In this special Texthelp Talks series, we took the podcast on the road to capture all things Bett 2022. To wrap up an exciting three days at the show we are joined by leading Bett speakers Abid Patel and Graham Macaulay, as well as some Texthelp friends. Listen along to hear why our key takeaway from Bett this year is 'momentum'.
Paddy McGrath (00:00:15):
Welcome to the third and final day of our Bett podcast series. We are live at our stand in our podcast recording booth with some very special Bett guests. Do make sure and listen to the first two episodes in the series to catch up on what we've been up to during days one and two of what has been an absolutely fantastic Bett 2022.
Today we're wrapping things up with a bang, with guests from besa, Basingstoke College of Technology, Leo Academy Trust, our friend Abid Patel, and many, many more. Time for our next guest on this very special episode of Texthelp Talks podcast, coming to you live from Bett 2022, and very excited to have with us for the next few minutes, Mr. Dave. Many of you will know Dave from the Twitter sphere as a Google innovator, but actually, Dave, I'll let you introduce yourself, because there's no better way than hearing from a fellow podcast host. Tell us a little bit about that when you go. Dave, welcome. Tell us why you're at Bett and give us a little bit of your background for those who don't know you.
Dave Leonard (00:01:11):
Will do thank you very much, Paddy, and thank you for having me. I'm here, I've got a number of hats on if I'm honest, when I'm down here, this week. Over the years, things change and you develop better relationships with people and everybody wants a piece of you don't they over time. I'm here primarily in my role as Strategic IT Director for the Water Grove Trust. I should know how to say that by now, shouldn't I? Having worked there for nearly 20 years, but yeah, it's about forming relationships. It's about seeing what's out there, keeping abreast of latest developments, existing partners, speaking to them and finding out what's new.
That's always great from my professional side. Alongside that though, as you know, I do the Learning Dust Podcast. It's been really good for me to meet some of our previous guests. Andy unfortunately can't be here. My partner in crime on the podcast. He's asked me to pick him up some swag and he's been sending me messages about how much he's missing out on being down here now, but he does have a proper job that he has to do. He can't be down here.
Well, speaking of swag actually, I was very pleased yesterday when you stopped by to get a piece of Learning Dust Swag.
I'm proudly wearing my badge as a previous guest on the show. If you haven't heard the podcast from Dave and Andy, Learning Dust, and they can find you that on at Learning Dust, am I right? On Twitter?
At Learning Dust on Twitter or Andy is at Mr. A Coley, I'm at IT Budget and Learning Dust is really focused on forming better working relationships between techies, teachers, and school leaders, as you well know Mr. McGrath, because you very kindly graced with your presence on there, but we get wonderful guests on there. We just share their experiences of what it's like to work in education and work in ed tech.
Speaking of which, obviously we're here in Bett. We're in the Texthelp booth, but all around us there's a huge amount of people walking the floor. It's been a really busy few days. Is it good to be back at Bett?
What have you missed?
I've missed seeing people face to face and meeting some of those people who have only ever seen on a screen in real life doing other things. Oh, you are taller than I thought you were or you're shorter, and people tend to say you are rounder than I thought you were guys.
I've had a bit of that. That's to be said.
No, it's really good. Like I say, it's really cementing relationships because we see it as, from our Trust as we don't know when something is going to be beneficial. You have a chat with somebody, you lay the foundations for a working relationship in the future. You might not have any particular need to work with each other at that point, but you build connections and I might put you in touch with somebody else who's interested in using Texthelp or you might be able to point me in the direction of a partner that will be able to support us as a school or as a Trust.
It's all about forming those connections. I think there's no better way of doing that than in person.
It's funny just on that, you and I were chatting before we came live on the podcast and I was asking you what you were up to today. One of the interesting things that you said to me was you're using today to explore. I think it's a really good show for that, and I asked you specifically, what were you looking for? You said the advantage of coming to Bett is that there are so many new things that you mightn't have come across and you can experience them. You can get hands on.
Is that a really important part in your role to be at Bett?
Definitely. I always hunt out the small stalls. I don't need to go and see Microsoft because they've got a massive marketing machine that tells me what they're doing anyway. All the big stalls I tend to walk past, unless they've got some really interesting swag that I can take for my daughter.
For me, it's the small stalls because it's about unconscious incompetence for us sometimes. I don't know about them. I don't know what I don't know. It's a real learning opportunity to see what's coming through, to get some introductions, to just keep an eye on what the developments are and that, because in our industry, things move really quickly. It's brilliant. There's a number of the biggest stalls now that I remember from when Bett was back in Kensington Olympia, back in the day, they used to be up on the mezzanine level. That's where the put the cheap stalls.
Nothing's cheap about it, is it?
That's where it was more accessible to the startups and the smaller companies. I remember seeing some of the bigger ones that are on the main floor here now up on the balcony in Kensington. It's great to see that development of companies and to play a small part in helping to develop the product as well, because we have experience of working with suppliers. We have experience of developing products, alongside suppliers, beta testing and the like, and it's really great to see these, there's always a new wellspring of talent and of product and of innovation coming through. That's a great place to showcase that.
Absolutely. One of the things you mentioned there was just the community and I've been struck this year about how we've all been very well connected throughout the last couple years, how we've all come together. There's been a lot of fun, but there's also been a lot of work done over these last few days of people talking, sharing, good practice, identifying new opportunities. I don't know about you, but do you see that real sense of community this year?
More so than ever. I think that's one of the few positives that we can take from COVID. Everybody was forced online. We all had to find new ways of working. Part of that was speaking to other people who were trying to do the same thing or learning from each other online. I think we were probably exposed to more people as a result of that. What we can do now in real life is see those people, speak to them, get to know them a bit better. I think that those connections there are far more of them and it's a bit like a dating thing. Isn't it? I mean, I'm a bit old to be understanding whether I swipe right or left.
There's no right answer if your wife's listening.
Yeah, definitely. She doesn't even know I've got the Grinder App. I think it's been that introduction, isn't it? The online is the introduction and now it's like, it's almost like first dates when you're finally meeting somebody in real life and getting to know them that little bit better.
Yeah. No, no, really, really good. You talk about the last couple years and I think for a lot of us, we're reflecting on the last couple of years, but also looking forward. One of the themes in and around Bett is looking to the future and create the future. In the Trust that you head up IT in, how do you take what the teachers have done, what the pupils have experienced, what the leadership teams have decided is the way forward and make sure the momentum, the things that we've all learned about technology stay with the schools and the trust over the next while, keep that momentum going. How are you going to do that?
I think that's kind of difficult. I think there's been an element of I've described it in the past as being ed tech elasticity, in that we all stretched what we were comfortable with over the last couple of years, because we had to. There's been a natural propensity for some people to snap back to where they were. It's part of our jobs, I think, to keep that stretch. We talk in education about stretch and challenge for the kids.
We need to stretch and challenge ourselves and our colleagues because what we don't want to do is throw the baby out with the bath water. There's been so many great innovations and improvements, pedagogically, technologically in the last couple of years that we need to look at how we can best keep those and keep developing.
I think for me, what I noticed is that it wasn't those colleagues who were technophiles that really flourished during COVID. It was technophiles who probably didn't like it, but their skills have been raised tremendously. I think the floor level of people's understanding in using IT in education now has risen because people had to use it. It was too easy I think beforehand for people to just say, I don't do IT.
It's the same thing. People would say, I don't get maths. No, we can't just have that fixed mindset. We need to have the growth mindset. It's part of our role. I think everybody here, whether it's suppliers, whether it's supporters of ed tech or whether it's visitors, we're all here to try and learn a little bit more so that we can keep on pushing that envelope and stretching ourselves further.
I think as part of that though, and I don't mean this in any negative way, but I think the teaching community has an almost newfound respect for the IT managers because you've been driven to deliver solutions that they know. A lot of the stuff was almost unspoken. It was, you were keeping the infrastructure in place for so long, but now I guess more teachers and more senior leaders are coming to you guys and going, right. We have this challenge. How are you going to solve it?
What I've always found fascinating, what you did is just how well you link the teaching and learning part with the practical side. You're a Google innovator as well. You're also part of the association of network managers. I'd encourage anybody to check in association of network managers, they're involved in IT in anyway in a school across the UK.
Definitely. It's a great community. If you check us out on anme.co.uk is our website. It's a not for profit organisation that is just there to support anybody who works in IT and education. You don't have to be a network manager. You don't need the word manager in your title. Anybody who's an IT technician, who's a digital leader. Anybody who thinks that they may need some support in using it.
That's what the ANME are there for. We have an online portal, we have regular meetups in person, which again have recently started. That's been good to get back together. It's one of those things that sometimes you just need to know that it's not just you going through an issue. That can be as beneficial as finding the solution sometimes because you know that you can be on the right track and you're not actually doing something wrong in the first place. That's always been really positive.
