Guest Post by Education Writer Gerald Haigh

It’s clear that because Office 365, cloud-based, is licensed free to education, many more school leaders are going to be attracted by rich possibilities that they may previously have thought unaffordable. The savings on servers and maintenance alone can run into many thousands of pounds.

Some, at least, of these new and prospective users will decide that it’s cost-efficient to use some of the saving to engage one of the Microsoft partner businesses who are helping schools and other educational institutions to get the best out of Office 365.

I’ve been talking to a few of them recently -- people like Alex Pearce of BFC Networks

Adrian Edgar and Dave Coleman of SharePointEduTech, also Steve Eyton-Jones and David White of Novotronix.

WIN13_Lenovo_08Each has hugely impressed me by their knowledge and commitment. Along the way they’ve given me great examples of Office 365 in action that I’ve already used on this blog – and there are more to come. I was pretty excited, for example, by some of the things that Steve Eyton-Jones and David White showed me on my recent visit to Novotronix HQ in Wolverhampton and I’ll surely be blogging about them.

(Live drag and drop classroom seating plan anyone? With photos and ‘hover-over’ to reveal student data? Watch this space.)

Meanwhile, what strikes me is the level of agreement I find among all these professionals about the importance of leadership in the implementation process. For example, when I had an email discussion on the subject with Steve Eyton-Jones he made this point;

“We find that it is of vital importance to have internal resource driving the project.  We are working on one very successful project at the moment where the deputy head has a real vision of how technology can assist with learning and development and have a positive impact on learning outcomes and make the teacher’s job easier.”

Clearly, that deputy head is someone I should speak to and perhaps visit. Steve’s words, though, remind us that although the people doing the installation, whether internal or external, obviously play a crucial part, the real implementation drive has to come from the school leadership. Teachers have to be convinced that by using the technology they will improve outcomes for the students, and the task of doing the convincing falls squarely with school leaders. It’s part of the job description.

Thinking about all that led me to take liberty of putting together a short list ideas for school leaders who are about to adopt Office 365. It’s not definitive, and it’s entirely mine, so feel free to disagree or make additional points.

The chances are you’ve been inspired by applications and features you saw in another school or at a conference. That’s fine, but hold that thought as a starting point, not as a fixed pattern to follow. The solution will emerge to fit your needs.

Find, and show, a feature which will delight teachers by making a routine job easier. Each school is different – it might be calendar sharing, or making existing resources available, or booking rooms – but that’s easier than ‘selling’ the whole package to the whole staffroom.

PowerPoint_24x12_BugReport_ScreenshotWork with the growth points. Find ‘champions’, whoever they are, whether NQTs or veterans. They, in turn, will attract followers who might be shy of SLT.

Judge when to let students make the running. They can be influential in bringing reluctant colleagues on board. ‘Miss, why aren’t you......?’ Consider appointing student digital leaders.

Keep on top of the technology yourself, and use it – not only in teaching but in presentations to staff and governors. (Showcase digital leaders in this context)

Keep the focus on learning. In meetings and discussions, formal or informal, try to turn the talk away from the technicalities and on to the impact on learning. Let the techies do the tech. You, with your colleagues, are leaders of learning.