Friday, 22 January 2010

Bridging the gap

The multi-faceted nature of a job within the education system can be fraught with many challenges. There are a multitude of different agendas being addressed by specialists, all aimed at maximising the potential of the children and offering them different and exciting experiences. I am one of those specialists, I like to think I have some degree of specialism in ICT and so therefore my agenda is largely technology based. I spend time, and thought into trying to ensure that the technological capability of my work environment is useful and accesssible for all the stakeholders in the school. My frustrations lie not with the hardware or software that I install (even though I sometimes make mistakes), or making it work (this in itself can sometimes be an enigma!) but in the ever increasing knowledge gap that exists between some adults within schools and the students they are helping.
This gap has been my target, I would not force anybody to embrace 21st Century technology, nor would I insist they utilise them in the classroom, but I truly believe that as yet further advances are made in technology, educators need to be aware of and, if appropriate, at least be capable of pointing children towards the tools available.
To this end I have been a staunch supporter, and advocate of the 'converted' (you are probably one if you are reading this) supporting those, who for whatever reason, struggle to access the technology that 21st Century society offers them. For this reason, predominantly, although there are benefits for the children and the school. I decided to offer a free 'Basic ICT Course' to the staff in my school.
I put up a list on the noticeboard, included a brief course outline, and a choice of days (I was going to do an hour a week, for 5 weeks, on a Wednesday or a Thursday). They were to give up their own time and stay late at school, to step outside their comfort zones. CPD is fine when it suits you, but personal sacrifice for CPD can be difficult to buy into. I was amazed, not only was there take up, but I was oversubscribed! Instead of Wednesday OR Thursday, I was having to do both days, 36 people ( a third of the staff), including all the SMT opted in.
I have just finished week two, the altruistic intentions of my actions are supported by a number of staff thanking me for the things they are learning, and putting into practise both at school and at home (I await patiently the arrival of my sainthood or at least a mention in the Queen's Birthday honours list). The ultimate outcomes:
  • Greater confidence in use of ICT across the school.
  • Better support for our students in their use of ICT.
  • Maximised usage of the hardware and software available.
  • A shift towards a 21st Century learning experience for the children.

It has been well received, I have enjoyed the praise that has been offered me and there is a discernable buzz around the staff room regarding ICT generally. Hopefully, despite it being a small step, I am making some inroads into bridging the gap between those who can, and those who want to, embrace the technological era.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Do you want to BETT?

Having attended BETT for the last 3 years I was aware that this time was going to be equally manic, tiring and fraught with a plethora of sales people thrusting Shiny glossy leaflets into my hands. So I was prepared for the day and entered into the fray with 3 clear questions:
  1. What shall I do about my school website?
  2. What are my options for a VLE?
  3. How shall I approach my desire to have some 'games based learning' in the school?

A quick walk around the venue talking to nobody, scowling a lot and finding my bearings gave me an overview of what was on offer. Following a coffee and some consultation of the show guide I then did some targeted stall visiting. I am not going to mention names or products, nor am I going to link to any of the companies that I spoke to. Whilst I walked away with a small bag full of leaflets and spent a great deal of time discussing my needs, I was unable to answer any questions with any degree of fortitude, in fact if anything I asked myself more questions... Still that is the nature of the Technology beast.

So you might say: 'A wasted day!' Not at all, a day is only wasted if you do not learn anything from it. I got loads out of BETT, saw some new products, had some great conversations and I think moved my thinking forward. As I said, nothing jumped out at me, no one item or supplier floated my boat, but thinking time, and having time to reflect on my needs was an important benefit.

Following a long day traipsing the halls and galleries at BETT it was finally time for the Teach Meet: #TMBETT2010, as a TM virgin, I sat reticently (as if I do reticient!) in the Apex room as it slowly filled with a multitude of other professionals, I was impressed with the sheer number of people that attended, even more so was having that many i phones in one place, not sure what the collective noun for i phones is but I am going for 'an intelligence of i phones' (mainly because I like the alliteration). Within minutes there was a discernable buzz around the hall as people began to piece together their own PLN jigsaw, replacing an avatar with a face, a user name with a Christian one. There was a hum as these seperate parts discussed work environments, BETT itself and a range of other topics. I have to hand it to @tombarrett the whole thing was impressive. The list of people who stood up to share their classroom practises and thoughts is massive and I refer you to @dawnhallybone's blog for details of the speakers. But my thoughts are this:

  • Not one single person who stood on that stage failed to deliver me something; A useful tool; a concept to muse over; something to laugh about; some infectious enthusiasm; in fact most of them offered me all of the above and more.
  • Meeting some of the people whom I have: had conversations with; shared ideas with; read their blogs or shared a joke, was equally worthwhile and served to reinforce my opinion that my best CPD has come via the social networking of my PLN.
  • The organisation of the event was faultless, from the free drink to the technology available to the presenters (and the camel) and I raise my hat to those who put it together and also the sponsors.

So it is with a heightened enthusiasm that I am typing this, I have used Voki today to embed some instructional tips in my Basic ICT page I have set up for the staff at school. A conversation with @jasondilling on the train after the TM led me set up an Edmodo account today for all my classes to enable a journey into microblogging. I am seriously considering driving forward a Teach Meet in Kent in the near future. My BETT/TMBETT 2010 experience proved to be a profitable one. I look forward to using the tools and ideas I have been gifted, thinking about the opinions and ideas of others and being able to share something of mine.