Rick and Ben who set up the ANME in 2014, they're here, they're being very graciously hosted by Net Support on their stand, so if anybody is still around or wants to come and meet us, come to the Net Support stand, say hello. If not, find us online at anme.co.uk and just get involved. It's free. It supports. What's not to like?
Yeah, absolutely. I've been struck, Dave we've only been talking for less than 10 minutes, just the number of hats that you wear and the contribution you make to the industry, I'd encourage anybody to check out all of those things that you've talked about. Definitely check out the Learning Dust podcast, follow you on Twitter. While you're there, definitely follow me as well. Dave, I'm just going to get that in there and of course at Texthelp, we want a follow too.
Dave, it's been an absolute pleasure to have a chat with you today. Thanks for stopping by. Really, really appreciate it. Hopefully I'll get to come on Learning Dust and win badge number two for next year's lanyard. Let's look forward to the next Bett and the next time that we're all together in the same room. Dave. Thank you very much.
I am super excited to be joined by our next guest on the Texthelp Talk podcast, coming from Bett 2022 by the one, the only Mr. Abid Patel, IT director of the Leading Learning Trust. Other ways known as Mr. Selfie king, if you follow Abid on Twitter. Abid , a huge welcome to you, our little podcast booth today. How are you?
Abid Patel (00:12:34):
I'm good. Thank you, Paddy. Thanks for inviting me along.
What do you think about the podcast booth, man? You're an expert in technology. You're an IT manager. In fact, you're an IT Director I should have said, sorry, just get that right Abid , but what do you think?
Believe it or not this the first time I've been in a professional recording booth. I'm mighty impressed.
We should say to people Abid if you just look up, there's actually no roof on our booth here, but there's a very specific reason behind that is because we wanted everybody that was listening to these episodes to enjoy the den of and the noise of Bett, because it's been a brilliant show so far. Yeah?
Absolutely. I've loved it and I think the key factor of the show has been the big ed tech reunion like I've been saying, and we're in the final day and I've still got that fear that I haven't seen enough of the show just because I've just been reconnecting with everyone. The most amazing thing has been meeting people that we've been working virtually with over the last two years and never actually met in person.
Abid actually I mentioned at the outset, all joking aside, you are well known on Twitter. What's your Twitter handle just for everyone has it?
A lot of people certainly in the industry will know you as the selfie king. How many selfies and how many people do you think you've connected with over the last couple of days of the show?
I have no idea.
That's bad when you've lost count, Abid .
Yeah. Oh, I lost count. The worst thing is keeping up with posting them onto Twitter. I really don't want to miss someone else. That's the worst thing is that, and I have been getting the odd message to say, Abid , can you share that selfie you took because you haven't posted it yet. I'm like, oh no, I need to get round to that.
I don't Abid if you saw last night, but one of our other guests, Charlie is coming on to the show later. He took a selfie last night and he was expecting that when he relooked at his phone, that you would actually pop up behind because anywhere there was a selfie across Bett, you were there. On a more serious note, Abid of course has been working in ed tech for over 17 years.
You're the IT Director Abid for the Leading Learning Trust. You lead on I know digital transformation and delivery of all technology related learning experiences for the trust, which is a really, really, really wide remit. One of the things that certainly your Twitter followers would know, but on a wider view would know you're also a Google innovator.
Yes, I am.
You're a big fan of Google.
London, 19 all the way.
London, 19. That was your cohort. What difference has that made to how you help a trust in terms of educational technology, being an innovator, but also actually managing and planning the IT strategy?
The one thing I always say about innovator is prior to innovator, I didn't really know anyone outside of ed tech, outside of London. I knew the odd few people here and there mainly in the UK, probably absolutely no one globally. Also, I didn't know many of the tools as well that were out there. The most amazing thing about innovator is it just opens up all of these global channels to you. Suddenly you can connect with so many people from around the world.
Then those connections bring in such valuable wealth of information that you can then take back into your organisations. I think that's probably been the key for me is having that shared community to be able to share your challenges with, and then being able to then solve those challenges within your own organisations.
Yeah. Of course, one of those things with your expertise, with your experience and what you do and being a Google innovator, you were asked this year to be a speaker and your session was on day two of the show, am I right?
Yes. It was on day two.
How did that go for you, Abid ?
It was absolutely brilliant. I really, really enjoyed it. I think the best thing was, it was a full house and one of the few times where I was talking to a room of complete strangers to me who I didn't know, and I was so grateful that people who I didn't know came to talk to listen about cybersecurity, which is just such an important issue at the moment.
Absolutely. Thinking about your session, how did you position that? What were you encouraging people to do when they were in that session when they go back, what were they taking back with them from your session?
I think from the schools that I've connected with up until now, I think there's a really big gap in terms of the understanding of what cybersecurity actually is and what it entails. It can sometimes in some cases I've seen get very fused with online safety and the two things, as far as I'm concerned are very, very different.
My session was all about raising the basic awareness of what threats to look out for, and then highlighting those threats and then highlighting what we can do to mitigate those threats because no matter what we do, we're not going to get away from those threats at all. It's understanding the importance of what a cyber security, what a cyber incident could do to your organisation. I think that's the key information that I wanted the attendees to take away from the session.
Of course I suppose Abid , it's a critical time because we've been talking a lot in the podcast about, obviously we can't get away from the last two years, but one of the things about the last two years is there's much more technology there. Teaching and learning has shifted to embrace online learning both in the classroom and at home. Cybersecurity become increasingly important and we can't forget about that as we go. In your experience, how do you think technology has changed the landscape in the classrooms in your trust now that we're back face to face? Do more pupils have devices, are teachers still embracing the technology in general do you think? How does it change things?
I think COVID definitely accelerated the process of digital transformation. That was, prior to COVID was trickling forward. Now it's great to see that there have been a huge number of schools that have really run with it and embraced it, and then reintroduced that tech into the classroom. I still would love to see more and more of that tech being in the classroom whilst we're in person.
There are loads of challenges around that in terms of finances, being able to afford the devices, being able to sustain the devices. I also think that there's no getting away from it. At the end of the day, there's no getting away from the fact that we live in a very tech heavy world. Tech all around us. The tech in the studio, the tech in our pockets, the tech at home, the fact that we now prior to COVID, Zoom, Team, Google's meets. Those were only things that businesses at very top end with these kind of studios did, whereas now everyone does it. I think it's really, really important to embrace that more and more as part of the learning.
It's great when I've been connecting with some of the other exhibitors and they've been asking, what do you want to see and what do you want to hear? I say, if you want to be able to sell your products in schools, one of the key things that I think you need to do is give them real life cross-curricular links as to how these products can then fit into-
Yeah, making things relative.
... Fit and make it relevant. Absolutely.
We talk about that, Abid , a lot with a maths product, as you're aware called Equatio. I'm just going to drop it in. That won a little award this week. That's all I'm saying. I don't want to repeat that too much on this podcast, but the important thing there is exactly what you've said. It's taking the concepts within there that could be abstract to some kids and linking that directly into real word and real life example. Totally get it.
One of the things that's come up through the podcast as well, Abid , on your point is the importance of skills. Skills for pupils. We need to develop their skills. We need to give them tools like we talk about inclusivity tools as well as development tools and give them those things. A question for you though, Abid . What's been interesting about the podcast for me is that everybody's talked about tech in a very general sense, but nobody came and said, oh, the one thing for me that really has to stick is as an example, Google classroom, or the use of PDFs, or it has to be that new learning management system that we use, or the new MIS system.
Could you highlight a single piece of technology that you go, if I were to go back to my, and I'm not asking for a plug for Texthelp, by the way, just to be clear Abid , that's not what I'm asking. If you were to go back to your trust tomorrow and Abid , you can only keep one thing. What do you think is the most pivotal thing in terms of technology for schools going forward? Literally a tool.
This might sound like a surprising answer, but for me, it's communication. I feel like communication needs a lot of work in schools. It can be sometimes, the bigger the school, the harder the communication is. In our personal lives, we are WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, all day long. We never bring these tools into our organisations.
The only communication medium we seem to have is email and email is, it's funny how email replaced what was snail mail, post. Email is now the new snail mail. I really want more things like Google chat and teams instant chat to become a real thing. I still get so many emails to say, hi Abbott, how are you? Send.
I'll be like, I'm fine thanks. Send.
There's that horrible part of the reply to all button that's in there on an email. Let's not forget about that, Abid .
