Tag Archives: Becta

DIGITAL PARENTING – TEACHING CHILDREN ABOUT TECHNOLOGY AND THE RISKS

(originally posted for Mobile Guardian)

We always welcome working with schools on eSafety, especially when it comes with supporting agencies and schools in their delivery of Get Safe Online. That is one reason why Tony Sheppard, our new Technology Manager, took a trip to Chesterfield last week as Chesterfield Safer Neighbourhood Team were invited into one of the local Junior Schools.

Supporting the Get Safe Online programme is an important part in our role of providing tools to support technology in schools and ensure the same ethos of classroom management can be applied with or without mobile devices and stop technology being a barrier to learning by giving ownership and control to teachers where appropriate.”

It is not just about turning technology off or blocking inappropriate content, but also about helping schools, parents and children make appropriate decisions in the all-encompassing digital environment.

Whilst the Safer Neighbourhood Team covered the stats and facts, the laws and the wherefores, Tony talked about the difficult task parents face with connecting with their children about technology and the risks.

“When we talk about Digital Parenting, we are really just talking about Parenting. We have to remember that magic triangle for Parental Engagement.”

Parental Engagement Triangle

(Becta: Exploiting ICT for Parental Engagement, May 2008).

“For most parents the important area is dialogue between them and their children. When we think about where we get advice about parenting, in general, we have a large number of options for us. School, family, friends, local services (such as the library or community services), online … and from our children themselves. Remembering that Monday was World Mental Health Day, it is important to remember that listening is an important part of parenting.”

Childnet has produced a number of suggestions for conversation starters with children

  • Ask your children to tell you about the sites they like to visit and what they enjoy doing online.
  • Ask them about how they stay safe online. What tips do they have for you, and where did they learn them? What is OK and not OK to share?
  • Ask them if they know where to go for help, where to find the safety advice, privacy settings and how to report or block on the services they use.
  • Encourage them to help. Perhaps they can show you how to do something better online or they might have a friend who would benefit from their help and support.
  • Think about how you use the internet as a family. What could you do to get more out of the internet together and further enjoy your lives online?

Childnet also provides an example of a Family Agreement that can be used to support the appropriate use of technology.

There are many scenarios around family use of technology, and we can look at these over the coming weeks, partly because there is often direct correlation between the struggles parents and their children have and the struggles with classroom management.

  • The Nag Factor
  • The Unexpected Gift
  • Always Switched On
  • Don’t Ever Switch It Off
  • Compromising Photo
  • But Just How Much Are You Costing Me?
  • The Packet Of Crisps

Once you have thought about what you want to do with technology, and how it is going to be used, only then do you think about what technical controls you need to put in place and who provides them.

The latest edition of Vodafone’s Digital Parenting magazine also provides a wide range of advice and information and the magazine is freely available to all schools.

With parents, they need to think about their Internet Service Provider, Mobile Provider, home networks (controls on the router for WiFi passwords, timed access, etc.), built-in tools (advice from Microsoft, Apple, etc.) and Commercial tools (covering timed access and location controls, web filtering, control which applications can be used, control installation / deletion / in-app purchases).

The same questions can be asked within schools and it is always best to be proactive about making sure the tools you choose match how you manage your classrooms and manage the learning.

At Mobile Guardian we provide a home MDM and parental dashboard, as standard, to all parents at school utilising our technology. That way parents can manage school and home owned devices – for free!

To find out more, ask your school about Mobile Guardian and follow us on Twitter to keep up to date with all our safeguarding tips.

Internet Safety Talking Point 2

This is my latest blog post based on Scott McLeod’s 26 Internet Safety Talking Points.

Over the next few weeks I am looking at each point to tease apart the ideals behind them, to try to see both sides of the discussion and to share examples about who others have work on the issues. A lot of this will be from a UK-centric position but hopefully it will provide some insight into the similarities and differences with our friends in other countries.

Today’s point is about Decision Making

The technology function of your school organization exists to serve the educational function, not the other way around. Corollary: your technology coordinator works for you, not vice versa.

