OER Schools Conference

OER schools icons

 29 January 2015, Phoenix, Leicester

Leicester City Council, in partnership with De Montfort University, are holding a free day conference focusing on finding, using, creating and sharing Open Educational Resources (OER). The event builds on the council’s recently released OER guidance and resources, which can be downloaded from http://schools.leicester.gov.uk/openeducation

The resources were produced by Dr Bjoern Hassler,  Helen Neo (University of Cambridge) , and Josie Fraser (Leicester City Council), and have also benefited from the input of school staff, through review and practical trialing.

The majority of school staff use and create digital resources to support their learners and schools – including presentations, lesson plans, and study guides. However, the DigiLit Leicester project identified a gap in support and information for teachers relating to the use and creation of Open Educational Resources (OER).

An understanding of OER and open licencing will support schools and staff in sharing and accessing resources, and in developing staff and learner digital literacy skills and knowledge. OER are learning materials (including presentations, revision guides, lesson plans) that have been released under an open licence, so that anyone can use, share and build on them for free.  Many openly licensed resources are available for schools to use and develop.

At a time when schools increasingly work with, and rely on, digital and web based materials, understanding how copyright works, and making the most of available resources, is essential for staff and schools. Creating OER allows schools to connect and collaborate with others through sharing work. Sharing can also help promote the great work that school staff and schools are doing.


10am – 11.30

OER Leadership Briefing and Q&A

Chair:    Richard Hall

Panel:  Miles Berry, Josie Fraser, Marieke Guy, Bjoern Hassler

11.40am -1pm


  • Introduction to OER for school staff – Bjoern Hassler

  • School Policy  – Josie Fraser

  • Computing, Primary  – Miles Berry

1pm-1.40 pm

Lunch & feedback

1.40pm – 3pm


  • Introduction to OER for school staff – Bjoern Hassler

  • School Policy – Josie Fraser

  • Computing – secondary school – Miles Berry

  • Creating accessible OER – Dave Foord

3pm – 3.30

Next steps & close

Speakers and Workshop Leads

Miles BerryMiles Berry  (@mberry on Twitter) is principal lecturer and the subject leader for Computing Education at the University of Roehampton. He teaches initial teacher education courses, and his principal research focus is the role of online communities in the professional formation and development of teachers. Other professional interests include knowledge management in education, use of open source software and principles in schools, provision for the gifted and talented and independent learning. Miles was part of the drafting groups for computing in the 2014 national curriculum. Until 2009, Miles was head of Alton Convent Prep. In his former post as deputy head of St Ives School, Haslemere, he pioneered the use of Moodle and Elgg in primary education. His work on implementing Moodle was documented as the dissertation for Leicester University’s MBA in Educational Management, and won the 2006 Becta ICT in Practice Award for primary teaching.

Dave FroodDave Foord(@davefoord) is an experienced teacher, who during his years of teaching, developed and perfected many techniques for providing high quality, innovative, and differentiated learning. Some of his best known work is in the area of learning technology (also known as ILT, e-learning, ICT) – using technology to enhance the learning experience. Dave has been a keen advocate on accessibility considerations within this area of work, and specialises in the creation of resources that are highly accessible, mobile optimised, and easily adaptable. Dave works for his Loughborough based company A6 Training and Consultancy Ltd, which provides training, consultancy and resource development services to education providers.

Josie FraserJosie Fraser (@josiefraser on Twitter) is a UK-based Social and Educational Technologist. Since June 2010, she has lead on technology for Leicester City Council’s multi-million pound Building Schools for the Future (BSF) Programme, one of the most accelerated building programmes in the UK. She is also responsible for setting, promoting and delivering on a city wide agenda for educational transformation in relation to the use of technology within schools. She developed and leads on the DigiLit Leicester staff development project, run in partnership with De Montfort University and the 23 BSF schools. The project achieved recognition as one of five global winners of the Reclaim Open Learning innovation competition, organised by the MacArthur Foundation, The Digital Media and Learning Hub, and MIT Media Lab. 

Marieke GuyMarieke Guy (@mariekeguy on Twitter) is a project co-ordinator at Open Knowledge, a global not-for-profit organisation that wants to open up knowledge around the world and see it used and useful. Over the last two years she has been exploring open data in education and its relationship with open education as part of the LinkedUp Project. Her current projects are PASTEUR4OA , developing and/or reinforcing open access strategies and policies across Europe, and Europeana Space, creating new opportunities for employment and economic growth within the creative industries sector based on Europe’s rich digital cultural resources. Marieke has been working with online information for over 16 years and was previously employed by UKOLN, a centre of expertise in digital information management at the University of Bath. Marieke co-ordinates the Open Education Working Group.

hally_1Richard Hall (@HallyMK1 on Twitter) is Professor of Education and Technology at De Montfort University (DMU), Leicester, UK. He is DMU’s Head of Enhancing Learning through Technology and leads the Centre for Pedagogic Research. Richard is a National Teaching Fellow and a co-operator at the Social Science Centre in Lincoln, UK. He writes about life in higher education at: http://richard-hall.org

Bjoern HasslerBjoern Hassler (@bjoernhassler on Twitter) focuses on pedagogy, Open Educational Resources (OER) and digital technology. He led the JISC-funded ORBIT project, which produced an Open Resource Bank on Interactive Teaching for teacher education, focusing on innovative digital technology use in mathematics and science education. He is co-leading the OER4Schools project, introducing interactive teaching and digital technologies in Zambian primary schools.


