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CDSM’s Vision for Hwb

In this post, we’ll be looking at the role of today’s teachers in the modern classroom. For a long time, teachers relied on third-party providers to supply resources they could use with their learners. However, changing technology and skills mean that, in our opinion, teachers can now create resources as good as those they can buy. We’ll look at the tools CDSM have built to enable teachers to do just that.

‘Content is king’ is a phrase often used in the creative/digital industries. As qualified education specialists, CDSM’s leadership team believe that good quality content leads to effective digital learning experiences. Consequently, we are committed to designing and delivering simple, powerful content creation tools that help teachers to respond to the new, emerging curriculum for Wales. This is the vision we shared with Welsh Government in 2014, and since then we have been responsible for providing Welsh teachers with a national, digital content repository: Hwb.

A key feature in Hwb is ‘Playlists’, CDSM’s answer to the demand for quick, easy-to-use content creation tools. An intuitive, engaging interface enables teachers to create high-quality, customised, online content with just a few clicks. Teachers can aggregate resources from both the Internet and the resource bank within Hwb – which includes Encyclopaedia Britannica resources – and add their own content in the form of text, image or video. This gives teachers an opportunity to contextualise their content, making it relevant to their class and learners. Fun and engaging activities and assessments can be added to their Playlist, which can then be shared or assigned, and finally, as of early December, assessed within Hwb.

Hwb Playlist

We recently visited All Saints Church in Wales Primary School with our partner Encyclopaedia Britannica to see how Playlists were being used. We wanted to observe how teachers and learners interacted with Playlists, and also capture any ideas they had about enhancing the tool. What we saw was a blueprint for the use of educational technology adoption and utilisation. Largely pupil-led, we witnessed independent learning, critical thinking and mature decision-making all in one lesson.

Aled Williams – Deputy Head and Year 5 teacher at All Saints – started the lesson by reflecting upon the class’s recent visit to Cardiff Castle, where the pupils had learned about life in Tudor times. From there, it was over to his pupils to collaboratively create Playlists that reflected their experiences. The pupils knew that in Encyclopaedia Britannica they had an easy-to-access, safe, secure, and accurate database of information, from which they could harvest many of the specific details their inquisitive minds craved. The pupils knew they could return to their Playlists in the future for reference or revision.

The use of Playlists at All Saints was a perfect example of the ‘flipped classroom’ in action. Here pupils were leading the way – actively involved in directing their study and collaborating to create their own resources.

pupils round computer

Using Hwb, Aled (and teachers like him) now have the opportunity to create and share teaching and learning resources on the latest curriculum areas with all teachers in Wales. By giving our teachers the power to create resources, they can rapidly respond to curriculum changes. From our experience, not only do they do this, but they engage their learners in the process too.

CDSM’s vision for Hwb is ambitious. We want Hwb to establish itself as the gateway and service provider for an ever-growing number of learning and development services. We believe Hwb has the potential to become a nationally-provisioned learning management system, an enabler for Wales’ regional and national school improvement programme, and the key resource provider for a range of other Welsh Government programmes.

If it’s in Wales and it has a learning and development requirement, we want Hwb to be the service that our fellow citizens, colleagues and young people go to.

You can stay up to date with Hwb and CDSM by following us on Twitter, or by subscribing to our monthly e-zine.

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Major Update to Hwb

[Read in Welsh]

Since our last major Hwb release in June, we’ve been working tirelessly to bring you our best tool suite yet. Collaborating with primary and secondary teachers in Wales, as well as with our colleagues at Welsh Government, we’ve built Hwb into what we believe is the best freely available national digital education offering to be found anywhere – and we’re nowhere near finished yet.

Latest Release

Friday 13th November sees the first of two major releases for Hwb, with five new Playlist features released, along with a plethora of wider enhancements.

CDSM is privileged to serve the educational community in Wales: we know it, and we’re proud of it. It gives us huge pleasure to be making a difference in our own community, and we love the opportunity to travel to your communities and hear your thoughts, listen to your opinions and incorporate these into Hwb.

