Monthly Archives: February 2012

My issues with BYOD

Firstly, let me state that I am an advocate for BYOD and anything else which gets more technology into the hands of learners so that it can be used *where appropriate* and that will also include some work to help SLT, Teachers and learners understand when it can be appropriate. As part of that I love to see the blog posts, articles, videos from folk at Microsoft, Google, Apple, Learning Without Frontiers and many, many more.

My first issue is around the shiny tech syndrome … the same issue that cropped up with IWBs and many other fantastic tools. You hear (or experience) a school saying “School A is using technology X and has fantastic results and we sort of understand why so *we* have to use it to!” and yes, I know this is a bit of a generalisation but we can all understand how it happens, the hard work folk involved have to put in to make it work as a result and that by some more careful thought it can be the success we all know it should be. This applies to so many different things in schools (and other sectors) so it is not just a technology thing. Having to think and plan about something can be mundane and boring but it can be, for your school, the thing that makes the difference. It is worth saying that not all schools need to plan as much as others … some schools have a culture of adaptability and innovation … and so can pick things up that bit quicker … going from a trial to full implementation with far less work, less planning, more trust between people involved (an important factor) and get wonderful outcomes. When trying to think of something to equate it to I tend to think how would a school deal with having to teach every lesson in song. If you think your school could adapt and change, very little training, understand the benefits … then this could be a sign you could go to BYOD with little educational pain.

And this gets to my second issue. BYOD and consumerisation of IT is wonderful. It puts good kit and tools in the hands of people who will make good use of it. There are barriers to this and some are practical, some are educational, some are technical and some are legal. This is where those schools who spend more time planing might be better off.

Let us deal with legal in this post … and this will not be a comprehensive list, will not form any sort of legal advice and should not be considered as a reason to go for BYOD or not to go for BYOD … merely a pointer for starting conversations with the relevant professionals who you would normally go to for advice and instruction (hopefully that covers my backside!) … so please take it as such. There are lengthy eSafety Law in Education discussions which can be had around the use of technology, online tools, walled gardens, etc and these should be considered. I cannot find a comprehensive list of what this involves other than schools should apply with the laws with regarding safeguarding … but I know that it will cover (and not a full list) The Education Act 1996, H&S legislation, Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006, Common Duty of Care … as well as other legislation in place to deal with bullying, physical and mental harm.

And then you get onto what some regard as the mundane aspects of legislation … and whilst we have mentioned H&S already we do have to come back to that when we consider the problems some schools used to have with trailing wires in the early 1:1 laptop schemes … not so much of a problem now with mobile / handheld devices but not everyone will be bringing in iPads / Android tablets … there will be laptops, netbooks, ultrabooks … and devices will also need some charging during the day as learners forget to bring them in fully charged or as the battery slowly burns out. This also steps into the practical aspect so we can leave it there for the moment. The next bit is about security. As much as we might not like the idea, we have a responsibility to ensure that all the data, the personal information, the work created by staff and learners, the services that are provided in the school, the machines we work on each day and the devices we connect on the network are safe, secure and there will be no loss or damage.

When any device connects to a system there are both legal requirements and usually terms and conditions for that connection. With your phone it is the contract you sign and the law of the land. You are not allowed to disrupt communications, misuse data, use communications maliciously, etc as points of law. You then also agree a contract to say you will follow the rules of who you connect to … which includes the above laws (and more) and also things like the amount of data you can download / upload, damaging the name of the firm, etc … and in schools the contract *has* to be signed by the parent as a minor, as has been pointed out to me a few times recently, holds no or minimal legal power. To some extent this is similar to school rules though … but this means that you *have* to consider the damage which could be done. You might not allow some children to connect devices to the school systems due to previous actions in the same way you might not allow some children to use sharp knives in DT lessons due to the previous damage they had caused (which, technically, would be criminal damage and that is something you can hold against some children as a criminal offence … but how many schools do prosecute!)