Yeah. Then we could be looking at the group chat situation, but I think instant messaging in schools, there was one school that said to me, we need telephones in all of our classrooms in case someone needs to call-
someone in an emergency. And I'm like, "That's great but that costs a lot of money. We're paying for Google Workspace. Why don't we use Google Chat?" And I do see a lot of schools' fear straight away that, "Oh, no, but that's WhatsApp and WhatsApp is like arranging a barbecue with your mates on the weekend. It's not really for work purposes, is it?" And I'm like, "Well, no, it is. It's part of the work platform and it's GDPR compliant, and you've got all of the data retention tools and policies behind it." I think instant messaging. And I think instant messaging could also really open up the teacher/pupil communication as well. Things like Google Classroom have the stream and that communication and connectivity. But children are really getting into instant messaging. My children do it in their own workspace. And if we give them a safe platform like Google Workspace or Office 365, they will use those platforms as opposed to use Instagram or Facebook and things like that.
I couldn't agree more. Taking those tools and integrating them into the teaching learning aspect, really, really, really important. And keeping those there. My daughter's 17 years of age, and if I said to her, "When was the last time you checked your email?" I don't think I'd even get an answer because it's just not on her level.
Yeah, I think-
When we were first starting the digital transformation journey in 2016, I think it was Mark Allen, ed in the clouds, I think that he was saying, "I was saying to my children, what's email?" And he said, "That's what the old people do."
In the days where there was no colour TVs. We had a chat about that last night, actually. That was very interesting. Just coming back maybe to Bett, have you been to any other sessions, anything stand out you saw, anything you've attended or anything you even saw on the agenda that you thought that looked brilliant and maybe couldn't get a chance to go to?
I've had such a busy show. I've been all over the place. I've got-
You've been taking your selfies.
Yeah. I'm having a horrible feeling coming towards the end of Friday that I've taken far too many selfies and not enough for the show.
No. It's all good.
But I think it's been wonderful to see a lot of the exhibitors showing off their ed tech tools. I think they've really embraced what remote learning and what that bore, and how these tools, like we were saying just about the cross curricular, how they can have that reality impact. I think that's been really key. I've spoken to a few people who have been to a lot of talks about artificial intelligence. And I think that's something that's going to be really strong going forward. I think we always talk about reducing teacher workload and I think artificial intelligence, even at the basic level, is really helping with that. My experience with artificial intelligence, again at the really basic level, is with Google Workspace Smart Compose. Smart Compose in Gmail but also Smart Compose in Google Docs, and having that. And I think as AI gets more and more embedded into the everyday tech that we use, I think it could be a really powerful tool going forward.
Absolutely. So lots to learn from this year's Bett. And I think we'll continue to learn from this year's Bett. There's been a lot of hugs at this year's Bett, so that's been good. There's lots of connectedness at this year's Bett, and clearly. And I don't want to keep beating the horse, but there has absolutely been plenty of selfies, Abid . So listen, Abid , I just want to wrap up there and I want to ask you one very last question here, which is in terms of going forward to the future, how do we keep the momentum with IT, with technology, with ed tech in our schools? Very short, what's your one sentence of advice to schools? What do they need to do?
Keep trying, never fear that innovation, and I always say, never fear the tech. One thing I always say to people who always say, "Oh, I don't know how to do the tech." I always say, "There isn't a button on the keyboard that says self destruct, and it's quite difficult to mess things up." And that's what I would say. I'd like to think I am where I am today because I just tried things and hoped for the best and that's the way to go, that's the way to learn, is just try and just play with the tech and just innovate at all possible times.
Yeah. Lots of people have talked about the need for providing opportunity and flexibility for tech. And I think to keep the momentum up and all the changes that we've made and people like yourselves in IT have really, really, really driven from a teaching learning standpoint, we do all of those things together. So Abid , thank you so much for joining us, we really appreciate it, the short time that we've had. I know we could go on for a longer time and hopefully we'll get you back again for a little bit-
Look forward to it.
-of a longer chat. So Abid , enjoy the rest of day three of Bett and we'll see you again soon.
Thank you very much, Paddy. Thank you.
And my next guest today on day three of Bett 2022 Texthelp Talks live coming from the show, is the one, the only Mr. Charlie all the way from Bonnie Scotland. I'm sure you get that too much. Charlie, welcome to the show.
Charlie Love (00:28:22):
Well, thanks very much for having me. And yeah, day three of Bett. Who knew we would make it this far? It's been an amazing event, hasn't it? It's lots of energy.
Absolutely. So many words have come out of the podcast. The energy, the vibrancy of the show, the connectiveness, there's been so many buzzwords that you could literally write a massive word cloud now for how great the show's been. And we left deliberately the roof off the podcast studio that you're in now, just so as people and our listeners could hear the excitement that is actually here. Were you here on the first day, Charlie?
Yeah. I was here on the first day. And it just ... Yeah, total buzz. Whole place. And you just see people reconnecting all over the place. I came down, and it was like, "Oh, I haven't seen you." And so many people, because of the last couple of years we've been through, so many people connecting in real life, we've already had so many great connections online and through webinars or through chat or Twitter or whatever, and suddenly they're all connecting in real life and going, "Oh, you're much taller than thought you would be."
Funny, I was going to say, that's the one thing that threw me, was the taller people that I've never seen. Because everybody was used to seeing everybody at the same height, and there were people that I didn't expect to be 6'5 and beyond. So listen, lots of people will know you obviously from your following on Twitter, and what you get up to there. But for those people who are listening who don't know you, Charlie, tell me a little bit about what you do in Aberdeen city.
So I've got a fantastic role in Aberdeen city. So I lead on digital learning and teaching and the work that we do there, supporting our schools with the right sets of digital tools, with their professional development. My formal title is Quality Improvement Officer Digital. The focus is... It's about improving schools, it's about helping them move forward and managing that kind of what's the right tools for a great experience for learning and teaching? How are teaching staff equipped to do that? Do they have the right devices? Do our kids have the right devices? And just that whole plan about what does that embedded digital learning look like for us as a city? And it's really exciting because we've come through this period, and we were just talking about it, we came through a period where just before the lockdowns hit and all that, we actually were moving quite fast with online learning. We were using Google's tools, Google Classroom. We'd invested a bit in Chromebooks, and that was getting real traction in schools.
But we weren't one to one, and we weren't rolling out devices in that manner. So we'd done quite a bit of work with that. So actually, when we went into this at home learning scenario, for us it was a case of just turning the volume up of what we were already doing. So youngsters were getting that experience, "Oh, this is what we do in class already," but they're now getting that experience at home. So there was a continuity in the learning experience. We very quickly at the start of the pandemic rolled out about four and a half thousand devices to those children who needed them most. So we had teachers going out and delivering Chromebooks into families, which was amazing. Huge team effort. I've never seen collaboration and team working and support across our education, never seen nothing like it. Everyone rose to the challenge of ensuring that learning had to continue, and continue in a really meaningful way. And very much, I suppose also, thinking about all of our children, including very much those most vulnerable children as well.
So huge response from the education community, from our teachers. Everyone just really stepped up, and really turned up the volume on the digital learning they were already engaged with in class. And just develop that usage where kids could go online, they could use the tools and their Chrome devices, or in their browser, or on their computer at home. And because they were signing in with one login into their Google classroom, into their browser, they had all the tools that they needed there or the support was there, the accessibility tools were there, and it just happened for us really quickly I think. And what's really interesting is that, in the period when we have come back into school, you'd think there would be a... You're back in school.
So your online meetings will reduce, your activity in Google Classroom might reduce because you're back in school. In actual fact, with us, which is, I think bucking the trend in many respects, our usage has stayed pretty much the same. Because what we asked our classroom teachers to do was to keep sharing and posting your work in your Google Classroom, keep sharing your work online for the kids, because you don't know when you're going to isolate as a teacher, if you're not going to be able to be in school, and you don't know whether your learners are going to be in school. They might be off isolating for a period of time. So again, that continuity of learning and that continuity of platform learning was shared inside Google Classroom. We kept doing it and that's kept our numbers, the stats very similar to what we had in the-
That's fascinating. Yeah.
In the period of lockdown. So we had that rapid technology adoption, that's really turning the volume up on it. And then our teachers have really stepped up and done amazing stuff and continue to do it, which I think is just incredible. And that's that digital transformation, that real change to what we're trying to do.
It's funny. We've been talking a lot on the podcast this week about momentum. And it struck me that there were a lot of, whether it's a Multi Academy Trust in England or an individual school, you literally, when things hit went on this vertical curve, what struck me, and I was just thinking while you were saying, I don't know if you remember this, well, I'm sure you do you remember this, but it was 10 years ago actually we met. And 10 years ago, when we first met there in Aberdeen city, what struck me then was just how digital learning very much led centrally was at the heart of learning in Scottish schools.
But actually, the city and what you were doing there was ahead. Because I remember the first time we chatted, it was about a one to one device roll out in a school there. So with you starting literally back then, that was 2012, in 2012, that's given you a good head start. Do you think that's contributed to the momentum? Having the vision, the strategy and the plan in place and you and your role being able to build on that, that's helped, I guess, continue those statistics and that momentum beyond that sort of vertical curve?
