Saturday 26 September 2020

Innovation: Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes

"You know the saying, “Nothing changes if nothing changes.” Well if nothing changes, we stay the same. We don’t grow. We don’t evolve. We don’t get better. And that’s not going to work—not for you, and not for the world."

I believe that in the context of any education system, students learn from mistakes. As teachers we never stop encouraging our students when they make mistakes "don't worry, next time you will do it better..." 

But when have we ever applied that to teachers? shouldn't the leadership team say that same thing to teachers every day? pushing them to learn new things, be creative, try new strategies, new way of teaching and learning, try new technologies.

I heard someone say: there should be an award for every failure as well as success. this is more true in schools. because in schools "we build confidence".

I think every success starts with a failure. just think of Dyson who failed over 5000 times before he became successful. 

RiskIT is about building confidence in teachers, learning new things, working in judgement free environment, Taking the fear out of technology, learning from students, not afraid of failure. 

Partnership with Naace

I am pleased to announce my partnership with Naace, a professional association that shares my passion for embedding the effective use of technology in teaching and learning. 

RiskIT was shortlisted for the Naace Impact Award 2013 at the BETT Show. The new board of Naace is determined more than ever to reach all educators, private and public, and work with them through practical support and guidance in the use of technology.

RiskIT along with SRF (Self Review Framework) go hand in hand to building a confident, highly motivated teaching force that put schools on the forefront of T&L.

RiskITWeek in schools

RiskIT is being used by many schools as a CPD challenge to up-skill their staff and challenge their teaching methods. RiskIT has changed many T&L practices for good.

Shiplake Academy in Oxfordshire said:

" ‘RiskIT Week’ saw teachers faced with the challenge of trying a new piece of ICT for the first time during their lessons. The idea, taken from the book of the same name by Abderrahmane Benjeddi, was to encourage teachers to step outside their comfort zone and take a risk with using Information Technology. As author, Christy Raedeke once said, “No risk, no reward”, a quote adopted by the Headmaster as his ‘phrase of the year’ for 2017-2018 "

Shiplake is a good example on how to bring challenge and fun into teaching. they make use of various technologies: VR, Video Conferencing, Padlet, Kahoot, Flipgrid  to mention a few. 

RiskIT has become a regular event at Shiplake Academy. 

I believe that when teachers have the freedom and the confidence to work in judgement free environment, they become creative and innovative in their classrooms. Students become more engaged as "participant learners" and not passive absorbent of the spiels they used to by teachers.

RiskIT is a proven strategy that works in any school setting, it took me over five years to develop and test. The book  "RiskIT, IT in the Classroom, a Risk worth taking" is a summary of the steps that one could take to implement a successful RiskIT in their school.

Risk IT week

I attended an ICT Conference where practitioners share innovative ideas. At the end of one of the sessions I "privately" asked the speaker: "how many teachers in your school doing what you have talked about?" he said: "only me".  


What this teacher is doing in his school is brilliant, why is nobody buying into the idea? what is the purpose in him doing this session on behalf of his school if they themselves are not doing what they say!!

I have been teaching/coordinating ICT for about 15 years and I have been having the same problem as this teacher: how can I make "All" my teachers use ICT with students?. reasons varies with schools but the heart of the problem is: confidence and fear of failure. teachers do not like to be labelled as "bad" teachers and loose control of their students.

This is until I came up with the idea of RiskIT Week© in 2011.
so what is RiskIT Week©

 The first thing I did was to get the SMT/ELT (extended and senior management team) on board. I had to explain to them that once staff start these sessions they must be visited by them on a strictly "non-judgmental" capacity. they can only look and highlight the positives, no negatives. This will give teachers confidence to get out of their shells and stay there.

I managed to identify two weeks in school calendar where there are no exams or anything that could add pressure on staff. then I advertised it through all means available to me: email, word of mouth, staff briefing, through the headteacher, departmental meetings etc.. I sent a form to all staff and asking them to fill it with a session they would like to run. They is only one condition: staff need to run a session with students using a piece of ICT (Hardware or Software) that they have not used before.