So, we have covered the idea of a contract and that there are legal requirements for a safe system. This includes protection of data loss / damage, viruses, use of the school systems to launch attacks against other networks. As much as we might want to think that these should just be covered by who ever does your tech support … the buck stops with the Head and Chair of Governors. When schools have lost data and had to sign Undertakings with the ICO it is the head and Chair of Governors who have to do it … and it is their neck on the line for the fine and even jail.

I recently asked a group of schools about what laws they have to follow to run a school network, what standards are out there for this and who would they go to for advice. Majority of SLT put the onus on their IT Support (either in house or contracted) and even those who accepted that they could not devolve the responsibility (it is only ever shared) they had to accept the limitations of what they could reasonably manage to cover themselves.

Personally I would love to see a legal review of what it takes to run tech, including BYOD, in schools. It is worth saying that none of the above should put anyone off … just show them the areas that need dealing with and I hope to cover a few more areas (technical / practical) in the next posts.

A summary then. No matter how much we all want to focus on the inspirational benefits that BYOD brings, we also have to fact a few realities that it is like any other change a school faces. It has to be done for a good reason, has to be planned and has to take into consideration legal boundaries, operational requirements and a lot of the other boring stuff. Educational benefit is not a magic want that will sort or over-ride the other stuff … just a really good reason for putting the effort in to sort it in the first place.

So, what would folk like to see next?

A breakdown of managed wireless?

Dealing with proxies?

Day to day operation in schools?

I am open to ideas and information … I don’t have the answers and I am always looking for others to share what they have done so far and the lessons they have learnt.

Google Teacher Academy UK 2012

“I would like to thank my wife, my parents, my teachers, the cat from 2 doors down who walks across the roof at 2 am in the morning, the excitable children who need to be spoken to when trying to lift their friends up by their ears … ”

Ok, so it is not really an acceptance speech and that is partly because I wasn’t successful in my application. It is more a thank you to everyone else who has applied and shared their ideas and passion.

For those who are not aware of what Google Teacher Academy is …. it follows on from the brilliant practices of Apple Teacher Institute / Apple Distinguished Educator, Microsoft Partners In Learning / Innovative Teachers Program, EduGeek Conferences, BOF sessions at trade shows … and is a chance to have an intense day of training on tools from Google, sharing it with some of the most exciting educators (not all of them teachers).

And watching yesterday and today’s twitter stream (especially the hash tag #gtauk) it was fun to see others being as excited about I am … if not more so! Watching the stream did raise another interest thing … I was now seeing another bunch of people to connect with, and since my application was based on collaboration, so it made sense to create a twitter list … because even if only a few of them made it through I would want to connect with all of them and keep a track of what they are doing. I do hope that Google release a list of all those who applied because it would be wonderful to connect with them all … and in the meanwhile I will continue to update my twitter list.

Below is my video … it is very tongue in cheek and yes, you can take a variety of technologies and put them in there as collaboration does not rely on a single technology from a single company and is it is more about a willingness to connect with others.

GTAUK application

And so we get back to my acceptance speech … thank you to those who applied and shared … you have been gems, stars, providers of treasure (and hours of laughter). I know a number of people were surprised that I, and many others, didn’t make it … but have you seen the calibre of those who did? All I can say is “WOW”!

I’m really looking forward to the twitter stream of those who are going … You just know it is going to be exciting and full of gems.

Rethinking ICT #ICT500

Inspired by Chris Leach‘s collaborative model for Rethinking ICT.

There are few things in the world which are likely to drive more wedges between the teaching community than someone saying, “but you have to teach X in this way” … no matter whether it is a central figure from which Department looks after schools, a self-nominated individual with an agenda or axe to grind, media groups (whichever medium it goes over) or pushy interest groups (whether they be ‘industry’, parental or community groups) … and we should be careful not to fall into any ‘pushy’ category when thinking about rethinking the future of ICT in schools.

There are lots of people with a wide range of knowledge and expertise who can help people find a range of suitable options … and that, to me, appears to be the crux of the matter … lots of possible options.

