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CDSM EdTech Education Hwb Hwbdysgu Playlists Wales

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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A Digital Competence Framework for Wales

At the National Digital Learning Event earlier this year, Education Minister Huw Lewis announced a Digital Competence Framework (DCF) for teachers in Wales.

“After considering Professor Donaldson’s report, alongside the findings of the independent review of ICT and early findings of our ‘Great Debate’, I have decided that an effective and consistent approach to teaching digital learning competence is too vital for both our young people and our economy to delay.”

– Education Minister Huw Lewis, June 2015

children learning about nature - digital competence

As a Welsh digital learning business, CDSM welcome the Digital Competence Framework, and agree that it should be implemented as soon as possible. We believe that Welsh Government’s approach to contemporary learning technology – in support of learning and development – is first class, and are excited by the appetite of both Donaldson and DfES for all things learning technology. When it comes to our own organisation, it is an absolute fact that our success in Wales is all down to our teachers, children and young people being digitally competent.

The Importance of Being Digitally Competent

At CDSM, we develop tools and technologies for teachers and students because we, like Welsh Government, believe contemporary learning technologies can only add to the learning and development process. After all, without the ability, skills, imagination and ambition to make full use of digital tools and technologies, how would our schools, students and education system keep up with the demands of this ever-changing digital world?

Row of schoolchildren studying in front of a computer - digital competence

But there’s more to this than just what happens in the classroom. Beyond the school setting, we also have a responsibility to ensure that our school and university leavers are equipped to perform in the workplace. According to the European Union, there will be an estimated 900,000 unfilled computing jobs across the EU in 2015, simply due to a lack of skills.

“According to The European Commission, more than 90% of professional occupations require some computing competence, but the number of graduates in computer science is not keeping pace with this demand for skills.”

– John Worden, Glyndwr University Lecturer

The Digital Competence Framework: An Opportunity for Wales

At CDSM, we work extensively with teachers in Wales, investing significant time and energy in developing meaningful and productive relationships. Because of this, we understand that our teachers are the on ‘front line’, developing and nurturing our children and young people. They are the ones who acknowledge and respond to the demands of a relentlessly changing world.

Friends in the Classroom - digital competence

We are committed to providing teachers with tools and technologies that support and enhance their practice every single day. Gone now are the days of sending the little ones to the ICT suite to ‘play’ on the computers, or scribble out wobbly drawings on the faithful old classroom Acorn. Computers (and, increasingly, handheld devices) now play a key role in learning and development, and digital technologies and their relevant skills are now core requirements.

After Donaldson, the transformed curriculum should inspire those who engage with it to make positive leaps in their learning, and fill the rest of us with a passionate sense of ambition for our education system. At CDSM, we believe that the Digital Competence Framework allows Wales to set out its intention and aspiration for the development of what is arguably our most important professional community.

You can stay up to date with what’s happening by following CDSM on Twitter, or by subscribing to our monthly e-zine.

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The Donaldson Report – A CDSM Perspective (Part 1)

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 first post, we’ll look at the task, the principles and some key recommendations, giving our perspective on the intended outcomes.

The Task

Schools Traffic Sign

“In recognition of the potential pitfalls of overload, complexity, and redundancy in the [current] curriculum, the Review was asked to stand back and to take a fundamental look at the ways in which today’s schools can prepare young people for an exciting but uncertain future.”

Successful Futures, page 11

CDSM believe that Wales has to ensure its learners are ready to play a role in the local and national industries that govern the prosperity of the nation. Only a wholesale transformation can make this possible. To try to adapt the 1988 curriculum in piecemeal fashion could add years of frustration to the process.

The Principles

School Science Class - Donaldson Report looking at School Improvement

“The purposes of the curriculum in Wales should be that children and young people develop as:

  • ambitious, capable learners, ready to learn throughout their lives
  • enterprising, creative contributors, ready to play a full part in life and work
  • ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world
  • healthy, confident individuals, ready to lead fulfilling lives as valued members of society”

Successful Futures, page 29

While CDSM admit that a broad set of purposes, like these, can be used to say very little, we cannot help but be excited and energised by the focus on creating life-long learners who are well-rounded, worldly and outward focused. For us, it means that the classroom becomes a place of discovery, and an environment where pupils can take a lead in their own learning. It’s a perfect environment for the tools that we work so hard to create to flourish, fulfilling their potential alongside the potential of the students they are helping to teach.

It was impossible for us to overlook the references to inclusion in the report; Wales is leading the way through its adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), and we’re proud to see that this sentiment will be represented throughout the new curriculum proposals. CDSM believe that it’s vital we give our learners a holistic understanding of what it means to have rights and to be protected. This is contiguous with our own commitment to ensuring learner safety and freedom of expression.  

“Principles of curriculum design – the curriculum should be:

Inclusive: easily understood by all, encompassing an entitlement to high-quality education for every child and young person and taking account of their views in the context of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), and those of parents, carers and wider society”

Successful Futures, page 14

CDSM has, for a long time, banged a drum for teachers. We feel that teachers are the best-placed people to make decisions about their classroom. It is their passion, drive and invention that strengthens our education system, always responding to new demands and changes. Our intention is to enable teachers to successfully adapt to those changes, by creating tools that place teacher-generated content at the heart of the classroom. We make aggregation, sharing and collaboration easy and we facilitate networks of professional learning communities, helping the whole of Wales to benefit from established islands of excellence.

We can’t, therefore, fail to be excited by the commitment to subsidiarity, outlined in the report:

“Principles of curriculum design – the curriculum should be:

Based on subsidiarity: commanding the confidence of all, while encouraging appropriate ownership and decision making by those closest to the teaching and learning process.”