I collected all the names of staff and lessons they wish to do, through this pdf form.

Proposal form sent to staff
 During the week:
slide called "Process"

I kept reminding ELT/SMT of the sessions happening on the day. Every morning I email the them "Today's Sessions" so that they can  visit the session allocated to them (a brief visit is preferred). They will then write an "Opinion Sheet" and not and evaluation sheet. all the comments have to be positive.

The teacher him/herself has to write an opinion sheet and they should ask 2 or 3 students to do the same.

These sheets are collected and shared with the rest of staff in order to generate interest the following year. also it is part of creating a culture in school where people share ideas and work in teams.

Like everyone else, teachers like to be appreciated and complemented on the work they do, without that they will not go the extra mile.
It is important to explain to them before the project starts the following points:
  • the ICT they will use should not be a burden, if it is they must not go ahead with it.
  • there is nothing they need to change in their planning, lesson objectives should stay the same, the method will be different.
  • technical help will be available during the session if required
  • they should not worry if the lesson fails completely, that is how we all learn, they should not be put off, try again..
  • talk to students and tell them what you are about to do, they will work with you and not against you
  • give them control if it is appropriate, you don't have to be always in control, let them lead ...
  • work smart: do less work/efforts with maximum impact
  • let the technology take the strain
  • ask anyone in your class for their opinion on how you can improve one or two things .. which part they like and which one they would change
  • take small step and build on it
  • if you enjoyed it.... why don't you do it again with a different class???

Why RiskIT?

As educators, we always talk about wanting students to take risks, and staff calculated risks. When it comes to the use of IT, schools follow different strategies. most schools have IT Champions: few  paid or voluntary teachers leading the school in creative ideas in using the technology.
Ask any school about creative use of IT and they will point you to one or two teachers, as if the latter ones are the only ones with access to key of the "knowledge room". 

My question is: what about the rest of the teachers in each of those schools? aren't they part of the school? don't they share the same ethos and teach the same students? shouldn't they be at the forefront in the use of technology?

In our school we have gone through these stages: (paid and then unpaid) innovations team, team leaders, good example teachers etc.. but behind all that, there was no passion in it, it was all cosmetics, some teachers took the post not because they believe in the use of the technology but because it was some extra money. they missed the whole point of the purpose of the job. 

take the example of the car, you use your car to move from point A to point B, the car therefore becomes a mean to a purpose although you are still appreciating the car itself and making sure you know what you are doing.
training and leading by example are important but they will only help if they lead somewhere.

If there is to be any a change in the use of ICT, there should be a complete change of culture in schools, hence "RiskIT".  You cannot change the culture by tinkering here and there.. it has to be wholesome/ radical even: the whole school and repeated with the same rigour and passion continuously. Staff on the other hand have to see its benefits, it should not be seen and felt as a burden or an obstacle to the delivery of their lesson.

All staff must sign up to RiskIT especially the Leadership team, after all it is free and they have nothing to lose. it's a Win-Win situation.

Book on Amazon

The RiskITWeek is here now and you can find it in Amazon books, just type RiskITWeek or click here
It took me about five years to prefect the strategy, with lot of up and downs. it was worth it, now i am ready to share with you and hopefully you will find it useful.
Over fifty schools used the strategy over the last few years with some of them included as part of their CPD.

Extract from the book


Learning something new can sometimes be frightening, and that is usually due to a lack of confidence, just as some people don’t like exams or job interviews. A factor that adds to a lack of confidence is that technology for education differs greatly from personal technology. For example, using your mobile phone or home laptop for personal use are not the same as using these same devices to deliver a lesson. In the first instance, you only need to know your technical limitations and try to overcome them. In the second, you need to be aware of other people’s limitations, and unless you are ready to confront 20 students (or more) with a variety of issues and problems as well as different levels of skills, then you have not put yourself in the learner’s shoes. You “may” not maximise the learning within the class. "