Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Times They Are a-Changin’

avatar_fullTomorrow (well, in the morning actually) will see my last day at work at Northants County Council. It has been an interesting few years, with a number of interesting project and a chance to work with old friends and make plenty of new ones.

There has been good and bad along the way, and I am grateful for the opportunities I have had there, but with the direction things are taking it is only right that I move on (to bigger and better) and enjoy the future with my wife and our daughter as we move down south.

I only got involved with the LA because the school I was working at as Director of IT was a pretty vocal school. We had moved over the RBC for our internet connection as a political move to be closer to the inner workings of the LA to allow us to continue to bid for new buildings. We still ran most of our own services, we decided that the Standard Network Build was not a limiting bar but a platform to go well past (which we did on pretty much all occasions) and that we were happy to listen to the LA and RBC, but they had to listen to us too … and they did. Eventually we were told to put up or shut up … get involved with the changes or get what we were given. A working party for the procurement of the new RBC contract followed by similar for a Learning Platform, then a secondment for a day a week to help roll things out, then some extra days, then a year … and then a permanent post.

I was allowed a fair bit of freedom to continue to get involved in other groups and work with different communities so I got the best of all worlds.

We pump-primed many projects into schools and educational settings. The new RBC framework was designed to give flexibility and choice, and we helped schools by working with them on a decision-support toolkit … and whilst many moved away from the RBC they did so more informed … and they will make better decisions for it … and for some that will mean moving back to the RBC now they have realised what they had to start with and now they feel there is no political pressure about doing what the LA says. Some won’t but that is fine by me as long as they do what is in the best interests of their learners and other learners in the county.

We worked to roll-out a county-wide learning platform … and many schools have come to realise that a blog is a blog, a wiki is a wiki, a discussion is a discussion and a document repository is just that. It is how you join it together, support the use in the classroom and collaborate within the school and between schools that makes the difference. Working with people that can do this makes all the difference.

That is why I still look on with wonder at the work for Tom Rees and Peter Ford … their able recruits … because the work of NorthantsBLT is integral to this ethos and has improved so much of what goes on in our schools. The Mobile Tech Toolkit was an interesting way of getting schools sharing ideas and resources.

However, working with the technical folk across the county has been my biggest pleasure. I am a geek at heart … even if I have gone to the dark side and become manglement … and then onto project management. Seeing schools getting staff trained in FITS, helping schools appoint new Network Managers, seeing the profile of support staff in schools grow  so that they are recognised as valuable contributors to the school … that has been a pleasure. Working with them on Security Analysis of their systems, seeing the local NetworkNorthants community be taken over by the schools themselves … wonderful.

Being able to ring a few up and point out that they have made stupid change requests is also fun, and I promise not to mention anyone by name when doing any after-dinner speaking later on in life. Most of you know who you are and have also laughed when I have told you the silly things I used to do when working in a school too. Thank you for your patience when dealing with someone who *isn’t* a hands-on techie anymore.

I leave a team at the LA which is slowly going. LAs restructure all the time and they have to do so to reflect the needs of customers, the direction for central Govt and the available funds, no matter where they come from. I am sad to see such a thriving hive of ideas and expertise diminish … and have enjoyed working with pretty much everyone at the LA.

Good luck to those still in LAs, who work closely with LAs and those who still rely on the essential services many LAs can (and do) give.

I will be working for LearningPossibilities as of 1st April (no … don’t laugh), primarily on the Hwb project in Wales. It is another exciting project and the work I have done on it so far fills me with hope that people still see the benefit of collaboration, planning, thinking of others and actually considering tech as a tool to plan for, make use of and not as a magic bullet, getting all starry-eyed about the shiny!!!

My blogging has been slow recently anyway and that is unlikely to change in the future. I will still talk about things that fill me with passion, and hopefully people will still read with equal interest.

Naace Impact Awards pt 2

It was quite a lovely shock to find that I won an award today.


Last year Naace took the brave step of introducing an award aimed at technical staff in schools. At the time, when speaking with some peers from the technical community, some expressed concern about how a “bunch of teachers and LA folk could every work out how hard technicians and NMs work” and considering how difficult that can be within schools I can understand that a minority had some scepticism about it.

The award is an Impact Award, designed to see what impact you make on learning, and it is up to you to sell yourself against the criteria of “how do you make a difference in schools and with learners”… and that can be a daunting task. You are asked to measure what a difference keeping servers running makes, asked about why it is important to communicate about the services you help the school provide and how it can be used to support / deliver the curriculum, asked about the lengths you have gone to when making sure that the child with a visual impairment is not simply “catered for” but truly feels included due to assistive technology you provide, asked about how you work with teachers and SLT to generate ideas about emerging technologies or simply better use of existing tools, asked about business tools, asked about extra-curricular groups ranging from coding clubs through to bee-keeping … I can go on but you get the idea.

This year I was lucky to be nominated by a friend (a teachmeet legend) and since I am not in a school anymore I fell back to thinking about what I really do.

I work with and support communities of people. All those things above? That is what they do … day in, day out … and I am lucky enough to help some of them flesh out those ideas, give encouragement so they will go to meetings with SLT about their ideas, work with them to help come up with standards in schools … but most of all I am a part of these communities. I am mere mortal without them.

Most of those short listed are regulars and contributors to these communities, whether via twitter or mainly via On the whole we should say that these communities have won the award for me (not false modesty but a true statement) …

So I dedicated my award to the communities … #ukedchat, TeachMeet, NetworkNorthants, NorthantsBLT … but most of all to

Next year I will be nominating someone from … and this is not a challenge for folk to up their game, or any other manglement jargon, it is just to say that you all should keep doing what you at doing, hold your heads up high and be proud of the difference you make. It is recognised and I am thankful to Naace to recognising this.

Thank you all.