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How can technology encourage collaboration within a MAT?

Carl Sheen, Head of Training and Product Development at Genee World, discusses the importance of collaboration

Posted by Lucinda Reid | March 01, 2018 | Technology

As multi-academy trusts expand, ensuring schools within the trust communicate effectively and share best practice can become a challenge. As a result, there is a risk that rather than feeling connected and part of one wider initiative, each school acts in isolation. However, collaborative working both across classrooms and within them plays an important part in developing students’ communication, team building and problem-solving skills.

When multi-academy trusts go through a period of growth and welcome new schools into their network, coordinating the process can raise a number of challenges. For example, a trust will want to bring all of its schools in line with its branding, including school uniform and ethos, amongst others. Headteachers will be used to managing their school, so joining a much larger organisation with executive principals, directors and a chief executive to report into can be overwhelming and quite different to how they are used to working.

For the trust, ensuring all headteachers are working strategically towards the same goals is paramount to implementing a clear message across its schools. Technology can support this process by encouraging collaboration between schools, to the benefit of both staff and students within the trust.

It’s interesting to see how natural group dynamics unfold in group activities, with some students opting to take leadership roles and acting on instinct, while others will hang back to take the time to think, and only give their input when they have considered all their options. Within the classroom, using technology can actually help students to break free from this and develop their team building skills.

For example, an interactive display or touch table may be used to encourage students to work together on activities, with a teacher setting a task for the class to complete in groups, or even all together. Because many touchscreens now have multi-touch capabilities, students are encouraged to work together in groups, rather than waiting for individual input. The teacher can then see which students might need more (or less!) encouragement, so this exercise is a great way to show the natural leaders when to allow other opinions to be heard and demonstrate to shyer students how they can get involved and take part. But this can also happen between schools within a trust and go much further than a single classroom.

Technology encourages collaboration but has the power to contextualise that for multi-academy trusts, giving them an unique insight into the individual needs of its schools

Although the exercises might be similar, there is an opportunity here to build further skills. Trusts have schools spread across different regions within the UK, so using technology to connect them together can prove to be a valuable experience for students, as they learn about each other’s backgrounds connecting those used to city life with peers in more rural areas. It’s also a fun way for children to explore other towns. Hearing from other students directly shapes their understanding of countries, cities and even rural villages in a way that learning through textbooks simply cannot replicate. To engage them with their geographical knowledge, a complementary activity could be to ask the students to place where the other school is on the map.

There are many other areas this could support, too. Maybe a multi-academy trust’s mission is to be seen as leading the way to encouraging more students into STEM careers, in which case holding a trust-wide ‘science day’ could be complemented with multiple science lessons happening across all schools. Either conducting their own, or each contributing to research in their own way, using technology helps to collect everyone’s answers and demonstrate to students the power of working together and sharing knowledge. A video conferencing system can be used to encourage open dialogue throughout the day, allowing students to share their work and discuss their project.

For teachers, using technology to encourage collaborative working can help ease the pressures of marking, as the feedback is instantaneous. It also reduces the time they spend in front of the classroom themselves, giving them more time to observe and note children’s behaviour and progress. As more teachers take advantage of this, more data can be collected on each schools’ overall progress, any issues the teachers have with particular classes, or problems with attainment can be raised.

Technology encourages collaboration but has the power to contextualise that for multi-academy trusts, giving them an unique insight into the individual needs of its schools. This gives them the power to execute their strategy or vision clearly and effectively, ensuring all staff and students have the same opportunity to flourish within the trust’s community.

For more information about Genee World, please visit their website.

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