Yeah, absolutely. So we have a one-to-one Chromebook deployment now. Not across the board yet, because we're implementing it as we can, as we go forward. But two thirds of our children in secondary school have a one-to-one device. A couple of our secondary schools have filled that gap and gone whole school, which is great. We've got one primary school that's done the same sort of thing. And then upper stages primary have got that as well. Love the sound, right? You don't give that anywhere else, right?
Yeah. For anybody listening, that's our prerecorded jingle for this episode of Texthelp Talks. Sorry. But I think that just adds to the fact that we are genuinely live at Bett.
We are absolutely at Bett. We are not sitting on a tropical island doing this, right, Paddy? But we're not. So we're here.
That's true. Yeah. Sorry. No, go back. Continue where you were there, Charlie.
Yeah. So yeah, absolutely. So we went into the pandemic and then we rolled out lots of devices to young people, and then we continue to invest in those devices, putting them out to year groups, and they've really been adopted. And actually, it's been really interesting because this is not what we would've planned to do. Because what we planned to do, and I think, if you're thinking of going one-to-one this is what you should do, is think about infrastructure first. Infrastructure, professional development, have that happening and then introduce your devices. But because of the pandemic, because of what happened and the home learning model and all of that, we went devices first and right now, we are catching up with the infrastructure a bit. And I thought that might have an impact on usage, but it really hasn't. Our kids have continued to use the devices in school, even with some connectivity challenges and use the devices at home. So I find that really refreshing that folks have just kept with it, kept using it.
And I think when we get to the point by the summer, when all of our infrastructure improvements will have happened, we are going to be in such a great place in terms of looking at the next step we want to do, which is using voice more in terms of feedback, developing using more video in remote learning and hybrid models of learning, being able to work, do interesting things. Like we're looking at things with our music service about, well, the music... Because Scotland now has a great thing, which is music tuition is free to all those who wish it. And we're now thinking, how can we scale that up, and deliver music tuition at a really scalable way? And part of that is that, well, can we do it digitally and have tutors and kids in different locations and to do group lessons together online, and is that something that we can do? So all that infrastructure piece and that investment in devices actually gives us new ways of working, new ways of delivering learning, new ways of assessment. It's just incredibly exciting, what we've got this next two or three years, what are the possibilities for us.
And what's great and fabulous to look at, look at the model in Scotland through local authorities and yours of course, Aberdeen city, is the way that you can approach, I guess, equity of access now. And I know you've been working, Aberdeen City have been working with Texthelp for a number of years, and Read&Write is available to every single student. But tools like that and the voice feedback tools that you're talking about, making those available starts to embed that equity of access, make sure inclusion is there, that those different forms of assessment are there. And also I think that's a really important piece of that model that you guys work on.
Yeah. And I know that we've spoken about it in the past but it is that whole thing is you shouldn't have to ask for that additional support. You shouldn't be different. Every child should just be able to... Every learner should just be able to click a button and there's the stuff that they need. The tools that they need to make the curriculum accessible, to read out their texts, to give them the support, to allow them to work effectively, no matter what challenges they face, that should just be there. That's a right for our learners. It's an absolute entitlement that they have. And that's why we're using Texthelp, using some of the mote software as well to give, because our teachers really fed back positively about that as well.
And we're just looking at that, the whole way you can digitize and make accessible all those elements of the teaching and learning. Because you know that when teachers have the ability to feedback by voice, they will give longer feedback, more higher quality feedback. But also when the learners can respond with voice, they will say what they're thinking. So they're not struggling over the language to write the text and to write that language. They're able to express themselves, and able to say really what they want, rather than having to communicate it through text when maybe that's a real barrier for some children.
I think that's been a really big sea change, that there's impact there for teacher workload and stuff but if we, and I don't want to park that as a negative, of course it's incredibly important, but the opportunities that it's opened up for pupils to use their voice. We have seen it in voice notes, for example, in Read&Write, where we would talk about, this is great for feedback from a teacher's perspective. And then you-
Talk to type, love it. It's just go, right?
But then you look at pupils and you say, "Do you use that feedback? Does your teacher use that voice feedback?" And they go, "No, but what I use it for is when I have come across something new, a new part of a topic or a resource, I explain it in my words. So whenever I come back to that, I know I've got a way that I've understood those pieces." So I think when we give the choice and we give the voice to students and pupils, they find new ways of using those tools, whether it's mote or Read&Write, or any of the other tools that you're actually rolling out. But moving on from city and I could talk about city all day, genuinely Charlie, and you know that's actually true. I could probably talk to you all day about this, but you wear many hats. Tell us what other things you've been up to.
So I do a bit of training with one of the Google professional development partners called AppsEvents. So that's more around how do you administer and manage large Google Workspace domains. So some of that work is with the independent school sector globally. It's a bit of work doing that. Some work with some school districts in the US, just bits of support around, is there a Google Workspace domain set up securely? Are they getting the best value out of how they've set up and configured that? And really taking a lot of the learning that I've got over the last probably seven, eight years of working very much with Google Workspace and some of the Google team here in the UK, and taking that learning and sharing it with others and being able to just pass on lots of that knowledge.
So that's been really exciting. I did a bit of work recently with a group of teachers from Reykjavik who are adopting Google Workspace and doing a 7,000 Chromebook rollout there, which is really exciting. And we were speaking about connections and meeting people. And I was at an event last night, I was just walking through the event, and there was a voice, "Charlie," and here is this delegation from Iceland I've never met in real life, and suddenly they're all there. And it was just lovely to connect with them and see them. Yeah. So I do a bit of that training, training and support for really just folks that need that. They need a bit of upskilling around how they manage their Google Workspace domain, and that set up. And I also do a little bit of work around software development and bespoke learning tools and such.
So there's a great thing that I've been working on, which is called Safe Skills with London Grid for Learning. And that's a bit of development work that I've been doing over the last year, which is kind of an E-safety assessment tool for upper stages primary, that allows kids to check in how resilient they are around being online and being safe online, and how they got the right behaviors and the tool to really think about that. So I've been doing a bit of work around that, which has been really exciting to partner the LGFL guys on that.
Charlie, it doesn't sound like you're very busy. Could you take on a few more roles there? Do you think there's a few more hats we can throw your direction?
Yeah. Well, I love being in this ed tech community and just all the opportunities that come from that, and all the great things you see. And it comes back to that passionate about learning and passionate about seeing improvement and how kids can just take digital and have a digital learning and teaching, because it should now be the same. The experience is just thoroughly embedded in the curriculum and what we do. And you see those light bulb moments in kids, you think about how it can change their lives. And I was a teacher for 23 years before I came into central team ed tech management and such. And I still meet students of mine, you just meet them in the street or you meet them at things.
And they always talk about, and it's a great privilege because they remember me which is fantastic, but they always talk about how they enjoyed the lessons that I taught. They found them engaging. They learned skills that they then went on to develop. And it's surprising how many of my former students come up to me and say, " Oh, I did a degree in this. I went on to do this, but then I went back and I did an IT post grad, or I went back and I got into the network support sector." And lots of IT roles seem to be coming out of those former pupils and stuff. So that's lovely to see,. When you meet them, it's great.
Totally. And I think you can never lose sight of that. From my role, what I love at Texthelp is where people come to me and say, "I couldn't have got through my thesis or my dissertation or my schooling, or overcome my dyslexia that I live with without this." But also as you probably know, Charlie, my lovely wife who is here at Bett as well, is a teacher, and I have just lost count of the number of times that ex pupils come up there and say, "Miss," and she's always going to be Miss since you're probably always going to be sir. "Miss, you made a real difference. And here's what I went on to do, and here's what I did." And the reason I imagine those things based on what you've said is we never know the ripple effect of the small things that we do.
The implementations that you've led, the visions that you've set out and the strategies that you've implemented in the city and all of those other pieces you do, genuinely has a massive ripple effect. And I don't think any of us should ever lose sight of that. There's impact everywhere. We all want stats and stats and statistics and proof and achievement levels, I don't think we all appreciate just the ripple effect that has there. And you just keep doing what you're doing, Charlie, because clearly, it's given you a much more global view. When you talk about teachers in Iceland, you talk about the tech projects that you take on, you must be able to bring all of those insights and skills right the way back in the city as well. And so-
I suppose, and open your view on that.
Yeah, absolutely. It's a great privilege for me, because I can do that whole piece about looking outward and seeing what folks are doing, seeing how others are developing and improving, what strategies they're using, how are they approaching professional learning, all of that. I can look outside and see that, and then bring the best of that back to my role into Aberdeen City, which is fantastic, but also it's great that we can take that, and mix it up, and develop our own ideas, drawing on that view.