To use technology you should have a reason, understand what you want it to do and also understand how you can measure whether it is achieving it or not.

Oh dear … this sound like we are going to talk about planning again.

In the past a number of choices about technology have been a little chicken and egg with what has been used. There have been pilot projects or innovative schools who have gone out and done something interesting with new or emerging technology. The technology has inspired them to try something new and when it has worked you then find research to look into it on a wider scale. This is where folk like Becta came in … as well as groups such as the Association of Learning Technology, NAACE, Besa and so on. They took the research to the next level, either as partnerships with schools, those doing the research, with suppliers or as the controller of funds (or any combination) … resulting in ring-fenced funds to allow schools and LAs to implement a given technology.

So the idea that the technology should be based on your choice has not always been the way it should have been, but it was usually instigated based on good practice and research. How will it was implemented is then debatable and how much that removed control and decision making from individual schools is another point some will raise.

But where does the technology coordinator (NM, ICT Coordinator, LA Technology Manager) sit in this? To some extent they might have chosen the specific technology based on available funds, with a certain set of features, but the pedagogy behind it all should be pretty agnostic and be able to use whatever is provided. An IWB is an IWB … and whilst specific software might have benefits over other solutions the idea of it being used by learners is common … it is just the method which might change. The arguing point against this is around wireless tablets connected to projectors (removing the requirement for the learner to come to the front of the class … an important feature in some schools with learners who do not engage when in front of their peers) or the ‘add-on’ tools such as voting systems (actually a separate technology in their own right but can work well with IWBs).

The other arguing point around this is about policies and strategies. I hate to say it but there is a little thing called the law. In fact it is the Law. It deserves the capitalisation. And this varies across the world. There are many things which educationally would seem to be perfect decisions but are then put on hold or stopped because the NM / Tech coord / etc says no. This is not done lightly, nor is it done without consideration for what benefits will be lost and it is usually done with some attempt at compromise. Areas where there will be clashes ranging from safeguarding, copyright and intellectual property, data protection and information management, funding and classroom management. A good NM will educate you about these (if you are not up to speed) and will work with you to get the most out of tech … but they are frequently the gatekeeper as to what tech you can use because they have the knowledge about the bits which will cause problems. In the same way you have people to tell you not to try blowing up the science lab (in spite of how much fun it was when we were at school to see people do experiments that blackened the ceiling), or have people who tell you not to use certain classrooms due to them falling down … you have people who will say not to use certain technologies in certain ways. I’ll discuss the legal side of this in a later post … but just try to believe that a good NM is talking these into account and advising Senior Leaders, classroom teachers, office staff, parents, learners, local community and the random people who ring up the school because of things you post on the internet.

Yes, the Technology Coordinator works for you, but part of that job is choosing or helping to choose appropriate technology and keeping you safe. Don’t give them a job and then tell them they can’t do it!

On the other side, your NM should not keep things as a dark art and be the only person making choices. Any choices made should be clearly explained and, as per the last blog post, show where they are held accountable. Likewise the choice of technology should not force you down a particular educational route, but it can be an inspiration for doing something different. Be aware of the differences and look at the early adopters to see what they did and what worked / failed.

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.

The James Review … what does it really mean for tech in schools?

The report is quite comprehensive in the breakdown of problems, but has to summarise some of them and it means some of the detail is missed. It also uses some language which misses out on opportunities to pin things down. It suffers from vagueness …

Although ICT is mentioned in a number of areas, a common theme that is expressed is that all capital investment needs maintenance and to be refreshed when appropriate. This is expected to be done, in principal, via revenue budgets for smaller amounts and DFC for larger amounts to a certain level. This means that the school should be able to quantify, if asked, how much it expects to have to pay each year for maintenance or refresh of the ICT infrastructure and facilities. It is hard to pin down whether software or ‘changeable’ assets could be included in here … that could be a good discussion over a pint some time in the future. This is where we get vagueness though … when it talks about maintenance / refresh it does not explicitly mention ICT as part of that. Some groups will use this to argue that ICT should never be considered as capital at any time and others that this says that it should. Perhaps some clarification would be nice on this.

