Monthly Archives: May 2009

TeachMeet Midlands 09

Friday was quite a fun night really … an eventful start to it as I witnessed a car crash into the central reservation, provided immediate assistance (no injuries, just shock), called emergency services and got my trainers covered in mud.

If you have never come across a TeachMeet before I consider myself lucky that I had my first experience at BETT this year. TeachMeet is a fantastic chance for education practitioners to get together and share good practice. It is a special type of Unconference and has a distinct flavour of fun. Speakers (and anyone can speak) talk about practice and can speak for 7 mins (micro-presentation) or 2 mins (nano-presentation) … with a few longer learning conversations or specialist speakers. The key thing is that it is not a sales pitch … but based on practice, what works in a classroom and no idea is talked down.

I turned up just in time to see Daniel Needlestone talking about the use of Google Apps at his school, and it just got better from there.

Rather than do a transcript of each speaker I’ll just put up a few links of things such as the blogs of various speakers (most have updated their blog with info about what they spoke about), the archived FlashMeeting from the show and to a few other things.

Daniel Needlestone – Google Apps at school http://nstoneit.com/

Steph Beard – Scratch http://scratch.mit.edu/

Ian Usher – Games Design Courses. A volountary group ranging from year 8-13 who designed games in Flash. The course was run via Moodle as the VLE and external experts took part via a remote conference (via Adobe Connect mainly).

Doug Belshaw – http://dougbelshaw.com/blog/ – Doug gave a quick thank you to those who supported and helped him through twitter in his successful application for Director of elearning at an Academy (his childhood school). he went on to talk about the use of blogs in Yr10 History by using http://www.posterous.com/ more details are in his blog post. Also use of http://voicethread.com/,  Google Apps Team Edition (http://www.google.com/apps/edu/index.html) and http://classtools.net/

We split off into two rooms to allow for more specific presentations and I stuck with a dominantly secondary room.

Jose Picardo (http://www.boxoftricks.net/) kicked off talking about communication and how he manages it with hs students, since his school does not have a VLE. Homework was an issue, students don’t know their password for email and don’t really *want* to go out of their way. Links and comments would be put up on http://www.diigo.com/ and messages would be put up on http://www.edmodo.com/ and documents uploaded to http://www.scribd.com/ – I did also consider that possibly using http://www.evernote.com  as an online annotation tool might also be handy to use …

Stuart Rideout – http://www.getplannerlive.com/ a free online homework and planner tool that has been developed and is available to all schools. Very popular with the students and they push staff to constantly update.

Doug Dickinson – http://www.ictopus.org.uk/ whilst being aimed at Primary there are still a large number of resources available via lessons2go … there are also a range of copyright free images via the Pictopus section of the site.

After a short beer break (or J2O in my case) we returned to the first of the learning conversations (this one led by Doug Belshaw) “Why Technology?” This is 3.19.00 on the flashmeeting session (link at the bottom) and it is better to listen to this. I will try and capture the audio later for this as it has a few interesting points.

Lisa Stevens – http://lisibo.blogspot.com/ talking about updating the school website, http://www.voki.com/ and http://www.twitter.com to interact with other language users across the world.

Laura Walker – http://mrslwalker.com Laura also thanks fellow tweeps for support in her succesful bid to become Director of eLearning (another person who is not an ICT specialist) and talks about how the role of eLearning has changed in schools, no longer just the Network Manager or Head of ICT. Stressing the importance of your PLN (Personal Learning Network). Where do you go from here though in your long term road map? LA? Consultant? Senior Management / Leadership within the school?

Tom Barrett – http://tbarrett.edublogs.org/ demonstrating how he has been testing the SMART table in the classroom. Full details are on his blog but I was interested to hear that there was pretty much no learning curve for the multi-touch functions. It just came naturally … even for those not using iPhones and so on.