Playlists

The Playlists feature has been updated to include two new assessment types, to further diversify the way formative or summative assessment can be used in your classroom. The first allows Playlist authors to easily create drag and drop sorting activities, allowing them to create everything from capital city quizzes to reasoning exercises on forces in new and engaging ways.

Playlist Blocks

Coupled with this is the new Image Multiple Choice Question (Image MCQ) format. As with so many aspects of Hwb, the beauty here is in the simplicity: this development gives authors the chance to provide images as the answers to multiple choice questions. This opens up so many new possibilities for our users, such as making possible the creation of mathematical formulae questions without the need to write complicated code or use 3rd party libraries.

Hwb Playlist Blocks

Simplicity, however, isn’t the only beauty on offer– the Playlist feature’s new Slideshow content block provides a template in which the user can present learning material visually in a stimulating way, using bite sized pieces of written text to accompany a complimentary image. Teachers now have real options in accommodating the different learning styles, preferences and abilities in their classrooms.

Slideshow

We’ve also built in the ability for Playlists to hold file attachments, giving authors the option to attach supplementary and supporting content to any Playlist.

Hwb - attachments on step

Next Release

What will make the Playlist improvements even more powerful, however, is the release of our brand new Assessment tool. Created with Playlists at its core, the Assessment tool (released on December 8th) will allow authors to assign Playlists created by any author in Wales to a group of their choosing – for example a class or a set.

Even more excitingly, the latest Learner Record Store technology then allows the author to see the learner’s interactions, progress and attainment in real time. Results can be viewed across the entire cohort or at an individual level, giving the author an unprecedented and timely insight into both group and individual understanding of the topic.

Hwb Markbook

We’re very proud of these features, and can’t wait to see the diverse range of up-to-date assessments that the teachers of Wales will make with them.

In addition to all of this, we’re also releasing a large number of enhancements to Hwb itself; ranging from personal communication enhancements like the private news feed, to practical improvements like the ability to view the resource repository as a list.

Hwb News Feed

We’ve built upon and enhanced so many features that it’d be impossible to try and list them all here – so go and take a look at them for yourself on Hwb.

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The Donaldson Report – A CDSM Perspective (Part 2)

Earlier this year, Welsh Government published a comprehensive, independent review of the curriculum and assessment arrangements in Wales, written by Professor Graham Donaldson. Now, in a two-part series on the Donaldson Report (Successful Futures), CDSM explore the headline findings and provide a context from our perspective as an Education Technologies company based in Wales. In this second post, we’ll look at the implications of the report for teachers, the classroom and technology in the classroom.

happy students in computer class - donaldson report

As already discussed in our first post, at CDSM we feel that we have a huge role to play in the implementation of Donaldson’s recommendations. We broadly support all of the report’s proposals, and strongly believe that it provides the opportunity to make a real difference to future generations in Wales. However, we understand that others may be a bit more tentative. After all, the report represents significant change that can only be achieved with time and, ultimately, teacher re-skilling. Teachers are at the forefront of this change, and so these fears represent very natural reactions.

At CDSM, we believe it’s our duty to support teachers, schools and regional education consortia through this transition. Our innovations in education technology, our understanding of pedagogy, and our commitment to their profession enables us to make teachers’ lives easier and their everyday tasks less time-consuming. We want to be there to aid them in their re-training, always listening for their pressure points and hearing their requirements. We’ve seen, many times, how useful the private sector can be in developing the holistic, niche or bespoke innovation that fulfils a need and ultimately helps teachers, schools and authorities to improve the services they provide. As the supplier of Hwb – which has become the gateway for a centrally-provisioned national toolkit – as well as region-specific services, CDSM is in a privileged position to work at the heart of this historical change.

One of the more profound changes is summed up in Recommendations 6 & 7 of the report:

“6. Children and young people should have their learning developed across the curriculum through three Cross-curriculum Responsibilities that should be the responsibility of all teachers: literacy; numeracy; and digital competence.

7. A digital competence framework and an accompanying ‘Routes to Learning Digital Competence’ should be developed and be included as a Cross-curriculum Responsibility.”

