Our first INSET at Thomas’s Kensington

Last year I met Jo Ebner, Headteacher at <strong><span style=”color: #3366ff;”><a title=”Thomas’s Kensington” href=”http://www.thomas-s.co.uk/Kensington-Home” target=”_blank”><span style=”color: #3366ff;”>Thomas’s Kensington</span></a></span></strong>, one of the four schools in the <strong><span style=”color: #3366ff;”><a title=”Thomas’s London Day Schools” href=”http://www.thomas-s.co.uk” target=”_blank”><span style=”color: #3366ff;”>Thomas’s of London Day School</span></a></span></strong> group. Jo explained some of the concerns she had about staff engagement relating to a new edtech investment program the school was undertaking. When I explained what ed-invent was about, she asked whether it might be possible to run one as an INSET day for 50 of her staff. I immediately said yes but on the way home reflected that we had never run an ed-invent as an INSET, nor for a group of teachers from a single school. The date Jo chose was just a week after the ed-invent finals.

Arriving at the correct Thomas’s Kensington was a challenge as they have three campuses all within about 300m. I set up my computer in the small auditorium and jumped right in. It was odd to be looking at 50 faces who had no idea what to expect. To get things going I showed them a piece of wire. If anyone could tell me what it might mean in the context of ed-invent in 60 seconds then they would win £100 in cash. This caught them unawares. Even the speediest smartphone and tablet users couldn’t find the answer in time (the answer was in one of the ed-invent case studies).

The morning session ran swiftly and luckily this meant we had more time before lunch to hear the teachers ideas of edtech products and services. Within minutes Paul Hutson, from <strong><span style=”color: #3366ff;”><a title=”Night Zookeeper” href=”http://www.nightzookeeper.com” target=”_blank”><span style=”color: #3366ff;”>Night Zookeeper</span></a></span></strong>, who was typing the ideas into an onscreen document, was being swept away by a tsunami of 27 concepts that ranged from a PE video-based movement assessment tool, a peer observation PD system, a security app to coordinate real-time information on all students, teachers, staff and visitors across the schools campuses to a specialised e-portfolio system to help manage school admissions and transfers in the independent sector. Before lunch the teachers formed into 13 x 4 teams and work started immediately (helped by a terrific meal with wine – a first for ed-invent).

Helping the teams during the afternoon proved tricky as Paul and I had to track them down in the rabbit warren of rooms (from basements to attic) in the Victorian houses that make up two campuses. At 3pm we were back in the auditorium and straight into the three-minute pitches. However, this was where we saw not just the performing arts ethos of the school but also an insight into the culture that Jo and her team have built at Thomas’s.

Each group presented as a team (previously teams may have left it to one or two people to pitch) and tried to outdo each other with the theatricality of their pitch with singing, comedy, farce and even some pathos (normally when the team ran out of time). For the first time at an ed-invent, I wished the parents and students could have been in the audience to see the creativity and breadth of ideas their teachers really have.

As with any ed-invent there was only one winner and that was <i>Thomas’s Toolkit</i>, whose idea was for an independent school version loosely based on <strong><span style=”color: #3366ff;”><a title=”Teachers pay Teachers” href=”http://www.teacherspayteachers.com” target=”_blank”><span style=”color: #3366ff;”>Teachers Pay Teachers</span></a></span></strong>. They proposed that Thomas’s teachers would provide the core material but that other teachers and schools from the sector could also sell their material. Income was seen as coming from content sales, licensing (the system) and events. The judges thought the team’s idea met a real need, leveraged the intellectual property that Thomas’s (and all schools) create on a daily basis and also had several potential revenue steams. The winners received four iPads (provided by Thomas’s) with ed-invent supporter <strong><span style=”color: #3366ff;”><a title=”Touch Press” href=”http://www.touchpress.com” target=”_blank”><span style=”color: #3366ff;”>Touch Press</span></a></span></strong> providing free copies of their award winning-apps.

By 4PM Paul and I were dragging ourselves to Kensington tube, but Jo and her teachers were still hard at work getting ready for the new term.

It was a great day and while there is always room for improvement, ed-invent can be a very worthwhile INSET for any school.