Registration for the conference is available here.

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Developing SharePoint as a Learning Platform: Final Report

Maths Teacher Peter Williams, from The City of Leicester College, concludes his innovation project  – an exploration SharePoint (part of the Office 365 package) as an alternative to a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) for the school.

You can find Peter’s previous project updates here:

Investigating SharePoint as a Learning Platform: Final Report

After spending a year exploring and developing SharePoint for our college I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. SharePoint is a huge collection of very flexible tools which can be applied in so many different ways, and as I have discovered more about it I have continually found new ideas being sparked.

My focus was to create a functional replacement for our old VLE, and to investigate the social networking features of SharePoint to see how they could be used in the classroom. The transfer of content from the old VLE was straightforward and relatively painless, and the social networking tools were quick and easy to access and use, so by all counts SharePoint has been a successful investment in time.

What follows are some reflections on the benefits and drawbacks to using SharePoint, along with a rough outline of some other potential applications for this very flexible system. This development work is very much on going, and I would expect that how we are using SharePoint in a couple of years’ time will look very different again!



Integration has been by far the most obvious benefit of using SharePoint instead of a different VLE. When we transferred over to Office365 for our mail and user account system it was obviously going to be useful to leverage the other tools built into the system. Students don’t need to log in to multiple sites, remember different log in details, they can just navigate to SharePoint via their e-mail, a system they log in to regularly and are already familiar with.


Fully indexed and searchable documents have proven to be a huge bonus as well, and not one I was anticipating. Every file is automatically indexed when it’s uploaded, and office documents are internally indexed, so a search will bring up Word documents or PowerPoint files with the search terms within them. This is hugely useful, particularly for the personal document storage part of SharePoint, as it makes finding stuff very quick!


SharePoint is not a VLE, and that’s a good thing. It’s actually a document storage system designed for businesses, and it comes with a very robust set of tools which can be manipulated to create exactly what you want. You aren’t forced to do things someone else’s way, you can utilise all of the tools in SharePoint to make your learning platform do exactly what you want, in exactly the way you want to do it!


A core feature of every part of SharePoint is that stuff needs to be easy to share. This means sharing resources, ideas, information and work with other people is quick and easy. It even means documents can be shared and edited at the same time by multiple different users. I have used this system to get small groups of students creating a single PowerPoint together at the same time on different computers. I have also used this to allow students to create a portfolio of work which I have access to. This was I can always see their most recent work and there are never duplicate copies of a file, so you are never looking at an old version of something.


All of the document storage and social networking features are completely secure. No one outside of the college can have an account, and so no external interaction can happen through the social networking tools. Documents can be shared externally, but this is easy to control and is done per-document. With the exception of e-mail, all of the social networking tools are open forms of communication, so staff can monitor any interactions very easily.


SharePoint is completely free. The only cost this year has been the time I spent developing it, so it has saved our college thousands of pounds (annually).


Of course no single system is perfect, and there are plenty of issues with SharePoint which are worth considering. These are the main issues I have encountered, some of which could be a major barrier for deciding to use SharePoint, others have just been annoyances.


If you choose to adopt dedicated VLE software, the initial structure of the VLE will already be in place. This can be a big benefit, particularly if that structure roughly matches what you want to do, and you want to get it up and running fairly quickly. The openness of SharePoint meant that I did have to spend a considerable amount of time early in the year working on the organisation and structure of the content, rather than actually adding content in to be used. Sometimes what you want is a rigid system to just fit into, rather than a blank slate!

Technical Expertise

Prior to teaching I spent some time as a freelance software developer, focused on web applications. Because of this background I was able to tweak and change things in SharePoint which were not trivial! There is a lot you can do without needing more than basic computer skills, but there are also some aspects of SharePoint which required some much more involved work and thinking. There are ways around this, either simply avoid that level of tweaking and adjustment, or look to a third party to do the more technical work for you, but then you either lose the flexibility, or have to spend some money.


The core of SharePoint is solid as a rock, and we have had no issues at all. There are however some ongoing issues with OneDrive for Business (the personal document storage system in SharePoint). These are confined to users who have been using the desktop synchronisation app with OneDrive, the web based stuff has all worked perfectly from the start. This has caused some frustration though, so use with caution.


I have been very pleased with the results of the development project, and the feedback from staff and students has been overwhelmingly positive. This is a tool which we are continuing to develop across the college, with a number of other subject areas expressing interest in creating their own sections for learning resources. It has also been nice to see other members of staff think creatively about ways they could use SharePoint, beyond just giving students access to revision material.