Whilst we are rethinking ICT we need to accept that this will cover such a wide area that there will be so many options and variations that we are unlikely to say that x or y is the perfect model. Neither should we …

Recent conversations in groups like Computing at Schools has looked at things like which is the best language to program in … and it is starting to sound a little like the argument about what is the best office package, what is the best video editing package, do you need middleware like RM’s CC3/CC4 or can you manage a vanilla network and just stick in a few extra tools if needed?

I’ve long been a firm advocate for transferable skills where possible but accepting that there are certain applications which are beneficial to learn for commercial / career prospects. In the same way I used to practice Judo and have a wide range throws available to me, I also knew that certain techniques worked better at various national levels of competition and so would focus on these in training and application. In a similar way I have experienced that whilst the dogmatic training approach in the Armed Forces tends to be delivered by rote (and learned as such) it also leaves open doors for further development of adaptable soldiers (and is often a tool for spotting leadership).

And yet if I was to suggest an area that people should consider when rethinking ICT it would be that whilst we know that poorly taught ICT is poor, we also have to accept that not all ICT can be whizzbang. In the same way sports stars, artists and musicians might have hours of mundane skill honing repetitive activities, we should be ready to accept that even as a top coder you are likely to be churning out code … not inventing new ideas every single day. There is nothing wrong with mundane or minor activities … it can be what makes the world go round. It does not mean we should accept poor teaching, but it does mean we should not over-hype it all either.

iBooks developments

After my recent blog post about the education announcement from Apple I mentioned that I had some questions about where this left the ownership of created resources. I did send some queries out to some folk who had done education work with Apple in US schools and found they had raised similar questions … and had the response of, “We can understand your concern and will get back to you.”

It was pleasing to see an email on 3rd to say to keep an eye out for the update of iBooks. Sure enough, an update was released and the major change has been captured by a number of sites but my favourite has to be from 9to5mac.com.

It clears up about the use of PDFs you export (i.e. do with them as you wish) and makes it clear that the iBook format is locked in to the iBooks Store for sales … but as I mentioned previously, if Apple are operating as your book publisher (vanity or otherwise) then you can expect them to take a cut of your money.

The questions not answered … in a school the EULA is likely to have been agreed on behalf of the end user by someone such as a Network Manager. What happens if the school haw one rule but the creator of works does something different? I know, I know … not Apple’s problem but that of the school and what they do for dealing with IP and who has the right to sell or resell work done by staff. I was asked why I had raised this previously as surely the idea that the school agrees the EULA for software on behalf of the user is common … but I still say that the direct link into a platform for selling work makes it different enough to worth special consideration. I think this is one I might ask Leon Cych about this as I think Apple have not caused an issue here … just highlighted it.

The other question I have is about ePub3 … I still like open formats for those who *want* choice (even if that choice is to go for a more locked in system) and for all the pushing that Apple did with HTML5 I just want them to use a bit of fair play here (and not use FairPlay). I’m happy to use iBooks Author and iTunes U, but don’t want to lose a good standard as things get fragmented.

From the depths…

After looking at a number of friends setting up auto-tweeting tools from their blogs, something I already do, I spotted that they are also digging out posts from their archives … sometimes it can be a little confusing as there is no indication that it is an old post, but it has been fun to revisit some of the posts anyway.

And so I am now looking at similar tools and finding that the best option is for me to choose a post, update it and ensure that the tweet has in it [blog archive], the short URL, the title of the post and the original date. Since I am going to be selective about the posts from the archive I don’t mind spending some time doing this … but will look for ways to automate it.

I also know that my blog and my tweets get viewed by a number of different audiences and different times of the day. Would it be too much to tweet it more than once? The best times for me are 9am, 1pm and 8.30pm … is three times too often? Only a small proportion of my followers will see it more than once.

I will also be using one of my other blog spaces to republished some archives too … this is so it is part of the #NorthantsBLT, #4Northants and #HETUP projects. These will go out via http://grumbledook.bltnorthants.net …

Also, if you find a post in my archives you think others would like reading then please let me know.