Transforming Learning in the 21st Century

On Friday 6th June I attended the “Transforming Learning in the 21st Century” event organised by OS Pedagogy at the John Henry Newman Catholic College in Birmingham.

Details of the event were passed to my by a colleague at school quite some time ago, and it had just sat in my calendar for a few months being given little thought. As the event grew closer, I revisited the details of the event to sort out how I would get there and what workshops I wanted to attend. It was going to be an early start if I were to drive from Hull to Birmingham for the 8:30am registration! Deciding upon which workshops I would attend was to be no easy task either, looking at the options!

This post is a collection of my thoughts from the day (arranged in a roughly chronological order) and what I feel the impact has been on my future plans following the event.

If you have a look through the posts on twitter from the event under the hashtag #TL21c you can probably gain a good idea of what others were thinking during the day too.

The day started with the keynote address from Daniel Edwards entitled “Pedagogy First? Lead the Learning”. Daniel introduced the curriculum wheel used at the Stephen Perse Foundation and highlighted that at the centre of this is always the learner. He then introduced various real-world projects where traditional lessons had been enhanced by the use of technology for example creative writing projects using the collaborative Google Docs.

Daniel then demonstrated the SAMR model for evaluating the impact of technology on your teaching. For those who don’t know it, here is a quick introduction to SAMR:

Daniel reminded us that whilst the SAMR model would have you think that all usage of technology should transform teaching and learning; it is OK to just enhance!

We then learnt of how Daniel is using iTunes U in his practice to enhance his delivery of resources to his classes, enabling greater and quicker differentiation. More information on this over here.

Next, Daniel introduced the idea of the Feedback Loop and stressed the importance of providing students with timely feedback. His slides highlighted the fact that these new tools and technology should enable us to shorten the loop from the traditional 1 week turn around time to 3 or 4 days!

The session concluded with Daniel highlighting the stages of development from Eduction 1.0 through to Education 3.0 by means of demonstrating where we have come form and where we should be moving towards. More on this subject available here and here.

The workshop section of the day facilitated the choice of four workshops from a range of eight. For the first session I had to choose between Dan Leighton’s session on “Digital Pedagogy – What Works In The Classroom” and Ben Rouse’s session on “21st Century Teacher Toolkit”. I plumbed for the session with Dan Leighton.

Dan asked us the question “What digital strategies are effective at promoting learning?” and the answer saw a common theme developing from Daniel Edwards’ Keynote earlier; “Effective Learning Strategies are the same regardless of whether there is technology involved or not”.

We then compared the research from John Hattie and the Sutton Report, noting that in both reports Digital Technology was not even in the top ten of things that impact student achievement. However both reports do agree that Formative Student Lead Evaluation and Teacher Feedback are two of the biggest impacting actions on achievement.

Dan then posed the question of how Digital Technology can help you achieve these impacts and what the effect of technology is that can help us achieve them? He suggested that through the use of technology we can give the student more timely feedback; we can see their learning; they can see each others learning and also they can see their own learning. This was then backed up with a number of examples of how Dan uses the technology made available to him through Google Apps for Education to enable this kind of learning and teaching.

After a quick break, it was time for the second workshop session. This time I had to choose between Mat Pullen’s “Home iLearning” session or Oliver Trussell’s session on “Pre-Topic Testing and Automating Feedback with Google Drive”. I chose Oliver’s session and quickly filled up on coffee before it began. (At this point I also had to borrow a charger for my phone from Lee, as I was about to run out of power – thanks again Lee!).

Oliver started by getting everyone in the room to complete an online Quiz / Form he had set up earlier. He then went on to introduce the particular issue that he had addressed and how he had used technology to address that issue. Oliver’s school felt that there was inconsistency in homework and this was generating a lot of marking for the teachers, often resulting in ineffective feedback being offered back. So, Oliver and his colleagues outlined what they would like; Video introductions to topics recorded by teachers the students knew. These would then be followed up a simple question form to gauge strengths and weaknesses in the students understanding. Importantly, this should not create additional marking pressure for the teachers. Oliver’s solution to this issue was to develop a Google spreadsheet which would:

  • be easy to use
  • automatically mark quizzes
  • give a class % for each question
  • give a list of students who got each question wrong
  • automatically generate effective personalised feedback
  • email each student that feedback
  • identify student understanding for each topic

Oliver then demonstrated each stage of the solution answering questions as he went. He them shared the spreadsheet and instructions with us all at this site: We then all had a go at creating our own Automatic Feedback Sheet and tested them out amongst the group.

