Above all is a desire to move forward – not to regress in any way…
  • To build on the high levels of resilience that have been accumulated over the last five months
  • To extend the appetite that staff and pupils have for developing new ways of teaching and of learning
  • To maximise the investments that have been made – in technology, in training and in new capabilities
  • To prepare schools for whatever is thrown their way – whether that be local lockdowns, floods, fires, or even bad weather.
Nothing should stop us providing the education our children deserve – whether they are in the classroom or working remotely. Simon Carter, director, RM Education [post_title] => Let’s deliver a better tomorrow for our children [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => lets-deliver-a-better-tomorrow-for-our-children [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-09-30 11:34:33 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-09-30 10:34:33 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://edtechnology.co.uk/?p=33374 [menu_order] => 804 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 31814 [post_author] => 1 [post_date] => 2020-08-17 08:20:59 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-08-17 07:20:59 [post_content] => This time last year, most educators would never have predicted how much time their students would spend learning via video. But in July, the Department for Education (DfE) issued guidance for all schools to have the capacity for remote learning by September. This education, the guidance said, should be “high quality and aligning as closely as possible with in-school provision”. When COVID-19 hit, there was no shortage of solutions hitting the market, some better than others. But in such a saturated market, how can educators separate the high-calibre wheat from the chaff?

The work-from-home revolution

“During COVID-19, it has become abundantly clear that technology is no longer a luxury – it’s a necessity. Schools need to ensure that pupils, as well as teachers and staff members, are well equipped to learn and work from home. This includes access to a reliable internet connection, laptops, tablets or similar devices that empower pupils and staff to learn and teach remotely. And it’s collectively up to headteachers, teachers, governors, school committees, technology partners and the government to ensure every child has the access necessary to learn remotely,” says Simon Carter, director at RM Education. And video will be a key part of this: “Whether there’s a second spike in coronavirus cases, more local lockdowns, a snow day, a sick day, or all four, a hybrid approach to teaching – where online learning, which includes video and classroom learning, are combined – will be the only way to ensure pupils still receive the same high quality of teaching during term time.” However, video learning isn’t just a replacement for physical learning. “Learning in a physical space or through a computer screen are two distinctly different experiences that require unique approaches,” says Ben Fogarty, CEO and founder of digital experience company Holoscribe. “Primarily, the classroom and seminar spaces are designed and promise to stimulate engaging conversation between students and encourage debate and learning. The lecture theatre itself is set up to focus attention on the teaching faculty member, to facilitate better engagement in the information or lesson being delivered. When entering a lecture theatre or classroom, the student will have an expectation of the sort of experience they will receive. Having the ability to ask questions or receive some sort of personal interaction with the teacher after the lesson is something that physical locations can facilitate, but is not a promise that digital can keep. Any attempt to substitute physical locations with digital will draw direct comparisons to the real thing, which will often make the whole experience fall flat.”

Education on-demand

But good video can support learners with low literacy levels, helping them access information quickly and supporting individual working speeds. Students can pause, fast-forward or rewind videos depending on how they are progressing. They can also introduce stimuli and materials that might not be possible or practical in other situations. In science, you can watch experiments without the need for equipment, for example. Good videos can inspire students with a different perspective. “In geography, for example, reading about a tornado and watching a video of a tornado could allow a student to relate more to the event,” says Simon Barnes, former teacher and founder of online tuition company TLC LIVE. TLC LIVE has developed more than 20,000 hours of bespoke, online learning content in line with the national curriculum. The fact is that students will still expect the digital substitute to perform the same as their traditional learning structures. There are lots of fantastic videos on YouTube, to which many harassed lockdown parents will attest. However, if they haven’t been produced specifically for educational purposes, and at the correct level, there are no guarantees. So, how can teachers ensure what they’re getting hits the spot? “Structure’s important,” says Barnes. “A positive, focused video is far more beneficial than a long-winded, rambling explanation.” Videos should complement the curriculum too, says Barnes, adding: “In maths, for example, only videos that mirror the working-out processes being used in the school should be used.” Accessibility, flexibility and interactivity are also key to providing a good-quality educational video. “Features such as variable-speed playback allow users to slow down or speed up a recording so that they can absorb the material at their own pace,” says Debra Garretson, director of accounts at Panopto, which helps businesses and universities create searchable video libraries. “One of the key elements to creating a good educational video is searchability,” she adds. “Students and teachers need to use their video library just like a regular library, by precisely searching across the entire archive or a specific recording for the exact information they need.” PlanBee creates primary school resources for teachers. Teacher-turned senior manager Oli Ryan says, “When schools closed [due to coronavirus], it became apparent to us that video content was a great ‘equaliser’. Through video, virtually all children can have access to learning regardless of reading ability, access to technology or technical literacy. Anyone with a phone, tablet, laptop or desktop device can stream online video.” However, Ryan warns, “Teachers and school leaders must apply scepticism and critical thinking when selecting video content for learning, just as they should when choosing traditional learning materials.”
"Any attempt to substitute physical locations with digital will draw direct comparisons to the real thing, which will often make the whole thing fall flat" – Ben Fogarty

What makes a good educational video?

Good teaching and learning videos consider the following things, says Michael Wilkinson, managing director of video-based teaching and learning company ClickView, “Engagement: research shows around six to eight minutes is optimal to maintain students’ engagement. Delivery should be with pace, while being conversational, while being careful to weed-out interesting – but not essential – information given the time constraints.” Cognitive load must also be considered to prompt working memory to accept, process and commit to long-term memory only the most crucial information, says Wilkinson. “This includes matching modalities (visuals and audio) simultaneously helping to convey vital messages, with on-screen symbols such as text and other imagery to draw attention to key information.” Other good features that promote active learning include quizzes overlaid in the video to help students process information and monitor their own understanding. However, Wilkinson warns, “Video does not live in isolation. Good educational video also looks to combine additional resources with wider activities to help educators to augment their practice.”

A glimpse of the future

While video shows no signs of diminishing, its future could look quite different, says Fogarty. “Three hundred and sixty degree interactive technology can become a valuable tool for digital learning as it allows the user to actively explore real or imagined worlds on their own accord. Instead of showing still images of old Roman towns, why not take students into a 360° world where they can explore the forum, the baths or the arena? This tech allows students to explore the aspects of history, geography and science that interests them, moving between topics that grab their attention and retain their interest for long periods of time. It helps to visualise locations and objects, placing them in the context of where they live or where they were found – and has the ability to take them to places or experiences that they would otherwise never have been able to explore.” Matt Jenner, head of learning at FutureLearn, thinks that the future will be in more engaging content. “Talking heads in front of shelves of books have had their day. We need to think about video as a way to connect, share, demonstrate and be creative.” But for now, he says, “Video is still very one-way; teacher-driven. Education needs to take a step back, learn from social media and realise the transformative power of user-generated video content and then embrace it as a medium for learning.”
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Info

Name: Michael Oakes Job title: Change Strategy Manager at RM Education The last few months have brought unprecedented changes for society as a whole, and the UK school system in particular. Many students have been learning from home for much of this period and being taught remotely has become the new normal. Even when classrooms do re-open to all, it’s likely that we’ll see many of the new processes and technologies become accepted practice and stick around for the long term. Yet, with weeks of remote teaching still stretching ahead of us – there’s still no indication from the UK government that lockdown measures will be lifted anytime soon– senior leaders and headteachers still have a significant challenge ahead of them to keep their schools running smoothly online.

Unlocking the potential of technology

For minimum disruption to schools – whether it be pupils, teachers or parents – it is now more important than ever that schools unlock the potential of technology to allow effective remote learning. And it’s great to see support from the government and technology companies, with the likes of free laptops being provided to disadvantaged children across England and the likes of Microsoft offering free software to schools during the coronavirus lockdown.
Prior to COVID-19, many schools were advised by the UK government to make better use of cloud services to help address technical and educational issues cost effectively
The current scenario with Covid-19 is something that no school could have predicted. But as senior leaders and teachers continue their daily battle to ensure pupils are learning effectively, modern technology is providing the foundations for today’s home classroom.

Cloud services and applications

Cloud services and applications enable better collaboration between students and teachers, improved accessibility for all, and greater flexibility, so that teachers and students can work remotely for as long as is needed under the new lockdown measures. And with school budgets tight, the use of cloud technology can also help to reduce infrastructure and IT costs. Prior to COVID-19, many schools were advised by the UK government to make better use of cloud services to help address technical and educational issues cost effectively. Now, the need for this technology has become abundantly clear in a much shorter space of time than could ever have been anticipated – leaving schools with virtually no time to prepare for the change.

Challenging times

While many schools have done a fantastic job migrating to a new way of teaching, for some it has been challenging – a report by C3 Education suggested that barely one in five teachers have adapted well, and almost half of pupils have found it challenging. One hopes that one of the legacies of this period is for all schools to migrate systems and documents to the cloud sooner rather than later so that pupils and teachers have full access to the necessary learning resources – wherever they are based. After all, it’s only through the power of the cloud that pupils can engage, learn and work in the way that they are used to in the classroom.

Flexible and collaborative

Many of the new educational platforms designed by the likes of Apple, Google and Microsoft are free for schools to use and, when used in collaboration with the right partner, can support teachers and pupils with day-to-day study in an engaging way and in real-time. It goes without saying that schools need pupils and teachers to be able to access resources, host lessons and set work as and when is needed, and the flexibility that cloud provides enables just that. One of the biggest benefits the cloud offers to teachers is the ability to share learning resources and information. Using systems such as G Suite for Education or Office 365 means those resources can easily be shared and edited between pupils and teachers. This allows a much more collaborative environment where pupils can feel more engaged and teachers can provide feedback as they would in the classroom.

Saving money and time

With the right cloud solution, teachers and schools can save on time as well as money. Although training may be required at the start, when cloud tools are used effectively they can reduce the time taken for more laborious aspects of teaching – such as reducing the time it takes to access data and applications. In turn, this offers teachers with more time to research, analyse and use new curriculum resources, and ultimately more time spent with pupils.
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Another benefit of the cloud is that schools no longer need to purchase hardware to host exchange servers – something that historically takes much more time to maintain than the cloud. Combine this with the fact that many leading cloud platforms are free for schools, such as Office 365 and G Suite, cost savings of tens of thousands of pounds can be found.

Security risks

That said, it’s understandable that many schools are still cautious when it comes to using the cloud. After all, just like with every technology, there will always be risks. But it’s important to remember that as long as the initial migration is carried out with specialist software, ideally from a specialist engineer, the security of a schools data will remain safe and can only be accessed by the authorised users. Just recently, the Department for Education said in its strategy paper that "cloud-based systems are usually more secure” than hardware systems, because risks of hosting data on the cloud are a lot less than hosting everything on one school server.
Only through collaboration and designing and executing a well thought-out digital transformation strategy, will schools truly benefit from the cloud
To fully embed any new technology, training is always essential and the value of training for new technologies such as the cloud cannot be underestimated. Effective training and a 'change management' strategy will ensure that teachers and staff are confident using the technology that – under current circumstances – is vital to enabling them to do their job day to day.