Here are a couple of key things for you though … (mainly centred around part 2, but in particular 4.23 to 4.29)

The report talks about how local choice around building design (and this also means IT infrastructure) has often been a hold up, has meant that value for money hasn’t been achieved, that what was requested to be delivered by the leading person (eg the head) could be wasted as that person could have moved on by the time it is delivered. This is no different to one Network Manager coming in, setting things up *their way* and then, when they leave, their replacement starts to do things *their preferred way* meaning the school goes through change again. I’m not limiting this to just tech though … you get the same when a new HoD comes on board, a new site supervisor, a new chef in a kitchen … but schools need to make sure they have a long term plan and stick to it where they can.

The report also recommends that RBCs still exist, that they are changed to a more ‘price book’ style service where you only pay for what you want / need, 10Mpbs for primary schools and 100Mbps for secondary schools, that there should be more use and development of the existing public sector networks to make use of the existing investment as a way of delivering lots of services (including things such as BDUK). It also suggests that being a small school does not mean you use less bandwidth. In fact you might use more as you make more use of online resources to support the lack of specialisms/expertise within the school, and making more use of hosted solutions / services.

The ICT Services Framework should play a large part in any procurement, as should other large scale purchasing arrangements. Putting it bluntly, this means that for every chunk of kit you buy then you must check it against the same costs from BuyingSolutions. The only way the system will work is if people make use of it, and if they find they don’t get the best price from BuyingSolutions then they feed that back.

Other recommendations can also be seen that there should be central advice and procurement, and when that comes to the ICT section of new / rebuilt / refurbished schools, this should be for infrastructure only. It does not say what it considers to be infrastructure though… that worries me.

So … Managed services should not be a pre-requisite of any new building scheme, that the choice of desktop / systems should be down to the school, that there should be a plan to maintain IT infrastructure / assets and refresh it. On the flip side, the ICT services framework (which includes managed services) should be a serious option for all schools when they are considering how to spend their capital investment and how to maintain it. There is nothing wrong with schools have the same basic setup and then fine-tuning … having one person defining a vision or system is a risk …

One thing is clear though, there is a push to have more of a centralised role from a body. that can be DoE, it could be PfS … but the DoE has now taken on board the remnants of Becta. It has the infrastructure team and the safeguarding team, amongst others. The thing we don’t have yet is how the DoE is going to deliver their chunk of the Govt’s IT Strategy. This report *will* contribute to that, I hope!

So, for me the report covers some key problems and makes suggestions about how to deal with them. It agrees with some aspects of the Department’s present strategy (eg Free Schools) but also pushes on that things like RBCs are a good thing, that local authority involvement is still needed, that capital needs to be followed with enough money to cover maintenance and that relying on one person for a vision is not a good thing because they could move on.

A few notes on this then … the Harnessing Technologies grant was removed because there had been enough capital investment. Can we now see the money for the maintenance please? It wasn’t included in any budgets given to schools this year, even with ring-fencing being removed. And if we are talking about having one person making the decisions … then should we really have a politician (and this covers *any* politician from *any* party!) doing the vision / decision making around education? What happens if they move to another part of the Government? Just saying …

Innovation Management

After my last blog post I have a few emails and messages pointing out that Change Management was often the blocker in teachers and techies trying new things out, that BSF used Change Management and contracts to stifle innovation, that red tape is the bane of education as it is and that we have to think of ways around it all to keep the ideas flowing.

I have tweeted about and pointed people towards Lewisham for examples of how BSF can still maintain bubbles of innovation but what about smaller examples? What about when a school is finally sorting out their change management? Will innovation still be remembered?