One of the things that we're really excited about at the moment, which is, we did a piece of work... And we're talking about the sort of work that we do. We did a piece of work with staff post pandemic around what does professional learning look like? What should it be? They wanted grab and go pieces of short pieces of professional learning, micro credentialed, that would fit in with a really busy teaching schedule and where people are at right now. And people are tired, right?
Our teachers have done an amazing job. They have been flat out for the last two years. They are tired and they're excellent. They're doing their very best. But they are tired. So they want the kind of model of professional learning that will fit and slot in with what they're doing. So we did a great piece of work around, what did they want? It was that type of micro badges and credentials. Then what we've now done is we've partnered with Canopy and Google. We're looking at their workspace skills and our teachers love it because its micro badges, it's grab and go online professional development.
We have just seen that explode with our staff and so much so that we want to develop that kind of micro credentials and that badging and small bite size pieces of learning and development more, as a model for professional learning for the next couple of years. Because it's going to let our teachers just grab what they need when they need it. When they've got time, do that piece of work. So it's really exciting. And I think that's new, innovative and it's very much that response to the journey we've been on for the last couple of years.
Absolutely. I'm going to bring things back round to Bett, just to wrap up. Charlie you've taken part in panels with me. You've been on a number of things and you know my fondness for the rapid fire thing at the end and everybody looks like a rabbit caught in the headlights. No Paddy, not one word. And it's not one word. But from your perspective, thinking about Bett 2022 and what you've seen this year, what's been your... Aside from the connectiveness and meeting people... Because we all absolutely associate with that. What's been the one big thing for you at the show? What have you seen and went, wow. Did not know that or didn't know that existed or what's your one takeaway from Bett this year?
My one takeaway from Bett year, and it's actually a bit of validation for something that I've been wanting to do for years, and never got to. That's the whole thing around esports. I'm really excited about that. In Scotland we're beginning to develop an esports set of qualifications and looking at all those skills, the team management, the tech management, the social media. All those rich skills that go around esports, that whole bit around using esports as a project based learning context. I've wanted to do that for a long time and it's been on my list and never got to that. I've just come here, Bett's got the esports. The esports at Bett offer, which is here. I've seen that, attended a few things. It's just absolutely validated that's what I want to do. Get that set up and going.
I've heard that from quite a few people just saying what you have been saying and actually nobody's mentioned on the podcast, but people that I've talked to, they've been blown away by what was presented here. The last question then for you in regards to that, before we wrap today Charlie. Is there a session that you really wished you could have went to and just ran out of time for one reason or another, was there one thing you kind of went. I really wanted to be there and missed it, or was there a session you went to and really enjoyed either or.
My Bett has been so full of meetings and connecting with people and so on. What I'm really looking forward to... And that's a bit of what I'm going to do this afternoon. Is actually really getting out into the show. Having a good walk around and taking it all in. because I haven't had much of that opportunity as of yet. I suppose that's my regret. That I haven't been able to spend more time wondering the show and seeing lots and lots of new things, but I'm going to do my best to do that today. For the rest of the day.
Charlie's top tip of course is going to be to listen to all of the episodes over the Texthelp Talks podcast that came live from Bett of course isn't that right Charlie?
I'm going to leave here -
The trip back to Scotland, put those headphones in and you can listen to us for the rest of the journey home.
As soon as we're done wrapping here, I'm putting that on download. Right? That's going to happen.
Charlie, love it, been absolute pleasure as it always is. You can follow Charlie on Twitter. Hey Charlie?
Charlie underscore love on Twitter.
Easy as that. Charlie, it's been a pleasure. Thank you for stopping by. We really appreciate your time and I hope you enjoy what's left of Bett now, which is... We're in the early countdown now towards the end of the last and final day of Bett. Charlie , enjoy and thank you, and we'll see you again soon I'm sure.
Thank you very much.
It's fantastic to be joined by our next guest. That is the amazing Mr. Graham, Director of Innovation and growth of the LEO Multi Academy Trust. Graham, a huge welcome you today.
Graham Macaulay (00:51:42):
Thanks Paddy. Lovely to be here today and to hear, from your great knowledge and share some thinking.
I think you've got this wrong way around Graham. Now I do appreciate that you are the man with the expertise and you're well known on Twitter obviously. I know you posted a lot of the journey that LEO has come along over the last number of years, but we'll get back to that and we'll get some specifics in a second. As I've said, you are well known from Twitter. Where can people find you on Twitter Graham? For those of you who don't know you.
So for those of you that don't follow me is at Graham. I will spell that because the chance of you guessing that right is really hard. That's M a C a U L a Y.
Is that the Scottish Macaulay spelling or is that the English Macaulay spelling? It's not the Irish Macaulay spelling.
No. I think it is rooted in some Scottish history, but that is a long way back and far before I was born.
You're not admitting to it anyway, is that right?
No, absolutely right.
Graham is an experienced and well respected teacher, senior leader and educational technology thought leader. More recently he's led the use of technology at the LEO Academy Trust. I'm sure any of your Twitter followers will know this. Of course Graham is a Google innovator, and you're a coach Graham?
Yes. I applied for the coach program around two years ago, which was a really exciting process, but what was even more exciting to find out I'm the first one in Europe, middle east and Africa, which was really quite impressive.
Yeah, I was really surprised.
That's fabulous though. That has been known as a really incredibly powerful program. I mean, anybody who has been through it, have really testified to the strength of that.
Yeah. I think we've seen as a sector that there's a role for training and yes, there's a role for how to do X, Y, Z on a tool. But I think what we've also seen is classroom practice is rooted in really good supportive professional developers, staff, and actually coaching staff on understanding the needs of your classroom environment, understanding those challenges, and think about how can we support staff to overcome those is crucial. That's where I think the coach program is absolutely brilliant. Yeah.
We've been talking through the podcast over the last three days at Bett. There's been a lot of talk about how CPD and training or whatever skin we want to put on it has changed quite a lot over particularly the past couple of years. It's not just about virtual, it's also about how we deliver it and how frequently we deliver and how accessible it is and when people can access it. Speaking about Bett, and of course this is an episode coming live and direct from Bett 2022. As everybody can probably hear from the den, but we point this out to everybody Graham. But if look up there, you can see we've left the roof off. So everybody knows we are indeed actually on the show floor, this is not a sound effect.
Yeah. There's absolutely no argument, I can confirm we are at Bett, I'm currently looking up at the roof Bett and looking out and seeing loads of people at Bett, which is of course amazing to be here.
It is brilliant to be back. Isn't it? What have you enjoyed most about this year so far?
I think like lots of people are saying here is it is nice to be back and it is nice to see people and it's nice to... At a really low level, it's nice to put a name to a face. It's nice to see people and think, wow, you are a lot taller than you look online. Or actually -
That's been the recurring theme everybody's talked about, "Hey, everybody's taller in real life". Have you noticed that?
You're you're a man of some stature yourself height wise so you probably get that too.
I suppose all we've seen is like shoulders up haven't we, or just below shoulders. So it's just lovely to see people that you perhaps have engaged with online, or on a webinar, or you've delivered a webinar, or you've seen them on social media. I think that's really nice, but more importantly than that is the reminder that we are a human sector, we're here to help children and learners develop and that's around human connection. I think over the last three days, there's not anything I've seen more than people connecting with people, which is really refreshing to see.
Actually we bumped into each other on the way in to the show this morning Graham, and one of the things we were talking about there, which I think struck everybody is the number of pupils, children that have been at Bett this year. Absolutely. And your Trust LEO brought a class or you rotate a different class, so tell us a bit about why you did that and why they were here.
Absolutely. We brought some of our digital leaders from each school. At the LEO Academy Trust, we're absolutely committed that children should be driving up the hows, our schools, and the trust develops. We, exist to help them learn. I think it's been utterly refreshing to bring children here, to inform our thinking, to have maybe a few pens and a few freebies to go home with. But more importantly, for them to get out there and to be able to see the different resources out there to come to us and say that I think this would really help us with X, Y, and Z.
It's crucial. And I think understandably some of those kids have been a little bit overwhelmed about, "wow, this is huge". I was talking to one of our children from one of our schools that had just got here and they had actually come on the Emirates cable car thing to get here. Even that alone had blown their mind that they could do that as part of their commute to Bett. So yes, being obviously great to see our children look at so many different things, but also great to see so many different schools bringing different children. I guess as well, a bit of a thank you to some of the suppliers here for really embracing that, for opening their virtual doors to schools and to pupils and recognise them as a really key partner in the use of tech.
I know, you're right there Graham. It's important for all of us. Every single supplier has to recognise that ultimately that's who we're here to serve. We're here to support students and pupils in their learning, no matter what age they are, no matter what level of education they're at and continuing with the theme of Bett. I know you're a man in very, high demand. Everywhere I turn, you're speaking at something Graham, you're almost at the Paddy level, it has to be said, like almost.