To finish his session, Oliver introduced the group to Infuse Learning; a BYOD focused online quiz tool for Teaching and Learning which is free to use. I can highly recommend this tool and have begun trialling it in my school already! Have a watch of their YouTube introduction.

After Oliver’s session, we broke for lunch and we moved onto the next sessions. This time, a choice between Daniel Edwards’ session on “Closing the Feedback Loop” or Steve Philip’s session on “The Importance of 1:1 in the 21st Century”. I went with Steve’s session.

Steve began by asking everyone to complete a short Google Form, so he could adjust his presentation based upon the audience he had and then asked us to open his presentation on our own devices by either following the link on screen or scanning the QR code provided. The opening remark from Steve was: “What is 1:1?”, the answer to which, he offered, could be anything from a technological based 1:1 scheme to a 1:1 interaction between student an teacher!

Again, the Sutton Trust Report was discussed and the fact that Digital Technology came so far down in its list of effective tools. However, Steve asked the question: “What if Digital Technology could help us achieve those tools rated higher than itself in the report?”.

Steve moved on and asked us all to follow a link to “Ryan’s Story”. This was a link to an essay of a student of his which was being written using Google Apps. We were then asked to look at this document and make use of the ‘comments’ functionality in Google Apps, enabling us to ask questions of and offer suggestions to ‘Ryan’. In real-time, there in-front of everyone in the group. Ryan responded to our questions; he provided reasons for his work and progressed his document informed and guided in part, perhaps, by our feedback. For me, this was a real “light-bulb” moment to the potential of the collaborative nature of Google Apps in the educational sphere, providing an insight into the potential impact of these technologies on the learning experience.

Another quick break after Steve’s session led me to the last workshop choice of the day; Mark Allen’s “Essential Skills for Surviving and Thriving in the Online World” or a Google Hangout session with Katie Regan in America on “The Best Web Tools for Project Based Learning”. I initially chose Katie’s session, however I switched to Mark’s (sorry Katie!) at the last minute. I am glad that I did; not only because Mark’s session was so good (I will talk about that next) but also because Katie’s whole session was recorded from the Google Hangout and can be watched online!

Mark started his session by suggesting that we should: “Stop thinking about the technology – make it invisible!”; a sentiment echoed from both Daniel and Dan’s talks earlier that day. By this point in the day, my note taking was getting less and less, but thankfully, Mark shared his presentation slides with us and I will share them with you too now: As an aside to the content of this presentation, I was really impressed with as an online tool. Mark described it as “Prezzi without the seasickness”!

After going through his top skills that are required in the 21st Century, Mark discussed how we can use Google Apps to achieve these, and why, as a School, we should consider adopting Google Apps for Education.

After Mark’s session came the closing session and plenary back in the main theatre. The closing session was another Google Hangout presentation from Jordan Pedraza, Program Manager for Google EDU entitled “Google for Education: Transforming Education with Open Technology”

Jordan introduced her session and described Google’s reasons for being involved in education and what its aims were. She then introduced the tools that Google Apps for Education make available to schools, suggesting how these tools can help teachers and learners to achieve better outcomes in the learning environment. Jordan’s presentation can also be viewed on YouTube and is very helpful in getting the perspective from Google on all of this.

So, to summarise and reflect; what did I get out of this conference and where do I go now?

I was really inspired to see the effective use of these collaborative web tools in real classroom situations and hear stories of them providing real impact in the learning experience. The school I am working in has just begun its BYOD and web-based collaborative learning journey, and such positive reports of how this can drive up achievement and have real impact secures my thinking that we are on the right path.

I was at work the Saturday immediately after this conference and was inspired to begin researching Google Apps for education as a serious possibility for my school; to the point that I signed up that day and have already engaged my IT Support team; members of Senior Leadership and a handful of teachers in collaborations, looking into how GAFE can catalyse pedagogical innovation within our school.

So whilst we are still at the early stages of our journey and much could happen along the way; do I think that this conference was a success and did it provide inspiration? The answer would have to be a whole-hearted “yes”!

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