Change management

Many schools that make the move to cloud services do so without fully considering which changes need to be made, and how the culture of the school will need to evolve alongside those changes. Only through collaboration and designing and executing a well thought-out digital transformation strategy, will schools truly benefit from the cloud – both now and long after lockdown measures have been lifted. With the help of a robust change management plan backed by a proper training regime, which can all be handled remotely, schools can ensure the cloud enhances the learning outcomes already in place – instead of making them more challenging. This process does not have to be daunting or frustrating and with the right IT partner, who take you every step of the way, it can be executed for Covid-19 and beyond. [post_title] => Unlock the power of tech for remote teaching [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => unlock-the-power-of-tech-with-cloud-services [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-06-17 16:40:13 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-06-17 15:40:13 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://edtechnology.co.uk/?p=28482 [menu_order] => 998 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27949 [post_author] => 63 [post_date] => 2020-06-11 08:20:20 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-06-11 07:20:20 [post_content] => Remote learning tools means that the government's dropping of plans to fully reopen English primary schools ahead of the summer break need not necessarily diminish pupils’ education. That’s the view of Simon Carter, director of edtech suppliers, RM Education. “As long as schools have the right technology in place – from facilitating student collaboration remotely to providing interactive online content – the opportunities for remote learning are endless,” he says. “And with the government willing to fund those schools who do not have such a remote learning platform, now is the time for every school to investigate further.”
Schools should already be considering what the sector will look like in the post-pandemic world – Simon Carter, RM Education
At face value, the exponential – if temporary - rise in home schooling appears to have been nothing but good news for edtech suppliers, with the move firing a singular growth in demand. In reality, the picture is a little more complex, thanks to the BBC offering what director general, Tony Hall, called the “biggest education effort the BBC has ever undertaken”. As the corporation’s Bitesize website became the hub for a wide range of curriculum-related learning for children of all ages, grateful parents-cum-teachers flocked to the government-backed initiative in their droves, with the site registering 5.2 million hits in the first week of lessons. As Hall noted, “this comprehensive package is something only the BBC would be able to provide”. Which, for other learning enablers, presents something of a problem; while the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) says it supports the BBC’s initial response to the crisis, it is looking for guarantees that the broadcaster will slim down its offering once the summer holidays get underway next month. In April, BESA wrote to Hall with a list of five demands, including the removal of additional home-learning content from Bitesize and a content lock on iPlayer to ensure that, when schools reopen, it can’t be used in lessons. Otherwise, says the body representing 400 UK online curriculum content providers and education publishers, there is a risk of permanent market distortion.
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“This is important to help safeguard the UK’s strong history of quality educational content provision for schools and learners over the longer period,” Caroline Wright, director general of BESA, told Schools Week. “Teachers and learners in the UK benefit from a wide choice of content from many high-quality educational publishers because of the UK’s healthy and competitive commercial marketplace.” Carter, too, argues that educationalists should have at least one eye on the longer term: “Schools should already be considering what the sector will look like in the post-pandemic world.” The government’s shelving of its plan to fully reopen schools, he says, proves that “a change in plan can happen at any time: whether it’s because of coronavirus, a snow day, a leak, or even a fire, schools need to have an infrastructure in place that means they can adapt fast to mitigate the impact on their pupils. And with the help of all the right technology, a robust training regime and a continuity plan, along with a support mechanism in place when needed, educators can do just that and be confident they can deliver the same high quality of teaching in the classroom and out of it.” [post_title] => Government U-turn keeps edtech front and centre [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => government-u-turn-keeps-edtech-front-and-centre [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-06-10 16:00:14 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-06-10 15:00:14 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://edtechnology.co.uk/?p=27949 [menu_order] => 1012 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21248 [post_author] => 63 [post_date] => 2020-01-23 00:00:47 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-01-23 00:00:47 [post_content] => Barely more than half of UK teachers believe that technology has the potential to positively impact their effectiveness in the classroom. Fifty-three percent of teachers - and 39% of academic leaders – gave the assertion in RM Education’s first teacher effectiveness review. Five-hundred and seventy-five teachers and academic leaders were interviewed for the study, which also found that 61% of respondents believed tech has the potential to improve education in the future. Confidence will be a key factor in technology being effectively adopted. A little over a quarter of teachers (27%) claim to be self-assured when using tech already provided by their school, with 42% believing that their confidence won’t improve in the coming years.
Teachers want technologies that make meaningful improvements to their roles  - Michael Oakes, RM Education
“For education professionals across the UK, interactive learning tools have promised significant improvements to the way students learn, helping to engage them in new and exciting ways,” said RM Education’s change strategy manager, Michael Oakes. “However, what’s clear is that for all the benefits these provide, there is still a significant amount of work to be done to ensure time-consuming administration and processes, such as assessment and monitoring pupil attendance across a term, are as simple and streamlined as possible. “Ultimately, unless leaders and teachers are confident with the technologies being introduced, any innovation and investment will fall by the wayside and not make the improvements teachers are looking for and students deserve.
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“Teachers want technologies that make meaningful improvements to their roles," added Oakes, "and which free them up to focus on what they’re passionate about: teaching in the classroom.” To that end, says the survey, teachers are hoping for technology to improve:
  • Lesson preparation and marking time savings (68%)
  • Time saving during the day (39%) 
  • Pupil engagement and behaviour improvements (20%)
And to help them achieve this, the tech they’d like to see introduced is:
  • Formative and summative assessments (84%)
  • School management information systems (64%)
  • Parental engagement systems (30%) 
  • Digital collaboration tools (28%) 
[post_title] => Barely half of UK teachers believe tech will improve their performance, finds study [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => barely-half-of-uk-teachers-believe-tech-will-improve-their-performance-finds-study [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-01-29 14:27:54 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-01-29 14:27:54 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://edtechnology.co.uk/dashboard2/?post_type=articles&p=21248 [menu_order] => 1376 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 20370 [post_author] => 63 [post_date] => 2019-12-19 00:00:36 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-12-19 00:00:36 [post_content] => It’s a difficult time for many schools. New Ofsted frameworks are demanding more from teachers, budgets are tight and the volume of technology available to transform teaching and learning can understandably feel overwhelming. In my many conversations with school leaders, one of the most common difficulties I encounter is a lack of clarity on which solutions schools need to be implementing to tackle their challenges, and how to go about introducing them. I’ve seen too many schools where technology has been introduced without a clear plan and it’s caused more frustration than help. In 2020, it will be crucial that education technology strategy becomes less about the technology itself. Schools, and the wider industry, must stop talking about tech as a single solution to every issue, and instead should begin planning for how it can support existing initiatives and empower teachers to make the most of it. To do this, technology transformation needs to be planned in the same way that schools would plan any other investment: with clear goals, outcomes and deliverables. Not only this, but schools need to embrace a mentality of change and ensure that staff are trained and supported so that they can use these technologies effectively. Without these, technology for its own sake will continue to hold many institutions back. As schools get to grips with the technologies they need - amid a backdrop of Ofsted inspections and changing expectations - I believe 2020 will see the rebirth of technology as a positive force in schools. Many poorly implemented projects and a growing number of competing vendors have led to senior leaders losing faith in technology and investment. Only by working together as an industry can we combat this and help ensure schools are best equipped to educate the next generation.
Schools will become increasingly demanding and discerning in how they buy their technology solutions and services
Growing digital literacy of staff will put pressure on schools to innovate As the next generation of teachers enter the workforce, schools are now encountering young professionals who are digital natives. From sufficient internet speeds to classroom technology and cloud management, these teachers are now putting pressure on schools to innovate more quickly and clearly. And the schools that are doing digital effectively are proving far more desirable places to work for younger teachers. In turn, this is helping make schools more educated consumers when it comes to technology solutions. Whether they want smarter ways of working, cloud technology or the ability for teachers and students to access resources remotely, these digital natives have a much better idea of the changes they’d like to see happen in school, and how to help make that happen. Cloud-based infrastructure will become the norm In 2020, the majority of large schools will have made significant progress towards migrating to a cloud-based infrastructure. The on-premise infrastructure of the past no longer provides the accessibility, ease of use and flexibility that modern learning and schools require. Teachers now need to be able to access information remotely, and students benefit tremendously when they can access the same learning environment at home as at school. There are other benefits to cloud adoption in schools, too. While, in the past, learning technologies such as VR, interactive screens and online portals had been viewed sceptically, cloud adoption in other sectors is enabling decision makers to understand their value and how to drive them forward. Ultimately, we’re seeing schools becoming more confident in their adoption of cloud, and really focusing on the technical systems which will help both the infrastructure and classroom learning.
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Schools will begin using data in context to better understand classroom trends Data is crucial to the day-to-day processes of the running of a school. From keeping track of attendance, exam results and performance in class, data – and the management information systems (MIS) which handle it – is the backbone of modern teaching. However, while an MIS allows teachers to easily understand performance in a classroom, schools now need to begin viewing the data they collect in context. Only then will they be able to truly understand its value and predict future trends to help them anticipate upcoming problems or challenges. For example, data highlighting a sudden increase in absences in class is far more valuable to a school if it is understood within the context of the time of year, such as whether it’s in the run up to the holidays or exam season, and helps teachers to adequately plan around this in future years. While an MIS is fundamental to the management of a school, it’s only as useful as the ease of accessing, analysing and applying the data in decision making within it is. And this has to be done without a burden of training for staff. In 2020, we’ll see the rise of MIS which allow teachers and office staff to extract data and produce reports quickly and easily, using an intuitive interface that doesn’t require specialist skills or hours of training. We believe schools will need to focus on how to get real value out of their MIS, and build outcome-focused programmes that utilise management information effectively in order to demonstrate improvements and results.
Technology transformation needs to be planned in the same way that schools would plan any other investment: with clear goals, outcomes and deliverables
Cloud migration will drive cybersecurity adoption As with many sectors, schools face increasing cybersecurity threats, potentially posing a risk to student data and day-to-day operations. Hackers can target organisations with distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, which limit access to the internet and online resources, or directly attempt to manipulate or steal data. In order for schools to adequately cope with these threats, they will need to introduce a robust cybersecurity and business continuity strategy. Solutions such as encryption, managed cloud services and two-factor authentication can all help to limit the threats cybercriminals pose to a school. With this in mind, schools will become increasingly demanding and discerning in how they buy their technology solutions and services. They will need to ensure the providers they’re working with understand the threats they face and have implemented the appropriate standards, processes and protections to mitigate the risk of attack. This will impact a school’s choice of network connectivity, hardware, software, and access management. Schools are already implementing cloud-based solutions which can help mitigate this risk, enabling teaching and learning to continue in the face of major disruption. Implementing these solutions will require network managers to work with a trusted third party to identify vulnerabilities and ensure they are addressed in a timely manner. This will also need to be communicated to staff and teachers, to help them understand what it means for the business and how they can maintain best practice, particularly in areas like password management. And this needs to be a cyclical process – new vulnerabilities continually emerge, and a school must ensure it understands these threats and deals with them in real time. RM Education: rm.com [post_title] => What edtech trends can educators look forward to in 2020? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => what-edtech-trends-can-educators-look-forward-to-in-2020 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-12-18 17:17:15 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-12-18 17:17:15 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://edtechnology.co.uk/dashboard2/?post_type=blog&p=20370 [menu_order] => 1446 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 19418 [post_author] => 57 [post_date] => 2019-11-11 10:09:49 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-11-11 10:09:49 [post_content] => Last month, the Commons Education Committee released its review of the special education needs (SEND) system in the UK. The review concluded that the reforms to support children and young people introduced in the 2014 act were the right ones, but poor implementation has left local authorities, schools and families struggling to work with a system that is contributing to poor educational and social outcomes for some students. One of the issues highlighted was a lack of guidance and training for teachers and schools across the country struggling to provide adequate educational services to SEND students.

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While the review paints a particularly difficult picture for education professionals, the recently announced £780m increase to local authorities' high-needs funding from government provides fiscal support to help address these challenges. So how should schools  invest this funding in ways that help to boost inclusion and improve learning outcomes for SEND students in the classroom?

Investing in pupils first

With almost 15% of all students in the UK having special education needs, schools are under increasing pressure to invest in solutions that can deliver. While it can be tempting to introduce new gadgets and technologies, it can be hard to know how best to create a level playing field and equality of access for SEND students. The reality is that there is no single technology solution that can address the needs of SEND students. What’s needed is a blended approach of providing administrative and management solutions which can help teachers spend more time in the classroom, and classroom technologies which can help SEND pupils experience equal access to the curriculum.
With almost 15% of all students in the UK having special education needs, schools are under increasing pressure to invest in solutions that can deliver.
The school’s management information system (MIS) can play an important role in supporting SEND students.  It provides teachers with a single point of information about SEND student requirements, as well as helping to spot behaviour patterns and identify where students might need extra support.  This is particularly relevant where peripatetic support services are being used and multiple individuals are involved in supporting and monitoring SEND students’ progress. The MIS should ideally also help streamline and simplify administrative activities – which combined with better management information should reduce the amount of time teachers spend inputting and analysing data, and increase the amount of time they can spend focused on what happens in the classroom. When it comes to providing equal access to the curriculum for students, it’s important to employ solutions and technologies that are flexible and can adapt to different needs. For example, by incorporating visual elements in a presentation to promote engagement for students with ADHD or ensuring that digital information is available via text-to-speech software for visually impaired students. It can also be useful to look at some basic components of IT infrastructure.

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Training teachers to use technology

While some technology investment is without a doubt of real benefit to SEND students by helping create an inclusive classroom environment, simply buying new equipment alone is not necessarily helpful. Investment is crucially needed to make sure teachers are supported and trained to not only understand SEND needs, but to ensure they can use technology effectively. Investing in technology to support SEND students requires the same planning and forethought as any other investment in technology – and without a clarity of vision and purpose and understanding the specific outcomes they want to achieve schools may struggle to implement meaningful change. [post_title] => Technology’s role in SEND education investment [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => technologys-role-in-send-education-investment [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-11 10:10:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-11 10:10:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://edtechnology.co.uk/dashboard2/?post_type=blog&p=19418 [menu_order] => 1519 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 14649 [post_author] => 57 [post_date] => 2019-04-25 00:00:42 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-04-24 23:00:42 [post_content] => New research has revealed that fewer than half of schools and colleges in the UK believe they are fully compliant with GDPR statutes. The research, carried out by RM Education and Trend Micro, shows that only 48% of respondents from schools and colleges across the UK stated that they believe their institution to be fully GDPR compliant.
From the latest issue: How has the first year of GDPR impacted education?
Legacy systems were stated as a core challenge by 23% of respondents, with 46% citing security awareness, and 31% a lack of financial investment. In terms of safety, 77% of respondents stated they were confident that their school or college was as secure as it could be against a data breach. However, only 71% of schools had a formal data breach response plan in place. Steve Forbes, principal product manager at RM Education said: “One surprising finding is that 91% of schools and colleges surveyed stated that they knew where all their data resides. “Schools and colleges process large quantities of data on their pupils, staff and suppliers, and it’s likely that data is in more places than perhaps thought.”
GDPR compliance does not sit with one role alone; and the responsibility for compliance is shared. – Steve Forbes, RM Education
The research does suggest, however, that schools and colleges are taking GDPR seriously and that significant steps have been taken to work towards ensuring compliance. Of those surveyed, 97% had updated their policies, 89% had increased staff training, 85% had hired a DPO (data protection officer) and 83% carried out a data audit. However, there are some confusions about who should be responsible for GDPR compliance, as well as 38% of respondents reporting an increased IT spend as a result of becoming GDPR compliant. Forbes said: “60% of those surveyed said final responsibility for GDPR sits with the principal or head teacher, 42% said the responsibility also sits with the DPO, and 31% said responsibility also lies with the head of IT.
Related blog: If GDPR provided the lessons, Brexit will put data compliance into practice
“GDPR compliance does not sit with one role alone; and the responsibility for compliance is shared.” In terms of the biggest threats to data, 75% of respondents cited accidental loss by staff, and 19% said cybercriminals. The full report can be found at rm.com/GDPR-in-schools [post_title] => Fewer than half of UK schools think they are GDPR compliant [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => fewer-than-half-of-uk-schools-think-they-are-gdpr-compliant [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-04-24 12:25:57 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-04-24 11:25:57 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://edtechnology.co.uk/dashboard2/?post_type=articles&p=14649 [menu_order] => 1969 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 14379 [post_author] => 57 [post_date] => 2019-04-13 00:00:09 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-04-12 23:00:09 [post_content] => Effective parental engagement is an ongoing concern for schools, and as the default channels evolve, so must a school’s approach to communications. If schools want parents to engage fully with the school, it is important to create the right spaces to allow them to talk about the rounded education that their children receive – more than simply reporting on a child’s academic results. Some parents are hungry for information, particularly regarding the nature of their child’s studies, and the development of great parent communication channels can help facilitate valuable and helpful dialogue.

ICT at the core of communications

One of the core principles of a successful communications strategy for schools is engagement outside of the school gates, with a whole-school, community-based approach. Research consistently shows that parental engagement is one of the key factors in securing higher student achievement. The traditional reporting cycle of two, maybe three times a year does not enable positive parental involvement. If parents receive more regular feedback on their child’s progress, it is easier to foster a collaborative relationship between parent and school. Technology has huge potential to involve parents, facilitating greater learning at home and encouraging greater involvement in school activities.Streamlining parental communication Parents communicate through a range of different channels. The most obvious change over recent years is the increase of parent communities on social media, for example private Facebook groups. It is crucial, especially when sending urgent information, that information is disseminated to parents as quickly as possible, using the channels that they engage with most frequently. There will never be ‘one size fits all’ solution, however engaging with parents using the channels they already use increases the value of communications, and the likelihood of them engaging with the school.
For parental engagement to be sustainable, school communication systems need to be easy to adopt and easy to manage.

Evaluating school communication

For parental engagement to be sustainable, school communication systems need to be easy to adopt and easy to manage. Tools which allow schools to monitor responses to texts or emails is important in ensuring messages are being received. Also, when schools are informing parents of important school updates, such as snow day announcements, it is crucial that the school knows this information is being received and read. Real-time tracking in parental engagement tools allows schools to monitor how many people have opened and read their communications and assess whether an additional communication is required.

ICT to help learning at home

Great educational outcomes are a result of excellent teaching, students engaged with their studies, and supportive parents. ICT can be used as a valuable support tool giving parents access to the same teaching resources used in the classroom. Some schools’ websites will include details about current curriculum, future assignments, and give examples of student work, all of which support the opportunities for further learning at home. In addition, the storing of students’ work in the cloud allows students to develop a digital portfolio, which can be accessible for parents at home. This also creates more opportunities for parents to be more informed on their child’s progress and involved in supporting learning at home.

Creating spaces for conversation and collaboration

Engagement with parents should be an ongoing conversation. Communications should not be confined to sending out announcements and newsletters, but instead create an opportunity for learning providers to discover what parents think. By using ICT to facilitate this, schools can make changes and improve processes in line with parents’ views and prove to Ofsted that the school is engaging with parents using the most helpful channels. Sharing videos, interactive question forms and other features in communications allow schools to really engage with parents beyond simply a one-way information flow. [post_title] => How to improve parental engagement through ICT [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => how-to-improve-parental-engagement-through-ict [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-04-16 14:33:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-04-16 13:33:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://edtechnology.co.uk/dashboard2/?post_type=blog&p=14379 [menu_order] => 1993 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 12802 [post_author] => 57 [post_date] => 2019-01-31 09:23:10 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-31 09:23:10 [post_content] => Come January 14, 2020, Microsoft will no longer support the Windows 7 operating system. This means that security patches for software vulnerabilities will no longer be available for the system, meaning that schools still using Windows 7 will be open to attack from viruses and other malicious software. Research by RM Education shows that 50% (37,400 of 75,000) of its customers are still using Windows 7, and as such the discontinuation of support could have significant security implications. Jeremy Cooper, managing director of RM Education, said: “We understand the challenges that schools face, and know that with the continual squeeze on school budgets, replacing older devices can be difficult. We believe that 30% of the devices that we look after for schools are more than five years old. However, this move to Windows 10 is an essential one if schools are to fully protect themselves from malicious attacks.” [post_title] => Windows 7 could leave schools open to attack [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => windows-7-could-leave-schools-open-to-attack [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-01-31 09:23:10 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-31 09:23:10 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://edtechnology.co.uk/dashboard2/?post_type=articles&p=12802 [menu_order] => 2173 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [11] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 10249 [post_author] => 74 [post_date] => 2019-01-16 11:20:48 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-16 11:20:48 [post_content] => Most schools underutilise ICT, finds ISBA's IT survey. So much so, that two in three Bursars question the value-for-money of their IT. The ISC Digital Strategy Group and ISBA’s recommendations to address this, emphasise the importance of deciding what you want from your school IT, putting teachers at the heart of a structured plan to get there, investing in training your teachers to use IT, using a cloud platform for more than just email and storage, sorting out your infrastructure and getting external expert help where you need it. Furthermore, the overriding advice from ISBA and the ISC Digital Strategy Group for school IT is to have a plan, involve and train teachers, and not to go it alone. Once you have read the recommendations, it’s likely you’ll be wondering how to get started on implementing them. Where do you turn?/how will you find the time?/how much should you invest? are all probably questions you’ll be asking. Here are two ways we can help:

ICT Audit

Any credible school IT partner ought to be able to give you a simple red/amber/green summary of your current school technology. RM offers this ICT Audit as a free-of-charge service; one of our local engineers visits for a few hours and we’ll produce a summary report for you within a few days. Knowing where your current technology is at today provides a good foundation from which to begin your planning. "RM’s free but comprehensive initial ICT audit provided us with a detailed and readily understandable review of the status of ICT in school and their consultancy has energised us to investigate alternative technologies and teaching approaches, whilst considering how to get the best value and longevity out of our current ICT," said Rachel Friar, The Marist Schools.