Last term I had the opportunity to give a presentation to our college leadership team on the work that had been done so far on SharePoint, and put forward some suggestions for potential future developments. Here is a slightly condensed version of the list of suggestions (in no particular order):

  • Maps of the school to help students find their way around (particularly for year 7 and new arrivals)
  • List of key staff in the college for students to be aware of, and how to contact them
  • Daily menu from the cafeteria and zone
  • Timetable of extra-curricular activities
  • Student can see details of their rewards and behaviour points for the year
  • Careers information for different subjects
  • Options information for year 9 and 11 students making choices
  • Current notices and announcements
  • Upcoming key events (i.e. fundraising activities, non-uniform day,…)
  • Personalised exam timetable
  • Student friendly schemes of learning outlines for all subjects
  • Student homework diary, showing clearly homework set and due dates
  • Lesson timetable (could integrate with homework diary, and include lesson materials from teacher)
  • Ability to submit homework online, or mark as completed on paper to track their current tasks
  • Discussion board for a class to chat about their subject, asking for help and sharing ideas with peers and their teacher
  • Independent learning resources for different subjects
  • A central place for exam revision material which is easy to find
  • Place for learning support team to access lesson materials when students are not in class
  • Every user has a personal blog by default, could be used as a learning journal for subjects
  • Safe and secure social networking for quick communication and sharing of information between all members of the college
  • Students can access grade collection data for each subject
  • Parents can access grade collection data for their children
  • Parents can access attendance and rewards and behaviour information
  • Portal for parents to easily communicate with teaching staff
  • Collaborative work between students using OneDrive, including simultaneous document editing
  • OneDrive as an alternative to the network drives for students to store work, accessible from any internet ready device
  • Homework management system for staff to set homework tasks with due dates
  • Online hand-in system, with ability to mark and return work electronically
  • Clear tracking of which students have handed homework in, and which work has been marked and returned
  • Feedback and grade/level on homework can be recorded and viewed by student online
  • Upload material from lessons for students to review and revise from (or in advance of lessons for a “flipped classroom” approach)
  • “Paperless” lessons, no need to print out worksheets!
  • Staff friendly detailed schemes of learning stored centrally for all course teachers to access and update
  • Central document repository for teaching and learning resources (searchable and easier to organise than folders!)
  • Workflow processes for completing administrative tasks, particularly useful for tasks involving input from multiple members of staff
  • College calendar stored on SharePoint, searchable and filterable by even type
  • Room and asset bookings system
  • Policy documents can be stored centrally, including versioning information and automated systems for initiating policy reviews
  • Staff noticeboard / announcements
  • Document store for archived information such as briefing minutes
  • Connected to school network drives for staff and students to access resources from a web device
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Project Programming update

Alan Wileman, Head of ICT at English Martyrs’ Catholic School provides us with this update on the school’s Project Programming work. Staff at English Martyrs’ will be working in collaboration with students on a project which will create resources and activities for the new Computing Curriculum. The resources created through the project will be shared openly for other schools to use and build upon. The school is also setting up a student Digital Leaders group.

Alan writes:

Project Programming began earlier this year with an idea to get students learning a variety of programming languages and hoping to create lots of resources in the process. The small group of students who have been working with me are making some excellent progress and below is an update on the project so far.

To date, we have looked at the use of scratch in Year 7 and downloaded several learning resources to review, focusing on providing students with a useful and practical experience of simple 2D programming. The resources we have looked at are free to download and use from a variety of teaching websites. The main site used was TES Resources and were created by David Phillips.

The students are now working on creating the Scheme of Work to enable staff to teach the students how to program.

Our Year 8 students will soon be learning Kodu. Anyone can program in Kodu using keyboard controls, however, the software is designed to work well with xBox controllers as well – these and have had a fantastic impact on the students and their “love” for programming in the software. Likewise with the scratch resources, lots were obtained online and reviewed. However, there wasn’t as many resources out there that aided a student from a very basic level to learn the software without completing just the online tutorials, so this proved to be more of a difficult task for my group of students. All the ones they sourced and reviewed, are available from a variety of site, however, I found the site created by Nicki Cooper – Interactive Classroom to be the best. Nicki’s teaching resources are licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, which means they are free for educators to use, share and remix, as long as proper acknowledgement is given.

The students are now in the process of creating a Scheme of Work for staff to use in classes. A completed copy of the finished workbook will be available at the end of the project once the files have been combined into a new document.

In addition to the xBox controllers, we have been using Lego Mindstorms EV3 kits with learners. This was going to be, and we are still hoping for it to be, the year 9 programming language of choice. So far, the students have had fun making some of the models. Next steps are to get the software installed and complete training by Lego. Training will also be offered to local schools to attend to see the benefits from using Lego Mindstorms EV3 kits in a classroom environment.

We are also planning to use some newly purchased Raspberry Pi kits that came with manuals, bread boards, keyboards, mice and the main Pi board. Unfortunately we have hit a small hurdle with regard to the monitors we have, which are not compatible without purchasing some new leads, something we are sorting. The other option is some dedicated monitors. We will be working with these and creating some useful resources.

All resources we have added to the booklets will be available to all at the end of the project.




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Developing a digital literacy framework

Lucy Atkins and I delivered a workshop at the Association for Learning Technology annual conference, ALT-C 2014, looking at staff digital literacy. We used the DigiLit Leicester Framework strands, descriptors and questions to create two sets of worksheets (which you can download at the bottom of this post) to help structure the session. Workshop participants were mainly working in universities and further education. The aim of the workshop was to use the framework resources to model a practice embedded approach to context/workplace specific digital literacy. In Leicester, we use the framework as a self-reflective tool, to support individual staff members and schools in better understanding their strengths, and any gaps in knowledge and skills they might have. We also use it as a strategic framework to understand the city wide picture and support staff and organisational development.