– Successful Futures, page 42

The focus and drive to implement the LNF in recent years has been an all-consuming task for teachers, local authorities and regional education consortia alike. Embedding a digital competence framework across the curriculum promises to be even more challenging. Teachers will need to be able to support the use of digital technologies throughout their lessons, whether they are teaching Drama, History or ICT. We know from experience that not all teachers feel comfortable or equipped to do this, and so again we find ourselves in a position where our services and expertise can make a difference. We’re already working with Welsh technology and teaching professionals to create a training programme that will help to alleviate much of the ongoing concern around this recommendation. Through our technologies, we’ll be facilitating communities of professionals who can support and learn from each other in order to become the teachers this report requires.

schoolboy with laptop and teacher - donaldson report

Although the report goes to lengths to make clear that it does not favour one teaching method over another, it does make some key recommendations about the very nature of the classroom itself. Children and young people want lessons to be more relevant and engaging, with more practical lessons, more fun, more interactivity, and more out-of-classroom activities. We know from a number of studies, including one by the US department of state (summarised in this CDSM infographic), that a blended learning approach has real benefits to learning and retention. In this sense, blended learning is mix of classroom based and non-classroom-based learning (e.g. e-learning).

We aren’t suggesting that Professor Donaldson was specifically advocating e-learning when referencing non-classroom-based learning, but it’s clear that well-constructed learning in this format has a significant role to play, both in adding variety to lessons and homework, and providing different stimuli and challenges for the learner. It’s also an approach that aligns with the Digital Competence Framework, and supports other key recommendations of the report. For example:

“Children and young people should develop their own e-portfolio, possibly including ‘e-badges’, to record key achievements and experiences.”

Successful Futures, page 83

“Significantly better and more creative use should be made of technology in the teaching and learning of Welsh and also modern foreign languages.”

Successful Futures, page 60

The classroom will undoubtedly maintain a physical form for some time yet but, for learners of all ages, it is now well-established in a virtual form too. Learning no longer takes place solely in school or at home, but through all interactions with the digital world. Through Hwb, a learner now has the ability to record that interaction, aggregating the learning seamlessly into an e-portfolio which can be used as both a revision aid and as evidence for assessment/evaluation.

CDSM have a role to play in formative and summative assessment too, with tools that create a variety of testing activities for use in multiple environments. The key differentiator in Hwb is that these tools form a part of the learning and development cycle, engaging the learner as an active participant, rather than simply providing a benchmark on their ability to learn and repeat.

“Testing, both multiple-choice and open-response, is an important element in the repertoire of assessment techniques. Regular classroom testing is a long-established feature of teaching and learning. The construction of tests that do more than focus on recall and simple application is, however, both complex and time-consuming.”

Successful Futures, page 79

“Innovative approaches to assessment, including interactive approaches, should be developed drawing on the increasing potential contribution of digital technology.”

Successful Futures, page 80

Donaldson Report - children in classroom

From a teacher’s perspective, technology already available in Hwb enables the collection of a young person’s learning. It tracks their progress automatically, and provides real-time analysis of achievement. It also offers instant feedback, and can be used to engage parents, carers and other stakeholders in the learning process – something the report cites as important:

“There is likely to be a greater emphasis on recording procedures that enable teachers to keep track of each child and young person’s learning…”

Successful Futures, page 77

“Increased use of digital media should be explored to help to improve the immediacy of feedback to parents and carers and engage them more directly in supporting learning.”

Successful Futures, page 83

Outside of the classroom, CDSM continues to have a responsibility to provide solutions for key stakeholders in our education system. We’re already working with the regional education consortia to provide technological systems and structure for School Improvement and External Verification processes. So, from our point of view, references in the report to assessment and verification are a welcomed inclusion.

“Where the results of assessment are to be used for purposes of comparison, issues of reliability in teacher assessment should be addressed through effective moderation; where the prime purpose of assessment is assessment for learning there is less of a need for reliability between schools.”  