Staff Impact Survey

Our popular Staff Impact Survey quickly builds up a picture of the level of ‘maturity’ of your staff’s use of IT. This gives you:
  • A distribution of IT skills vs application, allowing you to plan future staff training in a more effective manner, based on where they’re starting from. This avoids one-size-(never)-fits-all training!
  • Spider diagrams that illustrate which skills you have in-house and which you’d benefit from external help with, e.g. you may have in-house experts in the use of resource, but not so much for collaboration.
  • A sample of attitudes surrounding the potential of IT to enhance learning outcomes and where staff want most help first. Often this is more positive than initially thought!
  • A benchmark of where you’re beginning, relative to other independent and state schools, drawn from the other 6,000 or so teachers who have also completed it. Comparison can be useful motivation.
Further to the ICT Audit and the Staff Impact Survey, there are many more ways we can assist you on your journey to ICT success and the confident use of technology. Call our team on 0845 3077 832 or email supportservices@rm.com to find out more about ICT support for independent schools. We have also developed a useful online ICT Health Check Tool. If you need a quick assessment of your school’s technology click here to get started. [post_title] => Beat the IT underutilisation crisis in your independent school [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => beat-the-it-underutilisation-crisis-in-your-independent-school [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-01-16 14:26:31 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-16 14:26:31 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://edtechnology.co.uk/dashboard2/?post_type=articles&p=10249 [menu_order] => 2199 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 7561 [post_author] => 57 [post_date] => 2019-01-02 09:00:38 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-02 09:00:38 [post_content] => The internet is a huge benefit to the education system – a source of valuable learning resources and content – but we must prepare ourselves to deal with content and behaviour that can cause harm. So, what is appropriate monitoring in schools? Monitoring is a methodical process of filtering content – and the context of that content – in order to give real insight and intelligence on behaviours and issues. This allows for analysis of what is happening within a school online environment and, where necessary, enable schools to build interventions and address hard issues. How serious should monitoring be taken? All schools should have software in place to make sure children can only access appropriate resources. On average, pupils from Year 11 upwards will find an illegal image, whether intentionally or by accident, at least once a year. In a school with a roll of 1000 pupils, we will report through to the designated safeguarding leaders (DSL), a serious incident that needs intervention, approximately once every two days. Bring Your Own Devices Many pupils in secondary environments will have access to and bring their own devices into school. When content is filtered on personal devices while on a school’s wireless network, pupils may choose to use their own data connection to access web content. It is a school’s decision on how to handle this, and finally comes down to individual school policy. There is no easy technological solution. There is a somewhat ‘grey area’ on devices which are owned by parents as to whether the school should install software to monitor these devices when they are used in a school environment. As such, ongoing parental education and conversation is just as important as school policy and intervention. Monitoring and GDPR There must be a balance within the different remits of privacy and safeguarding. One does not exempt the other. Schools can legitimately monitor the internet activity of pupils as they have a legal obligation to keep their pupils safe from harm. It is important that schools clearly explain this activity to pupils and parents within their privacy notices explaining what is monitored, how data is used, and how data is kept secure. Monitoring and intervention A school’s digital environment is the single largest source for monitoring behaviour and issues, and it is important schools use filtering and monitoring solutions to recognise, intervene and support students at an early stage. Monitoring is not a sanction tool. Schools want to stop students accessing dangerous content, but it is important to view the ‘access’ in context to decide whether there is an issue. This comes down to getting the school culture right. If you see or hear something that concerns you, then report it to someone who can piece together the jigsaw and provide a full picture of the issue. DSLs must have oversight and a strategic overview of online safety in schools. It is advisable that the DSL and IT network manager work together to share knowledge, plan strategies and implement change. Appropriate filtering and monitoring need to be put in place alongside robust reporting systems to see what students are accessing and why. Online safety should also be embedded throughout the school timetable to allow students to understand and practise responsible behaviours. W: rm.com [post_title] => Should schools monitor pupils’ data usage? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => should-schools-monitor-pupils-data-usage [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-01-02 09:58:19 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-02 09:58:19 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://edtechnology.co.uk/dashboard2/?post_type=blog&p=7561 [menu_order] => 2228 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 353 [post_author] => 63 [post_date] => 2018-08-10 00:00:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-08-09 22:00:00 [post_content] => When thinking about creating or upgrading an IT network, it would be easy to focus on the technology: cloud versus onsite servers, fiercely protective firewalls and filters, and the latest fibre-optic broadband. While all these tools are vital for the delivery of service, the maximum benefits aren’t going to be felt without first creating sustainable and healthy partnerships with students, staff and suppliers, and making sure the right infrastructure is in place. Know your audience Understanding what an organisation needs is more vital than the technology used. It’s no good having the latest tech installed if it doesn’t meet the needs of the organisation, if the existing infrastructure can’t support it, or if there isn’t enough in the budget to train the users on it. It has to add value once it’s put into practice and if additional resources are needed for this, that has to be considered in the planning stages. This isn’t just the job of the IT department. Upgrading an IT network isn’t about buying hardware, it’s about finding out what that hardware is used for. This is a lengthy, in-depth exercise that includes the whole organisation and needs to be directed by the top levels of management. For example, a typical university will have four user groups to consider: - Back office staff  - Lecturers  - Students  - Researchers Each will have different needs in terms of when and how they access the network, the type of devices they use and the level of bandwidth they need. A physics research team, for example, can use up to four times the bandwidth of the rest of the university combined. One group may get prioritised over another and this is where stakeholder engagement kicks in. The university may need to hold focus groups to find out what each group needs from the network and in some cases lower expectations. Mike Burns, Customer Services Manager in the learning and information services department at the University of the Highlands and Islands, says this personal contact with users helps his department get a real feel for what is needed: “We make a point to go out and speak to our stakeholders in person. This includes sending someone up to an island to listen to students. We try and understand their frustrations rather than hide behind the technology,” he said.
In 2017, BESA research projected that 1,179,300 computers across primary schools regularly used wifi, an increase of 6% on 2016 figures. The research also projected that in 2017 1,419,700 computers across secondary schools regularly used wifi, an increase of 10% on 2016 figures
A specialist broadband provider, or one who is willing to learn, is also of vital importance. For a school, which will likely have less budget and qualified personnel to call on, this relationship can help to determine their requirements and provide the specific service they need. David Ryder, Head of IT Services at Abbey Multi Academy Trust says creating this kind of relationship has proved invaluable: “We’ve built up a good relationship with our provider, Schools Broadband, based on giving them really honest feedback on what’s working, and what’s not. The reason we’ve stayed with them for eight years is because they will listen and adapt to what we need.” Security and accessibility For a school’s ICT department, safeguarding is its most important job. This is an area where it really isn’t worth trying to economise. A cheap commercial deal may look good on paper but if the provider doesn’t have specialist knowledge of how to apply content filtering as set out by the Department of Education, it’s going to put students and the reputation of the school at risk. A switched-on partner is vital here. The process of setting the levels of filtering and access depends on the culture of individual schools and how that works in practice is something that the management of the school needs to work out in partnership with the IT department and the internet provider. The guidance from the DfE is that internet sites viewed by students must be age-appropriate. However, each school can make a call on what ‘age-appropriate’ is. Steve Forbes, Security, Compliance and Online Safety Specialist at RM Education agrees that the service provider has an important role to play in this: “It needs a clued-up broadband provider who can offer a filter for age appropriate sites,” he said. “There is definitely a balance to strike between giving students and teachers access to the educational resources they need and allowing through inappropriate materials.” He added that there are certain topics that can be grey areas, which take some real thinking about: “Take the topic of drugs: we don’t want to allow students access to content that encourages usage, but we do want older students to be able to carry out research about the effects of drugs.” At university level, there’s a different focus. There is no age-appropriate requirement, but there is a duty to filter out extremist and explicit content. Students will chance their arm and try to use university resources to access inappropriate material, which at the very least is taking that resource away from those that need it for legitimate coursework. It’s possible to enter into a dialogue with students to manage this, said Mike Burns: “Students request access for dating and betting sites. We ask them to get back-up from their course tutor, and if it’s necessary for their course of study we will allow it. Having that extra check stopped a lot of spurious approaches.” Living in the cloud More and more providers are steering organisations towards using cloud-based networks. You can see the appeal: it is possible to change the amount of storage you need month by month. This means that, during a busy time such as exams, the IT department can ramp up the storage levels, then downgrade them over the summer holidays. It also makes working from home or at multiple sites, and on multiple devices, easier. This meets the growing demand for flexible working and learning from both teaching staff and students, including, at university level, more distance learning, part-time courses and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC). And it’s nearly always cheaper. The user organisation isn’t responsible for the storage of an onsite data centre or the maintenance of hardware. This represents a huge cost saving. When is it suitable to use the cloud? Oliver Pearson, General Manager at Think IT said: “You need a robust infrastructure, and comprehensive and reliable wireless coverage. If that’s in place, I would always recommend the cloud. The cost savings that can be made are significant.” As well as having the right tech in place, a trustworthy cloud-based provider with an established track record is also vital. A worry of running a network offsite is the security and consistency of service over which the IT department has no direct control. However, Steve Forbes commented that if you go for one of the tech giants there’s no need to be concerned: “If you are using Microsoft or Google, they spend billions on this, way more than any school ever could, so it’s likely they will do a better job of keeping their platforms safe and functional.”             [post_title] => Network news: creating connectivity [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => network-news-creating-connectivity [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-10-01 11:58:11 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-10-01 10:58:11 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 2602 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [14] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 439 [post_author] => 63 [post_date] => 2018-07-17 00:00:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-07-16 22:00:00 [post_content] =>

Schools, colleges and universities have to alter how they operate when they adopt the cloud, and also with the advent of the GDPR. Clouds, too, are subject to disruption by future technologies, and changes in law.

Does GDPR now mean that more, or less, of education’s data is in the cloud? Phillip Wicks of LogPoint argued that it’s almost too early to say: “In general the majority of HE establishments are starting to look at cloud storage as an option. But there are many where it won’t be appropriate for them, if they have lots of intense data analysis or high-value copyright material. It’s about perception of risk and how they decide to manage it.”

Rachael Hartley from Cognizant said that GDPR has brought clarity to data security within the cloud: “GDPR will not delay cloud adoption, but simply provides clear regulations with which to frame the division of responsibilities for data within the cloud.”

This clearer accountability around data will have made the cloud less opaque for some. 

Professor James Davenport of the University of Bath agrees that GDPR has brought clarity and predicted that, “Cloud for data sharing will certainly grow for HE; there are enormous advantages in terms of collaboration and cooperation [but] part of the problem for education, is that it doesn’t segment neatly by institution, particularly when it comes to research.” 

Education’s different needs, and continuing perceptions of the cloud as risky, has resulted in a mix-and-match approach. Rachael Hartley explained it well: “While each service has its own adoption curve, a hybrid environment is emerging whereby some services (and supporting data) are provided locally by the institution, with others hosted in the cloud. In addition, the wide availability of cloud services direct to the individual, coupled with the slower update of services owned by organisations, is leading to a new type of ‘shadow IT’ within institutions where data can be further distributed. The journey to adoption can be difficult to navigate and measurable benefits can be difficult to achieve in the short term. However, in the long term, the benefits to educational organisations can be huge.”

The University of Bath has a robust policy on data storage. In common with other universities though, collaboration between institutions happens using public cloud services. The biggest problem is not that these companies are faulty, but that people are, said Professor Davenport: “It’s so powerful, and so dangerous, so easy to impersonate and subvert. Fake messages are a good way to get malware on people’s computers.”

Proprietary cloud services also have limits though, and much depends on how they are used. “The cloud will almost certainly not lose data for you, but you can certainly lose data in the cloud,” said Professor Davenport. The key point in how secure the data is, is the interface between institution and cloud provider.

GDPR, then, has brought another layer that individuals and institutions must consider before they choose a cloud, but have the merits and demerits of the cloud remained much as they ever were? RM Education’s Steven Forbes recognises the importance of this interface and the extra controls the cloud offers. He argued that: “There’s no reason that cloud is any less secure than the way [schools] operate on their premises today. In the cloud you can put additional controls over data and revoke access if you feel it is not secure.” RM Education has interface features such as multi-factor authentication which provide simple but powerful layers of security, and AI can provide further checks.

Education can take other steps to mitigate the perceived risk of the cloud. Machine learning offers additional layers of awareness, said Phillip Wicks: “LogPoint is almost like surveillance, looking at exactly what is happening within your system. Whether those systems are ones you control yourself, or whether you have outsourced to a cloud provider. It will analyse what is happening across your network and alerts to something which is out of the ordinary, when you need to take some kind of action.” 

Future technologies then, are enhancing the controls within the cloud, but also bring the potential for disruption. Companies such as Educhain, Gradbase and Storj are exploring blockchain as a data record or cloud. Dr Paolo Tasca, founder and Executive Director of UCL’s Centre for Blockchain Technologies, explained: “Blockchain can be described as a group of ‘blocks’, which are chained together and constitute an encrypted digital ledger that is stored in a number of computers, the nodes of the system. In brief, blockchain is a secure and transparent distributed database where files [could be] broken up in a number of pieces, encrypted and stored in hard drives, located all around the globe without the need to resort on centralised third-party storage providers like Dropbox, Google Drive or Amazon. For these reasons, this model is said to be more secure, privacy oriented and cost efficient as compared to centralised systems.”

A major stumbling block to blockchain data storage is that it is immutable, so is blockchain compliant with GDPR’s right to be forgotten? Dr Tasca said: “This is a problem that seems difficult to overcome for all blockchain systems, including those in the field of data storage. Some have pointed out, however, how blockchain technology could provide at the same time a useful tool to comply with the GDPR.” It could be worth solving this conundrum, as Dr Tasca argued that blockchain may cause a paradigm shift: “If the cloud and blockchain technologies were successfully integrated in education, chances are it might generate a collaborative environment between students, schools and the industry that could favour innovation. This will bring us towards a meta-university model: a kind of transcendent, accessible, empowering, dynamic, communally constructed framework of open materials and platforms.”

How far GDPR will affect education’s adoption of the cloud, and whether blockchain will become compatible with GDPR will become clearer with time. GDPR may have been the biggest change in data storage recently, but there are plenty more changes to come. 

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After years of anticipation, and months of planning by companies and organisations of all sizes, the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation is now in force. By now, you should be quietly confident that policies and procedures are in place to sufficiently protect your school data.

However, GDPR is an ongoing process, and to make sure your school stays compliant you must stay responsive. Below are key points on how to stay on top of GDPR policies and what should happen if a data breach occurs in school.

Awareness

Primarily, you need to educate all your staff. A good place to start is for senior management or your Data Protection Officer (DPO) to educate teams on the importance of data protection and how the law translates to each individual department. If your users don’t understand the impact of not following processes, or how to use the technology or policies you have implemented for GDPR, then any investment is wasted. As with most training and procedures, a little common sense is required, and data privacy should never jeopardise student safeguarding.

Processes

Ensure your staff know where your processes are stored. It is also best practice to have an incident response plan - this ensures that, if you do have a serious data breach, you have a plan that you can quickly put into action and reduce the amount of time to respond. Part of the incident response plan should be to have a pre-prepared statement that the school can use if they get questions from parents or the media about the data breach – this removes the need for your staff to think on their feet at what could be a stressful time.

Your DPO is under obligation to maintain a breach register where all breaches, no matter how trivial, are recorded and monitored. Therefore, should the unanticipated occur, it is a good idea to ensure all staff members know to inform your DPO. Under GDPR you will have an obligation to report a serious data breach within 72 hours. It is important to note from a time perspective, as there is a lengthy form and process involved to report a breach to ICO, with information required to be gathered from all individuals involved.

GDPR doesn’t mention specific technologies to help you secure your data - it is technology agnostic because technology changes so fast; however, there are tools available to turn all this information into easily understandable and actionable insights. What GDPR does state is that you must have appropriate security based on the type of data and the risk to that data. Remember, when any new technology is introduced, your DPO must review and sign off the Data Privacy Impact Assessment, which considers any risks associated with implementing the new technology.

Steve Forbes

Mitigating data risk in school

Fortunately, in schools we don’t often have the threat of a malicious insider trying to steal confidential company information for commercial gain, and most data breaches come from human error. The points below examine some of the key issues and how a school can mitigate against a potential data breach risk.

