Can a Personalization Project bring about improvements in only 7 weeks?

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The most important step in continuous improvement is when we stop planning and start doing. Michael Fullan describes initial planning to meet your main purpose as 'getting ready' then he suggests moving to implementation as soon as possible so that real learning can take place. He summarises this as "Ready, Fire, Aim". Learning through doing is definitely highly effective, especially when landscapes are changing quickly as they are in the field of new technology.

It was with this in mind that I decided a blog on personalisation required an actual live project to be taking place in the real world in parallel (read earlier posts for accounts). We are now 7 weeks in to the project and very good things are happening but is there enough data yet to make us confident about how, when and why we should scale? Perhaps we should just repeat it?

Technically, I could not argue that results after such a short project could be statistically significant, but having said this, we have been overwhelmed by the rate at which positive outcomes are already being reported. I will of course continue to update until the end of the project in July but so far... P1230124

The key headlines for me are...

  • Teachers who were previously nervous about using technology being quoted by students as "amazing" because they showed such respect for their expertise and allowed them to contribute ideas.
  • Students preparing resources for teachers to use
  • Students having the confidence to lead a public presentation
  • Too early to tell if they will be sustained and not just an 'edge effect' but improvements in attendance, punctuality, behaviour and literacy.
  • Genuine leadership behaviours emerging from the tech teams including taking active roles in helping teachers
  • Five unsolicited reports from teachers that have reported improvements in the quality of learning
  • Students reporting that teachers are more likely to let them choose how to respond to tasks
  • I may be tempting fate but so far absolutely no breakages, theft or loss.
  • Seriously impressed by Windows 8 tablets (I know this is an MS blog site but seriously I really am)
  • No power management problems. The idea of putting a separate battery in the keyboard so that you can just swap keyboards if you are running a bit low or put the keyboard on charge and carry on using the tablet is just genius. Simple but whoever thought of it needs some form of international prize for education as it wipes out the one largest problem with 1:1 implementations.

This week, phase one ends. The tablets are going to be taken off the students and given to the next group. The plan is to sit each student down with the student who will be getting their tablet so they can hand it over and explain any nuances together with what they have learned. Staff and students have already said they are going to find it really hard to give them up as we predicted they would. We definitely didn't realise, however, just how much impact 15 school days could have.

Well over half of the lessons the students have, don't take place in tutor groups so for many of the teachers, the tablets will just be being brought to the lesson by different students and they won't see the change for another 3 weeks. We designed it in this way to compare as many scenarios as we could and particularly to try and draw some comparisons between a 1:1 project and a 1:2 project.

Key conclusions so far

  1. Investing time in developing a 'tech team' of students who can help lead the project with a ratio of 4 'tech team' members per 30 students is definitely worth every minute.
  2. Setting a clear 'qualification' for the tech teams which they must pass before the devices are given to their classmates is essential. We were lucky to have no tech team members who failed to pass given that we set the bar so high
  3. Making the ONLY requirement on staff is that they must allow the devices to be used whenever possible even when they have planned a lesson that they feel would be unsuitable
  4. Stipulating that if the teacher or the student feels that using the device in any given task is causing them to learn less well then it should be put away
  5. See silver! This is an updated version of the 'click to speak' rule. When a teacher wants to speak to the class they say 'I need to see silver' meaning all of the tablets are placed face down or closed if in laptop mode. Previously, hearing the laptop click shut was the rule.
  6. Having a weekly 20 minute meeting with the 'tech teams' to get feedback on best uses and any issues as they develop.

Next Steps

In the following site http://reordereducation.com/personalisation/ I define progression towards personalisation in the following way

Stage 1 - Recognising that a "one size fits all" model of education is no longer appropriate. Teachers at the school have already achieved this understanding many years ago luckily but in many schools I have worked in this is still a major focus.

Stage 2 - Unevaluated choice: Here students are given choices but without them or the teacher being aware if they are the right choices. To some extent this project is in this stage because our evaluation data is not yet strong enough for us to be certain.

Stage 3 - Differentiation for groups (or Personalisation FOR): Here teachers begin to make some strategic decisions about how they can alter their lessons to meet the needs of more students. Sometimes this is as simple as the teacher defining objectives that ALL students should know by the end, that MOST should know by the end or that SOME should know by the end. During the trial we have found already that where teachers usually set out such differentiated challenges for their students, the tablets have facilitated this often just because of the extra resources available through the web.

Stage 4 - Developing the underpinning SECRET skills: Here teachers not only differentiate in terms of the academic challenge but also in terms of the competency challenges. The leadership team underpinning this project is a key part of this skills based challenge but currently these are the only SECRET skills being formally assessed in the project so it is likely that most development of such skills is going on in unevaluated ways at present. (A full listing of the SECRET skills can be found here )

Stage 5 - This is informed and evaluated choices being made by students and verified by teachers with both using data to evidence this(Personalisation BY): Although we set up the project specifically to lead to such use, it is too early to tell conclusively how much we have helped practice to move this way.

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