Successful Futures, page 80

Assessment and verification are, without a doubt, important factors in ensuring that the next generation of young people have a consistent and comprehensive education, no matter what part of Wales they are from. In a conversation that has largely focused on curriculum and process modernisation, Professor Donaldson’s highlighting of these less talked about (but equally important) facets will ensure that they receive the attention and consideration they deserve.

If this series of blog posts has one message, it’s that all of us here at CDSM are excited by the changes recommended in the Donaldson Report. We can’t pretend that the transition to a truly forward-thinking education system will be easy, nor can we pretend that it will be quick. However, we can guarantee that we’ll do everything we can to make the transition an engaging, empowering process – one that supports and benefits all of our teachers and learners in Wales.

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The HWB Project in Wales

As a Welsh company, and as citizens of Wales, CDSM is very proud to have won the right to supply and service www.hwb.wales.gov.uk – a Welsh Government (DfES) service that enables Welsh schools to exploit learning technologies for the benefit of teachers and learners alike.

Hwb Home Page

For the past 18 months, CDSM has been working with Welsh Government (DfES) to design, develop, and license tools and services for primary and secondary schools across Wales.

A Community of Users

Hosted and delivered from CDSM’s cloud infrastructure, Hwb represents a significantly large community of users, with the potential for hundreds of thousands of teachers and learners to be using the service at the same time.

With this many concurrent users, it’s important that Hwb is available anytime, day or night, and as an Amazon Web Services (AWS) partner, CDSM is best placed to support this. But the type and nature of the services available via Hwb are just as important as the scale of the project and number of users. Hwb isn’t just a place where teachers go to download the latest printouts – it represents a community of users that are all able to:

  • Create, upload and/or download resources
  • Design, build and create learning and assessment playlists
  • Create or join established communities of practice
  • Communicate with peers in real time and much, much more

The digital content and tools in Hwb are designed to support great teaching and learning practice for all schools in Wales. Where good, competent digital practice exists, Hwb aims to support, share and promote for the benefit of all.

Hwb Community Area

The Hwb project has been fortunate enough to establish itself some years after projects of a similar size and approach were initiated in English and Scottish regions. This has enabled us to learn from previous successes and mistakes, and take a pragmatic approach to making this project work for Wales. The take-up of the service in the last 12 months is significant and really encouraging. Clearly there are a growing core of teachers in Wales working with Hwb, recognising it as a service that supports their excellent teaching and learning practice in our schools.

What Next for Hwb?

Ultimately the answer to this question will be determined by Welsh Government, but CDSM firmly believes that Hwb has seized its opportunity to become the gateway service provider to educational organisations across Wales. The current and potential benefits to Early Years, Primary, Secondary, Further and Higher Education organisations are significant, and the service now has the attention of those practitioners who readily exploit digital technologies to deliver a first class education for their students.

We hope that this is the beginning of a long and productive relationship between Welsh Government, CDSM Interactive Solutions Ltd and our schools in Wales.

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Hwb Network Notifications and a New Look for the Hwb Homepage

Since their launch, Hwb Networks have been a really popular addition to the Hwb tool suite. They’ve given teachers from across Wales the chance to share ideas and best practice, and to collaborate on curriculum-relevant resources.  But just because feedback on Hwb Networks has been positive doesn’t mean we’re not constantly trying to make them better.

Latest Release

On Tuesday 23rd June 2015, we released a major update to the Hwb Networks tool.

Hwb Networks users can now choose how often they are notified of activity within their Networks.

By clicking on the ’Subscribe’ button on the Networks home screen, a Network member can select whether they want to receive email notifications on a weekly or daily basis, or in real time. This allows teachers to stay in touch with Network activity in a way that best suits their schedules.

Hwb Subscribe Button

Set up your preferences today by visiting your Hwb Networks.

In addition, Hwb’s homepage has undergone a facelift.  The biggest change is that Hwb’s extra features and services (Hwb+, J2e, Encyclopaedia Britannica, ImageQuest, 360 degree safe Cymru and Playlists) are now accessible from the top right corner in the black banner.

hwb banner

This enables access to these tools from any Hwb page, not just the homepage.

Following this theme, the sub-features of Hwb’s main sections (Events, Community, e-Safety) can all be reached by clicking on the drop-down arrows next to each section.