Well, I prepared the following video for the EdTechRoundUp TeachMeet as a possible answer of translating change management into innovation management, shamelessly using up other ideas I have come across over the years … most of which I honestly can’t remember where they came from. Some have directly come from previous schools, Brooke Weston Academy and mainly from Lodge Park Technology College … but others from schools visited with the SSAT Futures Vision tours, ICT Register or generally chatting with folk online. If you see something you recognise then let me know … no slight is intended for forgetting things.

FITS will fit all your needs!

What a wonderful week it has been. After a chance to catch up with schools involved in a local Apple RTC project (lovely to see and hear of teachers and pupils excited and engaged by the chance to try something different) we had the first piece of training for our new Technical Champions.

The course is actually the “Level 4 Certificate in ICT Support in Education: Practitioner” and is delivered via accredited training partners using materials from The FITS Foundation. In Northamptonshire our training partner is NEOS IT and we had the pleasure of George coming to Lodge Park Technology College on Tuesday and Wednesday to deliver training to the Technical Champions plus a few others.

A key concept across the whole course was the use of the word management. I know that I joke (quite frequently) about that particular word … even to the point of never using it but substituting the word ‘manglement’ instead … but it is really important in a heck of a lot about FITS. Once you get past the first stage of a service desk pretty much everything else has an element of management in there and this builds into the idea of Change Management.  I’ve written about the importance of Change Management before but it is explicit in the training materials. Without it then any significant change or choice your school makes with technology and learning … well … it is likely to fall flat on its face and it will probably end up being the missing piece of management from the FITS materials … Blame Management!

Why will some technicians, IT Managers and SLT not like what this means? Well, it introduces a large amount of accountability via a group that is central to Change Management (often call Change Advisory Board or Change Advisory Committee) and is likely to contain people like the IT Manager, a member of SLT, whoever looks after finances and then we get onto representatives of the stakeholders at the school. The training was quite interesting when we discussed who should be a representative. Of course people remembered about teachers, some mentioned about admin / office staff, one person mentioned about governors but I was disappointed that I was the only one to raise the students. And this was with a forward thinking bunch too … it got me to thinking that we still don’t communicate 2-way with our students enough and that this is partly down to the ethos of the school more than anything else. At this point people really understood who deep FITS can be involved with school change and transformation … and people were excited by that, a little daunted perhaps but the excitement is important.

My question to those reading this is how would you set up a group to manage change at your school? Do you have one already? Does it also deal with IT changes? Who is involved in the group? If you have student representation how do they feel about being involved?

I know … a typical Tony-style blog … talks about stuff and then asks a heap more questions. Oh well, you should be used to it by now.

One of the things I will be prodding the Technical Champions to do over the next month s to set up their blogs and I will share their links here too.

Technical Champions

I have a reputation now for being a bit of an independently minded person … having worked in independently minded schools has helped this view. Some might call me bloody awkward, even troll-like at times, but I do think that it pays off to think slightly differently and to try something different too.

Take the above title. To many it means nothing to but a number of Northants schools it now means that their IT Managers have a chance to be part of that forward-thinking mindset. Since I have been out of a school now for a good 15 months, and before that I was more out than in for the previous 15 months, and not having done a heck of a lot of hands-on techie stuff recently (or at least not officially) I feel that the LA and schools need a group of technically knowledgeable people to develop good practice, become stakeholders in what we do at the LA with regards to technology and to ensure that technology and educational need match up.

So, we are accepting applicants for the role of Harnessing Technologies Technical Champions. These IT Managers (selected via a panel including LA staff, RBC and Becta representatives) will be trained with the new FITS v2 pilot program and supported in implementing FITS in their schools. They will be able to provide support and advice to other schools, to be critical friends to their peers and the LA, to develop and document good practice and then to share it with the world in general.

I hope to make sure they all blog their experience too as part of their development of communication methods so will publish links to these as and when they get created.

The deadline for applicants is the end of this week and we have had good interest so far.

Best of luck to all those who apply.

Open Source Schools Seminar on Innoviation for LA Staff

On 15th October 2009 Open Source Schools held a seminar on Innovation for LA Staff.

