Saturday, February 28, 2009

BSF - building or transformation programme?

Ever been disappointed by what appears in the press? Putting the record straight about comments attributed to myself in the TES recently presents an opportunity to explain how optimistic I am.

I was quoted as saying, "Chris Poole has led Microsoft's involvement with the programme for the past four years, but he says despite claims from the Government that every school will be brought up to the same standard in ICT, he has yet to see a real "transformation".

Apparently I went on to comment, "The programme is little more than a building and ICT project," Mr Poole said. "I don't think the Government has thought about how it is going to manage true transformational change." .... and then ..... "Microsoft is concerned over ICT provision, dubbing BSF "just a building project".

Some pretty casual reporting here but it does afford the opportunity to say what I really think!

I do believe there is a danger of BSF becoming a 'building + ICT' programme but I am optimisitic. Why?

In particular because of the work I am doing with a growing number of very progressive LAs.

For a few years we have been working closely with LAs like Knowsley, Sandwell and Sheffield who see BSF as a transformation programme and further a catalyst for much wider renewal and regeneration of their communities. In the last year or so I have been asked by a number of other LAs to support their efforts to avoid their BSF investments going down a building programme route.

So I am optimistic because (and if):
  • There are a growing number of LAs who see BSF as a transformation programme
  • Focus of debate and discussion shifts from buildings to transformation through ICT
  • Market matures so there are more ‘expert’ and demanding clients
  • Celebrate success well beyond the new buildings that are opening
  • Bring more ICT innovation into market through supply side
  • ICT given higher profile. 20% of marks and notionally 10% of funding but, as in other areas of our lives, capable of enabling circa 80% of the transformation!

So what are we doing about that?
4 big questions that rebound around this programme and at all levels:

  • Why change? Why not improve what we already do (incremental)
  • Transformation? What could that look like?
  • How do I embark on this journey and move from where I am to somewhere better?
  • Where are the exemplars?

    …. and what have we done and are doing …….
  • Support and help to accelerate work of progressive LAs – I have sat client side as a ‘critical friend’ in 2 procurements
  • Invested in showcases to show illustrations of what a transformed learning experience could look like. Worked with LAs to develop these. Not blue skies. Based on view that the technology already exists to deliver these ideas.
  • Deliver endless numbers of workshops and events to ‘open minds and raise awareness’
  • Teachers - through our Innovative Teachers programme we are working with 5 LAs to develop a scalable and sustainable model of CPD that can reach all teachers but focussed on great learning, supported by ICT
  • Leaders – through our Innovative Schools programme we are linking schools around the world on the same journey and contributing resources to help eg deep case studies at

........ and more …..

Friday, February 20, 2009

They say its not about buildings but where did the ICT go?

Last week I attended the BSEC conference and exhibition in Manchester.

Lauded by Stephen Heppell as one of the most significant conferences of its type in the world all the BSF rhetoric was on show.
You know the sort of thing, 'not about buildings', 'transformation', '21st Century learning' and so on.
Well, unless I am mistaken in most of the rest of the world we all live in ICT is busy transforming lifestyles, business models and even creating the basis for new economies. Certainly is for young people outside of schools!
Why then did it take until 1pm in the main conference for the first meaningful mention of ICT? We heard all the statements about transformation but then proceeded to listen to content that was all about buildings and their design!
Now I am not against new or remodelled buildings, they are vitally important, particularly if their design reflects the curriculum experiences you are designing for students. But I am disappointed that, again, in a major conference, the opportunity to place the role and potential of ICT with the right profile to a wide ranging audience is lost.
Infact when the panel did get to talk about ICT in response to my question from the floor they talked excitedly about the reliable and robust ICT being delivered through a managed service.
In my view that should be the minimum expectation, the 5th utility, and what people should be getting animated about is what you can do as a result of the ICT 'just working' in and beyond classrooms with young people.

Is it just me who feels the huge potential of ICT to support new and compelling learning experiences is getting lost or downgraded in the whole BSF thing?
It is already possible to create immersive ICT environments where you can make the physical environment support the type of learning you want to be taking place BUT still we focus on buildings. The focus has to shift quickly towards system (re) design not just building design.
The image above is from a 'classroom of the future' in Singapore that Microsoft collaborated on with the Minsitry and University. We are now making that type of environment a reality in test modelling environments in the UK. I will blog on that shortly.

I continue to do a lot of work with BSF teams around the country to 'open minds and raise awareness'. Got 3 workshops or presentations next week. I'll let you know how they go when set against my comments here.

I believe education stakeholders are open to change. They need a lead. BSEC failed to lead in the right direction.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Dan Rasmus - Microsoft 'futurist'

How often do you get the chance to look over the horizon? Sometimes working in schools, and speaking as an ex Deputy Head, it can be difficult to scan the horizon beyond next year's timetable!
Microsoft has someone whose job it is to do just that and look 5/10/15 years out.

This week Dan Rasmus was in the UK. His official title is Director of Business Insights but 'futurist' is how he is often introduced.

He recently published his latest book 'Listening to the Future' which I do recommend. You can find out more at

Dan scans the horizon to help Microsoft and our customers consider their business, or in this case, education futures. He met with some of these local authorities in December when I ran an Executive Brieifing to Seattle. We met up again at New Line Learning (NLL) in Maidstone last week which provided a great context for a discussion about new models of delivery. Here is an Academy that is re-branding the notion of 'school' and the learning experience of young people.

I have been able to develop a close relationship with a growing number of progressive local authorities and some individual schools and Academies.

What they all have in common is that they are looking at their BSF, or other investments, as an opportunity to step off in a new direction. Most of the conversations I have with them are more about community renewal and regeneration than merely improving their schools with more ICT.

I get them together when I can to network and share and occasionally I am able to add some further stimulus to their work.