The first set includes seven worksheets – a high level description of each of the six DigiLit Leicester strands  - Assessment and Feedback; Communication, Collaboration and Participation; Creating and Sharing; E-Safety and Online Identity; Finding, Evaluating and Organising; and Technology supported Professional Development, along with a mystery strand sheet (below) that we included so that participants could come up with their own digital literacy strand area.

Mystery Strand

Each sheet also includes the description of the four levels we work with (Entry, Core, Developer and Pioneer, with the descriptions being the same for each strand), as a prompt to participants.

We asked everyone work with another person or in a small group, and to either pick an existing strand area (with Assessment and Feedback being the most popular) or come up with their own – one of the groups for example chose to focus on ‘online course delivery’ as a competency area, and another chose to look at digital literacy for higher education learners.  We then gave all of the teams 15 minutes, flipchart sheets and marker pens to develop their own ideas, descriptions or questions relating to their chosen strand, practically framing these through how the strand would look at each of the four levels.

It was a busy and successful workshop – a lot of discussion was generated and groups worked hard at getting to grips with linking their ideas to practice. The DigiLit Leicester Framework has been developed with and for secondary and special school staff, so the stands and questions directly relate to them. However, much of the actual content is relevant and transferable to other groups - working within HE, FE, primary or adult education, or within a different profession or sector. This workshop demonstrated how the framework content can be used to scaffold and support organisations looking to take a strategic approach to understanding what the key digital literacy areas are most relevant to a particular group are. You can see how we have made use of the framework to structure staff development work in Leicester schools by looking at our 2014 staff digital literacy survey results, and our recent project activities report.

Assessment and feedback flipchart sheetDistance learning flipchart sheet

Teams fed back to the whole group on their discussion and initial thinking. We also provided groups with copies of our framework statements, linked to each level for the six strand areas.

Communication, collaboration and participation strand statments

These form the basis of the survey we’ve carried out city wide, with staff asked to mark the four statements groups as ‘none’ ‘some’ or ‘all’ (you can find more information about the survey methodology in the 2014 report).

If you’d like to use the worksheets to structure your own workshop or as a starting point to develop your own digital literacy framework, please do:

Pack 1 worksheets: strand and level descriptions PDF

Pack 1 worksheets: strand and level descriptions Word

Pack 2 worksheets: strand statements PDF

Pack 2 worksheets: strand statements Word



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OER Schools Guidance

OER schools icons


Leicester City Council have released four guidance documents and a range of practical information to support school staff in understanding, finding, creating, and sharing Open Educational Resources (OER).

The OER Schools resource packs can be downloaded from http://schools.leicester.gov.uk/openeducation.

Josie Fraser (Leicester City Council) worked with Dr Björn Haßler and Helen Neo (University of Cambridge) to produce the resources, which have also benefited from the input of school staff, through review and practical trialling.

OER are learning materials (including presentations, revision guides, lesson plans) that have been released under an open licence, so that anyone can use, share and build on them for free.  Many openly licensed resources are available for schools to use and develop. At a time when schools increasingly work with, and rely on, digital and web based materials, understanding how copyright works, and making the most of available resources, is essential for staff and schools.

Creating OER allows schools to connect and collaborate with others through sharing work. Sharing can also help promote the great work that school staff and schools are doing.

The DigiLit Leicester initiative, designed to support schools in making the most of the city’s current investment in technology, identified a gap in support and information for school staff relating to the use and creation of OER. In response to this, Leicester City Council is releasing a range of resources to help schools get the most out of open licensing.

The Leicester City Council OER Schools project provides information to school staff about open licencing, and in particular, Creative Commons.

Leicester City Council has also given permission to the 84 community and voluntary controlled schools across the city to create and share Open Educational Resources (OER), by releasing the learning materials they create under an open licence.  By default, the rights of work created in the course of employment are assigned to the employer, unless specific agreements have been made. This permission makes sharing resources simpler for everyone, and provides additional opportunities for schools and school staff. Leicester City Council is the first local authority in the UK to provide its school employees with permission to openly license their resources.

The OER Schools project resources include:

School permission & policy documents:  This pack includes notification of permission from Leicester City Council to city community and voluntary controlled schools, explanatory briefing notes relating to this permission, and model school policies (which builds on the Albany Senior High School Creative Commons Policy) for schools where the LEA is the employer, and for schools where the governing body (or equivalent) is the employer.

Guidance documents: Four documents which introduce OER and open education; look at copyright and Creative Commons licences; support staff in finding, attributing and remixing OER; and cover creating and sharing OER.

Supporting Documents:  Six supporting documents designed to help staff in delivering OER workshops; provide walkthroughs for finding, using and attributing CC Licensed materials; and include an extensive list of annotated resources and related materials.

Additional materials:  A pack of existing openly licensed resources that are either referenced in the guidance or in activities in the supporting documents, provided on a standalone basis to make life easier for school staff.

All of the materials build upon existing openly licensed works and are themselves released under a CC-BY licence. They are provided in editable documenr formats as well as PDF.

The council is also encouraging voluntary aided schools, foundation schools and academies across the city to review their own approach to digital resources, and to see how they can make the most of open licensing.  At these schools, the governing body (or equivalent) is usually the employer.

