The role of technology in improving learning

Skinners’ Kent Academy is an all-ability secondary academy in Tunbridge Wells. Recently judged outstanding in every category by Ofsted, the academy is founded on the principles of high standards and high aspirations, active participation, and an inclusive and emotionally rich environment.

Our approach to technology is based on the SAMR model, popularised by Dr Ruben Puentedura and designed to use technology to transform learning experiences so they result in higher levels of achievement for students. The SAMR model categorises approaches to technology as a hierarchy, from substitution (technology acts as a direct substitute, with no functional change), through augmentation (technology acts as a direct tool substitute, with functional improvement) and modification (technology allows for significant task redesign) to redefinition (technology allows for the creation of new tasks which were previously inconceivable). Substitution and augmentation enhance learning; modification and redefinition can transform it.

At SKA we created our own version of the SAMR model to help all staff and students to develop their use of technology. Staff were invited to identify whether they were currently at the stage of exploring their use of technology for learning, of creating their own resources using technology, of using technology to interact with students and other teachers, or of supporting colleagues to develop their own use of technology. All staff were then asked to agree a performance management target which challenged them to move to the next level.

Craig Bull, SKA’s Vice Principal, Achievement for All, supported and encouraged staff to explore their use of technology. He suggested apps that staff on different stages of their journey could use, and created a system within which staff could share and recommend apps to each other.

One of the key initiatives that emerged from this process was the academy-wide introduction of a web-based app to support independent learning. The app replaces paper planners, enables students to see what homework has been set, the deadline and how long it should take, and sends reminders to both students and parents. This has resulted in parents feeling much more engaged in their children’s learning, to more creative and engaging homework being set, and to Heads of Faculty and senior leaders having a much clearer sense of how independent learning is encouraged and managed across the school.

The full impact of our approach to technology at SKA is still emerging. A recent questionnaire, however, showed that 94% of staff, 89% of parents and 98% of students believe that our use of technology benefits learning.


Author: Sian Carr
Executive Principal of The Skinners’ Kent Academy Trust
President of the Association of School and College Leaders
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