ESMS Head of e-Learning, Simon Luxford-Moore, has been named in the prestigious EdTech Top 50 Educators for the second time. His innovative approach to e-learning has been an inspiration to both pupils and colleagues, particularly over the last two years and we couldn't be prouder to see this recognised. We caught up with him to find out how it feels to be one of the UK's leaders in EdTech, and to discover more about the incredibly inspiring work he is doing across our three schools.
How does it feel to be in the Edtech top 50 educators, (for the 2nd time!)?
To be quite honest, it is incredibly humbling. Often teachers don’t fully recognise their efforts and the little things they do, until they are pointed out to them by others. To be included in this truly inspiring group of nominees is a huge privilege and to be here twice is a real testament to what ESMS is endeavouring to create; an education for our children that sets them up for the world ahead of them, preparing them with skills to face adversity, change and competition whilst at the same time having core values to make them good people.
What makes you so passionate about developing and embracing technology and innovation in the classroom?
My main drive for using educational technology to support learning and enhance teaching is because we can. We have the tools at our disposal and we have amazing staff with the creativity and innovative thinking to employ the technology in such a way to differentiate and engage our learners. It also stems from many years in the Primary classroom, where I saw the direct impact that educational technology can have on individuals and those special moments where a learning boundary is removed and a child can engage completely in a lesson with their peers. It is so powerful.
How do you stay up to date with all the developing trends and changes in the tech world?
Community is the key to this. I have worked really hard over the last four years to develop a network of inspiring and pioneering individuals and companies who share our vision for developing a meaningful education for future learners. I have become an integral part of the Microsoft Education community in the UK and often showcase our work with other schools, whilst at the same time being an open ‘magpie’ to using the approaches of others. Technology is always changing and often people argue that there is no such thing as the latest model, since a new one will always be round the corner. Coupled with the ever-changing and adaptable education system, keeping up to date is always a challenge and the key to success is syphoning through all the content to identify what aligns with our principles and ethos.
What are you most proud of about working at ESMS?
I am most proud when we can say, hand on heart, that we are providing the best possible education for our children. We are a unique family of schools with an ethos, or raison d’être, which understands that whilst academic success is important, it only has true value when there is substance behind it. Our values make us different and make the academic success we enjoy more valuable to our individual pupils. Alongside that, we are transforming our education provision through the development of 21st century skills. We are part of a school family which is not scared to break the mould and explore new avenues.
We know one of the ways we embrace innovation as a school is by the use of VR headsets in classrooms. How have they changed the way pupils learn?
Firstly, our success on how we use VR to enhance the learning experience for our pupils is down to the fact we only use them to make a difference. We do not use them as the focus of the lesson. I always stress to staff that the scenario they want is children thanking them for the topic lesson, not thanking them for the VR lesson. That is the indicator that the technology was used in the right way to enhance and engage, not dominate the learning. The other way it has made a massive difference is by allowing children to use their strengths in learning and not placing barriers to their understanding. For example, asking a child to read a paragraph about an imaginative story relies heavily on their visual input and a degree of life experience to understand what is written. It is far more powerful if a child can ‘visit’ the scene that story is in and ‘see’ the characters engaging around you. VR can allow this and this means learners can use what they see, hear and feel (emotional and physical) to make better sense of the content. The best example of this working so well was given to me by a child in the early years. We had been exploring different rainforests around the world and he said he loved using the VR headsets because he was able to look “outside the rectangle that a picture gives [him]”. That is such a powerful opportunity to give a child. VR means children don’t just learn something, they experience it and by experiencing it, they draw meaningful relationships from their learning.
Are you a tech guru in your personal life too? If so what is your favourite use of innovative technology?
My family would laugh at this question and will say I love a QR code but I can assure you there are none around our house! I suppose, similarly to my professional use of technology, I use it when it makes a difference. I don’t overuse it by any means and I am far from that person we all know who has every utensil in the house linked to an app, however, I am always open-minded to new and innovative ways it can make life easier. My favourite use of innovative technology is a shared list across my family’s devices. It makes shopping trips far more efficient!
ESMS has always been a pioneer of technology. What is next on the horizon for the school?
What’s next is truly inspiring. I won’t commit to details yet but it is fair to say ESMS will be recognised on a global platform as a flagship for education. What makes that possible for us is our in-built desire to self-reflect and constantly evaluate ourselves. From an educational technology view, we will never be known for what we have but will always be known for how well we use it. Our legacy is our pupils and so what’s next for ESMS will be seen when our pupils leave us and make their mark on the world.