All of the resources can be downloaded from http://schools.leicester.gov.uk/openeducation


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DigiLit Leicester Celebration Event

On Thursday 11 September, the DigiLit Leicester team hosted an event to showcase and celebrate the ambitious work carried out by the project team and participating schools over the last two years. The evening was a great opportunity for staff from schools and other organisations to be inspired by how Leicester BSF staff are making use of technology to enhance learning and school communities. The highlights video (above) captures some of the of exciting projects presented by Leicester school staff.

The evening began with an opening address from Cllr Vi Dempster (Assistant City Mayor for Children, Young People and Schools), and an introduction by Professor Richard Hall (DigiLit Leicester’s academic lead), which highlighted the importance of the two year project, which represents a new model for implementing digital literacy aimed at transforming the provision of secondary education across a city.

Following an overview of the 2014 Survey data, the team handed over to staff from a number of BSF ICT Innovation projects to showcase the innovative and effective ways that staff in Leicester schools have been using technology:

Bring Your Own Device Trial

Tony Tompkins – The City of Leicester College

Over the last year, The City of Leicester College have been carrying out the city’s first trial of a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) model in the city, with a Year 8 (aged 12-13) tutor group of 23 students. The scheme involved the students using iPad minis in lessons and at home – working with staff to investigate the ways in which the device could add value to the learning experience.

Tony led the project and carried out considerable work on developing a device management model for the school, details of which can be found in his project reports. The emphasis of device use within the school has been around students leading the innovation, with the support of their teachers.


Laura Iredale – Hamilton Community College

The Siyabonga project saw Leicester students use video conferencing to collaborate with children in Lamontville, South Africa. On March 8 2013 both groups of students took part in a live concert, involving performances from both sets of students.

The project really allowed Hamilton students to be part of something bigger than themselves, to gain an awareness of the struggles of others less fortunate than themselves and to think outside of the Leicester box!

Gearing Up to Mobile Learning

Peter Guthrie – Sir Jonathan North Community College

Staff at Sir Jonathan North worked on a project using iPads as a staff development tool, in order to integrate mobile technology into classroom practice. The project also included the involvement of Year 7 (aged 11-12) and Year 9 (aged 13-14) student groups, which were established to support students in developing their independent learning skills alongside their use of ICT.

The project enabled the school to provide training on the use of iPads to all of their staff, and to support individual staff members in engaging with self-directed exploration of the devices.

Improving Digital Literacy Continuing Professional Development

Martin Corbishley – Babington Community College

Babington’s project aimed to raise awareness of the web-based tools and services available for supporting teaching and learning. Martin achieved this through the delivery of a set of 11 workshops for school staff, covering a range of topics including; using twitter to extend the classroom and making use of online collaboration tools.

Martin felt that the course had benefited both the school as a whole and those that took part in developing their digital literacy. It opened peoples’ eyes to what is available and how the internet can be used to enhance how technology is used to deliver lessons. The school will also see further benefit because the digital champions who took part, will continue to share ideas and resources with their faculties.

Member of Parliament’s 6

Sera Shortland – Hamilton Community College

The college’s MP6 Political Speaking Competition is an annual event open to all learners aged between 11 and 16 across the city. The school used the funding to develop a website which will host young people’s speeches, and provide information about the current year’s competition and links to resources for students and staff.

The innovation project itself was only the beginning of this new phase of work for Sera, providing the training and support necessary to set up the MP6 website and make best use of the project’s new iPads for video creation. The project will now move into a new phase of content development for the site, which will be led by the students.

iPads as Alternative and Augmentative Communication Devices

Helen Robinson and Heather Woods – Nether Hall School

The majority of students at Nether Hall School have difficulties with speech and language, many requiring Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) devices: systems which support individuals with speech impairments to communicate. The iPad project aimed to evaluate the use of iPads as a replacement for traditional AAC devices; using The Grid2 computer access software – thereby enabling greater access for their students.

The project has proven that a tablet device together with appropriate software, such as the iPad and Grid player app, can be an effective and affordable communication tool for pupils with communication challenges. The work has had a lasting effect on the pupils’ communication skills, showing that where pupils are empowered with this voice, they are motivated and engaged in learning. This goes on to build confidence and engender trust and respect between themselves and other pupils and adults.

iPad Orchestra

Ellen Croft – Ash Field Academy

The iPad Orchestra project focused on the use of musical apps and light systems to enable students with special educational needs to create a piece of music. The school worked with creative practitioners to design a scheme of work which culminated in a performance of the piece developed by the students. Explorations were also made into the use of visual representation of the music, to provide students with the opportunity to explore and create light sculptures.

The whole atmosphere around the project was that of celebration, achievement, fun and coolness. The creative practitioners were both supportive and challenging to the pupils, constantly pushing them to the next level. They managed to create something that the pupils could take ownership of and truly celebrate as their own achievement.



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Bring Your Own Device Trial: Final Report

Over the last year, The City of Leicester College have been carrying out the city’s first the first trial of a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) model in the city. A school award BSF ICT Innovation Award, the project involves a Y8 tutor group using iPad minis at home and at school to judge the viability of a whole-school scheme. The project was led by Tony Tompkins, College Leader for New Technology at the school.

