Leadership Lessons: What I learned from 10 years leading a large 1:1 iPad programme

10 years ago, I began implementing a large 1:1 iPad pilot (300 students) at The de Ferrers Academy (UK), thanks to a strong & slightly risky 'hands on' demonstration to the school governors. Thankfully, they loved it and since then we've gone from strength to strength - 3 times as an Apple Distinguished School, an Apple Regional Training Centre and host to visits from hundreds of schools and educators. We now have over 2750 iPads in use across 3 campuses and another 2800 in use across our 6 other Trust schools. You can see some of the highlights of those 10 years in the chart below:

I've been blessed to be the strategic lead continuously for all 10 of those years, whilst still still teaching Physics for 6-7 hours a week and providing CPD and classroom support, so it's given me some unique insights into actually translating digital strategy into widespread and effective classroom practice.

I gave some thought recently about this and it was great opportunity for me to reflect on (a) what I got right 10 years ago and (b) what I would have changed, which to be honest, isn't that much.

The most important of these early ideas was viewing everything through the lens of Teaching & Learning from the start and matching staff CPD and training to our 4-part lesson cycle, to ensure that we got a better buy in from staff by 'talking the language' of the classroom teacher. We also had a detailed Digital Strategy that weaves together the 1:1 iPad programme, ICT infrastructure developments, CPD, Online Safety and other areas to maximise impact and efficiencies. 8 years after we started, it meant that the move to remote learning during COVID lockdown was easy, we were already doing most of it! I still work closely with my other leadership colleagues in charge of Teaching & Learning, CPD and Special Educational Needs to ensure that what we do is more than just a 'tech bolt-on'.

On the reverse side, to paraphrase Frank Sinatra:

My biggest regret was a common mistake of initially focusing most support/CPD/training on the keenest staff (innovators) and the most reluctant staff (laggards) - I should have gone for the larger majority in the middle, as on the Rogers' Adoption curve, This has a bigger impact on developing whole faculty/subject use of technology and helps teams to become more self-sufficient and driven at an earlier stage. We are now working with teams across multiple schools and using an internal network of research links and videos to support our staff, without needing more time or people to deliver CPD.

I'm now looking forward to what the next 10 years holds and how technology can continue to drive improvements teaching & learning.

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Posted on September 14, 2022

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