By David Back, Assistant Headteacher at James Hornsby School
Technology in schools can make a massive difference, improving outcomes for pupils and making teachers’ lives easier. But EdTech isn’t a silver bullet – the key to impact and efficacy comes down to successful implementation and that involves collaboration between teachers and technology providers.
I’ve been a Head of Science or have line-managed science for eleven years in four different schools and I’m now Assistant Headteacher at James Hornsby School in Essex. When I started teaching we had coursework, modular exams, multiple resits and science was on a par with English and maths. All that’s changed over the last few years which left me wondering where do we find that “hook” to get pupils revising early for science and how do we compensate for the lack of solid, early data that the old approach gave us?
It was because of this that I felt the need to jump on board the Tassomai train. When I talked to the founder Murray Morrison, he addressed all of those points I was worrying about and it seemed he really knew what science teachers needed.
For those that don’t know Tassomai, it’s an online program that students use on their computers or phones. It’s like a revision book that reads the student. They log on every day, answer some quiz questions and the algorithm works out their strengths and weaknesses, tailoring the program and the questions to them. Students use it little and often, with usage data fed back to teachers, like a live, updating Personalised Learning Checklist. This saves teachers time in accumulating and processing the data and helps us target intervention.
But as Murray freely admits, it’s not Call of Duty! The students aren’t going to be running to do Tassomai unless there’s a certain amount of drive from the department. He’s very aware that what makes Tassomai work is successful implementation in schools – and that comes from collaborating with teachers, taking on board their feedback and providing them with strategies and materials to launch the program in the classroom.
In that spirit of collaboration – and because it’s the best flipped learning I’ve ever seen – I was happy to talk about my experience of implementing Tassomai at the recent PiXL Science conference. You can find the full presentation on Tassomai’s YouTube channel but meanwhile here are my 5 top tips…
- Get the SLT on board
This was easier than I expected at James Hornsby as the SLT were already conscious of difficulties driving the basket two subjects and the removal of coursework in science. We also have a high proportion of Pupil Premium students. Tassomai ticks lots of boxes for Pupil Premium, low stakes quizzing with instant feedback which really pushes the students forward.
- Use Tassomai’s launch presentation
Devote a lesson to launching Tassomai. Allow students to set-up the program and explain the benefits. 90% get an A*-C (9-4) grade if they use the program well, that’s a big motivator! They really love the interface too – the mobile phone generation love completing things and getting items checked off their list, so wiping out orange and red from their progress wheels gives them a lot of satisfaction.
- Make it fun
I confess I really cheesed it up, creating regular “Tasso-memes” and encouraging competition in class. Leaderboards and rewards for good usage also helped, including our Tassimo for Tassomai hot chocolate token! I even had a table showing the number of questions answered by each class to drive up friendly competition between the teachers.
- Make it stick
Tassomai is so easy to use as a homework; it sets itself and gives instant feedback. All you have to do is monitor that the students are doing it on a weekly basis. We introduced detentions where necessary to drive regular usage, but we are leaning heavily on the praise to build good habits.
- Use the data
The program gives us early solid data which we use for intervention, in conversations with parents and for report writing. So thanks to Tassomai we can now be confident about the grades the students are likely to get.
Tassomai has addressed the worries I had moving into this new, terminal exam, no-coursework season. It also answered lots of questions I wasn’t even worried about at the time! Whilst boys love the competitive element of Tassomai, our faculty’s focus on raising girls’ attainment has received a boost as the girls in my intervention class have said how the low risk questions give them confidence to have a go.
I get a real buzz in my lessons when I introduce a new topic and one of the students throws out some information they have learnt from doing their Tassomai. It gives the students in the class confidence that Tassomai works and paves the way for faster consolidation of learning. The year 10s have developed a fantastic habit really early on and are already revising for their exams in over a year’s time… when has that ever happened before?!
Tassomai has given me confidence that, as long as me and the Science team keep lessons engaging and keep pushing Tassomai, the students are getting a fantastic educational deal, and science is elevated to core subject status again in the school.
Watch David Back’s PiXL presentation in full on YouTube at: http://bit.ly/2ApJ506