Making the most of new digital opportunities for Ark’s students

Friday 12th March 2021
Lauren Thorpe, Ark’s Director of Strategy, explains how our digital strategy will help us move from lockdown crisis response to achieving a longer-term vision that will improve our students’ independent learning skills.  

Across our schools we now have enough Chromebooks to ensure that over half of our pupils can access learning resources from home. By September, it will be all pupils from Year 3 and above. This represents our commitment to digital equity and equal opportunities for our learners, regardless of the home that they come from or the Ark school which they attend. Access to the best resources that we can create or source online, along with the skills to navigate them successfully, will mean all our pupils are better prepared for whatever they face during their education.

Our digital strategy has four key aims:

  • To provide more time for learning both in and outside of the classroom – we want to achieve this through supporting school leaders in fostering a culture of home learning to supplement their time in the classroom and use digital tools to do more of the heavy lifting, shortening the time it takes for teachers to respond to pupil work.
  • To enable our learners to use technology to personalise their learning journey. This might mean independently exploring additional learning opportunities and using adaptive learning platforms and online quizzing tools to better diagnose and close knowledge gaps. Most important though, we want to leverage technology to remove as many barriers to learning as possible, using translation and immersive reading tools and enabling pupils to learn some things at their own pace.
  • To use technology to empower and engage parents, bringing home and school closer together. We will provide our parents with more regular insight into their child’s learning and provide more opportunities for them to see the learning process. We want to enable parents, teachers and pupils to have better quality conversations together about time spent and progress made in learning.
  • And finally, our digital strategy must build greater resilience and sustainability into our approach to the school experience. All the decisions that we make around the use of digital in our schools will consider workload, cost, efficiency and the environment.

The scale of the challenge to distribute devices to all our pupils is big enough, but the ongoing planning and support for teachers, leaders, parents and pupils as we embed impactful opportunities to use technology is vast. We don’t want to encourage the use of technology for the sake of it, but we do want to systematically identify opportunities where the evidence suggests that adopting a digital approach is worth a shot. For example, the potential impact of embedding digital tools to support inclusion have a relatively strong evidence base and are worth investing in across all our schools. Similarly, targeted use of adaptive learning platforms and online quizzing tools to support diagnostic assessment looks promising. We are going to be naming these promising digital opportunities and providing our schools with the tools and guidance to introduce and evaluate them, where the conditions for doing so are right.

To support this work, we will launch a digital framework this summer, to support Ark schools in self-assessing their digital capability across all areas of their work. This will set out the foundational components of a digital strategy as well as name the potential opportunities to amplify their work and learning across each area.

As someone that has been following the use of technology in schools for over 15 years, I don’t think there has ever been a time when I have felt more excited about the opportunities that it presents us with. It is no silver bullet though. Without great teachers, a strong curriculum, robust assessment, and time to train and plan, digital tools will not have the impact that we seek.