Rachael Wilding is the Principal at Smart Vision School, a British Curriculum School in Dubai, you can follow Racheal on Twitter here.
As a school, we've been with Pobble for three years now and seen a very similar trend to that seen in other Pobble schools, internationally and in the UK in that it's given a real lift in children's attainment and progress. It gives children the sheer pleasure of getting to grips with their own personal writing journey.
The most important thing for me as a school leader is the impact that Pobble as a digital platform has; it gives children a real purpose for writing. It's a platform that prides itself on having high quality, user-friendly resources.
Here are my favourite parts of Pobble and why they have such an impact on writing in our school:
Real writing examples
A WAGOLL (what a good one looks like) is a term that we use in the British curriculum. For me, a WAGOLL is something that we use in two very clear ways. Firstly, we have them for the teachers. For my staff, it really helps with planning ideas, benchmarking where that child should be in that year group with writing moderation and it's a great way for feedback. For the children, we let them use WAGOLLs to ‘magpie’ ideas, it's a wonderful way for them to have a little look at other children's writing. Eight or nine years ago when I was actually in the classroom, I would be photocopying different pages from books and popping them out on the table for children to have a look through. But there is something absolutely electrifying for children to be able to take ideas from other children. On Pobble children can pop in and search through hundreds of thousands of pieces of children's writing from their own age or on the same topic and be able to read writing that is relevant to them rather than thinking “I can never write like that, that's a published adult author.” The WAGOLLs really help them to better progress. We've introduced a challenge element for those that are writing above the year group standard. They're able to dip into older year groups and magpie that language and structure that they might not have actually been taught in their class yet too.
Publishing writing to a global audience
Chosen pieces of our writing are published on our own school Pobble page. Our children here in the United Arab Emirates, log in and they find that people have commented on their writing, people from the UK, from France, from Tokyo and elsewhere around the world, it really gives them that sense of additional pride. It's a wonderful community to be part of, you often find shout-outs on Twitter or on LinkedIn, and people that send you a message and say, "I've got somebody that's really struggling with writing, and a little comment on their writing on Pobble would go so far", it's great.
I think another great thing is that children can access this writing at any time, anywhere and I think the wonderful thing that we've encouraged children to do is be inspired by other children. Being a published author of a book or an actual novel can feel foreign to them, but to be a published author on Pobble is absolutely realistic because all the children in my school are published authors. We've had quite a few parents tell us that for bedtime reading, children have actually taken to reading Pobble stories. We find a lot of children in free reading time or at home choosing to skim through and read different children's writing. It’s a real experience and it's really really helped lift our writing attainment and progress.
High impact lessons
In terms of high impact lessons, Pobble is a product that continues to be absolute premium and of great quality. It's a bank of ready-made lessons, including quick writes, lesson starters and full week topics. I love the fact that there are always current events that are dropped in there as well, it's a wonderful thing. We don't really do holiday homework, but we always have parents asking for things. And so it's great for either children or parents to be able to dip in and dip out of and have the personal choice element for self-selecting homework. I will quite often say to children, this week you can choose whatever you would like to do on Pobble, go on the platform and find yourself a piece of homework to do. We've had children come in and say "I found this year 2 piece of writing and I'm in year 5, and I've totally up levelled it." Whilst another child might have gone into Pobble News, and they've done their own recount of recent events. It's a great, really, really diverse product to use.
The perfect partner
I've got a favourite phrase that people who work alongside me know, ‘No man is an island’ and I firmly believe that no EduTech should be either. For us, Pobble is a perfect partner for so many different platforms. My job as a school leader is to go in and make sure that staff feel supported, we don't have formal observations anymore in school, but we have a lot of learning walks. During these, I’ve seen some fantastic lessons incorporating Pobble with other tools and resources. One was using Pobble, Padlet and iPads. By using Padlet, the children generated a word bank together as a class, that really was collaborative learning. Then using Pobble, the teacher had already pre-selected a text and extracts from differentiated samples of writing and then the children used Pobble’s WAGOLL finder and started to Magpie different vocabulary, different sentence starters etc. Then, of course, came the actual writing. The children wrote their own mousetrap writing, published it on Pobble and then feedback was given by their peers, we like to do random peer selection for feedback and it worked a treat.
