Q&A with Ashley Helm
Technology is changing at such a pace that, for us mere mortals, it often feels impossible to keep up. Today’s digital natives appear to delve in and out of different devices, platforms, apps and social media networks with ease, but for those of us that grew up in an era devoid of smartphones and twitter, it can be a little daunting.
At home, we have the luxury of taking our time to get to know a new device or upgraded operating platform. We usually get there in the end… with a little help from our children. But in the workplace sometimes it feels as if we’re expected to instinctively know what to do – and presented with a brand new interactive screen and a classroom full of eager 7-year old digital natives, it may not feel like you’re the one in the know!
We’ve supplied hundreds of schools with Clevertouch technology and therefore we know the importance of giving teachers adequate training on their new technology to ensure its success. It’s all very well furnishing every classroom with the latest interactive LED display – but unless you allow your teachers the time and training to learn how to use it properly, you may well have wasted your money.
We spoke to Ashley Helm who manages the End User Engagement Team at Clevertouch. It’s Ashley and his team’s responsibility to go into each school and train up the teachers on how to use and get the most from their Clevertouch Plus.
How did you get into training?
One of my first jobs was with Immersive Education selling Kar2ouche software, which was an education resource designed to engage children with Shakespeare – no mean feat, especially when I think back to my 7-year old self! I could instantly relate to the children it was designed for and I could see that it would have made all the difference for me.
From there I decided to stay within educational technology, working with several companies until I joined Clevertouch in May 2016. My role here is to ensure that front-line teachers feel confident and happy using their interactive screens – so their sole attention is focused on teaching, not trying to grapple with the technology.
What would a typical day entail?
I’ll invariably be in a school or college working directly with the teaching staff. Most of the time my team and I will be on-site immediately after an installation of Clevertouch. This could be just one screen, or it might be an entire school – in which case we’ll be running training sessions with all the teachers simultaneously.
One of the things that most concerns teachers is how they can use their existing lesson plans and education material on the new screens. Every teacher will have a body of tried and tested lesson plans they’ve built up over the years. We show them that they can easily access all their existing files – but also demonstrate ways to integrate Clevertouch technology into their lessons to improve delivery and initiate new ways of engaging children interactively.
How has technology in the classroom changed?
The move from whiteboards to interactive whiteboard projector systems was a major technology step in the noughties, but it was only a matter of time before something better came along. I can certainly see how the move from Interactive Whiteboards to Interactive Flat Panels has made a difference to the way teachers teach.
The result of the ‘tablet generation’ has given way to an expectation that touch should be at the forefront of engaging students. And this new tech is now free of the usage limitations of the outgoing system such as the need to constantly re-calibrate, shadowing and brightness.
As well as improvements to the reliability and user-experience, students can come up to the front of class and use the Clevertouch screen simultaneously, which is fantastic for collaborative and team working. Not only that, the Clevertouch Plus supports access for multiple mobile devices so the teacher can save and share on-screen session with the entire class, for homework, project work or revision notes.
How do teachers feel about using their new interactive screens?
There are a whole range of emotions, varying from apprehension about having to change what they have always done, through to excitement about how the technology will enhance the learning experience and help to engage their students.
I love seeing how our Clevertouch screens can change the way teachers perceive front of class technology. I get a great sense of satisfaction when they can see it’s no longer a barrier to learning, but a really creative way to engage their students that is simple and easy to use. It really isn’t scary!
What’s the stand-out moment for you?
It has to be when I was an exhibition. A teacher from a school of children with special needs asked for quick run through of Clevertouch. She was there with 4 students (16+ years of age) – so I gave them all quick demo and then asked if the students wanted to have a go. The teacher told me this was unlikely because the students found it difficult to engage with people. We stepped back from the screen and carried on chatting about the technology; when we turned back the students had started interacting with the touchscreen together, using their fingers to write and move things about.
The teacher was amazed and close to tears – she’d never seen her students engage so quickly with each other before. In my view this proves the extraordinary power of touchscreen technology to empower and engage children of all abilities.