The project began in February 2013, with the learners receiving their iPad minis in November 2013, as part of the move into their new school building. The First Interim Report (July 2013) detailed the rationale and early preparations for the project, and the Second Interim Report (January 2014) discusses implementation and initial results from the trial. The project’s final Report reviews the impact the project has made on progress for the students, details the final list of tested apps and provides details of the school’s new 1-to-1 iPad-mini scheme.

Final App List

Many apps have come and gone throughout this year.  We have refined our list, removing apps whose functionality is duplicated or done better elsewhere. What remains is a solid set of apps that have wide applicability. A list of this apps can be found in the full report at the bottom of this post.

When considering which paid apps are worth the money, my advice is to avoid narrow subject specific apps and consider instead purchasing a few quality productivity or presentation apps that will be used across the college. Apps like “Explain Everything” and “iBook Creator” are worth investing in and will offer excellent value for money, especially if students (and staff!) are given some initial training in what can be achieved.

As well as identifying useful apps, attention needs to be given to developing effective workflows for students and staff. Productivity apps such as Evernote can be used very effectively in school.  Below is an example of students using Evernote to create a digital version of their exercise book.  Students take a photo every time they complete a page in their exercise book using Evernote, which then scans them using Character Recognition.  Their written notes become a fully indexed searchable resource which they always have access to– even when they forget their book or the teacher has collected it in for marking.  Because Evernote can also store photos, typed notes, pdfs, webclips and audio files, students can keep their whole learning experience together in one place.  Students can also share this notebook with their teachers, who can view it any time, and create their own notes to give feedback.

evernote sshot


The BYOD trial has provided an invaluable opportunity to show that a 1-to-1 scheme is logistically possible, allowed us to figure out the best way to deploy the devices, and proved the case that 1-to-1 has a positive effect on progress and attitudes to school.  The next step for us is to now widen out these benefits to all of our students, and we are about to embark on an ambitious scheme to bring this about.

The TCOLC BYOD trial has shown the school:

  • The iPad mini is a great size for students – fits in with their exercise books, is light for students to hold and use.  16GB is sufficient for school use and all the apps required (although it doesn’t leave much space for games so may limit dual home-school use)
  • The best setup for the devices was using a layered profile approach, allowing the college to push out its own paid or required apps silently over wifi, whilst leaving the student able to install their own apps via the app store.
  • Personal safety and device security has not really been an issue.  Students quickly become very attached to their devices and look after them very carefully.
  • The best apps to purchase are not narrow subject orientated apps, but good quality productivity or presentation apps with wide applicability.
  • 1-to-1 impacts positively on Behaviour, attendance and progress
  • Teachers don’t necessarily need to change how they teach their 1-to-1 class, but it worked best where their use was encouraged and staff were flexible about the format students chose to output their work in.
  • Invest a little more in cases – if you buy cheap, you buy twice (or end up with cracked screens)

The trial has demonstrated that a 1-to-1 solution based on the iPad mini is feasible and shown that it has a positive impact on students. It has provided the College with the knowledge, understanding and most importantly the confidence to launch our TCOLC 1-to-1 scheme later this year.

Full Report

The City of Leicester College – BYOD Trial Project: Final Report (Word)

The City of Leicester College – BYOD Trial Project: Final Report (PDF)

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DigiLit Leicester: 2014 Survey Results

Celebration Event Banner

The DigiLit Leicester project is a two year collaboration between Leicester City Council, De Montfort University and 23 secondary and SEN schools. Leicester’s secondary schools collectively support approximately 20,270 learners each year, the majority of which are between 11 and 16 years old. The project focuses on supporting secondary school teaching and teaching support staff in developing their digital literacy knowledge, skills and practice, and their effective use of digital tools, environments and approaches in their work with learners.

In consultation with participating schools, a Digital Literacy Framework was developed, linking digital literacy with secondary school practice. An online survey was developed, linked to the framework, designed to support staff in reflecting on their use of technology to support teaching and learning, and to provide individual staff members, schools and the Council with information to inform future planning around professional development.

This year’s findings!

The survey was opened for a second time between March and May 2014, seeing an increase in engagement from schools. 701 members of staff completed the survey in 2014, or 39 per cent of all eligible staff, with 209 returning from 2013. The headlines for the 2014 survey findings are:

  • Fifty six per cent of staff across the city who participated in the survey classified their skills and confidence at the highest level – Pioneer – in one or more of the six key digital literacy areas.
  • Twenty three per cent of all those who participated in the survey placed themselves at Entry level in one or more of the six key areas.
  • Staff rate their skills and confidence highest in the area of E-Safety and Online Identity, with 43.5 per cent of respondents scoring at Pioneer level.
  • Staff feel least confident in the area of Communication, Collaboration and Participation, with 9 per cent of staff rating themselves as Entry level and 38.7 per cent falling within the lower levels of the framework (at either Entry or Core level).
  • In Creating and Sharing , 42.1 per cent of staff rated their skills and confidence in the lower levels of the framework (Entry and Core levels).
  • Analysis comparing the survey data from 2013 and 2014 shows that a statistically significant change in staff confidence has occurred, with 21 per cent of participants noting an increase in their skills and confidence. Levels achieved increased in five of the six key areas (excluding E-Safety and Online Identity where levels were already high).