Successful Futures, page 14

Key Recommendations

School Classroom - Children and Teacher - Donaldson Report looking at School Improvement

“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

This recommendation is hugely welcomed by CDSM. As an SME based in South Wales that strives to recruit the best and brightest software developers from local schools and universities, the commitment to improving the levels of digital competence – not just in terms of using software, but in terms of becoming an active participant in the discovery and creation of tomorrow’s technological breakthrough – cannot be underestimated.

The Reception

School Classroom - children with hands up - Donaldson Report looking at School Improvement

It’s worth noting that the Donaldson Report has received near-universal support from our politicians and, although no concrete timelines have been announced, the feeling is that we should expect an ambitious timetable leading to implementation before 2020.

“We need a curriculum which is ambitious, engaging and fit for the challenges of the twenty first century. The national curriculum of 1988 has served an important purpose, but we can no longer address the weaknesses of the current curriculum through a ‘patch and mend’ approach.”

– Huw Lewis, Education Minister, July 2015

CDSM has a huge role to play in the realisation of the Donaldson Report. It’s potentially the biggest and most profound change in our education system in living memory and, crucially, it  represents the ambitious, forward-thinking and diverse framework we need. From the perspective of a learning technologies company based in Wales, with a vested interest in our young people, it’s as much as we could have asked for – and we can’t wait to get started.

In the second of this two-part series on the Donaldson Report, we’ll look into the report’s implications for teachers, the classroom and technology in the classroom. To make sure you don’t miss it, follow us and subscribe.

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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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Just2easy and CDSM: A Perfect Partnership between Award-Winning Providers

Just2easy are an award-winning Educational Software Company with years of experience in creating stimulating learning tools for primary schools. These award-winning tools have been made available via Hwb for all schools in Wales.

J2E Tool Suite

The Just2easy Tool Suite contains a number of curriculum-focused tools that encourage pupils to explore their understanding of particular subject areas, and to present their work in collaborative, creative and imaginative ways.

J2E Tool Suite

The tools have recently been updated to include an e-portfolio that ties in with learning conversations and progression statements, making it perfect to monitor progression and to celebrate success.

As you would imagine, J2e’s tools have been designed by teachers with the classroom in mind. Teachers love the ease of use and intuitive nature of the whole Tool Suite, which gives pupils from the youngest age the opportunity to become fluent in digital literacy, creating a new generation of digital leaders.

The Tool Suite has had an amazing reception from the schools that are discovering it in Hwb:

The relationship between CDSM and Just2easy is beginning to produce opportunities that we had only dreamed of at the start of our collaboration. Hwb has already brought together the best of what is currently available to schools worldwide, and the introduction of the Playlist by CDSM has coincided with the update of j2launch by Just2easy – creating flexible routes to learning opportunities for schools, classes, groups, pupils and teachers.

Both companies’ modern approach to software development means that schools in Wales are using-cutting-edge technology and pedagogical thinking. Thanks to the partnership between Just2easy and CDSM, ‘any device, anytime, anywhere’ learning is a reality for every single pupil using Hwb.

You can stay up to date with what’s happening by following CDSM on the social media websites below, or by subscribing to our monthly e-zine.

 

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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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CDSM’s Response to the Challenges of School Improvement in Wales

What’s being done to improve performance in Welsh schools?

Wales is currently experiencing significant educational reform. At the heart of this reform is an unequivocal acceptance that the performance of schools has to improve. Welsh Government has provided dedicated funding to support school improvement activities, which are planned at school and regional level. This collaborative approach acknowledges the support that regional education consortia can offer schools, driving their performance in the right direction. There are four regional education consortia in Wales, each of which is responsible for agreeing and monitoring their client-schools’ use of funding, in order to ensure there is a positive impact on school performance and learner outcomes.

In partnership with CDSM, the Education Achievement Service (one of the four regional education consortia, based in South East Wales) identified the need for a web-based system that enabled School Leaders to plan and support all funding, monitoring and accountability activities linked to their school’s improvement plan. Together, we developed the My School Improvement Dashboard (MySID) to meet these requirements. MySID is based on Estyn and Welsh Government guidance.

School Improvement in Wales
MySID users are guided through an easy, cyclical planning and improvement process online. We wanted to help all involved achieve success, so we developed the following features:

  1. Self-Evaluation

A feature, designed around the Estyn Framework, which helps schools identify their strengths and weaknesses.

  1. Development Plan

This feature enables schools to identify and prioritise short and long-term goals.

  1. Budget Profiler

This outlines the grants available to schools, and enables them to add additional custom budgets to help them to make decisions on how to achieve their goals.

  1. Activity Plan

This feature enables School Leaders to find events or initiatives that will lead to school improvement.

  1. Financial Monitoring

This feature is designed to help schools create accessible, transparent records of expenditure against budgeted allocation for all school improvement activities.

  1. Quality and Impact Reporting

This provides School Leadership Teams and Challenge Advisers with an understanding of the value of their school improvement activities, offering a measure of the impact each activity has had.

  1. Review Impact and Priorities

Enables schools to evaluate how successful they’ve been in meeting the goals set out in their Development Plan.

#MySID

Find out more about My School Improvement Dashboard by downloading the CDSM Case Study: The School Improvement Conversation in Wales.

mysid_casestudy

So, what are your thoughts on MySID? Is it being used at your school? How is it affecting your school’s improvement? We’d love to hear from you! Get in touch via our contact page, or by using the hashtag #MySID on social media.

If you’re interested in hearing how we’re helping teachers directly in the classroom, check out CDSM’s work with Hwb.

 

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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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