New Naace Website

Most will agree that the education sector has been in flux for the last few years. It must be that for many schools this will have eroded their sense of security and confidence. Changes in the curriculum, examinations and inspection formats have meant that schools have needed to be agile to keep abreast; the impact of austerity and changes in funding also require continual adjustment; and all this is against a background of societal and technological change that challenges the nature and purpose of education.

NAACE was established at a time when an active and extremely hands-on advisory service was there to support schools with their application of technology. It made sense, in what was a rapidly expanding educational field, to use the technology to bring advisors together so they might share and expand their expertise and understanding and in turn, be supported by their peers. This gave birth to one of the largest educational communities in the UK and grew to encompass educators, administrators, researchers and providers at every level. What came out of this community was remarkable and went far beyond online discussion and support between professionals. Guides and Journals provided a starting point for schools to review and to take on the advantages provided by developments in Educational Technology. These gave many schools a trustworthy means to focus on issues of policy, pedagogy and practice. Beyond this the 3rd Millennium Learning initiative provided the means to nurture, capture and share the exemplary practice that was blossoming across the country. The development of the Self Review Framework (SRF) as a vehicle for schools to plan and as an accreditation as NAACE Mark, and later Becta’s ICT Mark, could probably claim to be the most successful development tool for Schools in addressing the use of IT internationally over the last quarter of a century.

Like schools NAACE has needed to be responsive to educational and technological change, and like schools we have needed to address professional changes that have had impacted on all within the Educational Technology sector. The disappearance of the Advisory Service and the creation and subsequent disbanding of BeCTA have created a vacuum in the space once solely occupied by NAACE. It was clear to us that NAACE might only reclaim this by drawing upon the same understanding and innovative use of new technology it applied at its conception.

The Board of Management’s decision to remodel the NAACE website was central to the rebranding and the relaunch of NAACE to re-establish itself as the go-to place for support and advice for schools on educational technology, but this was not without risk.

Ensuring access for all schools to the SRF tools and following the vital discussion that once was hosted on NAACE servers required a free membership model and the need to follow members onto social media. The prospect of losing both a source of revenue and resetting the dialogue with members needed careful handling.

We also needed to recognise that the way members interact with the site has changed. Although the existing site adapts to mobile devices its structure and content does not meet the current needs of most users. Less text and quicker, clearer tools to drill down to content are priorities and suit more closely the needs of the busy professional.

The more we discussed the more we understood the subtle requirements of a truly contemporary site that has simplicity at its heart but with a need to address a wide range of professional needs. How to you structure to accommodate the needs of free members, paid members, students, universities, SRF and 3ML schools, and those fantastic EdTech industry partners that have the vision to recognise the ROI to be gained through supporting NAACE?

This first iteration of the new NAACE site tests these issues and structures although much work has been undertaken in designing an interface that is easy and pleasing to use. Logging on, signing up, contacting NAACE, finding out membership and finding out about NAACE were static parts to the site but still required a good deal of thought. We spent much time considering the use of images to illustrate the work of NAACE within layouts that allowed quick access through the page. Like most contemporary sites we make use of tiles to contain images, links and “calls to action”. While in some respects this makes page composition simpler, in others this format renders decisions for each part more critical. Every image, every word must have a purpose and fit the look and feel of the whole site. Gone are the days when you could just keep adding content to the bottom of the page.

The home page is a fine illustration of this and perhaps is the best example of the balance between style and functionality we sought to achieve. The concept for the page was provided by Scratch Creative who provided the simplicity we were looking for in reducing menu bars and providing a gateway to a journey through the site. But this simplicity was only achievable through our coders, Advisory Matters who have developed engines that allow the users to access content quickly. There are only six links in the body of this page, but you are only one click away form accessing 100s of items of content and resources. Scratch Creative’s designs are the body of the swan gliding elegantly through the water but powered by Advisory Matters’ legs paddling like mad underneath.

In the final version of the site, which will be launched at BETT in January, there will be four content gateways linked from this page. Resources, Partners, School Improvement, and News and Events. In this version there are two, Resources and Partners.

Selecting Resources links to a filter that allows you to search for any resource on the site. If you want to drill down to something more specific additional pages for eGuides, Advancing Education, Primary Resources, and Computing Curriculum filters are linked from here. This is exactly the same structure that is used for Partners and will be for School Improvement and, News and Events. For me there is an elegance in this simplicity that I am sure will make the new NAACE site one of the most accessible resource libraries around.

There is still work to do before the full launch in January such as completing the other gateways and listing most popular searches to make the user experience even slicker. Member Blogs, SRF Tools and a Advisory Support line are also in the pipeline and will be completed once we have finished uploading our library of resources. I am however pleased, and somewhat excited, to launch this minimised version now. We are well on the way to providing you with the support you deserve. Please make sure you sign-up now to receive the latest updates and follow our journey to our launch at BETT.

Author: Laurence Boulter
Date: 19th September 2019