You can find out more by downloading a copy of the report here:

DigiLit Leicester 2014 Survey Report (Word)

DigiLit Leicester 2014 Survey Report (PDF)


Share and promote Pioneer practice

1. Ensure that the work being done by city Pioneers is promoted and shared more widely. Promote and support the use of open licences to enable wider discovery, use and reuse of educational resources produced by city staff.

2. Provide encouragement, opportunity and recognition to Pioneers who support Entry level colleagues.

Supporting entry-level staff

3. Provide supported opportunities and resources specifically designed for and accessible to Entry level staff, particularly in relation to Assessment and Feedback and Communication, Collaboration and Participation.

Supporting self-directed staff development

4. Continue to provide support for self-directed staff development projects and activities. This approach is supported by the research literature, which has shown that professional development programmes that support staff in focusing on developing their own knowledge ‘are most likely to lead to transformative change’ (Fraser et al. 2007, p.167).

Encouraging contextual e-safety guidance

5. Continue to support work which supports schools in expanding the safe and effective use of social and collaborative technologies.

Increasing knowledge and use of Open Educational Resources (OERs)

6. Complete work on the project’s current Open Education schools project, and evaluate the benefit of continued focus on and additional work in this area.


To celebrate the release of the 2014 Survey Results, the DigiLit Leicester team worked with Infogr8 in order to create a simple and easy to read visual representation of the 2014 Headline data.

140812_Leicester Gov_Final

Further information and resources to support staff and schools in all framework strand areas can be found at: www.digilitleic.com under ‘Digital Literacy Resources’


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Investigating the use of iPads as Augmentative and Alternative Communication Devices (AACs) – an innovation project

Over the last year, Nether Hall School has been working on a project that aims to evaluate the use of iPads as a replacement for traditional AAC devices; systems which support individuals with speech impairments to communicate. The majority of students at Nether Hall School have difficulties with speech and language, many requiring AAC methods to help them to communicate. On the whole, these devices are difficult to carry around or limited in nature, e.g. only eight words available. Many of the devices are also expensive, between £4,500 and £14,000, which restricts the number of students who can be provided with the technology.

Here we share the final report from the project, and some reflections from the school project team: Helen Robinson, Head of sixth Form, and Heather Woods, Communication Specialist.

NH iPad cover image

Project Process

The project began with identification of the students who would participate in the trial and the software that would be used. Through discussions with the school speech and language team, The Grid was chosen as the most appropriate software for the project as  it was seen to have more facilities and, most crucially, linked to the school’s current systems, for example Eyegaze and Communicate: in Print. Sensory Software, the makers of The Grid, provided staff training and have provided additional support throughout the project.

Initially, the team had intended to create a standard grid for use with all learners throughout the project. However, it became clear early on that with the diverse needs of their learners, and the capabilities of the software, bespoke grids could (and would need) to be created for each child. The training provided to the school was key in enabling them to create personalised communication grids for each of the students involved in the trial.

Working with Students

The first stage was to introduce the device as a tool, with a grid that was appropriate to each individual pupil. Serious consideration, based on assessment and experience, was given to deciding whether to use True Object Based Icons (TOBI[1]), photographs or symbols for each student.

One to one teaching sessions with the Communications Support Coordinator (CSC) were given to demonstrate to the pupils that if they touched the photograph or symbol, they would receive the item they had requested. In this way, a relationship of trust was built around the use of the device. For some pupils, simply recognising that they could interact and take control of the proceedings was sufficient to motivate them to use the device for communication.

Once the iPad was established as a communication device, the grid was developed.  This was bespoke to each individual pupil:

On the simplest level, the photo began true to size and gradually became smaller and moved to a different part of the screen after selection meaning that the pupil had to be more accurate to request the item or activity. Next, an item that was known to be disliked was added.  This was to test whether the pupil was selecting an item or simply pointing and touching the screen randomly. If this item was selected, the pupil had to hold it and interact with it. The next step was to make the icon move after it had been touched, again to check that this was not random.  The pupil had to look at the icon and touch accurately to make their choice.

On a more complex level, photos were the starting point; in some cases these were photos of the class and staff. Pupils would then use the device to participate in registration activities. This led quickly to adding symbols for lessons. Alternatively, the standard grid on ‘The Grid 2′ was used and simplified to the level that worked with the individual pupil.

Project Report

Since the beginning of the trial, the school have seen significant benefits to their learners through the use of the iPad as an AAC device. Learners have made improvements not only in their communication skills, but also in terms of behaviour and their relationships with staff and family. As the project progressed, it was decided that funding would be used to bring in Karen Cameron and Sarah Younie, researchers from De Montfort University, to work with the school to support the research element of the project; specifically the writing of the project report.


  • A device which can be tailored to an individual childs needs which can then grow and develop with the child.
  • Costs a fraction of other equal more expensive communication devices on the market.
  • Looks cool and appropriate for children, teenagers and young adults.
  • It’s high picture and sound quality reduces confusion compared to other communication devices.

Next Steps

  • To write use of iPads into the schools policy for devices as communication aids.
  • To train staff in supporting Pupils with AAC devices
  • To establish a Parents support group –  Promote wider  community  use of devices and bespoke for individuals home use.
  • Investigate bags for portability
  • Extend project to more students


An Evaluation of the use of iPads as Augmentative and Alternative Communication Devices (Word) (PDF)

Case Studies only (Word) (PDF)

[1] A T.O.B.I. can be a line drawing, scanned photograph, etc., which is cut out in the actual shape or outline of the item it represents.