Data sent to the wrong recipient by email

Steps you can follow to make email communications less prone to accidental breach:

 - Turn off autofill in your e-mail: many of the mistakes come from programs such as Outlook or Gmail automatically filling the address field with the most commonly or last used email addresses. Whilst it can be a handy feature, it is also a risk and so turning it off will help to mitigate that risk

 - Enable BCC by default: most client emails don’t have BCC available by default, so if the user doesn’t know how to activate it they may be tempted to put all the email addresses in the CC field. This means that every recipient of that email can see the other recipients. This could be an issue if the subject of the email is sensitive - for example, if you were emailing all parents whose children receive pupil premium funding or have attendance issues

 - Mail encryption: this may prevent email messages being intercepted and read whilst in transit to the recipients. This is good practice where you are sending potentially sensitive data via email

 - Data labelling: you can use the advanced functionality in Office 365 and G Suite to label your documents and emails with a sensitivity label. This prompts the user to think about what they do with those documents or emails. You can also prevent documents or emails with certain labels from leaving your organisation, and stop the document from being copied or printed – this stops sensitive data from being left on printers for unauthorised people to find and read

Loss/theft of paperwork or devices

You should challenge the necessity to have paperwork leave secure areas within the school when digital forms of data are far easier to secure and are more portable. Devices that leave the school should have more security than devices that stay within the school gates and should only be accessed by those authorised.

Again, encryption is one of the easiest ways of doing this – encryption technology, such as BitLocker on Microsoft devices, can ensure that, should the device be lost or stolen, it would be extremely unlikely that anyone could access the data on the device.

If you allow your users to access school data from their own device then you may want to consider additional controls, so data can’t be downloaded directly onto them. Office 365 and G suite allows users to access the data they need from any device but ensure that the data remains within the cloud ecosystem and never resides locally on the device. Realistically, schools should carefully consider how their users access data from devices that they do not have any control over. Do you want data on devices that may not have the latest security patches, have any anti-virus solution or outsiders have access to?

Insecure disposal of paperwork or devices

You must ensure that any confidential paperwork that you dispose of is done so in a secure way, either by use of a cross shredder or a secure disposal service. Any devices or computer equipment should be disposed of using an approved supplier and you should get certification to demonstrate that the equipment has been disposed of securely.

"By now, you should be quietly confident that policies and procedures are in place to sufficiently protect your school data."

What should happen if privacy and data security is breached?

The main issues to consider in a data breach process are identifying:

 - Who is at risk

 - What the risk is

 - What data is at risk

You can then make the decision as to whether the breach is likely to result in a ‘risk to the rights and freedoms of individuals’ and serious enough for your DPO to report to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and the individuals themselves. The key question to ask is what impact the data breach will have on the individuals and your school – if it is likely to have an adverse effect and impact negatively then it should be reported without due course.

There has been a lot of media and noise about the increase in fines under GDPR and we are likely to see an increased focus on the data protection practices in education establishments, given the sensitive information that they are responsible for. We are already starting to see an increase in breaches that are reported - just recently the University of Greenwich was fined £120,000 for a serious data breach when the personal data of 19,500 students was placed online. This media interest could be the prompt for schools that have made little changes in their data protection practices to realise that the GDPR is to be taken seriously.

While new regulations and policies can be difficult for schools to adapt and comply with, GDPR was not designed to confuse and alarm them. It was aimed at bringing businesses into line with the digital era and ensure large amounts of data are stored in a more transparent way.

You will probably need to accept that it is going to take time to change your school’s entire culture around data, and is an ongoing journey for all organisations. When you have instilled that culture, you will be fully meeting the new regulations. However, like safeguarding, GDPR requires continued training, awareness and communication to maintain compliance.

For more information, visit www.rm.com

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Cloud technologies bring a wealth of benefits to schools, but they depend on a solid infrastructure and the right broadband solution with the right safeguarding and security systems in place. We’ve seen many of our schools investing in faster broadband connections to allow the use of the new and innovative technologies.

However with reduced budgets and tighter restrictions on spend, investment in infrastructure that could potentially be out of date within 3 years might be a difficult pill to swallow, but the use and application of the Internet isn’t going away.

RM Education have identified five considerations that will help you when thinking about your connectivity choices.

  1. What are your school’s immediate needs? Do you need faster connections, more bandwidth, or greater security on your line?
  2. Does your school have a line with enough capacity for all your users to log on at the same time? How many users will you need in the next 12 months?
  3. Does your school have a back-up line if the first line goes down? Make sure you have a clear plan for making sure you’re always connected.
  4. Does your current contract tie your school into using one particular provider or service for more than three years? If so, can they help you scale up your broadband provision in the future as and when you need to?
  5. Does your broadband service have built in safeguarding and security solutions that tie in with your school’s policies and protocols? Products like RM safetynet can help you meet your safeguarding needs seamlessly.

If you’d like to talk to RM Education about your broadband or get a quote you can visit rm.com/broadband or email them at broadband@rm.com.  

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In an education landscape where restricted budgets remain the biggest challenge for UK schools, gaining maximum value from ICT spend is still a key priority for today’s ICT leaders.

Recent research conducted by RM Education into the external ICT support marketplace, which surveyed ICT leaders at over 300 maintained secondary schools across the UK, revealed some interesting insights into the way schools are managing their IT support services, both now and in the future.

RM’s research reflected that while average network team sizes currently comprise of around four or five internal network staff, there is an increasing expectation from ICT leaders that due to continued budgetary pressures, network team sizes will fall over the next two years.  

The only exception to this trend is in schools that already have significant external support with their ICT provision, where it is expected that in some instances, network team sizes may actually increase.

However, less than a fifth of those surveyed reported using a fully managed service, and over two thirds of schools said they prefer a modular approach where they can select specific support options that best suit the unique needs of their school, its pedagogy and its chosen technologies. 

Chris Burgess, Senior Product Manager at RM Education, says: “The prevalence of cloud technologies is making lives much easier for network teams; they no longer need to manage kit, install updates and, in most cases, fix servers, as this can all be done much more cost effectively through cloud technologies.

While a smaller network team size can help alleviate some of these budgetary pressures, it can also decrease the capacity and knowledge held within an onsite team to deal with the volume and range of support queries they receive each day. – Chris Burgess, Senior Project Manager, RM Education

“Naturally, this has impacted on the amount of network staff required in a typical secondary school, so it’s unsurprising that most schools are expecting their network teams to shrink over the next few years. This trend is also being driven by BYOD implementation becoming increasingly widespread, coupled with things like enhanced system software deployments and data management implications such as the new GDPR requirements.

“However, while a smaller network team size can help alleviate some of these budgetary pressures, it can also decrease the capacity and knowledge held within an onsite team to deal with the volume and range of support queries they receive each day.”

Chris suggests that an external support service can fill this deficit and help schools to achieve their ICT needs by bringing in the knowledge and experience of a wide pool of external specialists, enabling existing network teams of any size to access support and freeing them up to focus on supporting teaching staff with classroom technologies.

“Network Managers are rightly starting to look at ways to reduce their workload and free up more of their time, so that they can reinvest those resources into making the most of technology in the school and staying on top of technology trends,” says Chris.

“This is an area which does need much greater focus, so while budgetary pressures are the main driver to an ICT support service, freeing up much-needed time to help develop teachers’ skills and give them more confidence with technology in the classroom is also becoming a priority.”

So what are the options for schools taking this modular approach? The first is an escalation support model where schools can select specific support or functions; this approach can be particularly beneficial where a network team is small and there is a clear gap in the technology knowledge required to perform a specific task, such as migration from Microsoft to Google.

We anticipate that modular support models which are flexible and scalable will begin to take on much more prevalence over the next 12 to 24 months. – Chris Burgess, Senior Project Manager, RM Education

If an additional level of support was required, schools could also explore pro-active remote services which are focussed on freeing up network teams by performing automated or standardised tasks such as system updates and security checks; tasks which are necessary, but often overlooked when network teams are busy firefighting more pressing issues. 

Building on the pro-active service model, schools could also explore remote network management services, which can help them to stabilise their costs, widen their internal knowledge bank and, crucially, to transfer the risks associated with of day-to-day mishaps to the service provider. 

The survey also asked ICT leaders what elements of ICT support were most beneficial to their school; the majority of respondents reported that the provision of unlimited usage, multiple platform coverage and expert technical knowledge were key.

“By conducting this latest research, we wanted to explore the current landscape of school IT and the issues that were most important to ICT leaders. The results reflect to us that in-depth technological expertise is a critical driver in selecting a support contract, while budgetary pressures continue to drive ICT leaders to explore options that could offer them much greater security and value for money,” says Chris.

“Conversely, we understand that schools are reluctant to be tied into a contract that isn’t specifically tailored to their needs. Therefore, we anticipate that modular support models which are flexible and scalable will begin to take on much more prevalence over the next 12 to 24 months.”

RM Education can provide schools with a range of hybrid support services on a single flexible contract, from running pro-active overnight checks on your school’s network to security audits, vulnerability scanning and SIMs support.

For more information on ICT support options, visit www.rm.com/products 

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Most schools now rely on a Management Information System (MIS) to complete statutory requirements such as the School Census and School Work Force (SWF) Census; but are they really making the most of the data that can be held – and crucially, interrogated – in their MIS?

A report last year commissioned by the innovation foundation NESTA explored this topic in detail; it suggested that while the UK is leading the way in areas like opening up government data, the education sector has made limited progress by comparison, despite the vast amounts of data that’s now being collected in schools every day.

This is a trend that’s slowly beginning to shift. Schools are now seeking a much greater level of information from their systems; they’re realizing the potential to fully exploit the power of data for things like monitoring attendance patterns, communicating with parents, storing documents electronically, holding medical information, tracking SEND requirements, cover arrangements, and exploring contextual data analysis to spot anomalies and identify trends.

And it isn’t purely from a pupil perspective; from a staff perspective, schools can see data on clearance information, as well as CPD and training information, contract type of staff members and statutory attendance information.

Historically, data used in schools tended to be based around personal information, contact details and attendance information, but now data has become more contextual, schools can delve deeper into the information they hold to explore variables such as disadvantaged circumstances, language proficiencies and mobility.

Data sitting dormant in a school’s MIS is worthless unless it can be reported on in a manner which gives teachers interesting insights and helps them put interventions in place to improve teaching and learning.

NESTA’s research on this topic has further enforced a previous survey conducted in June 2015 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which found that teachers want much more from data than annual test scores; they want rich information about students’ academic, social, behavioural and cultural experiences.

Teachers believe that this information gives them a far deeper insight into their students, which can help strengthen their connection with teachers and ultimately shape how learning takes place.

Data sitting dormant in a school’s MIS is worthless unless it can be reported on in a manner which gives teachers interesting insights and helps them put interventions in place to improve teaching and learning.

Therefore, teachers are invaluable to the successful use of school data. When powerful data is combined with the experience of practitioners to bring about change for the benefit of pupils, the power of data truly comes to life.

But data shouldn’t only offer insight; it should ultimately give schools a tangible path to improvement, both in terms of academic performance and in improving the efficiency of back-office operations.

The DfE are currently in the process of moving school data from RAISEonline to the new Analyse School Performance (ASP) Service, a sister to the existing Compare School Performance Service. This is intended to allow greater analysis of a school’s performance by authorized personnel, with more detailed information on key headline measures.

Headteachers and Governors can combine the ASP information with OFSTED’s guidance to build a school development plan and monitor its effectiveness using the Key Stage results. It is important, however, for schools to have this kind of information instantly to hand, so they can put interventions in place quickly without having to wait until the year end results.

And this is where the MIS data becomes really powerful; schools can then track attainment and progress for all their assessment needs – formative, as well as summative - and their MIS can be set up to whichever programme they are using, whether a published one or something totally bespoke.

Teachers are invaluable to the successful use of school data. When powerful data is combined with the experience of practitioners to bring about change for the benefit of pupils, the power of data truly comes to life.

By bringing live contextual data into their mark books, users can also immediately identify any interventions that might be required. For example, if disadvantaged boys are not making the progress throughout the Autumn term, interventions can be planned for the Spring term, giving enough time to take effect before the year end.

Early interventions are the key to the successful use of data, and are increasingly required much earlier in a child’s education. Yet as school budgets are restricted and teaching time becomes more limited, these interventions must be targeted effectively at those that will benefit most.

And with GDPR coming into effect in 2018, stakeholders will be more conscious of the rights they have with regard to their data and how it is held, and schools will be aware of their increasing responsibilities. The MIS will play a key role in helping schools to fulfil some of those responsibilities.

With a clear set of objectives for improvement and a robust MIS, schools can begin to evaluate and use their data much more effectively to ultimately maximise teaching resources and optimise children’s learning.

For more information and advice, visit www.rm.com/products/rm-integris

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Here’s a question for you: what could you do with an extra £1,000? In the current education climate, it’s a refreshingly pleasant conundrum to have.

It’s well documented in both the national and the education press that schools up and down the country face the ever-present challenge of tightening their belts and finding increasingly creative ways to save cash or unlock funding. The team at RM Education are working every day with academies, primary schools and secondary schools to help them navigate this funding gap, providing advice and support to schools of all sizes on how they can make their budgets go further.

From switching their revenue models and halving the cost of IT by outsourcing services through to leasing devices through BYOD schemes to help future-proof their technology, we are constantly exploring ways to help schools overcome budgetary challenges.

Wherever we can, we try to go above and beyond to support these schools, so our team have been busily thinking up ways to provide a little extra help on top of our core offering. So as a bonus for schools and academies, and to mark our recent partnership with leading hardware provider HP, RM are launching a very special ‘Golden Ticket’ competition.

Any primary or secondary schools or academies who purchase one or more of HPs core products through our store at www.rm.com/store (or by contacting their Account Manager at RM), will automatically be granted the chance to win one of six available ‘Golden Tickets’, which will be presented inside an envelope as part of their delivery.

Recipients will find a unique code on their ticket, and can check if they have the winning Golden Ticket by visiting www.rm.com/goldenticket, which also features full information on how schools can take part and what they can spend their winning ticket on, if they find it. Each of the winning six Golden Tickets will give schools £1,000 to spend on any HP windows devices they choose, or specific RM products and services, within 60 days of winning.

Each of the products in the RM Store are carefully tried and tested by our experts to ensure they meet schools’ needs, and our ‘RM Recommends’ range features an inspiring collection of hardware that could have a tangible effect on teaching and learning.

Some of our most popular products for schools include the new HP ProDesk 400 G4 Desktop, priced from just £250 + VAT. The ProDesk is the perfect desktop for UK schools and academies, running the latest Windows 10 operating system to give schools better security and faster performance.

There’s also the HP ProBook 450 G3, the latest recommended laptop with excellent build quality and a range of specification options to accommodate for differing requirements.

Alternatively, schools may wish to choose from a specialist range of RM software products, from apps designed to increase engagement to single sign-on services to user licenses. RM Unify, for instance, is an online platform that makes it much simpler to set up, access and manage cloud-based content and data, as well as improving the security of your critical school data. This hero programme provides access to G Suite and Office 365, as well as over 100 educational apps with single sign-on.

The Golden Ticket competition will run while stocks are available, or until 30th June if the remaining tickets have not been claimed by then.

For more information, visit www.rm.com/goldenticket or to browse RM’s range of products to help your school, visit www.rm.com/store

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Managing risk has always been a critical part of any school’s agenda, but in today’s climate of overburdened budgets and countless claims on a School Business Manager’s time, there are numerous technology-based risks which can easily be overlooked.

Most schools have excellent risk management strategies in place to minimise these eventualities, but for those who don’t, it’s worth conducting a full audit of your IT systems to identify any anomalies and ensure they’re covered.

Silvana Tann and Chris Taylor of RM Education work with schools every day to help them consider these risks and develop clear strategies to manage them. Here, they examine some of the most potentially catastrophic situations schools could face, and present practical solutions for minimising these risks.

Your current technology is going out of date and you can’t afford new devices

Technology is moving at a pace many schools struggle to keep up with, and this trend is at odds with the fact that historically, schools have become used to investing huge, one-off, lump sums into hardware because that’s what they’ve always done.

But there’s a constant risk of this technology going out of date – so leasing your school’s devices, instead of constantly buying and upgrading them, presents a clear solution for mitigating that risk.

Schools must ensure they’re armed against these kind of attacks and that their back-up systems are as robust as possible

Chris Taylor suggests that there’s often a fear of leasing equipment in state schools because of the notion of spending public money without actually owning anything.