A fantastic day with many wonderful sessions but I thought I would point out my own one first. Tasked with talking about how IT Support teams are making a difference with Open Source I chose to talk about a number of core facts by which I work with schools and projects I have asked IT Managers in Northants to complete.

The presentation can be found here

And twitcam stream for the afternoon session is here and I am the first speaker so no need to scrub through. The morning session can be found at http://twitcam.com/3xoh and http://twitcam.com/3xpf

Further information about the day, discussions about open source in schools and access to other information is available at Open Source Schools.

Naace Annual Strategic Conference 2009

A pretty good conference with a good bunch of folk ( I can’t even say “for consultants and advisors” any more!)

The various sessions generally hit the mark or provoked thought and discussion and rather than do a single post of it all I’ll summarise most of it and the break down a few sessions.

I would recommend you go to http://blackpoolconference00.naaceblogs.org and have a look through the blog posts and comments, the available presentations and the videos when they are available.

The opening address was a vid clip from Jim Knight with JK on twitter answering questions. A record of this twitter session is on the above site.

Anne McFarlane challenged a number of preconceptions around the use of mobile devices and we could look where there are opportunities to make a difference with that.

Mick Waters spoke about the curriculum, the problems with it and why the shift looks as if it is happening to a skills led, information accessing model that operates across the curriculum. There were no Q&A at this session but it did seem as if the curriculum is still being done *too* schools. His parting comment about us having come to the conference to find out where to go next showed this a bit. Perhaps an acknowledgement that many at the conference will tell QCA where to go next… on the curriculum that is! This should not take away from a good session with a healthy dose of reality in it.

The masterclass I went to was looking at what Microsoft had been doing over the last year in pushing things forward and I have to praise the innovative teachers network here… some really good and novel uses of kit going on.

This was followed up with the keynote on day 2 by Mr Bean. Martin G Bean, the General manager Education Products Group, Microsoft that is! OK a fair chunk of it was a sales push for how MS software can push the boundaries, and yes… it can. The innovative teachers network is showing this and whilst the Surface may just seem like a gadget it has potential depending on how good the tools are to allow teachers and students to build high quality resources for learning and teaching. Martin was honest and said that they are looking to us for ideas too and that content providers are also working on adapting existing or making new content. I’ll wait a bit before making a conclusion about it really. In the hands of the right teacher it would be brilliant, but them so coils a snooker table I sometimes feel!

The next sessions, promoting ICT in BSF and change management, I will leave for the moment as they need dealing with separately. One session cleared up a few things but the other pricked a nerve!

The afternoon exhibition was handy to just have an explore of ideas with a few suppliers.

The last two sessions I went to were both with John Davitt, a keynote and then I stayed on for his breakout session. A truly fun guy who seems to have more ideas per minute than I do all day. (no comments on that, please!)

Day three will also be a separate post too. Too much to squeeze in!

So, I am nearly home now and will have to have a break tonight to recharge my brain. Thanks to all who kept up with my tweets and I’ll try and link to the naace capture of that soon. Alternatively you can use http://search.twitter.com and search using the hashtag #naace2009

The future of technology in education

It is that time of the year when a gathering of folk head off to the NAACE conference, so I am ok the train up to Blackpool as I type. I have a few interesting sessions booked including a look at Microsoft’s view of where technology is going, the growth of ICT under BSF and Change Management.

This does not include the keynotes and networking / BoF sessions (normally known as ‘the bar’).

Whilst NAACE is often thought of as full of consultants there are plenty of teachers in it too and getting their good practice out is essential. There are also techies in NAACE as well and there are those out there who have a lot of educational experience and knowledge to be pulled into the pot.

Do I think this conference will answer all things with where technology should go? No, but it is part of the dialogue at least.

Oh … I seem to have given the impression that I am going along to heckle a bit. Perhaps the better phrase would be ‘to ask appropriate and pertinent questions when it is obvious that blagging is taking place!’