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Member of Parliament’s 6: final reflections

Following the success of the MP6 Finals in June, Sera Shortland, Citizenship Coordinator at Hamilton Community College and project lead, has been continuing her work on the project’s new website and reflecting back on the work she has undertaken. Sera shares her thoughts with us here:

MP6 Banner


Member of Parliament’s 6 (MP6) seeks to encourage collaboration and participation in politics and public speaking, using technology to build on, share and promote the existing work of Hamilton’s MP6 political speaking competition, which is open to learners aged between 11 and 16 from schools across the city. The competition provides students with direct access to key decision makers both in the council and national MPs. MP6 is more than a competition however; it is an initiative with the goal of engaging a curiosity in world affairs, a thirst for political literacy and the knowledge and understanding to communicate in an increasingly globalised landscape. Personal voice and opinion can get lost in the vast network of social media, MP6 provides the time and a place to talk; through its website www.politicallyspeaking.co.uk

Staff development

Throughout this project staff have received training on the use of iPads and have been encouraged to use them with students. Two teachers have used the website as a starting point for debates in the classroom, accessing past winners speeches and asking students to appraise content and style, as well as give their views of the contestants. This is a small win in terms of the aims of MP6 as slowly more students are engaging with political speaking. It is hoped that the site will be useful to support less confident teachers, helping them to prepare for discussion in the classroom. This will rely on further development, through my ever increasing knowledge of using WordPress. The BSF team (especially Lucy) have been enormous help in demonstrating how WordPress works, its limitations and potential, whilst this has only been of personal benefit to date, students will be encouraged to use and eventually take over the politically speaking website and I will be able to offer my knowledge to other staff that may be interested in starting up their own sites.

Student involvement

In terms of the competition alone. 6 students used iPads and iMovies to film and interview judges and contestants. They learnt how to become budding directors using tripods and the Planet MovieMaker for iPad with Shoulder Support System.  This system proved to be very expensive (£395), and without funding I would not have considered buying it, however, it created a furore amongst students all wanting to wear the equipment to film in. It was portable and captured useful film, however the zoom lenses did not fit the system well which made close up shots difficult, we will be investigating this further. Several more students are keen to begin writing for the webpage in the new academic term; this will be supported through citizenship lessons. I am keen for them to produce student friendly materials about politics after contacting all the main political parties as well as working out how they can use the social forum facility on the web page; we may have to default to Facebook for this as many young people say this is an easy platform to use.

Members of the student leadership team have had access to the iPads to detail their council work. Short films they have created detail their growing political awareness and harness their creative ambition using technology, this is proving transformational in terms of engagement in politics and communication and is an avenue to be explored and documented on the newly created website.

Further progress and next steps

There is no doubt that this competition and concept is needed for young people, not just in Leicester but beyond. MP6 hopes to encourage young people to get excited about what is happening in the world so that they understand and know about politics, but more importantly they learn how to become political and how to communicate the ideas and issues that are important to them.

Michael Wesch, Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University, puts it eloquently:

“As we increasingly move toward a world of instant and infinite information, it becomes less important for students to know, memorize, or recall information, and more important for them to be able to find, sort, analyse, share, discuss, critique and create information. They need to move from being simply knowledgeable to being knowledge-able.”

(cited in ‘Full On Learning’ by Zoe Elder)

MP6 as an initiative hopes to support students in becoming more knowledge –able.

The Livestream of the final event was publicised to city schools and all the political parties, although it only generated 14 views on the day, an East Midlands MEP responded to the speech on UKIP, much to the delight of the student finalist who could see the potential of using this medium in future events to reach a larger audience. This will be further explored.  The live stream was expensive, however the IT department are now aware of how to set up a system and we may find a free way of doing this rather than having to rely on Skype.

In practical terms, there is still much to do to finish the project site so that students can comment on speeches, upload ideas and collaborate. Being a student led activity has meant this has halted over the summer holidays! It is increasingly looking like there will be no finish to the web site, as hopefully students and teachers will continue to use and comment on political threads. Lesson ideas are being written, but they need student input to ensure they are fun yet challenging. They aim to frame the competition so that teachers who wish to enter MP6 (the competition) have a series of lessons taking students through it, that they can access at home, more VTs are needed on the site, short 30 seconds sound bites on political themes will be produced using the iPads and software purchased. The iPads especially are seeing a lot of use and many departments are queuing up to borrow them for lessons!

A brochure for schools is being written, complete with timeline as an easy reference point for other schools to run their own MP6 competition.  Councillor Vi Dempster is also supporting the initiative, she has organised for two students to present their finalist speeches in front of the whole council on 18th September and after a meeting with her assistant we hope to run an MP6 day for the city as well as get local councillors into schools judging MP6 school knock outs and providing students with information about the local council.

This project has taught me so much, not least of which how to use iPads and become a blogging novice and it is fantastic to think that my new skills will help support others in the future.  This is the beginning of the project, rather than the end and due to the nature of the project many of the results will be seen throughout the next few months as resources are uploaded to the site.

photo 1

This year’s finalists and judges at the 2014 MP6 Finals


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