“Governing bodies can often have quite a traditional mind-set from that perspective, and feel that if they’re going to invest over a five year period, they want physical assets to show for it,” says Chris.

“But in technological terms, the only thing you ever own is the technology of today – as soon as it goes out of date, all you’re left with is the debt from that redundant technology when it changes.

What would happen if one of your SLT was carrying around removable media like disks or data sticks which could identify pupils, and that data was accidentally dropped on a bus or train?

“In our everyday lives, consumers lease everything, from smartphones to cars. You don’t have to worry about the initial cost outlay and if your phone is lost, stolen or damaged, it’s easy to get it replaced. And if it’s superseded by something newer and shiner, you simply upgrade your package.”

Chris explains that while leasing makes sense for consumers, it makes even greater sense for schools. As well as alleviating budgetary pressures and safeguarding against changing technologies, a leasing model means devices can be used at home by pupils – enabling them to continue learning outside the classroom.

You have an IT problem you can’t solve – and it brings learning to a halt

“When you think about the whole ICT estate, from infrastructure to software to security, there are so many pressure points on your Network Manager or IT support staff,” explains Silvana Tann.

“And if they’re ill, absent or on annual leave and something goes wrong, it can create a log jam that could lose hours of teaching and admin time.”

While some schools might think it’s more cost effective to run all their IT systems ‘in-house’, Silvana believes there are substantial risks in doing this because schools are limited to one person or one skillset. If something happens which can’t be fixed ‘in-house’, schools then find themselves having to bring in outside expertise at an additional cost.

“When an IT issue occurs that goes beyond the expertise held locally – such as server failure, or pupils not being able to log into something – schools have to rely solely on their Network Support Manager or IT technician, who may not always be able to help,” says Silvana.

“This puts schools in a vulnerable situation as it could ultimately lead to hours of lost teaching time and major classroom disruptions. Schools need access to a team of experts with a real sense of what’s going on in education generally, staying on top of the latest whitepapers, cloud strategies and emerging technologies – and that simply can’t be done entirely in-house.”

Outsourcing IT support allows schools to transfer the risk of day-to-day mishaps and any other risks associated with IT to the service provider, as well as providing cover for sickness and holidays.

It also minimises any disruptions from technology, as IT partners providing managed services to schools can run proactive checks on the schools’ systems throughout the day to instantly pick up and rectify issues before they become a problem.

Alternatively, co-sourcing IT support can fill in gaps in internal expertise and save schools time, money, and effort in recruiting additional staff. By combining services from within the school and from a well-chosen partner, both parties can work to achieve the same goals.

You open an email that turns out to be malware, and lose critical school data

Most of us have, at some point, opened an email that looked relatively benign, but turned out to be a phishing scam or something else that aroused our suspicion. But if someone in your school opened an attachment that turned out to be ransomware or malware – and you don’t have your data backed up – your critical school information could be at risk.

The prevalence of malware (malicious software) and ransomware (which encrypts your network and charges you thousands in a ransom to decrypt it) is a growing cause for concern, and it’s more of a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ your school is targeted.

“You’re only as good as your network or disaster recovery plan,” warns Silvana. “And in an age where data is so critical, schools must ensure they’re armed against these kind of attacks and that their back-up systems are as robust as possible.

“This is an area where schools rely heavily on the strength of their anti-virus software and the capabilities of their Network Managers – but that won’t always mitigate the risk because so many security threats are developed every day, and it’s incredibly difficult to be aware of every new virus as it’s launched.

“I’ve known schools attacked by a serious piece of malware which their own systems didn’t detect, but we found it remotely and removed it before it could do any damage – that’s why having remote technical support can be essential in managing this risk.”

Ultimately, a good governance policy should be the starting point, outlining clear protocols for what all staff should do if they receive an email from an unrecognised sender, or an odd attachment from someone they know whose account may have been compromised.

Your pupils are accessing inappropriate or extremist material in school

The internet has undoubtedly brought a myriad of benefits to learning, but as the breadth of content available to pupils increases every day, so do concerns over online safety and the risk of pupils accessing inappropriate content.

“The key to managing risks associated with online safety is to empower pupils to understand those risks for themselves – from stranger danger to cyber-bullying to sexting - and be able to proactively reduce them,” says Silvana.

“But that can’t be done without a strong, clear and up-to-date e-safety policy that identifies every potential risk and outlines protocols for managing them. These policies also need to be updated frequently, because technology is evolving so rapidly that new risks to internet safety emerge every day.”

However, no policies can prevent a pupil searching for inappropriate content, so integrating filtering and monitoring tools into your school’s network is fundamental to mitigating these risks.

These tools allow schools to filter age-appropriate content and to track and monitor keywords or topics which could highlight a major cause for concern – such as students looking for information on suicide or self-harming, or content which could be considered radical or extreme.

You’re not sure where all your school’s data is stored

New General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) will come into force in April 2018 to replace previous Data Protection laws, and they’ll set significantly higher standards for the way that all organisations – including schools – manage and store their data.  Amongst a litany of other changes, schools must be able to show complete transparency with their systems for data storage and management and have clear procedures in place to deal with a suspected data breach.

“Ultimately, these regulations exist to protect the people whose data is held by any type of organisation, and if organisation’s aren’t able to show exactly how their data is stored and managed, they could face hefty fines,” explains Chris.

“As data owners, schools can benefit from being much tighter on security and storage of that data, both in-school and beyond. For example, what would happen if one of your SLT was carrying around removable media like disks or data sticks which could identify pupils, and that data was accidentally dropped on a bus or train?”

Chris suggests this is another area where using cloud-based systems can support schools in the transparency and security of their systems.  “If your critical data is stored in the cloud, your team can use tools like Google Drives, which removes the need memory sticks and it has the added benefit of increasing collaboration and sharing,” says Chris.

“Being able to access your work in the cloud from anywhere – using secure passwords – gives schools much greater control and transparency over where and how their data is stored.”

For schools who work with multiple IT support partners, Chris advises them to carry out careful checks and due diligence on their supplier’s data systems to make sure they are completely reliable and in line with GDPR standards too.

Someone cracks your passwords and accesses confidential information

Silvana estimates that 60 per cent of schools have passwords that can be cracked in less than a minute. This tends to happen when staff rely on the same passwords for years because they’re easy to remember – but they could be putting your systems at risk.

“With a school’s permission, we can test the strength of their passwords for them by deliberately attempting to crack them – and it’s pretty scary how quickly that’s possible,” says Silvana.

“Today’s generation of tech-savvy pupils might even see it as a challenge to hack their school’s systems, and it does happen – we’ve known pupils to crack admin passwords and access – or even try to expose – confidential information on other pupils.”

Schools have an obligation over how long they hold pupil data, as well as financial information and correspondence between staff and SLTs, and with forthcoming changes in data protection law, it’s going to become essential for schools to be able to lock down confidential data.

However, Silvana points out that this risk can be mitigated if schools adopt and enforce effective password policies, and change them regularly. The industry standard is that passwords must be at least eight letters long and contain one uppercase letter and one digit.

“Schools are obliged to keep data safe and this is another area where moving your systems to the cloud gives you greater security and peace of mind. A school’s Management Information System (MIS) holds critical data that schools can’t run without, but hosting it in the cloud ensures your data can be locked down and stored safely – and you can access it using a single sign on for multiple sites, removing the need to remember lots of different passwords.”

You’re losing money by paying for technology you don’t use - or need

“Investing in new technology can be a risk if it’s not properly planned and implemented,” explains Silvana. “If you don’t have the in-school knowledge to fully leverage the benefits of the technology you’re bringing in, or a clear plan of how it’ll support teaching and learning, it’s likely your shiny new hardware will end up in a store cupboard.”

This risk seems relatively obvious, but it’s a surprisingly common one. When schools haven’t taken a methodical approach to implementing technology to support teaching and learning – rather than bringing in the latest devices and trying to shoehorn them into your pedagogy – schools risk paying for things they can’t use or don’t actually need.

From software to interactive whiteboards to gleaming new iPads, Silvana says she’s seen thousands of pounds worth of technology effectively go down the drain, because of a lack of pedagogy, leadership, ICT expertise or foresight.

“My advice to schools would be that if you think you’ve already made all the cost savings you can – think again,” says Silvana. “A full audit of your IT systems and software will help you determine how you can be more efficient, and reveal what you need, and what’s potentially draining your resources.”

Your broadband capacity can’t cope with the demand

Some countries, such as the Baltic states, have nationwide policies in place to ensure optimum wifi provision across the whole country – but in the UK, we’re still behind the curve.

As schools explore new ways to improve their technology provision, make cost savings, increase collaboration and facilitate anytime-anywhere learning, having the right infrastructure in place to support these things is essential.

“We know that moving to the cloud brings tremendous benefits to schools, but as more elements are stored in a cloud environment, schools need a broadband provision that can cope,” says Chris.

“Do they have a line with enough capacity for all their users to log on at the same time? Do they have a back-up line if the first line goes down? There’s no point having a cloud-based learning environment if your systems can’t handle it because if the internet’s not available, then teaching and learning stops.”

Chris says that while it’s understandable for schools to be adverse to new investments in the current climate, technology often requires a short term investment for a long-term gain – and if schools can get their infrastructure right today, they’ll reap the benefits for years to come.

3 more ways to minimise risks in your school today

1.     If you don’t already, make sure you have an up-to-date and accurate asset register. It may seem unlikely, but if your school gets broken into and you don’t have the serial numbers for each of your devices, your insurance claim could take twice as long to complete.

2.     Check when your server’s warranty expires, and set up alerts so you know when the expiry date is approaching. If it’s out of warranty and your server crashes, the cost of having to replace it with an upgraded model could be significant. Longer-term, consider removing the need for servers by moving your school’s systems to the cloud.

3.     Sit down with your Network Managers and make sure they have clear and complete documentation on all your systems. If they left or were absent, would your school have all the documentation you need for someone to keep your network running without them?

For more information and advice, visit www.rm.com/outsource

By Kevin Robinson with Silvana Tann and Chris Taylor of RM Education

 

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There can be little doubt that we’re moving towards a cloud-based society; from our banking to our holiday photos, hosting, storing or sharing every aspect of our lives in the cloud is now commonplace. 

From an education perspective, the growing diversity of new technologies is creating a new generation of engaged and inspired pupils who are learning in ways they’re comfortable with. This trend is driven by the increasing affordability and durability of devices, as well as powerful cloud computing tools like G Suite for Education and Office 365.

Schools have a wealth of opportunities for learning to be extended beyond the school gates, as pupils can now take devices home and continue their learning, working online in collaborative environments

Schools have a wealth of opportunities for learning to be extended beyond the school gates, as pupils can now take devices home and continue their learning, working online in collaborative environments. But every new technology inevitably brings risks around safeguarding and security, and schools must stay ahead of the curve to ensure their pupils – and their data – is safe and secure.

The data schools hold on their operations and their pupils is an important aspect that OFSTED look at, and is critical to demonstrating the standards of teaching and learning taking place. Part of managing that data is about clearly documenting where that data sits, how it can be accessed and who accesses it – ultimately minimising or mitigating any risk of that data being exposed or compromised.

The types of risks we see schools face can vary dramatically; we’ve come across cases of financial fraud, where a school’s email accounts were manipulated to direct them to pay invoices into the wrong account; ransomware, where schools have lost access to data on their servers following a malware attack; and general hacking, involving deliberate or automated attacks from the internet as a result of poor network configuration.

We’ve also seen instances where pupils have been able to access sensitive data as a result of incorrect school server permissions, or staff themselves have lost sensitive data as a result of poor staff practices, like losing printed contact lists, using memory sticks and accidentally leaving them on public transport, or not encrypting their laptops.

So, when we visit schools to explore the strength of their systems, we look at three key factors; how do we protect devices, how do we protect identities, and how do we protect data? These questions form the basis for a comprehensive IT security policy, which should clearly outline protocols to block, detect, contain and mitigate any associated risks.

From a legal perspective, there are a number of obligations schools face in terms of data security and online safety. They need to consider where and how they’re accessing data and who can access it, whether it’s on the web or on their servers. 

Permissions and levels of data access, as well as the password security around it, are also critical; we recommend using a strong combination of multiple alpha numeric characters, including capital letters, and changing passwords frequently. We’d also advise schools to consider MFA multi-factor authentication on school systems; MFA reduces the risk of a cyber-attack by adding an extra step to the log-in process when accessing school systems.

Schools should also have a protocol in place for sharing any confidential data that relates to pupils; generally this is done via Common Transfer Files (CTF) and the school-to-school website, but occasionally we see schools sending confidential pupil data via email, which could put schools in a vulnerable position. Their data protection policy should cover this, and should link into all their other policy documentation.

Escalation routes for managing a suspected data breach, or a loss of data should be identified and shared, and policies should be in place to cover things like what happens when a member of staff leaves, and how their access permissions are effectively removed.

Internet service providers and IT support partners will also need to make the security of their systems much more rigorous; we advise all schools to check their suppliers are fully compliant with current security regulations and aware of all the latest threats.

And, whilst the cloud brings tremendous benefits in terms of enabling staff to share information and resources more easily, the security of data when staff are working at home should also be considered. To mitigate this risk, schools should set up ‘acceptable use’ policies for staff in terms of what’s appropriate to access from home and what isn’t.

The safety of pupils is a crucial element of managing technological risks

The safety of pupils is a crucial element of managing technological risks; schools have an obligation to block access to content that could be considered extremist or pornographic, as well as making sure they have an effective, school-wide online safety policy that’s regularly updated to cover new technologies.

The government’s Prevent Duty outlines the importance of tracking what websites pupils are on and how they’re accessing different types of content, so filtering and monitoring tools are also crucial to ensuring pupil safety – as well as enabling schools to identify individual pupils who may be breaching their data protection and security policies.

For schools who are currently exploring the safety and security of their systems, there are various resources and guidelines online that can provide a great starting point, but ultimately we’d recommend that schools conduct a full audit of all their technologies and work in partnership with a trusted IT partner to ensure the safety and security of their systems.

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Welcome to the June/July issue of Education Technology magazine.

A few weeks ago, I went along to RM Education’s annual conference, ‘Rethinking Education and Learning’ technology summit. The event aims to bring together education professionals from across the country to share experiences and discuss the future of education, and this year it revealed some interesting new themes and trends in education technology. See page 38 for the seven latest trends in edtech

Also at the event, I had the pleasure of listening to Alex Holmes, Head of Anti-Bullying at The Princess Diana Trust. He illustrated how a growing number of schools are using video to deliver online safety policies and workshops. He also stressed that cyberbullying in schools should be treated like any other style of bullying. Whether the victim is sat in front of their computer, or they're stood in the school playground, the affects of being bullied are just as harmful. 

READ THE LATEST ISSUE OF ET HERE, FOR FREE!

This really struck a chord with me. It highlighted the fact that there could be a cyber bully on every social media site, on every child’s smart phone or tablet. It's a scary thought. In this issue of ET, our roundtable discuss and examine the impact cyberbullying can have on children in primary and secondary schools (p.29). Our expert contributors also provide plenty of tips and advice on how to spot a victim of cyberbullying, and also what you can do to help.

For our HE readers, we’ve focused on BYOD. You’re probably very familiar with the bring your own device concept, but as it’s now a world-wide teaching tool, are you, and your students getting the most out of it? Read our feature on page 49, to find out.

Enjoy the rest of the summer, and I’ll be back with more edtech news in August. Until then, make sure you have a good look through our latest issue, and as always, we'll bring you the latest news, views and event info at edtechnology.co.uk

Got a story for ET? Email the editor at rebecca.paddick@wildfirecomms.co.uk  

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RM Education’s annual ‘Rethinking Education and Learning’ technology summit brings together education professionals from across the country to share experiences and discuss the future of education; this year’s event, which took place at London’s Mermaid Theatre, revealed some interesting new themes and trends in technology – we explore some of the most popular topics.

#1: Creating bespoke text books online 

Abdul Chohan, Director of Essa Academy in Bolton, shared his experience of using iTunes U to curate content collaboratively and turn that content into text books for students to reference online, rather than buying in the physical books. The initiative is part of the academy’s drive to reduce costs by saving money on text books and gradually removing their reliance on printers and copiers to encourage students to deepen their learning beyond the classroom. Essa’s students use iPads and iTunesU as their core platform for learning, and Abdul’s innovative approach to curating bespoke content has encouraged students to create, develop and share resources in a collaborative way. 

