Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I am the founder and Managing Director of independent educational publisher Rising Stars, who have been working with schools for over 12 years. ICT and technology in education is a particular passion and focus and last year I was given a NAACE Impact Award for my work on curriculum development. I am on the ‘Making it Happen’ steering group for Computing At School and recently helped develop guidance to the new computing curriculum for primary and secondary schools, published in association with NAACE and CAS.
I work regularly with the All Party Parliamentary Group for Education and was chairman of the British Educational Suppliers Association from 2011-2013. Through Rising Stars I have developed close working partnerships with many organisations including the National Association for Special Educational Needs and the Guardian Teacher Network.
I recently spoke at the Learning and Teaching Expo in Hong Kong and BES Asia in Malaysia on the changing role of the web in teacher professional development. I continue to actively support the teacher community through Teachmeet sponsorship and free training. I’m also a mum to three boys, a secondary school governor and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
Rising Stars has enjoyed a great deal of success over the last few years. Are there any achievements of which you are particularly proud?
I’m constantly proud, and amazed by the enthusiasm and dedication of my team and the teachers and schools we work in developing resources. We have had to work really hard to publish new materials for the new national curriculum which comes into play from this Autumn and thankfully that is all beginning to pay off. For us it is essential to remain really close to our market, in spite of the fact that we are growing in size as a business. I am particularly proud of the work we have done around computing and ICT. I know Rising Stars has made a difference to schools here and I am personally passionate about the use of technology across the curriculum and the importance of computer science.
You're now beginning to develop content that specifically supports the use of iPads in the classroom. What made you focus exclusively on the iPad as a learning tool?
We are focusing on iPads for now as the majority of tablets being bought by schools are iPads. We are beginning to explore materials for Android as it likely that the balance will shift (a good thing!). I worry that many schools are procuring tablets without thinking about the pedagogy. It’s difficult to find examples of iPads being used in a really meaningful way in classrooms. We are hoping our new resources and teacher support materials will help schools to address this and to begin using iPads to really enhance learning particularly, in English and Maths but also for Science.
Can you tell us a little more about the content you have produced?
Switched on iPad consists of two teacher books (each in print and digital form), one for English and one for maths. The books each contain 18 units of work for children from 5 to 11 years old with clear planning for teachers, guidance on running units, likely outcomes and assessment guidance.
We have carefully selected a range of apps and tools that schools should use to develop literacy and maths knowledge and skills.
What sort of apps have you focused on?
We have been careful only to use apps that can really support learning. Examples include Keynote for creating a presentation, Book Creator for journal writing, iMovie for story telling and Angry Birds for working with place value in maths. Every unit focuses on one or two apps but makes suggestions of others, and gives ideas for homework, independent work and extension activities.
With new apps being released daily, how frequently will you be updating your content?
We have a host of new materials coming next year. We are developing materials to support schools in using tablets in a truly mobile way as part of outdoor learning projects. The core Switched on Computing programme moves online next year too making it even more accessible and up to date. We are encouraging schools to share their work with tablets at Switchedoncomputing.co.uk so teachers can see what works well.
In general, how important do you feel the use of mobile technology is to the modern educator?
Currently schools are experimenting. Many are struggling to cope with connectivity issues and just the general practical challenges of managing ipads effectively. But this will change. Recent BESA research shows that in 2016, 37% of computers in schools will be tablets rising to 57% in 2020. And increasingly schools are giving 1:1 access (16% of secondary schools using mobile devices will have a tablet per student). More research is needed into the impact of mobile technology on learning and attainment but it is likely that adoption will increase rapidly as schools find efficient processes for device management and effective pedagogies are established.
What's next for Rising Stars?
We are very excited to be working on a range of new maths materials for schools which are launching through next year. These include books and apps and will help to blend traditional with tech! We are launching a new assessment service for schools in December this year which will give teachers a completely flexible online resource to help them assess progress in Maths and English. And of course we will continue to innovate in the area of computing and ICT. We are producing new coding activity books, resources for design technology and robotics and also a great new programme called Switched on Computing without computers which will help teachers to develop computational thinking skills.
How can our readers keep up to date with what Rising Stars is up to?
Register here www.risingstars-uk.com! We send out regular updates across our range of publishing and have free newsletters on a range of topics.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us Andrea. The new resources look excellent and we look forwards to hearing more from Rising Stars as we head into the next school year.