The Knowledge Network is currently engaged in developing and delivering a new educational platform -the ‘Ki’ which harnesses the best Microsoft Office 365 technologies.
I was recently asked to write an article outlining what had led us to develop the solution and what were the guiding principles behind the platform’s functions. Below is an edited version of that piece…
We are currently experiencing a paradigm shift in education and IT is at the heart of this; as the Institute for the Future outlines , there is a move from episodic to continuous learning, from learners and teachers as content conveyors to content curators, from grades to continuous feedback mechanisms, from classrooms to collaborative (virtual) spaces. It is imperative that the learning environments and tools we provide for learners reflect this. The effective, intelligent and targeted use of ICT to deliver personalised learning and to improve learning outcomes is a founding central tenet for the Trust for whom we originally built the platform. The Trust’s vision is to use ICT in innovative ways to:
- ensure that effective baseline tracking is undertaken so that meaningful progress tracking can be undertaken;
- deliver and track personalised pathways;
- facilitate effective AiFL practice through responsive and targeted feedback;
- ensure that disparate information and data hubs are aligned so that there is a single source of truth at both Trust and School levels;
- provide meaningful and flexible on-demand reporting to all stakeholders.
Prior to its inception, the Trust interrogated the market to find the best of breed in terms of learning platforms and virtual learning platforms. One of the key issues which became increasingly apparent when assessing the use and impact of these systems was that there was a disjunct between the IT-based learning management systems and the curriculum planning – the learning design – which informed curriculum planning and delivery. Educators were thus trying to force curriculum delivery into systems which were too inflexible to meet their needs. The death of the VLE in many institutions was, therefore, entirely predictable. If a learning platform is to be effective, it is accepted that it must offer:
- Rich, compelling progressive learning units to anchor the curriculum
- Embedded diagnostic and interim assessments to track standards mastery and identify skill deficiencies
- Targeted learning recommendations to support remediation and enrichment
- Just-in-time feedback to support teacher and student needs
The Trust determined, therefore, to contract us to develop a bespoke learning platform which would, more effectively, support the delivery of personalised learning through effective tracking, differentiated content provision and effective feedback and analytics to support targeted interventions. Alongside the overarching principles outlined above, the brief for the design of the bespoke learning platform was also informed by the desire that that it would:
- be readily useable by all stakeholders
- provide functions which enhance school operations and communication
- be flexible
- allow for the delivery of effectively differentiated content
- be fully integrated with SIMS and other school-based IT systems
- allow for intelligent tracking
- provide straightforward tools to enable users to generate their own reports to access meaningful data
And so our platform – the Ki – was born.
Collaboration: The platform leverages the infrastructure of Microsoft Office 365 and provides the communication and collaboration tools which are offered as standard in the MS suite. Teachers frequently complain of ‘death by email’, with productivity and effectiveness being negatively affected. The Ki offers a wealth of alternative communication and collaboration tools, including webinars, discussions, instant messaging, polls, newsfeeds and announcements. Collaboration within such spaces is powerful and facilitates the production of rich social and intellectual capital.
Content: The Ki also provides powerful document sharing capabilities, meaning that all users can access resources anytime and anywhere; with automatic online and offline syncing and versioning control, many of the issues associated with ‘traditional’ in-school document libraries are eradicated. The powerful search tools enable users to search even the content of documents and to be provided with metrics about when that document was created, last accessed and by whom.
“taking a highly structured and responsive approach to each child’s and young person’s learning, in order that all are able to progress, achieve and participate. It means strengthening the link between learning and teaching by engaging pupils – and their parents– as partners in learning”.
Key to the Trust’s vision is personalisation, and the development of the KiPathways app – which will be embedded within the Ki – is central to facilitating and assigning personal pathways. Teachers can upload and share content and tasks and assign to students accordingly. The powerful AiFL feedback tool facilitates ongoing dialogue during and post-submission.
‘One of the more useful trends in education today is analytic-driven instruction, the strategic application of analytics based on targeted sets of learning data – things like assignment scores, time spent on the material, progress in an adaptive learning environment. What we’re talking about here is the strategic use of learning data with a direct correlation to student performance. Think Google Analytics, not the Human Genome Project. Or, at the risk of introducing another buzzword, call it “small data.”’
KiData is the other powerful app which sits within the Ki. This enables uses to view the metrics and analytics which are pertinent to them, be they a teacher, a member of the SLT, a parent or a student. It also allows for the ready manipulation of data and for the generation of custom-reports. Understanding the ‘small data’ has a big impact on student performance and allows for targeted interventions which are meaningful and personalised.
It is imperative that the platform is owned by all stakeholders. Thus, to a greater extent, the Ki is written and developed by its users. The development of the structure, the content and the functions is organic and is driven through a cyclical process of consultation, use and reflection. Key to embedding the successful use of the Ki is student and parental engagement. Training and development happen within small focus groups and users are provided with ownership of their own areas so that they become creators and not just consumers of content.
 The Boston Consulting Group: Qatar Academy International Expansion Strategy – Sidra Int’l School London (SIS) Think-tank Workshop, 29.01.14
 Christine Gilbert in the report of the Teaching and Learning in 2020 Review