And to make sure you stay connected with all Hwb developments, the @HwbNews Twitter feed is now featured on the Hwb homepage, right next to a section of Hwb Quick Links to key Hwb services.

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Available in Welsh here.

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Hysbysiadau Rhwydwaith Hwb a Gwedd Newydd ar Hafan Hwb

Ers eu lansio, mae Rhwydweithiau Hwb wedi bod yn ychwanegiad poblogaidd iawn at gyfres offer Hwb. Maen nhw wedi rhoi cyfle i athrawon ledled Cymru rannu syniadau ac arferion gorau, a chydweithio ar adnoddau sy’n berthnasol i’r cwricwlwm. Ond nid yw adborth cadarnhaol ar Rwydweithiau Hwb yn golygu nad ydym yn ceisio eu gwella’n gyson.

Diweddariad

Ddydd Mawrth 23 Mehefin 2015,  gwnaethom ryddhau diweddariad sylweddol i offer Rhwydweithiau Hwb.

Gall defnyddwyr Rhwydweithiau Hwb nawr ddewis pa mor aml maen nhw’n cael gwybod am weithgarwch yn eu Rhwydweithiau.

Drwy glicio ar y botwm ‘Tanysgrifio’ ar sgrin gartref y Rhwydweithiau, gall aelod o Rwydwaith ddewis a ydyn nhw eisiau hysbysiadau e-bost yn wythnosol neu’n ddyddiol, neu mewn amser real. Mae hyn yn caniatáu i athrawon gadw mewn cysylltiad â gweithgarwch y Rhwydwaith yn y  ffordd sydd fwyaf addas ar gyfer eu hamserlenni.

Hysbysiadau Rhwydwaith

Sefydlwch eich dewisiadau heddiw drwy fynd at eich Rhwydweithiau Hwb.

Yn ogystal, mae hafan Hwb wedi cael ei gweddnewid. Y newid mwyaf yw bod nodweddion a gwasanaethau ychwanegol Hwb (Hwb +, J2e, Encyclopaedia Britannica, ImageQuest, 360 degree safe Cymru a Rhestrau Chwarae) bellach ar gael yn y gornel dde uchaf yn y faner ddu.

hwb banner

Mae hyn yn ffordd o gyrraedd yr offer hyn o unrhyw dudalen Hwb, nid dim ond o’r hafan.

Yn dilyn y thema hon, mae is-nodweddion prif adran Hwb (Digwyddiadau, Cymuned, e-Ddiogelwch) i gyd o fewn cyrraedd drwy glicio ar y saethau wrth ymyl pob adran.

Ac i wneud yn siŵr eich bod yn cadw mewn cysylltiad â holl ddatblygiadau Hwb, mae porthiant Twitter @HwbNews bellach yn ymddangos ar hafan Hwb, yn union wrth ymyl adran Dolenni Cyflym Hwb at wasanaethau allweddol Hwb.

Cofrestrwch i gael ein rhestr bostio sy’n cynnwys y wybodaeth ddiweddaraf am ein prosiectau cyffrous yn CDSM!

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School to School Collaboration with Hwb in North Wales

This week, Gemma from Marketing & Communications at CDSM went up to North Wales to check out the GwE Consortium Conference on School to School Collaboration.

Gemma tells us how it went…                              

I’m happy to say that 6 hours on the train was worth it!

The conference was a great day – everyone there was on exactly the same page, wanting to develop school collaboration and improvement in North Wales. Alex Clewett, a Digital Leader from Welsh Government, and I were both at the event representing Hwb, and primarily showcasing Hwb Networks – a tool which specifically focuses on school-to-school collaboration in a simple and cost-effective way. So when the keynote speaker Professor Mel Ainscow CBE did a talk on ‘Moving Knowledge Around – A Strategy for Fostering Equity in Education’, this really resonated with us, as we were demonstrating the ideal tool.