#2: Taking students on virtual field trips 

Whilst field trips are an important part of any student’s education, running regular physical trips can be costly for schools and parents. Emma Fish, Partnerships Manager at Google for Education, explored how schools can expand their students’ minds with Google Expeditions. The app lets teachers take their classes on immersive journeys around the world as a guided experience, not only enabling them to explore places like the Great Barrier Reef on a geography lesson but allowing them to see what a classroom looks like in countries that aren’t familiar to them. 

#3: Using video to deliver online safety

Alex Holmes, Head of Anti-Bullying at The Princess Diana Trust, illustrated how a growing number of schools are using video to deliver online safety policies and workshops. Alex explained that students like to film themselves on apps like Snapchat, and making their own film automatically gets the attention of other students. Videos are infinitely more accessible to them than reams of A4, so students have been filming each other training their peers through 30-second presentations on bullying and e-safety policies, as well as practical tips like workshops on staying safe online, which are shown during school assemblies.

#4: Thinking big to get the right tech

Dave Beesley, Assistant Headteacher at St Julian’s School in Wales, explained how using ‘Moonshot Thinking’ had led to a breakthrough in the way his school used technology. The premise of this model is that rather than seeking a 10% gain, a moonshot aims for a 10x improvement over what currently exists. The school’s original goal had been to get devices into the hands of their students, which would mean a costly financial outlay. But when they applied their new model of thinking, the school realised it was the wrong discussion to have; instead, they focussed on which technology would help them meet their goals of building life skills like collaboration and resilience within their students. For St Julian’s, that technology was Google, and it has led to a remarkable change within the school; students use Google Sites to build their own websites, improving their written skills and increasing confidence, whilst collaboration is encouraged through twinning with foreign schools online using apps like Google Hangouts.                               

#5: Using data to make better decisions

Mike Dwan, Founding Sponsor of Bright Tribe and Adventure Learning Academy Trusts shared his successful experiences of using Microsoft productivity and data analytics tools to empower his team. This allows them to make data-driven decisions that are significantly improving not only the standards of education across the Trusts, but also the financial performance of every academy. 11 of the Trust’s 12 academies were running at a deficit, but using these tools, all operating deficits were eradicated. Mike believes that making use of the data created by a school and its students – and making that data accessible and interpretable to those involved with the academic planning and delivery of a school - will help them adopt a ‘commercial entrepreneur model’ which will allow schools of all sizes to remain economically viable and function at a sustainable level into the future. 

#6: Making students Online Anti-Bullying Ambassadors 

Whilst instances of cyberbullying are comparatively small compared to virtual bullying, playground drama can quickly escalate into digital drama. To help combat these issues, schools are increasingly involving students by making them Anti-Bullying Ambassadors, whose job it is to keep themselves and others save online, as well as in practical terms. Ambassadors map out hotspots in schools and take action on behalf of any students experiencing bullying. Online, digital ambassadors patrol different platforms – from Facebook and Twitter to Snapchat and Instagram – whilst in school, virtual compliment walls shown on big screens are helping to foster a school environment of positivity and happiness. 

#7: Becoming a server-less school 

Many schools attending REAL this year have already begun their journey towards becoming a server-less school. As financial pressures on schools increase, moving over to the cloud is becoming one of the fastest and most effective ways to reduce capital outlays by spreading costs through a friendlier revenue-model. Martin Pipe, Head of service Scope and Design at RM Education, illustrated how this approach means schools can choose more cost-effective and internet-optimised devices for teachers and students, improving accessibility, mitigating lost teaching time and extending learning beyond the classroom, and RM predict this will become a necessity over the coming years.

For more information about REAL, visit www.rm.com/real

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What do Dr Sakena Yacoobi, founder of the Afghan Institute of Learning, Abdul Chohan, Director of Essa Academy, and Bear Grylls, the face of outdoor adventure, have in common? They all believe in success against the odds. 

Speaking at RM Education’s REAL event, Dr Sakena Yacoobi spoke of her journey setting up the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), the first organisation to bring human rights and leadership training to women in the region. After the Taliban closed girls’ schools in the 1990s, AIL went underground and educated 3,000 young women by smuggling education supplies into the country. Before the Taliban era, women could not even leave the house, Dr Yacoobi says. Now, they are working and even in politics. She now wants women to be able to access university – at the moment, higher education is male-dominated and intimidating for Afghan women, and an all-female, English-medium institution will help them to progress. Dr Yacoobi is also pursuing partnerships with UK schools via the British Council. A delegate from the National Governor’s Association (NGA) asks how AIL can keep their ethos strong as the organisation grows. Dr Yacoobi says recognition for your team is key, listening to their ideas and showing compassion – something that is sometimes lacking in society.

Abdul Chohan, Director of Essa Academy in Bolton. A Chemistry teacher for 13 years with a passion for using technology in learning, Abdul spoke about the impact of a 1:1 handheld device programme at the academy.

Abdul says there is a difference between belief and interest.  You need two things to change belief, he says simplicity and reliability. Otherwise people won’t use the new system and, in his school’s case, carry on printing reams of paper when technology is deemed to have failed.

Essa Academy was the first school in the UK to give out iPod Touch devices to all students, before the iPad was available. Now, students use iPads and iTunesU as a basis for all learning, and even create their own content and textbooks to share with others. The technology, Abdul says, creates seamless communication between staff and students, who take their devices home.

The six most expensive words in education, Adbul says, is ‘We’ve always done it that way’. By using handheld devices, printing and photocopying costs have dropped by almost two thirds - but it’s not about being ‘paperless’, Abdul insists, as students still need to develop writing skills. 

Abdul is passionate about how education promotes social mobility. Students at Essa Academy speak 46 different languages and 80% of the cohort come from areas of deprivation. The formerly ‘failing’ school has changed dramatically through a new building, converting to academy status and introducing the 1:1 programme. The programme benefits parents, too – they can come and visit, use the various apps and learn about how learning works at Essa. The programme also promotes accountability for teachers, as Abdul says: “You can’t plan a rubbish lesson at Essa Academy, because everyone can see it!” 

L-R: Dr Sakena Yacoobi takes questions; Bear Grylls delivers the keynote speech

Highlighting a pressing issue in today’s schools was Alex Holmes, head of anti-bullying at The Diana Award. Alex received a Diana Award in 2004 for his efforts in tackling bullying at his school, and is now responsible for leading the anti-bullying campaign, which works with tens of thousands of people across the UK. 

We spend 11,000 hours of our lives at school, Alex says, and bullying has an effect on mental health as well as future employability. Sixty per cent of Diana Award participants have experienced verbal bullying, and 23% have experienced cyber bullying, which is an important part of their campaign. 

The Diana Award involves young people in the design of their programmes, as it’s important for students to be ambassadors for their school. Alex believes students are more likely to listen to their peers than a ‘lecturing teacher’ and recommends several activities for schools:

  • Making a 30-60 second video interpretation of the school’s anti-bullying policy, starring pupils
  • Asking pupils to count on five fingers who they can go to if they are experiencing bullying 

After an impressive lunch overlooking the Thames, author, broadcaster and youngest-ever Chief Scout, Bear Grylls, gave the day’s keynote speech. Bear shared his story of the epic journey to the top of Mount Everest, in what emerged as a powerful metaphor for determination, strength and grit. A warm, witty and engaging speaker, Bear left us suitably inspired for the afternoon sessions. 

Given the rapid developments in education policy so far this year, a panel debate offered participants and audience to discuss the important issues of the day. Hosted by Jeremy Vine, the panellists were: Dominic Norrish, Group Director of ICT at United Learning Trust, Jonathan Simons, Head of Education at Policy Exchange, Graham HC Donaldson. Author of Teaching Scotland’s Future, Sir John Townsley, Executive Principal at GORSE Academies Trust, Jenny Smith, head of Frederick Bremer School (subject of TV documentary Educating the East End), and Emma Knights, Chief Executive of the NGA.

Understandably, the hottest topic was the DfE’s plans to make every school an academy (now cancelled following widespread criticism). Panelists said the movement to academisation was too rapid and there were more important issues in schools, such as teacher recruitment and testing. Sir John Townsley said that while there’s a lot of lesson learning taking place in the academy system, there are great examples of academy success – but it’s not as black and white as people think. Emma believes schools should be able to convert if they want, but shouldn’t be told to, and that capacity and funding were more pressing issues. 

On recruitment, the panel suggested that teaching is no longer seen as a lifelong profession, and that many drop out during their career progression because they don’t want the stress of becoming a headteacher. How to fix the pipeline? Stop changing everything, they said, and give teachers more respect.

An inspiring day of CPD, RM Real was full of bright ideas on tech, teaching and finding joy in an ever-changing profession. 

www.rm.com/events#rmRealEvent

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We frequently encounter schools whose ICT investment plans are driven by the latest technology trends, where ICT investment hasn’t been steered as to how the technology could and would support their pedagogy. Conversely, some schools have always had an ICT suite of 30 computers and as they get older they begin to slow down, the school simply goes out and buys the same again because that’s what they’ve always done. 

But what if you don’t even need these computers?

What if your pupils are only really using them to write a few documents or do some brief research on the internet? In that case, you would probably be better with something like a Chromebook, which is half the cost of a PC so you’re immediately reducing your spend, as well as using a more collaborative tool which will help give your students future career skills.

If you move towards internet-based devices, then rather than having a large capital outlay on desktop or mobile computers and associated maintenance and support costs, you could become a ‘serverless school’ where services and systems are delivered to staff and students through the internet.  This can be a really effective way to reduce your ICT spend as it allows the costs to be spread through a friendlier revenue model.

Adopting this model also reduces the need for a large on-site technical team; our research has indicated that having remote support in place can be infinitely more cost-effective for schools, with on average 60% of issues resolved remotely, reducing the need for a large on-site technical team and allowing schools to concentrate on physical tasks. 

These cost-effective technological trends place ICT back under the control of your senior leadership team, meaning budgets can be spent in a manner that provides the maximum return for your school.

Find out more about how this could work for you at www.rm.com/EdTechICT

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As technology continues to play a more significant role in our everyday lives, both teachers and pupils increasingly expect to teach and learn in the same way they live. Schools are coming under greater pressure to incorporate the technology their pupils are most familiar with, and when this is embedded seamlessly into a clear pedagogy, technology can undoubtedly have a considerable impact.

But amidst that pressure, schools are in danger of investing too quickly in familiar technology without having a coherent plan for how it will support teaching and learning within their unique learning environment, leading to significant time and cost implications.

“Unfortunately, we come across this a lot,” says Steve Forbes, Head of Network Solutions at RM Education. “When you have a great experience at home using a tablet device, it’s easy to think of ways it could be used in the classroom. But a classroom is a very different environment and careful thought should be given to how they’ll be used and integrated into the school’s current technology. 

“We also see parents, pupils and teachers demanding certain technology because other schools in the area have it, and that can lead to very hasty decisions being made. But without a proper strategy, these devices end up not being used or worse – being disruptive in lessons.” 

Issues such as these often occur when schools do not have the infrastructure to support the devices they have purchased, or when money isn’t invested in training teachers on how to effectively use this equipment within the classroom. And whilst many schools are realising their pedagogy should be at the heart of the technology they use, for some it still leaves thousands of pounds of investment sitting in store cupboards gathering dust. 

“Everything should lead back to what the school are trying to achieve,” explains Steve. “Every school is different and will have different strengths and areas that they want to develop; so by understanding the vision and goals of the school, a strategy can be created to ensure that technology helps to achieve these goals in an integrated way, as opposed to being an afterthought or something that is implemented separately.

“When technology is truly embedded, it helps to expand teaching and learning from being something that just happens within four walls to something that can be done anywhere – on the bus, at home, in the library – pupils can log onto a platform to share their work with other pupils and teachers and get feedback in real time, while teachers can really bring lessons to life.”

For schools who do have a clear pedagogy in place, the improvement in teaching and learning isn’t the only benefit; the time and cost savings are tangible too. Moving to ‘the cloud’, for instance, mitigates the cost of maintaining expensive servers on site that sit idle for more than a third of the year.

Schools can instead host a server in the Microsoft Azure cloud where they only pay for the time they are using it or utilise the some of the free applications that negate the need for traditional servers altogether.  In many scenarios it may not be possible to entirely move to the cloud, but a few small steps can help schools save a large amount of money whilst also transforming the way that they use technology.

When technology is truly embedded, it helps to expand teaching and learning from being something that just happens within four walls to something that can be done anywhere – on the bus, at home, in the library – pupils can log onto a platform to share their work with other pupils and teachers and get feedback in real time, while teachers can really bring lessons to life

When this is combined with productivity apps such as those in Office 365 and a management tool such as Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility Suite, schools can benefit from a powerful cloud-based platform that costs just a fraction of what a school would normally pay for their IT over a five-year period.

To select the right technology, schools should seek expert advice to help them understand the potential of what can be done with different apps and devices, as well as the potential downfalls. Once they have identified the technology best suited to their learning environment, schools must then invest the time and training into embedding that technology and ensuring it works for the whole school. 

Free apps like Office 365 and Google Apps for Education, for example, can have a transformative effect on the way a teacher works - enabling them to set and collect homework projects, mark and provide feedback in realtime and capture evidence. When implemented correctly, many of these tools can be used to replace expensive software such as VLEs or additional servers that are doing the same job.

“When we show teachers how easy it is to use these tools and the amount of time it can save them, we get a remarkable reaction,” says Steve. “Google Apps for Education allows pupils to learn in a way that’s similar to the way they live and that’s something that we haven’t really seen in the industry for a long time.” 

Conversely, Apple devices and software can enable pupils to produce e-books in minutes using iBook Creator, and Apple have just announced a number of new features that promise to significantly improve shared iPad / iOS device usage and management as well as providing some powerful classroom teacher tools. 

“What is definitely quantifiable is the impact technology has on teaching and learning when it doesn’t work. When it gets in the way of a lesson being delivered, you lose vital teaching time with pupils that cannot be recovered,” says Steve. 

'There is definitely more work to be done to quantify the impact of tech on attainment but when you see technology truly embedded in a school, you can see a positive impact on everything in the school community – we’ve seen schools go from Special Measures to Outstanding, and those schools have attributed a large part of the credit to the way they changed their use of technology to help them get there.” 

One school that understands this learning curve better than most is Fakenham Academy in Norfolk. In 2013, the school was placed in Special Measures and decided to address the conundrum by beginning a move to the cloud and slashing costs of hardware like printers from £50,000 to £10,000 in two years.   

The academy is now rated Good, with outcomes improving fast in all areas. But Mark House, an Education Consultant at RM Education who led the change management process at Fakenham during his time there as an educator, attributes their success not only to making tangible cost reductions but to a change in attitudes about the role of technology in education.  

“State schools have been facing a 10% budget cut at the same time as they’re seeing kids arrive at school using technology in a way which is increasingly different to the IT the school provides,” says Mark.  

“The problem is that technology is no longer moving at an incremental speed – it’s incredibly fast, and the only way we can keep up is to think 10 times quicker than the current pace of change. To achieve that, many schools with, say, 100 printers, might think they need 110 to keep up, but the answer is actually that they don’t need any at all.” 

In his current role, Mark delivers thought leadership on change management to schools throughout the country and helps them understand how they can apply the ‘10X’ mindset to not only ensure technology is working for them, but to future-proof their choices.  

“Every school in the UK will ultimately have to move to the cloud, but only around 3% have done so far,” explains Mark. “What we need to instil is a cultural change within schools that moves away from throwing money at devices which aren’t going to support positive change because there isn’t a plan in place to manage that change. To develop a successful technology model, schools need three things; skillset, toolset and mindset. At Fakenham, we started our change management process by doing nine months of preparation, looking at how we could streamline our hardware whilst implementing technology that was going to drive real change. If schools can get their change management right, they’ll increase productivity, raise standards and save huge amounts of money.”  

The problem is that technology is no longer moving at an incremental speed – it’s incredibly fast, and the only way we can keep up is to think 10 times quicker than the current pace of change 

Fakenham’s process of change management began with closely examining the teaching and learning issues unique to their school, enabling them to align the right technology with these issues to help address them. A particular challenge teachers faced was engaging white working class boys, who tended to be disengaged outside of normal school hours.  

Mark looked at technology from all three main providers and selected a Google suite of technology because the platform would help Fakenham to create an open, trusting and collaborative environment that supported their pedagogy. Since Google apps are also device-neutral, pupils could easily work on projects outside of school time using their own devices at home. 

