Encouraging the use of Activote technology
At the time of the project, this school was currently a state-maintained foundation trust 13 -19 high school that was to become an 11-18 school in September 2011 with approximately 1200 on roll. This was a rapidly improving school: in the summer of 2010 we achieved our best results ever with 73% of students achieving 5 A* to C at GCSE or level 2 equivalent. Maths results have improved from 38% in 2004 to 56% in 2010.
Following many years of turbulence in staffing the school was beginning to find some stabilization. This had made effective CPD difficult as any effective training was rapidly lost. At the time of the project, the school had 9 full time maths specialists with one part time 6th form only teacher. Five staff had more than 5 years experience, one was in his second year and 3 were NQTs. Most were open to new ideas, but one was resistant, and one needed encouragement.
Aims of project
Taking part in this project was prompted by the presence of some good technology in the department that was not being used effectively and generally lying unused. I wanted to increase the use of technology as a response to changes to student profile. This project relates to the use of Activote pupil response devices.
CPD activities planned and undertaken
A decision had been made by senior leadership to change how CPD was run in our school. It was felt that staff were attending twilight sessions to bank hours for days off but that this was not always effective in improving standards of teaching and learning. As a result of this I was able to dedicate three one hour sessions on sequential Wednesdays to introduce new technology to my department.
I had initially tried to introduce Activote 2 years ago with no success and it had sat in the cupboard used occasionally by myself along with 30 graphical calculators and a motion detector. The aim of these sessions was to firstly 'sell' the idea of the technology and how it would enhance the learning experience, and secondly to 'equip' staff to use the technology and support them in doing this. I was aware that two members of staff would need a different approach to others and this was built into the sessions. Each session introduced a different piece of technology and the process was similar each time.
Firstly I introduced the technology with me in the role of teacher and them in the role of students, taking part in a lesson type activity. This was in order to “sell” the idea to motivate my team to want to take it further. We then looked at how to use the resource as a teacher and planned a lesson together. In the first session we created questions and flipcharts using the software with each teacher writing one question to generate a revision lesson to use with year 11 students. This was done in order for all teachers to have some hands on experience and also invest in a resource they could use after the session. I finally demonstrated how to upload classes and use the system with named devices in order to save information on individual student responses. In the second session we planned lessons with graphical calculators and in the third we played with the data ranger.
All sessions were practical and left staff with a lesson they could use or ideas of how to create one of their own.
All staff were asked to use one of the resources in the next 4 weeks and support was offered with this in the form of co-coaching and team teaching.
Success of the CPD approach used
All staff engaged with the Activote system and this was the most successful element of the three CPD sessions. Whilst all enjoyed using it, two staff members were reluctant to use it in class, mostly due to a lack of confidence. Booking sheets had to be used in our workroom as demand to use the set increased. Pupil power took over as students began to ask teachers when they would be using it or indeed why they had not used it! As a school our main target group was boys achieving level 4 in maths at KS2. We found that this resource was particularly successful with this group as it introduced competition into the class. Girls appreciated having time to think through responses without the boys answering questions before they had time to think.
“It bought a competitive edge and fun twist to maths, which also helped our teacher learn where the weaknesses are in individual people’s knowledge”
“I think that Activote helped my learning because it made me answer questions quickly. It’s also good because it gets the whole class involved and interacting which made it fun”
“You could test yourself to see what you need to improve on. It created competition which encourages me to work harder and try to improve more.”
“I had to really concentrate so I didn’t get it wrong. I like the variety as it made me work harder that usual”
“The thing I liked was that if some people found a question easy then they could compete to get the answer quickest but for people like me who are a bit slower at working things out you could just focus on getting it right”
“I can finally expand a double bracket!”
When asked why the resource was used this time, when previous introductions had been unsuccessful, teachers' responses can be found on this audio file:
“We had the pupil and teacher experience”
“We felt supported”
“The resource was accessible”
“You set a time limit in which it had to be used”
“We knew we could ask for help if we needed to”
Since we introduced it, the department had used the devices as an alternative to formal assessment to introduce a topic and then check progress at the end. Pupils appreciated the accurate reflection of their progress.
Staff planned lessons together resulting in a bank of lessons using response devices ready to plan into the scheme of work.
Two NQTs particularly appreciated their use at the start of a topic to check confiecne of pupils they had not taught previously and to uncover gaps in learning. Using them at the end of a topic then provided evidence that a subject had been mastered or identified pupils who would need more support.
Evaluation of CPD effectiveness
I had previously tried to introduce the pupil response devices and other types of technology with no success. Listen to what the staff said about why previous attempts had failed.
“the resource did not work” – there had been issues initially with the driver being installed in one classroom only.
“we know how pupils would use it but I didn’t know how to use it as a teacher”
“there was no imperative making me use it”
It should be noted that a slightly different approach was used to encourage two teachers. One was open to new ideas but nervous of trying it. We planned a lesson together and we team-taught the lesson. He subsequently felt confident at having a go on his own so long as I was around to fix any issues that arose. Subsequently, he went on to use the devices regularly. A second teacher showed no interest at all in using the devices and was resistant to directive instructions. I therefore issued certificates of completion of training to all staff who had attended all three sessions and subsequently used the technology in class. His desire to have a certificate like everyone else was greater than his reluctance to engage with the technology. An unusual strategy but one that worked for this particular member of my team.
We did have issues with some classes as they were a little silly the first time the technology was used – trying to be quickest with answers rather than aiming for the right one or not using the graphical calculators as instructed. We subsequently built these into first lessons to allow pupils 'play' time to get this out of their system. By the time students were using these things for the 3rd or 4th time they were more controlled and less management of pupils was necessary. Some staff had a negative experience the first time of use and needed more support to continue but all saw the longer term gain in terms of pupil engagement and assessment for learning.
Future CPD plans - final comments
I will definitely use this structure of CPD again. As a department we are leading on the use of technology to engage learners and so our experience will be shared with other departments in our school interested in moving in this way. Additional funds have been provided to enable us to do this.
The key lessons learned are about the level of support that needs to be in place for resources to be fully embedded and the need to hold staff accountable for their use by issuing deadlines and demonstrating value to busy staff members.
Our next step is to embed software such as Autograph and Activeteach into our lessons. I have chosen three staff who have demonstrated enthusiasm for technology to spend time learning how to best use this and then cascade to the rest of the department. I feel able to delegate this task having had these team members participate in previous training effectively.