HwbMel talked about the City Challenge Programme, an initiative which ran in London and Greater Manchester over a three year period between 2008 and 2011. The programme recognised that if schools are going to improve, they need to improve themselves. The Government appointed ‘Challenge Advisors’, who had been successful school leaders in challenging circumstances, and these Advisors would “bang the drum” for the programme. Quickly, the programme realised that the most disadvantaged schools were the keys to success, and rapid improvement of these schools would have a ripple effect across the system. Of course, each school is unique, so each had its own Challenge Advisor to help plan and support improvement. The programme’s real game changer was when schools started working together – in almost all cases, a partner school was carefully brokered from another local authority, matching the relevant strengths. Mel gave some fantastic examples of polar-opposite schools working together and thriving, with head teachers raving about the scheme’s benefits, which included improved attendance and higher exam results.

“Seeing what someone else does is a mirror on yourself”
                                                                             – Mel Ainscow

Mel also emphasised that collecting evidence and comparing data leads to successful collaboration. It creates an interruption in the school by making you stop and think, asking the question: “Are we missing something?” Using statistical data strategically will ultimately lead to improvements in results, attendance and behaviour. Therefore, there needs to be a shared responsibility!

Time is the currency we use in schools to find out if something’s important, and there is untapped potential in each school to improve themselves – this can be realised through school networking and collaboration, additional partnerships and the understanding of where best practices are being used. Leadership also has to come from schools, with the idea of engaging the wider community to bridge the disadvantaged gap. From the City Challenges Programme, relationships continued beyond the funding, with the sustainability element being the key to continued school improvement.
CaptureInspired by the North Wales school collaboration talks, and the plenary session given by Mel Ainscow at the end of the conference, teachers were asked what they would like to see in the area, as well as what they felt was needed, in order to improve collaboration. Apart from Alex and I just wanting to stand up and shout “Hwb Networks is free!”’ (Alex actually put it much more eloquently over the microphone), the main insights into what teachers felt was needed included:

  • Schools taking the lead
  • A plan to create enough time to achieve school goals
  • Being aware of other schools’ priorities
  • A leader to know where good practice is happening
  • The ability to see which schools in their authorities are using best practice
  • A regional database to clearly show where the schools are in improvement
  • Cut down on travelling time
  • Database of schools showing the best – a cross section of schools from green to red

I immediately had alarm bells ringing in my head – at CDSM, we’ve already made many of these things available in a digital platform: MySID (My School Improvement Dashboard). MySID was created with the intention of providing teachers with a collaborative and challenge-based environment, where school leaders are supported in making their improvement and planning decisions.

Mel then concluded by giving us the most important factor needed: the collective will to make it happen.

It was amazing to see that CDSM were ahead of the game in the school improvement narrative, and we can’t wait to start helping and developing collaboration and school improvement further across Wales and beyond.

Subscribe and follow us to hear about our upcoming posts on MySID.

Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/184093/DFE-RR215.pdf

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Aggregating and Creating…Hwb just got easier

In the best traditions of agile software development, we have updated and improved Playlists just two weeks after its initial release.

Playlists (so simple to use that 400 playlists have been created by teachers on Hwb already) offers teachers in Wales a perfect solution for the creation of rich, attractive and contemporary web-ready teaching and learning content. The latest release includes eight new authoring blocks that seamlessly blend the use of instructional text and supporting imagery.

playlist3 (2)

 

Teachers across Wales can create teaching resources for use in their classrooms by digitising their own knowledge and experience. They can also blend them with resources from Hwb, Encyclopaedia Britannica, ImageQuest & Google Safe Search.

playlist1

 

At CDSM, we passionately believe that teachers are best placed to change and adapt to a new and demanding curriculum. Teachers know where teaching and learning resources are required and they have the skills and experience to fill those gaps. That is why we have created Playlists to hand the power of knowledge creation and distribution to those who work so tirelessly for the education of our young people.

playlist2

 

We are proud to be a Welsh company and we are constantly trying to improve the tools and experiences for teachers and learners alike. Through the Hwb project we have the opportunity to do just that. We’re always interested to hear about the dynamic and inspiring ways that you are using Playlists in your classroom, so feel free to get in touch and let us know what you think.

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Available in Welsh here

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