I've learned from the best obviously.
But you had actually two sessions on day two. Tell us a little bit about those and what you covered in those sessions.
Yeah. Myself and colleagues spoke on the stage twice yesterday. I think what I'm really passionate around is the use of technology to develop our pedagogy. Yes, technology is a key part of how we deliver our curriculum and how we deliver our inclusive approach. But actually we don't exist to use technology. That's not our motivating factor. Our motivating factor is actually, how can we do the absolute best for our children? Actually that's what I spoke about. The first one was around the future of education and the role of inclusion in that. I was outlining some of the ways that we've reduced some of those barriers to learning. I don't want to say we've removed them because those barriers are still there. But technology has definitely helped us.
In LEO we don't have a digital divide. We provide every child with a device. It doesn't matter whether your income is zero or whether your income is two million pounds an hour. We provide you with those devices. Because that is absolutely crucial. Likewise, with internet and connectivity, we provide all of our disadvantaged families with internet access because we believe that is crucial. We believe that some of our most disadvantaged families need that connection. They need that internet to access these cloud resources, and if we don't provide that, we are ultimately going to have a bigger divide. That's really important to us and it's not just about device access. It's also about how we use tools such as Texthelp, Nearpod, Flipgrid, Jamboards, Mote, a variety of tools to really deliver this fully inclusive environment.
The second session we did was about some of the reflections about remote learning. This definitely wasn't about "we use Google meet and this was really good". But we've moved on from that. It's about actually what is the underlying principles of teaching and learning that we've developed as a result of remote learning? So an increased pace to learning. None of this teacher talk for too long, five minutes as a teacher let's model, let's go straight into an activity, let's have a go with that. Pull the children back virtually let's look at the assessment data, use that to inform our teaching. So it is really great to share some of our thinking and of course this is all rooted in our experience. This isn't a product pitch, wasn't a product demo. It was about actually saying, this is what we see on the ground in our schools, and really hope that through doing that we can support other schools on the similar journey that we've gone on.
I think that it's interesting that's how you finish that line Graham. Because one of the things I know you've always said to me over the last few years that I've known you is, " look Paddy. If somebody wants to come in and somebody wants to learn from us or give us learnings, all we want do is share together". There's some great practice going on I know in the schools. But the thing is, your doors genuinely are always open. It's not cheesy. It's not tried, it's not for show. It's like, this is what we do come in and see it, come in, take part and learn and we'll learn together. I think you should absolutely be commended on the door open policy within LEO. I wanted to think about moving forward because I think the title of that session was, the effective legacy of remote learning.
I want to just... I know this wasn't necessarily the context of that session, but one of the words that keeps coming up in the podcast episodes from across this week live at Bett has been momentum. Sort of the worry of, "Well, we had an effective digital strategy in the last two years" or "we've had one for 10 years, but it just accelerated". But one of the legacies there for a lot of people is, how do we keep that momentum up? And I know from your perspective, you're very passionate and very focused on how do we generate the evidence? How do we generate evidence of impact and in order to make informed decisions about, what we do next. What's your kind of thought on that?
Yeah I think in many ways, I don't mean this as a disrespect to anyone across the sector, but what we've done over the last two years has in some ways been easier than perhaps we would've assumed. Because we've had no choice. We've been thrown into a really difficult situation and we've had to make decisions on scale at speed. Of course that's taken a huge amount of effort from everybody across the sector, but actually we had no choice. We had to make decisions. We had to run with it. I think where we are now, it's about actually, we aren't on that absolute final sprint. We are on a long distance run here and it's about sometimes slowing down to take time to actually think about what do we need. One thing I know that we are really committed to at LEO is about slowing it down, thinking about what we're trying to achieve, defining what we're trying to achieve and making sure that we do really thorough evaluations of tools, practices, pedagogies, curriculum, schemes, et cetera, so that we can make evidence informed decisions about the future.
I think there's a real risk and I include at Bett of so many providers out there, so many fantastic resources and so many suppliers, but actually they are all great. They're only great in a certain place or a certain environment in a certain context. It isn't easy and we've used a number of partners to really help us with this evaluation piece. I think that is absolutely crucial that doing this isn't easy and I don't want to say that defining your outcomes and measuring them is easy, because it's isn't but it is crucial. Because actually if we're going to maintain this and sustain this long term, we've got to be having that evidence base or we can go back to our board. We can go back to our governors and say, this is what we're committed to.
This is why we are committed to, this is what we've seen. And also finally, this is what we hoping to see in the future. My thoughts on this for schools are please do not rush this stage. If anything, I think this stage is the absolutely most crucial stage. I think it's so easy to get distracted by the, this is how I install something. Cause this is how I deploy it. Or this is what the adoption cycle looks like for this tool. Of course massively important, but let's not consider that the end let's consider that start of a much bigger piece of work.
That adoption cycle I think is a very misunderstood thing, with a lot of educators around the globe.
Where people look at a particular tool from us at Texthelp, they'll expect changes overnight. They'll expect it to be adopted by 90% of kids straight away and the reality is, that is a journey, no matter what, it's a long term commitment. I know you've obviously had a long term commitment with us at Texthelp and many other tools. What I find interesting about what you said there Graham was, when I first started working in Texthelp, what seems like a very long time ago.
Oh, I'm Sure it wasn't.
Yesterday, I'm much younger than I look. Was that schools would always say, yes but where's the proof Paddy? Where's the proof in this bit of educational technology that you're talking about. Actually I think we've come a long way now that we're able to put mechanisms in place and pupil voice and there are bodies out there and organisations that can help us with this. There are research partners and I think that's very exciting times. But evidence informed direction is going to be great.
Absolutely. And I think it's important to say that evidence doesn't have to mean a correlation with end of key stage, or end of phase, or end of school outcomes. Actually, we could be measuring things like pupil engagement. It could be about case studies. It could be about confidence. I think that's where it comes back to what I was saying about defining what we're actually trying to achieve. Actually this is why we've implemented something and this is what we want to achieve. That won't might necessarily be linked to outcomes and that's absolutely fine, but I think it is as you said about, what we're trying to do, what's, what's the purpose.
Yeah, absolutely. Another point I just wanted to pick up from something you said earlier, and I was quite struck by it and I don't know whether one of my colleagues here saw me do the nod, but I actually didn't realise that you supplied internet connectivity to some of the children in your school that perhaps could benefit from it. Of course everybody could and also devices I knew about, but didn't know about the connectivity. There's a lot of... I almost hate the term leveling the playing field in there, but certainly equity of access is crucial. One of the questions I wanted to ask you from our own perspective at Texthelp is, do you think the conversation around assistive technology has changed? Because you and LEO and all of the staff in LEO have always said to me. "What we want to do is give a broad range of technology, proven technology to our pupils and let them be supported in their own terms when they feel they need it". Do you think outside of LEO, has that conversation shifted on post COVID or are more people thinking along those ways, or should more of them be thinking along those ways?
I think there's definitely been a shift. I definitely think there's been a shift. I think if anything, one thing we've done is we've broken down this complicated technical term, assistive technology and we've actually made that mean something to a teacher. I think that it can be a bit abstract. What do we even mean by assistive technology? So I think that's really important, but I think there is more understanding, but there's definitely further to go. I definitely think we need to be doing more to say actually, Hey, let's, let's understand Jack's needs. Let's actually recognise that we need to spend some time teaching that child a range of strategies to support them with their learning. I was in one of our schools a couple of weeks ago and a child was telling me how they really struggled with their spelling and they're really aware that the spelling is a weakness for them.
But what they do is that they know that they've got those tools in Texthelp, that they can just go and use. They can go and use the picture dictionary. Then this child has that resource there to support them. They're not reliant on adult intervention. Now don't get me wrong. Of course, we still are absolutely committed to teaching children to spell or teaching children reading. This isn't to replace that. This is actually saying there's this time and place for let's empower this child to use the technology, to support them with their own learning. I think, as much as I said there's a long way to go. I think we've got a long way to go at LEO. Actually. I think there's a lot more we can do, but we've definitely gone on a huge journey and I think our staff are definitely aware that this is one resource that they can use alongside an adult or alongside a dictionary or alongside, their peers. It's really refreshing to see people at the show that are talking about this and sharing how they've adopted different types of technology to really support some of those hardest to reach children.
Yeah. Fabulous. I'm going to come back to start to wrap up this recording and this episode with you Graham, just to Bett and kind of three questions for you at Bett. I've just smiled and giggled on this podcast. As I think Graham has there's there was a lot of balloons just went by.
I was wondering what that was. I thinking wow, that was quite exciting.
