A look back at 2015

2015 was a fantastic year for James and myself here at LearnMaker as we really started transforming education in the way we envisioned we could when we quit our careers and set up LearnMaker in late 2014. The journey so far has been quite the rollercoaster. What most don't know is that we spent all of our life savings investing in getting LearnMaker off the ground as well as sustaining ourselves through the early 'quiet' period as we developed the company name. It's been a fantastic challenge, and everyday has brought something new to our door and not always in a good way! Our biggest goal from the outset was to do things differently. We never wanted to be another 'training provider' visiting schools to just deliver one-off training sessions. We have 14 years teaching experience between us, and having 'been there, done that, bought the t-shirts,' we know just how little impact one off training sessions have. It was always our vision to run training projects with schools, that would produce a 'big, quick win' in the short term but more importantly deliver the soft skills and pedagogical knowledge required for the school to develop in the long run. Sustainable change, and more importantly cost effective change!

So here are what we feel where the highlights of 2015 for us. Enjoy!

1. The Broadgreen School Department Transformation

There was no argument that the #1 spot belonged to this project as it was our first. We spent 1 day a week with Broadgreen's Maths department for 10 weeks and transformed student performance through a few key tweaks to how they used iPads as a department. You can see full details here

2. The Primary App Development Projects

In reaction to the negative press that the introduction of the Primary Computing Curriculum in September 2014, we began toying with the idea of developing a project based activity to show just how capable primary students were, and also highlight just how transformational technology could be when it was used well. In a great twist of fate the headteacher from Invicta Primary School contacted us out of the blue and asked us to design a project that would see their primary students build a fully working iPad app from scratch. We took our ideas live and ran the 5 day project with 15 students at Invicta Primary School. It was a amazing success, getting media coverage across Greenwich, London through the summer. We reran the project with Parkroyal Primary School to great success, and the Academies Show invited us to their main technology stage at the NEC to talk about it. Naturally we took 2 of the Year 6 students who worked on it to give their own take on it in front of a packed out seminar area. You can read about the original project here

3. Nominations for 2 NAACE Impact Awards

We don't do it for the adulation but it's still nice to receive plaudits. In September we were nominated for a NAACE Impact Award in both the Primary and Secondary category for the app project and Broadgreen project. We find out if we've made the shortlist in January. Fingers crossed for us!

4. Working with both Apple and Google

In early 2015 James began working on the Apple Leadership Tour, Apple's premier world education training event. James worked alongside legendary Apple educators Joe Moretti and Andrew Jewell, delivering events across the North of England. The Manchester event scored a near perfect 4.9 rating, the highest an event had ever received in the 20 year history of the Tour. 

In late 2015 I was accepted onto the Google Teacher Program, recognising our growing expertise in all things Google Apps for Education. I'm sure there's many exciting things to come from this.

5. Looking forward to 2016!

A bit of a cheat one but we attended so many great events and met so many great schools that we're scheduled to work with in 2016. A sneak peak into what's to come... we'll be working with the Department of Education to improve the Academy / Free School programme, we're replicating our Broadgreen 'Assessment for Learning' project across West Yorkshire as well as with one of the UK's biggest colleges, we'll be reverse engineering Furbies to develop and transform the Design Technology department at Abbot Beyne School, and we're also working with Parkroyal School for 6 months to transform everything we can as they move into their new building. We've also got the upcoming Tablet for Learning accelerator event where we hope to share as much of our knowledge with as many educators as we can. 

A huge thankyou to all the schools, teachers and educators who believed in what we do here at LearnMaker enough to hire us. Without you none of these projects would have existed! Leave a comment below with your top achievements from 2015. Here's to another fantastic 12 months for everyone!

Jay Ashcroft

Entrepreneur. Author. Speaker. Cofounder of LearnMaker