Another wonderful lesson that I saw, and we've recreated this sort of structure for a lesson over and over was using virtual school visits as a hook about the Great Fire of London and how it started. The teacher was then able to search newspapers on Pobble to demonstrate the structure and then they honed in on newspapers for the Great Fire of London. After that, the children created their own newspaper report and published it on Pobble. Finally, they used ChatterPix to create an eyewitness account that had been used in their writing. So a really nice combination for one key objective.
Supporting a global teaching community
I'm a firm believer in using digital platforms, but I always think that it's got to be a product that supports us as a school, not just pay the bill and you get something. It's got to be there the whole year round and Pobble does that, not just the Pobble people at head office, but as a community of teachers looking to improve writing in our schools. The wonderful thing with Pobble is that once you join, you become part of that community, you really do see that it's not something that stands stagnant. It's constantly changing and upgrading. We really are there to support each other. People listen, people shout out and offer ideas and although now we're spread all over the world, it really is something that feels quite intimate as a community of educators.
Recognition and praise
The praise involving the whole community near and far is key for me. Obviously, we all love giving praise in school, and we're all naturals at it. But we've taken it further and have a Pobble wall, so not only do they get published, they also get the opportunity to have their writing on our Pobble wall for a set amount of time. To help recognise writing achievements, Pobble supplies a huge amount of top quality resources from display materials to lanyards and certificates. Obviously having your work on Pobble and having those lovely comments dripping from people that you do know within the school, staff or me as a school leader, but also their friends is wonderful, but when somebody from a different school or a different country makes a comment on their writing then the children are just ecstatic.
Online moderation on Pobble is a fantastic tool. I know a lot of us have to put those books together and drive around to a school maybe half an hour away to have a moderation meeting, either in a small cluster group school groups. The moderation tool, particularly in the last two years when we've been in lockdown and really struggled to do that moderation. It's been a lifeline for us. It's so helpful to be able to come together as a community of primary school teachers, English leads and school leaders and be able to talk about writing and moderation without having to worry about the problems of Covid disruption.
All of these things combined have really had an impact and we have the data to prove it. We've had accelerated progress and attainment in writing. It's helped us with paying attention to writing targets something that often seems to get going and then slip away. It's a wonderful personal portfolio to track and certainly as a school leader, having to evidence that progress and attainment Pobble has absolutely knocked it out of the park for me.
If you haven't been part of the Pobble community or you've just been on that 365 elements, I urge you to take a closer look at becoming a Pobble School, like ours.
The bit that no one likes… the cost
For me as a school leader, the cost, unfortunately, is always a factor when purchasing a new school product. Pobble is very reasonable for everything that you get. It's not just 'pay and go away', they really are with you on that journey. You feel supported and are supported. You don't just get that platform, you get the resources, and you get that ongoing CPD and that community aspect. We know how incredibly hard everybody is working, especially under the current climate and so as a school leader, I want to be able to give time back to my team. Having Pobble allows me to do that, removing some of the time that they might have had to spend in the past is a huge plus point for me, they can save time planning, writing and creating resources and it supports their writing targets. With certain edtech, you think it's going to be great and then when you get it, it's far more complicated and then you don't use it effectively, but Pobble is so easy to use! Teachers, children and parents use it often because it's a simple format. It's clear and because of that, we've maintained the amount that we've used it.
It's a really important piece of the puzzle, a reason to write for the children and for staff it supports planning and moderation. I think the great thing as a headteacher is its ongoing CPD for all of my staff. They have drop-in sessions, resources, training and a regularly updated blog. It's an ongoing professional development for richness in primary writing.