Maybe we'll put a picture in the show notes for everyone, but coming back to Bett and three very quick questions just to wrap up the day Graham. The first one is, what was your standout thing, aside from connecting with people and seeing the children you talked about, but like an actual, the stand you visited, the tool you saw, the person that demonstrated. What was your stand out thing this year? If any? Has it all been good?
This is a hard question, actually. So I'm going to be rebellious. I'm going to do two, but I'll do two quickly. The first thing, and this links to what we were saying earlier is, stand out thing. Number of children at Bett. Number of children that are here that are confident, that are passionate, that are sharing their opinions has been really refreshing for me. So that doesn't really answer the question, but I think that's my stand out. I think the second is a real approach to sustainability. I've seen that around lots of stands. I know we all like a freebie. I know we all like a free pen, but actually what I'm seeing is providers giving out stuff that actually will be useful and will help people in their roles, whether that be for their role in school or college or for their own wellbeing. A real nice commitment to actually let's do the right things rather than let's just do lots and lots and lots of things.
And second question. Was there anything that you wished you had got to, say a session this year and you just ran out time.
Because I know you've been incredibly busy during the show.
Yeah, I wish that there was more time to sit and just connect with people. I feel like I've had a lot of snapshot, 15, 30, one minute, two minute conversations, and I'd love to say to someone, "Look, let's just meet up tomorrow, sit down, let's just go for a coffee. Let's just maybe go outside of Bett and just have that chat, and just really sort of discuss things in detail," rather than, sort of, it feels a little bit like the whole three days have been an absolute marathon to get to the right place at the right time. Admittedly, I was quite lucky to get here on time, because I'm not sure I've got to anything else on time, but I think it would be nice just to have a bit more quality interaction, and maybe that's probably my fault that I haven't perhaps allocated sufficient time for that, really.
My third and final question on Bett as we come to a close, well, actually I think I'm kind of maybe going to try and answer for you, but what it was going to be was what do you think Bett should be like next year? And so what I'm going to suggest to you, and you tell me whether I'm on the right track.
Okay, yeah. No, go for it.
Is number one, let's have more children here at the show and make it more children-centric. And number two, I'm going for five days a week, because I think if Bett rocked up to five days a week, I think you'll be here, but you may still run out of time. I don't know. What do you hope for Bett next year? But that's what I hear from you today.
Yeah, no, absolutely about the children bit, and I think actually, wouldn't it be great if we had, I don't know, Kids Do Bett, a whole program at Bett just for those children? And we brought some young children, we brought children from age six and seven, so we're not talking necessarily secondary school students. Let's put on a program for them, let's have some talks that those children could go to. Let's have some of the most inspirational, passionate teachers on a stage at Bett talking to children, engaging with them, thinking about what the future of education looks like. Wouldn't that be amazing, to have children driving the future of education based at Bett? And yes, maybe slightly longer. I know a lot of people talk about there no longer being a Saturday, but I think actually if there was a bit more time, you would have perhaps more quality and perhaps less quantity. You'd have actual real valuable conversations.
Yeah, and look, Graham, that's been fabulous, and a lovely way to leave it there. I'm just going to pick up that line that you said there. I don't know if you remember whether you said it, but, "Wouldn't it be great if our children were driving the future of education," and I think that's something the Bett organisers should absolutely listen to, Graham, and I think we should all air our views on that. Graham, it's been an absolute pleasure, as it always is. I know this will definitely not be the last time we talk with you. Keep in touch, Graham. Thank you.
And very privileged and honored that I can call you a friend in this. But Graham, thank you for all that you do for the trust, for Texthelp and all that you've done at the show, and I guess we'll see you again soon.
Brilliant. Really enjoyed it. Cheers, Paddy.
I am hugely excited about our next set of guests. Yes, you heard that right. Our next set of guests at today's episode of the very last and final day of Bett 2022, of Texthelp Talks Live. I am joined, and really happy to be joined, by two people this time. Umaira and Jay, from the very wonderful Basingstoke College of Technology. Umaira, Jay, welcome to this episode of Texthelp Talks.
Umaira Tariq (01:12:15):
Thank you very much for having us.
How are you finding the show today?
Jay Andreson (01:12:19):
Busy. Very busy.
This is your first, well, it's your first time at Bett, obviously. You're new to the roles, as I understand. We'll come to your roles in a little second or two, but this is your first outing at Bett, yeah?
Yeah, this is our first time at Bett.
It feels like it's our first outing, because of course, like most of the world, we haven't been here in two years either. So what do you think of our lovely podcast booth?
It's great. It's lovely. I like the theme and the colours.
It needs a roof to feel more secluded.
So, Jay you've noticed the fact there's no roof. Now, I have had to tell people that's by design, and truth is, I don't know if it's by design or not, but the idea was that we would hear the din and actually be able to demonstrate to people we were live, and also that there were many people here. I suppose Friday's maybe a bit of a quieter day on three day, but just wanted to explain to everybody you're both part of the digital team at BCoT, at Basingstoke College of Technology, and your job really, I guess, as a team is to support staff and students to use technology. Can either of you tell me a little bit more about what that involves?
Yeah. I work with BCoT's digital team to develop teaching, learning and assessment practices that align with the college's digital strategy.
And who sets that digital strategy, Umaira? Where does that strategy come from in BCoT?
Our managers go ahead and write that strategy, and we have written that strategy from 2021 to 2026?
I believe so. 2025.
So it's like a four or five year digital strategy, and what's the ultimate goal of that? Is it to get more students using technology to support their learning? I mean, what would you say, if you had to sum it up, where does BCoT want to be at the end of that?
I'd have to say it would be, I think our ultimate goal is get 90 so about 50% of staff members more digitally competent. So they're using tools like we do all the time, innovating with new tools, without us having to be there to guide them, to facilitate them, or to push them. So it's giving them the capabilities and the confidence to be digitally safe and secure to progress, and actually I've forgotten what word I was going to say, but just progress on with their careers CPD-wise.
So, if you're talking about progressing, does that mean that for the staff and the students, do you measure in any way where they are in their digital skills or competencies, and then put them on a journey to progress them?
We have recently created our module on digital wellbeing, and then we analyse the data as well, and how the students are doing. We have also created our 168 hours spreadsheet for the students, so they can just put the data in and then they can analyse how they're doing there.
And is that something you guys create? So you look at the strategy and you go, "Right, well..." You come up with the solutions to deliver on that strategy?
That's really, really, really good.
We've also started a digital coaching program, where we take a select few group of teachers, personally coach them ourselves to build up their digital competencies, and then we then move on to a different cohort and train them up. So basically, we have many ambassadors for the different tools that we use in different sectors.
Do you think in what you've found, say with teachers and staff, so you're working with them directly, obviously, and you're taking a cohort of them, what are the biggest challenges? Is it confidence in using technology? Is it, "I don't really see why I need to use technology"? Is it just they're not aware of the technology that BCoT has? What have you found?
I think the main barrier is time. They don't have time to use that technology and practice and play with it. I think that's the main barrier.
Okay, that's interesting. How do you convince them that it's time well spent? Do they just have to use the tools?
I think this is your one. My one, my challenge is a little bit different, for my one.
Like what you said, we just create different resources and we show them how they can use it and how they can reduce their workload using the technology. So, that's how. We ask them to use it and we suggest them to use it.
I have to say the main challenge for me is the confidence level, is like some of the people in my cohort, they don't use technology a lot and they don't see the use of technology in their subject area. So it's finding tools relevant and then building their confidence up to the point of where they don't need to phone me, because they've already figured it out.
And to build up their confidence, we have started a coaching program as well, like tech coaching program, and in each cohort we have two or three coaches assigned to us and we just go to the classes and help them with technology as well.
So how many, what's the ratio there? Two or three coaches, did you say?
Two or three coaches each. Like I have three coaches, Jay has three coaches, and my other team members has also assigned coaches as well. So in each cohort, we just go to their classrooms and we help them with what they're struggling with, and we see them and then we give them ideas and improve, and ask them how to use it.
That's really good. In terms of outside of time, are there any other challenges? Not necessarily that the staff or teachers or students face, that you face in your role? Like do you struggle with time, do you struggle with convincing people they need to be on board? Are there any other challenges there?
I'd say for me, it's the time aspect, and then trying to talk to them about it, because it's that some subject areas, they might be quite headstrong. So I'm talking to them, trying to put myself on the same level as them, but they're trying to push themselves higher. It's that very odd balancing game of making sure they're still confident and feeling like they're in control, while I'm still assisting them, helping them and making them improve.
Okay. Now, we're obviously sitting here in this, I'm going to say yet again, in this lovely podcast booth for all of this week on day three of the Bett Show. This, as we know, is your first time here. Bett has obviously gone and been away for the last two years, as many aspects of our lives have been, but how does Bett help you guys? What have you found being at the show, went, "Ah, right. Now this helps"? Is it about seeing new things or meeting new people, or why is Bett useful to you guys in your role at the college?