Next was the second Learning Conversation (led by ian Guest) was “Are we preaching to the converted?” in reference to getting more people involved with Teachmeet (and similar CPD events) and is on at 3.53.00 on the flashmeeting but does get cut short as the flashmeeting ran out of time. The consensus appeared to be that inspiring folk to use ICT is an important factor. Differentiated training resources, using non-IT specialists (in particulr the ‘middle of the road’ ability staff) to deliver training, having a focused group to help steer ICT CPD and making use of peer support all seemed tried and tested methods.

The last two sessions are not on the Flashmeeting … those of John Sutton and yours truly … I think there is a conspiracy!

John talked about Honeycomb as a tool for sharing ideas, links and other information with students … he might have said more but I was suddenly thinking about what I was going to speak about … sorry John!

Finally (or the graveyard shift as Ian Usher tweeted it) I did a nano-presentation on Community. Part one was talking about the importance of sharing our communities (or PLNs if you prefer) and encouraging more crossover. Highlighted in this was the http://opensourceschools.org.uk/ community, in particular for the unconference and http://edugeek.net.

Part two was talking about engaging with your community and I pointed people at a tool showed to me by Peter Ford for student voice and also demonstrated at a recent conference for Governors in Northamptonshire. http://www.powerleague.org.uk is a handy survey tool and well worth a look.

So, if you want to watch / listen to it all (or just the Learning Conversations) then got to http://flashmeeting.e2bn.net/fm/cbd8ce-4484. Most of the speakers have more information on their particular blogs or links are available if you tweet them.

I think this is a fair summary (?) of the meet … if not then feel free to give me admendments and I’ll update as soon as possible.

“But no-one ever listens to me!”

A comment that you can frequently hear in some schools when you talk to IT technicians or Network Managers… usually not long after someone else at the school has made a decision about kit being purchased, new IT suites, programmes involving laptops and students, or policy decisions involving scrapping a heap of security protections.

Often it comes down to problems with communication or possibly a lack of understanding on both sides, so I thought I would run through a few ideas that could help. Some of these are mine, some have come from other schools (mainly via edugeek.net) and some are based on ideas from outside of education.

1 – Understand your clients. A common complaint is that techies are only interested in the boxes and cables and don’t really do things that benefit the teachers or students. One way to help with this is to look at your school’s development plan, identify the areas where technology fits in and then try and translate that into what kit you have, the kit that is needed and what it means to the dev plan. A good example is VLEs. Most techies have a pretty good idea about idependent learning because, lets face it, most have to learn things on their own, trying to structure a lot of knowledge about a wide variety of specialisms into a very short space of time, and usually a case of ‘just in time’ learning (where you learn the the knowledge and skills as you need them) rather than ‘just in case’ learning (where you learn knowledge and skills and try to remember it all).

2 – Understanding your school’s need is important if you are trying to make sure you have a long term, sustainable model for IT. Whilst it is hard to plan for technology too far ahead, you can have a rough idea and make what you do flexible enough so that it would not take a major refit to adapt.

Financially your school should have a three year finance plan but many will go for a five year one. Sit down and work out you refesh program for desktops, laptops, servers, network hardware, peripherals and software. Servers should always run with a support warranty for the hardware. This will tell you when they need to be replaced, but 4 years is a good basis. Laptops would be 4 years too. You can get 5 year warranties for desktops but be prepared to stick more RAM in them in the last two years if needed. And so on…

3 – Once you know what you can technically do and what the costs are then you need to see if the refreshed kit will provide what the school needs. If you are going for arts and media specialism or Creative & Media diploma then can you provide facilities for it. Do you require a change in software? Will it run in the planned hardware? Do you need to make a larger change such as introducing Macs? What are the CPD issues for you, for the teachers and for the students?

The more active you are in this sort of discussion and the more practise you have a judging educational needs the less you will have decisions taken out of your hands or made without your knowledge.

I am not saying it is easy or will work overnight, and a certain amount of compromise is needed on both sides … but to start with you are the one most likely to have to compromise.

I’d be interested to hear how various schools have worked on this compromise from the techie, the teacher and the senior leader too.