The result was that pupils’ engagement grew exponentially because they were using technology they loved, and because of the ease of sharing content, staff emails went down, costs were reduced and there was less need for frequent meetings; making both staff and pupils happier. 

“I do find it quite bizarre now when I go into schools and the children say: ‘It’s 11 O’clock so we’re going into IT now’,” says Mark. “No one should go into IT, as if it’s an entirely separate entity from the rest of their education. It’s so far away from a child’s experience with technology in their everyday lives. When it’s applied correctly for a school in the right way, technology should be almost invisible and enable staff and pupils to reach their full potential in a safe and collaborative way; that’s the future of teaching and learning.” 

W: www.rm.com

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With the workload for staff in school’s increasing and budgets constantly decreasing, schools want to find cost effective technology that just works. Google has a solution that was built for education that will reduce costs in not only money spent but also in time.

As a Google for Education Partner, RM have the knowledge, skills and understanding to make your ambitions a reality.We do this by making the complex simple, and the ambiguous clear. We understand and address the three pillars of transformational change, namely mindset, skillset and toolset.  For each one we are able to offer carefully crafted, bespoke solutions of the highest quality. In doing so the impossible becomes possible, and the future can look amazing.

If you are looking for help to change the mindset of staff and students so that they feel empowered by new digital tools, we can work in partnership with you to provide bespoke CPD. If you want to provide your staff and students with the skillset to do exciting things with amazing tools, we offer a range of training courses that can help with this. And if you want to change your digital toolset so that staff and students can work the way they live, we offer an end to end solution from Google for Education and set up services and migration through to cloud wireless to support your new technology.  

“RM have been incredibly supportive in the training and implementation of the Google Chromebooks and extended Google for Education software suite in our school. They have provided personal and group staff training in a clear step by step manner that people of all ages and IT experience could follow and then also provided in class support so we could implement what we have learned in a way to maximise student learning and minimise teacher workload. I recommend RM`s services most highly.' Mark Duffy - Our Lady's Convent High School 

Now, How might we transform YOUR digital world for staff and students so that the future looks amazing?

www.rm.com/google

Call us on 0800 046 9798

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Internet safety has been a key part of many schools’ agendas for almost a decade, but with the introduction of OFSTED’s latest safeguarding measures and the recent launch of the DfE’s Prevent Duty on schools as part of the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015, it’s now vital that every school has the knowledge, systems and protocols in place to safeguard their students.

Recent social, cultural and behavioural shifts, coupled with the explosion of content, the widespread availability of inappropriate material, growing concerns over online radicalisation and the rise in popularity of apps like Instagram, Snapchat and even Tinder have meant that schools need to stay ahead of the curve and ensure their staff have the proper training to keep students safe.

In recent years, RM Education’s annual survey has indicated that some schools were still viewing e-safety measures as a cost or an item to be ticked off a list, rather than a pedagogical responsibility. However, education specialists and internet safety advisors have identified a growing urgency amongst primary and secondary schools to invest in training, update their policies and embed internet safety into every aspect of their curriculum. 

“Something has happened in the last 18 months which has meant online safety has moved much higher up the agenda for schools,” says Kat Howard, Senior Educational Consultant and Online Safety Lead at RM Education.

“In that time we’ve seen a growing number of schools suddenly becoming concerned that their policies are out of date, and realising they may need to invest in specialised training so they can take a far more proactive approach within their school. I think this reflects a more positive trend towards schools empowering themselves, and their students, to understand and minimise the risks.”

Teachers must be appropriately trained to know how particular sites and apps work

Taking a whole-school approach

However, not all schools are taking such a thorough approach. Research conducted earlier this year by David Brown HMI* as part of OFSTED’s Child Internet Safety Summit discovered that five per cent of UK schools still didn’t have an online safety policy, and in the schools that do, figures showed that both students and – to a lesser extent – governors, were not always aware of this policy. In fact, over 25% of secondary students reported that they couldn’t remember having been taught about online safety over the previous 12 months. 

Kate Brady, e-safety Product Manager at RM Education, says that issues such as this can be a result of schools having a fragmented approach to safeguarding responsibility: “There’s a tremendous amount of pressure on teachers but internet safety is everybody’s responsibility, including parents, governors and students themselves.

“Involving the whole school community and taking a collaborative approach is fundamental; students across all ages have a key role to play in sharing information on the sites and apps their age group are using, teachers must be appropriately trained to know how particular sites and apps work and the school’s safeguarding governor should ensure teachers, parents and students are kept up to date about their school’s e-safety policy and protocols. 

“Teachers and senior leaders need to embed it throughout their whole curriculum so that in an English lesson, for example, when students are going online to research a topic, that’s an opportunity for their teacher to talk about how to search safely.”

Clear escalation routes

The increase in freely-available, inappropriate images, as well as inappropriate behaviour amongst students in certain age ranges, has given rise to more serious breaches of online safety; this highlights the necessity for schools to have a clear escalation route outlined within their policy.

“Every school I’ve been into in the last 18 months has had an issue with either social networks or sexting - these are by far the most common issues we face,” says Kat Howard. “We see sexting and the distribution of sexual images becoming an issue in some schools where they’re running BYOD schemes and their students are mobile, and for schools that don’t have a robust safety policy in place, there can be fairly serious implications for staff too. 

If inappropriate images are discovered on a student’s device, it is the school’s responsibility to confiscate the device, place it in a secure area and escalate the issue as laid out in their Internet Safety policy to either the school’s safeguarding lead, or the Head.

David Wright, Director at the UK Safer Internet Centre, advises schools in this situation to consider whether it’s an isolated incident between two pupils, what the nature of the image is, whether there’s a broad age difference between the individuals, whether it appears there was coercion from a third party, whether they’ve done anything similar before, whether the child is vulnerable, whether the image has been widely broadcast and, finally, whether there is any concern for the individuals involved. Considering each of these points carefully will help Heads and safeguarding leads determine the relevant course of action.

Online grooming and ‘stranger danger’ 

In secondary schools, a number of social networking sites and apps are becoming increasingly problematic. Beyond the more obvious sites like Facebook, there have been numerous instances of students being targeted or approached on apps like Instagram and Snapchat because students haven’t updated their privacy settings, as well as video chat app ooVoo and - most alarmingly - the adult dating app, Tinder, which is being used by students as young as 11.

“Stranger danger exists in the virtual world and can continue into the home, so in addition to making students and parents aware of the threats, they should be encouraged to report these issues straight away,” says Kat. “It’s about having open communication within schools and a clear protocol in place, so students know exactly who to go to and that they won’t get into trouble.”

Students will always find a way to see content, so rather than prohibiting these sites, we need to educate them on what’s appropriate and what’s not

Filtering and keyword monitoring 

Internet safety policies can create different content rules depending on year groups. Parents, too, must understand the importance of age-appropriate content.

“I visit a lot of primary schools and speak to parents who tell me they’ve actually set up their nine-year-old child’s Facebook account,” says Kat. “But Facebook doesn’t permit users under the age of 13 to have an account, so if a parent has lied about their child’s date of birth, the targeted media and advertising used in Facebook may not be at all appropriate for that child’s age.”

There are various filtering and monitoring tools available that can be added to a schools’ network to filter age-appropriate content, and to track and monitor keywords or topics - particularly those which may highlight a major cause for concern, such as students looking for information on suicide, self-harming or content which could be considered radical or extreme. Under the new Prevent Duty, every school must have an extremism policy for both staff and students, and keyword tracking can be integral to identifying and quickly escalating these issues.

Empowering, not prohibiting

With the sheer volume of sites and apps to monitor within the school environment, some institutions feel their students will be better protected if they remove all access to any site or app that isn’t related to learning. But, as Kate Brady points out, this is a mistake.

“Students will always find a way to see content, so rather than prohibiting these sites, we need to educate them on what’s appropriate and what’s not, so that they’re empowered to make informed decisions for themselves. They also need to be aware that if they do get into a situation, there’s someone within the school they can approach for help.” 

However, despite the seemingly endless list of negative issues schools must navigate as a result of social media and the wider internet, there can be tremendous opportunities too.

“We know the internet can be an amazingly positive place and can create opportunities which can change our whole life,” says Kat. “But there are associated risks, and there has to be a balance. It’s not about scaring people away from using the internet; it’s about empowering them to understand those risks and be able to reduce them.”

www.rm.com

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In today’s school the internet is being used more than ever for teaching and learning. It has unlocked countless possibilities, allowing learning to be more interactive, and the whole school community to be more connected. It has had a profound impact on education and its relevance in the classroom is only going to increase.   

For your school community to really benefit from this digital environment, you need a connectivity service you can rely on – a connection that is able to support the heavier use of applications, cloud services, as well as online video and audio that today’s classroom expects.

Is your internet provision able to meet your needs? What effect would a more reliable service have on your pupil’s and their results? Are your teachers able to use the technology in the classroom that they’d like?

With the Internet now playing such a vital role in every child’s education it is essential that your Internet Service Provider is able to keep up with your demands.

Don’t just put up with a poor service, there is another way. RM Broadband is the UK’s leading educational ISP, we’ve been working with schools for over 20 years.  With this experience we know and understand what matters most when it comes to schools and their internet service.

Better broadband brings bigger opportunities. Call RM Education and speak to an Internet and e-safety specialist today on 08000 469 802 or visit www.rm.com/broadband

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Your School Development Plan (SDP) lies at the heart of what you do, making a strong statement around the priorities for your school and how you are going to deliver them. But how do you determine where to focus your time and budget? Are you able to support your decisions with proof? And how can you demonstrate the impact that those interventions have made? 

This is where your MIS could play a key role. The right MIS solution can provide valuable insight into the main challenges for your school by bringing together all of the contextual information around a child’s performance (including assessment, attendance and behaviour), and enabling you to easily analyse that data to identify underperforming groups and any trends highlighting barriers to achievement. From these you can prioritise which areas will benefit from short term interventions versus longer term improvement strategies which will form the foundations of your SDP. 

Plus with real time, intelligent metrics at your fingertips your school can become more agile, responding to the changing needs of your pupils quicker and provide you with the ability to demonstrate evidence of your success and share best practise across the school and beyond.  

So is it time that you reviewed how you use your data? To help you, we have produced a FREE guide “9 Questions Every School should ask of their MIS” that will make you rethink the way that you can use your data to deliver real benefits across the whole school.

Download it now at www.rm.com/rmintegris or call our MIS experts free on 0808 172 9531 for more advice.

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DDoS attacks are an increasingly publicised and pervasive online threat, particularly for schools. Hackers use these attacks to restrict access to online or computer resources to the point where they can no longer be accessed. But how do they render a website, server or a network completely inaccessible? Well, imagine going into a bank. On a normal visit, you’d walk in, go to the counter, deposit a cheque or withdraw some money, and leave. But imagine instead that just as you set foot in the door, a thousand other people all rush in at once and tried to mob the counter, each of them shouting and demanding attention from the overwhelmed bank staff. Then imagine that only a fraction of those thousand people are legitimate customers that have a genuine need to be there – everyone else is just a nuisance, a distraction.

Regardless, the bank is overcome and no one is able to access any services. And this, essentially, is what a DDoS attack does; it denies access to services by flooding a target with requests until it is no longer able to serve anyone. 

Mark Conrad, Broadband & Internet Services Product Manager at RM Education, explores the three things all schools need to know about the threat and consequences of a DDoS attack, and the steps they can take to be prepared.

1. Could it affect my school? 

The simple answer is: yes. Arguments such as ‘we’re too small to be targeted’ (which certainly isn’t going to stop an attack) or ‘we have some pretty impressive firewalls on site!’ aren’t good enough. DDoS attacks can target any organisation of any size, whether large or small; and increasingly, the attacks are beginning to pose a serious concern to schools.

One of the biggest examples of DDoS to make recent headlines was the takedown of Microsoft’s Xbox Live and Sony’s PlayStation Network last Christmas; millions of users woke up on Christmas day to find that their shiny new consoles would not connect to the PlayStation Network or Xbox Live.

Each of the sites had been flooded with traffic, which in turn prevented anyone from accessing the complementary online platforms provided by the gaming giants - this meant users could not register their consoles, access the full set of game features (many games now need an Internet connection) and were essentially left with a very expensive plastic box for a week until the attack subsided. 

The negative publicity around this event was hugely damaging to both companies. And whilst DDoS attacks aren’t always on this scale, large events aren’t actually that rare; in fact, they are more common than you might think and unfortunately they are on the increase. 

In 2012, 35% of companies reported disruptive DDoS attacks. In 2013 this figure rose to 60 per cent and is still increasing. These attacks aren’t one-off occurrences either; over 45% of those interviewed reported being attacked on multiple occasions and 17% said they had simply lost count! (Neustar, 2014)

2. What impact could this have on my school? 

Schools are feeling the effects of DDoS in multiple ways, primarily in terms of the content they can access. The websites you need your Year 6 class to log on to can easily be put out of service if the provider or host isn’t protected and is under attack. Or, if your Internet service provider doesn’t have robust systems in place, you can experience inconvenience ranging from slow bandwidth to a complete loss of service – and an attack can mean losing access to key services for hours, if not days. 

Whilst schools are more commonly inconvenienced by DDoS attacks because of something happening to their providers, they can be a target in their own right as well. School pupils are often the most tech-savvy amongst us and launching a DDoS attack is potentially well within the realms of their capability. The bragging rights associated with an attack that brought down their school’s virtual learning environment or parent services is something we hear about more and more.

A simple Google search can provide enough information to enable one of your pupils to launch such an attack. However, with DDoS attacks being ‘sold off’ at $5 for a one-hour attack or $40 (Juniper Networks, 2014) for a 24-hour onslaught, they may just outsource the inconvenience of initiating it themselves! 

As the vast majority of schools are not-for-profit institutions, they are often lulled into a false sense of security by thinking that they are unlikely to suffer such attacks. DDoS targets are mainly aimed at the massive profit churning organisations, right? Wrong. That may have been true back in 2000 when Amazon and eBay were amongst the first targets of DDoS attacks, but this simply isn’t the case anymore.

3. What should I be doing about it?  

Firewalls and other industry-standard security systems are a critical part of any network defence, but DDoS attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated and your IT partner’s traditional forms of defence may not be up to scratch. 

For example, an attack can be launched as a smoke screen to distract network staff and systems, so that whilst they are dealing with the DDoS threat, hackers can exploit other avenues within the network to remove data or other sensitive materials. By the time the user is aware of this, it is usually too late. 

So where does this leave schools? Should you be going out and buying a dedicated DDoS mitigation platform? We don’t think so; they are expensive and complex to set up. Instead, schools should be carefully assessing their choice of cloud services and Internet providers to ensure their partners have them covered in this respect.

As trends in education increasingly reflect a gradual move to the cloud, the increased reliance on the Internet – as well as software and applications which are not installed on devices – mean that a DDoS attack or the theft of data could place you in a very difficult position or even blight your school’s reputation. 

It could leave you unable to carry out the most basic tasks, from browsing the Internet or registering pupils, to more critical functions such as processing new admissions. Unfortunately, DDoS isn’t going away and its indiscriminate nature means the education sector and its providers need to keep the threat in mind as they embrace the new and exciting resources available on and offline. 

So what can schools do right now to be prepared? Well, first of all – don’t panic and don’t waste money on extra kit that won’t add value to your school’s Internet security. Challenge your cloud services and Internet providers to make sure they’re keeping up with Internet security and preventing DDoS attacks. And finally, educate your pupils and encourage responsible use of the Internet and IT. Remember, DDoS attacks and other forms of hacking are actually illegal.

For more advice and information, visit www.rm.com/broadband

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Read 8 steps to really successful ICT to help you plan your ideal strategy.

If you'd like advice and guidance from the leading supplier of ICT support services to education, contact us for your free ICT review. An experienced Services Architect can help you understand your current position and help you plan a realistic journey towards your vision for outstanding ICT.

Find out more and book your free ICT review at www.rm.com/outstandingict

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Technology has transformed teaching in recent years, with interactive screens replacing blackboards and tablets replacing books, enhancing tuition and learning for teachers and pupils alike. Behind the scenes, a management information system (MIS) can similarly boost a school’s administration, providing vital and varied information in an instant. Integrating functions and processes can ensure joined-up thinking leads to joined-up action, providing that a school has fully considered what it needs its MIS to do.

Avoiding obsolescence is crucial, according to Chris Munday, head of MIS at RM Education: “An MIS is the single point of truth for nearly all of a school’s data and is used to record pupils’ attendance data for each lesson, as well as any behaviour incidents, and to track pupils’ progress and attainment. It also holds staff data and is used to record staff management information, such as absences or CPD and training.