I think it's a great experience to be at Bett, as this is my first time at Bett. I think when you meet new people, when you see people and talk to them, like the inspirational or motivational people and you get ideas, you get motivation and you get inspired by them. So this is why I'm here.
So my next question, of course, Umaira, is give me some of these ideas that you've got at the show this week. You've dug the hole there, right, so, yeah.
That's the reason why I stayed silent.
And Jay's going to answer the next question, which was give me one of your ideas.
I've been to, like exploring different stalls and stands, and there was a stand of LG Interactive, in which they're using interactive tools to teach the students how to do maths. I think it's a good idea to have a wall in our college as well, so the students can play with the basketball and then they can just throw the ball onto the right equation. With this, they're going to learn and they're going to play.
It's funny, that motivation thing is really, really important to learning, isn't it? We find that, we worked with BCoT on one of our products called WriQ, and the insights we had when we just give the students the tools. We said, "Look, just tell us. It doesn't matter what you say, you just tell us what you think." The motivation that came up was really strong. So, Jay, it's over to you now. What's the one idea you've got from Bett this year?
It's more for a staff member point of view, because I just had a safeguarding, well, I just went to a safeguarding tour, and their main core concept was keeping the training going throughout the actual terms. So now one main idea is just to go back, talk to our designated safeguarding leads, and if any of my fellow colleagues at BCoT are listening to this, this is where it came from. You can have a go at me for this, but implementing more termly training to make sure everyone understands our safeguarding protocols, just so then if anything happens, we all know what's going on. We all get taught in September, but it's whether we genuinely remember that from about this time, when we're all tired and we're all going to fall asleep.
I suppose, though, that must be an exciting part of your roles, that it's iterative. What I mean by that is you're going to be able to look at what's been effective, you're going to be able to reflect on it. You're going to be go, "No, no, we need to change this up. We need to do something different." Because you talked earlier about the strategy, the top level strategy, but actually you guys are literally having to deliver on that every day. So this is an exciting role. Why did you take the roles?
I'm going to let you answer first.
My teacher asked me-
Jay needs more time to think about the reasons there. Yeah.
In my childhood, I wasn't a technology person at all, but when I saw things working around me, like how a single piece of code can change, like how a single piece of code can wash your clothes, how a single piece of code can warm up your food. So I studied computer science as a major subject. When I was at college, the teacher who used to teach me computing she moved to Basingstoke College of Technology, and then when she saw this post, learning technologist apprentice post, she sent me an email that, or maybe text message, I don't remember, and she asked me to apply for this role. And I said, "Why not? This is something related to technology, so yes."
Yeah, nice one. And Jay?
For me, it was back when I first started my journey at BCoT, it was quite rough, one of the courses that I was on, it wasn't well sculpted, but now it is. But throughout that, I saw how myself and my friends always struggled with assignment work. I struggled a lot with dyslexia. I still do, but it's just seeing that whole struggle. I then started helping out Scott, as a student digital leader, helping teach staff members to try and make it easier for students, to actually show staff members, "This is what we see. You might see it this way, but this is how we perceive it, this is how we think about it. This is what you can change to help us and help us learn."
And then after doing a media course, I found different ways to help my own classmates out in more creative ways, and to actually make learning fun. Because for me, back when I was being taught at school, it wasn't fun, I wasn't learning. I learn from very fun and interactive ways, and that's something that I want to do, is I want to make learning fun again. So it's not just sat there, staring at a whiteboard for three and a half hours, and it's just that goal made me want to apply, because if I can help one student achieve their GCSEs or achieve distinctions in their course and it's fun for them, it's very memorable, that's what matters most to me.
A great answer, and I think from an education point of view, that's a very common thing. It's like, if I can change one thing, if I can impact positively one life. You talked, Jay, about dyslexia earlier, and actually BCoT use Texthelp tools and they have the Read&Write tool. In BCoT, does every student get access to say something like Read&Write? Is that the way that works?
So, if any student has any issues or would like Texthelp, if they don't have it in school, then a teacher will come to us, we go down and install it with them, teach them how to use it. It would normally be Sky, but now it's me, and since I use it all the time I understand how embarrassing it could be to need that sort of tool, and I make it not embarrassing for them. I tell them embarrassing stories I've had when I've not used it, and it makes them feel more at ease.
So, so, so, so important. I suppose that's one thing that, whether it is the senior management team in BCoT, or it's edtech companies like ourselves, we need to always remember that you guys, the students, staff are the users, we need to listen to you and what you need, absolutely. Just as we're kind of approaching the end of this episode, thinking about, and I said this to you guys at the start, thinking about Basingstoke College of Technology, it's known really well around the country as sort of an exceptional center of good practice for edtech, for student deployment, for staff deployment. It's progressive, it's got some really neat initiatives going. It's part, I understand, of the EDTECH Demonstrator Programme as well. So it's kind of acts as like a central training hub for that, is that right?
Yeah, so as part of the EDTECH Demonstrator Programme, schools and colleges will sign up and then they'll come to us, we'll go to them and we'll train them up, basically on what they want help with. We don't go and say, "This is what we do." It's if someone wants help with VR, then I would go and help them with VR. I'd help them and tailor it to them. It's not just, "We have a list of our checklist, here we go." It's a very personalised journey. We work very closely with our colleagues, and it's that mutual relationship that we like to build up and have.
Yeah, it's more kind of like workshops. We also go to them and do one-to-ones, where individual teachers can ask questions as well, and we just help them out.
Got you. So that success of BCoT and how well it's known, I mean, if you were to come up with one word, what's it down to? And by the way, the word can't be Scott, okay? We're not allowed to say Scott Hayden, okay? That's not what we're allowed to say. But if you could put it down to one thing, why do you think BCoT is successful with digital technology, Umaira?
I think it's diverse, maybe that's why, because we have different perspectives from different people, different ideas. So maybe that's why it's quite successful.
Okay. And you, Jay?
I think it's honest, because if we don't know a tool, if we don't use a tool, we'd honestly say to that student, that other college, that we don't use this, but we're more than happy to learn it with you. I'll go away and research it, come back and give them help with it. It's just that honesty that builds that trust more.
And I suppose that's a symptom of having a core set of experience of understanding digital technology, and if something new comes in, it's a lot easier to deploy it out. And then finally, two more questions for you before we let you go today. If you could give any college, so let's stick with colleges, if you could give any college one piece of advice for successful integration of technology, Umaira, what would it be? Just one sentence.
I think I'll ask them to, if you don't how to use a tool, just try. Play. You're not going to break it, but you're going to learn something.
Yeah. Yep, yep. Jay, one sentence?
Oh, this is hard.
You don't like the one sentence thing, I can tell.
Yeah, I really don't.
I don't like it either, if it's any consolation.
I can talk for days.
You're lucky I just didn't say one word. So, one sentence?
For me, it would be don't be afraid to ask for help. Don't be afraid to go onto Twitter to tweet the larger community and ask for help. Don't be afraid to show that weakness, because that's how we learn, is by asking, by showing weakness.
Yeah, and last question for you, guys. In terms of what's next for BCoT, when you go back into college, what's next on the roadmap, what's your priorities for the next month in your roles at BCoT? Apart from take Easter holidays.
I have to say it varies. I believe it varies for us, because we all specialise in different things. Like for me, I want to improve the use of VR, so I'm going to be going back, talking with Scott, talking with senior leadership teams and identifying ways we can start embedding it more, getting ready for the T levels that are coming up, and just to help IT and staff and students' relationships.
And for you?
I just need to create flip learning slides, so we can encourage different teachers to create good flip learning sessions, so they can assign work for students and they can use technology and they can enhance their learning in cloud learning sessions.
I think it's fair to say you're both incredibly busy, as is the wider team. Well, listen, that sees the end of this episode. Some wonderful guests. Umaira, Jay, it's been an absolute pleasure to meet you guys today. Thanks for coming on the stand. Thanks, of course, for coming for Bett. Thanks for all that you do back at the college. You've been absolutely fantastic guests, and enjoy what I know is only a few hours left of Bett. I assume you're you're heading home today, are you?
Or you're sticking around London? Yeah. So enjoy, and pass on my thanks to Scott for all that he does in BCoT when you're back there as well. So, over and out for this last guest session for Texthelp Talks at Bett 2022. Thank you, guys.
Thank you for having us.
Thank you for having us.
Thank you for joining us for day three of our BETTer Together podcast series, live and direct from Bett 2022. It's been a fabulous, fabulous show, and we hope you've enjoyed following along with us and getting a behind the scenes look at the show and the insights from what have been a fabulous series of guests. Do let us know what your highlights have been, or any key takeaways from series, using the #bettertogether or tag @texthelp.