“When considering one, ensure it is future-proofed. Is it going to manage the school’s need for the short and longer terms? Ease of use is also critical as staff at all levels will need to use it to get real value from it and its data. Time and resources are precious commodities in the day-to-day workings of a school and an MIS should enhance, not hinder, their day-to-day responsibilities. Reducing time on administrative tasks means value can be added elsewhere. Plus it needs to be simple to create any reports on demand for all sorts of stakeholders, from headteachers and governors to local authorities and Ofsted.”

Chris also warns against false economies when deciding which MIS to install. “Ensure you are getting value for money. There is no point spending a large sum of money on an MIS only to find it doesn’t do some of the things you expect it to do or you have to pay extra for hardware or additional modules. The right MIS solution will bring together all of your assessment, behaviour, attendance, pupil and staff data into one system, making it easier to track pupil progress and get a holistic view of a pupil and the school, as well as reducing errors, saving time and eliminating the amount you need to spend on disparate systems that don’t link up together. We offer an online-based MIS system, along with finance solutions suiting schools and academies which have been developed specifically for schools. Our MIS solution, RM Integris, is the leading online MIS system in UK schools and combines a powerful suite of administration tools that can provide schools with easy access to assessment, behaviour, pupil, staff and school data all in one place through a highly intuitive and secure online user interface.”

Schools can rest assured RM Education’s MIS will function in harmony with their operations. “We work closely with schools, local authorities, the DfE and the education industry to ensure our MIS meets the ongoing, changing needs of schools, such as providing more flexible reporting tools to enable them to interrogate their data more deeply or catering for the new NAHT assessment framework criteria.

“We spend a lot of time in schools to understand how they want to use the system and how it can enhance what they do. We also capture feedback directly through the product with our ‘user voice’ section where customers can send suggestions for improvement. We also run user forums and research projects to find out what customers want in the future and what matters to them most. We genuinely value the feedback customers give us and that really impacts on the roadmap of our products. Plus, as RM Integris is an online product, we can do much analysis around what schools do and don’t use. This online delivery also means we can implement enhancements quickly, effectively, automatically and out of school hours so there is no school day disruption.”

WCBS is a specialist provider of MIS software to independent schools in the UK and overseas, offering a complete MIS solution that can support multiple departments, including academic, admissions, finance and alumni.

According to 2014’s UK Independent Schools ICT Survey and Analysis, conducted by Ovum and commissioned by the Independent Schools’ Bursars Association, WCBS is, “the most widely-used vendor by far” by UK fee-paying schools, achieving the top position and largest market share in nine out of ten categories.

WCBS has a dedicated support team, ensuring schools have a point of reference available when needed and delivering convenient, flexible support via email, website, phone and Skype. Robert Blake, headmaster of Kenya’s Peponi House School, described WCBS’s help desk as being “manned by superstars of shining genius and lightning response time”.

WCBS also offers an extensive programme of training and workshop opportunities, including bespoke training and regional workshops covering an extensive topic range and expertise levels, their support team ensuring that the most is gained from their products. Bespoke training can be provided onsite or at WCBS’s offices while regional workshops held at numerous locations nationally also provide popular, informal networking environments.

WCBS will shortly be conducting a survey which will analyse information management in the independent schools market. This will be converted into an informative report giving insight into how information is currently managed, an MIS’s importance and benefits, key factors influencing decision-making and schools’ information management challenges.

Classroom Monitor is an online tool for recording formative assessment, tracking pupil progress and reporting to parents. Quick and easy to use, it provides instant in-depth pupil and whole-school performance analysis. Based around an interactive markbook storing evidence of learning year-round, it is linked to curricular frameworks and streamlines pupil assessment and target-setting. It also provides teachers with over 2,000 learning resources for use in the classroom or for pupils working independently.

The markbooks are fully flexible to the national curriculum 2014 and can be customised to a school’s own curriculum framework. Teachers and senior leaders can track pupil progress instantly and the markbook feeds into a data dashboard with live updates on pupil, cohort and whole-school performance. Key metrics are always at your fingertips, giving school leaders the vital information they need to maintain high standards of teaching and learning.

Reporting also becomes faster and more effective with Classroom Monitor’s revolutionary ‘parent portal’, which allows multimedia examples of pupils’ work to be shared with parents and engage them with their child’s learning. Time spent on reporting is also greatly reduced.

Classroom Monitor supports key stages 1-3 and EYFS and synchronises with school MISs; it is mobile-friendly and can be accessed anywhere at any time for flexible curriculum management.

Contact Group is a leading provider of communication and data services to schools in the UK and Ireland, their products integrating seamlessly with leading MISs to meet schools’ needs in safeguarding pupil welfare. These solutions have radically changed the way the sector approaches mandatory tasks, significantly improving efficiency and productivity.

Call Parent notifies parents by SMS and email of school closures and events – prior to this teachers used a telephone tree system wherein they would call, for example, six parents who would in turn call other parents. This was highly time-consuming, unlike Call Parents which works in minutes at the touch of a button.

Truancy Call tackles pupil absenteeism through automated phone calls and texts, avoiding the need for a dedicated staff member to phone parents of absentees. Text Someone encourages pupils and parents to report incidents of bullying via their school’s website, the Text Someone website or by texting, with all services available 24 hours a day. Previously, children would have to approach a teacher during term time to report bullying, something most were too embarrassed to do.

E-Mentoring enables schools to provide secure and convenient e-mentoring via text or online. Before this technology existed, busy teachers would have had to find time to meet with each pupil they monitored; this service means pupils can ask a question by text or online at their leisure and their teacher can respond securely whenever they choose.

A school administrator returning to their role after several years away would be astounded at the technology now available to them. The brave new world brought by software and services brings smooth day-to-day school operation, with previously mundane tasks accomplished efficiently and effortlessly. Teachers sometimes advise their pupils to ‘work smarter, not harder’; thanks to an MIS and the products which can function alongside it, schools can now work smarter than ever before.

RM Education W: www.rm.com

WCBS W: www.wcbs.co.uk

Classroom Monitor W: www.classroommonitor.co.uk

Contact Group W: www.the-contactgroup.com

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Academy-status school Great Torrington School in Devon has deployed superfast 802.11ac Wi-Fi from Meru Networks to support 500 wireless devices, including Apple iPads, and help transform the way the school educates its 750 students. The wireless network was designed and deployed by RM Education, an ICT specialist for Education.

“Our existing network was delivering snail-like speeds,” says Jon Buss, network manager. “It was taking up to 15 minutes to log on to a laptop and authenticate.  Now it’s almost instantaneous.  Pupils and staff can also move seamlessly from classroom to classroom without losing connection and having to log on again and again.”

The school, which is adopting a 1:1 learning environment, is also using Apple TV for bandwidth-hungry media streaming, which it was not able to do before.  It has also signed up to Show My Homework, an online engagement portal that allows teachers to set homework and students to do homework online.  

For more information visit: www.merunetworks.com

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The ICT software and services provide is offering the free review as part of a drive to improve the use and value of ICT in schools. Paul Bruce, Solutions Architect with RM tells us more…

“It doesn't take long for anyone working in education to realise that all schools are unique. Irrespective of standards, curriculum and governance all schools share the desire to provide their students with the best skills and knowledge to meet and fulfil their potential.

Over the past 20 years, I've worked with hundreds of state schools, academies and independent schools each facing distinct challenges and all differing in their approach to teaching and learning.

“As a Services Architect, I primarily listen to and would work closely with your senior leadership team to understand your schools individual aspirations, pedagogy and identified areas for improvement. Based on these learnings I can suggest and demonstrate relevant ICT services and technologies that deliver school wide transformation for learners, teachers and the wider school community, and show you how it doesn’t have to break your budget.”

Kris Jobson, Director of ICT at Cheslyn Hay Sport & Community High School comments: “ICT, and the use of, plays a major role in a student’s education. It is important in a time of austerity that you get the right solutions that have the right impact, and for this you need an ICT support company that TRULY understands Education. For Cheslyn Hay Sport and Community High School that company is RM.”

If you’d like Paul to visit your school to review your ICT plan and strategy and help your teachers and learners to use ICT effectively then please call RM on 0808 172 9534 or visit www.rm.com/flex-EdTech to book your free session.

Set RM Education the challenge – you won’t be disappointed!

 

[post_title] => Challenging ICT [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => challenging_ict [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2014-12-15 16:27:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 0000-00-00 00:00:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 5469 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [36] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 9658 [post_author] => 13 [post_date] => 2014-10-01 15:39:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-10-01 13:39:00 [post_content] =>

E-safety is becoming an increasingly important feature of a schools safeguarding framework with the internet playing such a vital part in teaching and learning in today's classroom as well as beyond it.  

When it comes to e-safety RM SafeClix stands out. RM SafeClix has been designed to help you understand and deliver what your school needs when it comes to online safety. Put simply, it's everything you need to know about e-safety in a simple and comprehensive package of tools, CPD and content to deliver it.

RM SafeClix is made up of two innovative e-safety packages, Core and Plus. Both toolkits offer you the complete e-safety solution you require and have been mapped against the key features of good and outstanding e-safety practice as defined by Ofsted.

Call free on 0808 1729 535 to talk to our e-safety specialists or visit www.rm.com/safeclix

Let’s be outstanding!

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Working together for the past decade, the organisations have made real strides in disrupting the distribution of online child sexual abuse content.

Thanks to the support of its partners, including RM Education, the IWF has been responsible for the removal of over 100,000 URLs containing criminal content and, by sharing intelligence with police, has aided the identification and rescue of 12 children since 2010.

Hilary Wright, e-safety product manager for RM Education, said: “As an established education technology solutions provider, we are delighted to have spent ten years in partnership with the IWF to help in the fight against the sexual exploitation of children online.

“E-safety is becoming a growing priority in schools. While the internet can provide endless possibilities for communication and learning, it can also present many dangers. One of our core roles is to help schools address this delicate balance and implement a stringent e-safety policy to ensure the safety of children online.”

Established in 1996, the IWF allows the public and IT professionals to report criminal online content in a secure and confidential way.

www.rm.com 

www.iwf.org.uk.

[post_title] => RM celebrates a decade of safety support [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => rm_celebrates_a_decade_of_safety_support [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2014-08-01 08:45:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 0000-00-00 00:00:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 5779 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 38 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 38509 [post_author] => 2198 [post_date] => 2021-02-16 12:20:18 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-02-16 12:20:18 [post_content] => Digital technologies were a saviour in the early days of the pandemic – and again during the second, and now third, national lockdown. Yet, it begs the question: has COVID-19 been the catalyst to a much more digitally-enabled education system, or is digital adoption just a passing trend simply designed to mitigate the impact on traditional learning? Could it be that as soon as vaccines allow some form of normality to return, the laptops will be put away and Google Meet and MS Teams calls will be a thing of the past as we return to a similar pre-pandemic system? Simply put, we have come so far that I truly believe this will be an inflexion point for the sector. For schools, colleges and universities, technology should not be seen as a problem-solver to a one-off crisis, but instead as something that enhances and enables what we are all here to do: support the improvement of educational outcomes around the world. In a world of remote teaching and social distancing, schools and exam boards face the significant challenge of re-thinking the ways exams and assessments are delivered to learners. Educational institutions should look to technology now more than ever to ensure assessments can be conducted successfully and in an authentic, meaningful way. Why? Because assessment doesn't have the choice of standing still – the lives of learners have not stopped, their aspirations and goals for the future have not vanished and so the role that assessment plays in their learning journey also can't grind to a halt.

Why digital assessment?

Digital assessment is much more than a practical tool to assist remote teaching; instead, it's about offering young people the best possible quality of education and allowing them to prove their capability in a credible way. While in many cases, universities have been flying the flag for digital assessments for some time, schools and the FE sector are now starting to embrace it too. Technology is already widely embedded within the everyday lives and learning experiences of students, and yet digital assessment technologies often lag behind, thus creating a weakness in the overall system. Unlike the paper and pen, through digital testing and assessment, teachers gain a much deeper understanding of how students learn and their overall approach to tasks. Similarly, learners can benefit from a much more engaging assessment experience and in many cases, can receive immediate feedback on their performance which allows for short cycle interventions to address gaps in understanding. And while access to devices is a challenge we are yet to overcome, digital assessments authentically test skills in ways that pen and paper exams cannot – from problem-solving to critical thinking – all fundamental processes that students will go on to use throughout their careers.

Developing real-world and on-the-job skills

All too often exams have become removed from the working world, yet in experience, pupils are hungry for learning and assessments that are more akin to what they’d be doing in the 'real' world of work and life. A great example is accountancy accreditation where we are already assessing students using exactly the same technology/IT they use in their day jobs. As we move increasingly towards a 'skills society', and against the backdrop of a rapidly-evolving jobs market driven by automation and AI (artificial intelligence), as well as a drive in new technical jobs – such as coders and developers – there is a very strong argument that assessments need to reflect this wider range of skills.
"Additionally, digital assessment also provides a wealth of data. This means teachers and examination organisations can generate a much greater level of actionable insights, and in turn, drive improvements to both the learner taking the assessment and to the assessment itself"
We are seeing great examples of modern assessment design, combined with powerful digital assessment technology that provides an assessment experience that's 'Google-proof', whilst still focusing on higher order skills like knowledge interpretation and application, communication, problem-solving and increasingly testing team-work and collaboration skills.

Higher quality and improved hours

Not only is digital assessment a better approach to the modern job market and a more authentic experience for the learner, but it can also open-up a world of benefits for teachers, examiners and awarding organisations. As Ofsted reported, teachers work 12 hours a week – more than the average full-time employee. However, there's growing evidence that digital assessment can play a key role in reducing elements of this workload. With the appropriate deployment of automation and AI, it's entirely possible for digital assessment systems to automatically generate questions and assessment tasks to score and grade student responses and to provide, often immediate, feedback to the learner about their performance. Clearly this level of automation is not appropriate in all cases and, at no stage is the role of the teacher undermined. In fact, it’s the exact opposite; such an approach would permit the teacher to focus on high-quality interventions, leaving technology to take away much of the 'heavy lifting', freeing up teachers to build stronger connections with pupils. Additionally, digital assessment also provides a wealth of data. This means teachers and examination organisations can generate a much greater level of actionable insights, and in turn, drive improvements to both the learner taking the assessment and to the assessment itself.  This is a win-win situation for teachers, reducing their time spent marking while offering improved actionable feedback and insights to the benefit learners.

Improving teacher pupil relationships

Another time-saving advantage of digital assessment, when combined with good assessment and question design, is the ability to highlight ‘common misunderstandings’ in subjects, rather than just ‘wrong answers’. This equips teachers with the ability to see not only what an individual pupil has learnt, but also what they still need to learn. And quite often this can be done in real-time, allowing the teacher to make on-the-fly adjustments to their teaching. For the learner, this results in a far more personal learning experience – especially when intertwined with the additional time that teachers  gain from a the reduction in marking. What this means is that teachers can build stronger connections with individual learners and this is a virtuous circle; it can have a material impact on the learner’s engagement with their education and their eventual academic outcome. However, it's important to remember that no solution is one-size-fits-all, and there are different forms of assessment for different subjects, pupils and schools. For example: in subjects that often have clearly right or wrong responses (like maths and science) on-screen testing makes it far easier to enable the creation of assessments that accommodate the full range of student abilities. In more subjective areas like language, art and music for example, there’s a growing trend towards peer-to-peer assessment and using principles like adaptive comparative judgement to give a greater depth of feedback to students, allowing teachers to use their professional expertise to maximum effect.

Making the transition

Despite the undeniable benefits of digital assessment, for many educational institutions the pace and scale of transitioning to it is highly dependent on the circumstances of the organisations, whether it's a question of funding, the needs of their pupils or the wider social context. A great first step is to take an agile approach to the transition, starting first by introducing digital assessment for a particular subject or course of study, one where the time-saving benefits will be the most meaningful for all parties.  Then – with a blended approach where teachers continue to deliver physical assessment in the interim – digital assessments can be scaled up with ease to suit a full transition in the future. There’s been undeniable progress made to introduce technology in schools, equipping teachers and pupils with the means to continue their education despite the biggest disruption in a generation – but now it’s time to build on these new skills and appetite for change. With blended learning likely to evolve from the current focus on remote learning, the same needs to apply with assessment by embracing digital assessment as a means to supplement this new found tech-enabled commitment.
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