Tag Archives: ict

You say Computing, I say ICT…

It was interesting to see some of the education twitterverse today. From elation and smugness with the reversal and changes to proposals around GCSEs, to frustration and annoyance about the opening of the consultation on the draft National Curriculum … and then you hit the screams of joy or unbelief after ICT is slapped for a rename to Computing.

Now, let’s get one thing straight. The delivery of ICT goes from the wonderfully creative and engaging to the inane box ticking … and there can be a place for box ticking actually, but not how some folk do it within education.

Poor teaching is poor teaching. The idea that an important element of working with computers, including deep changes to knowledge and skills, was needed to be put back in had very few people disagreeing.

There has been some frustration about how some of this has been managed though, and how the interests of some groups seem to have pushed others out … a little bit of politics and a bit of Politics really. The agendas of some groups have ended up with a consultation that has, at times, excluded others … and if we consider that Naace (The ICT Subject association) members that have been leading the way on this … then it should not surprise anyone when Naace members get annoyed. I know I am. I am also a member of the BCS and yet they have done little for recognising the career and progression of my profession, those working in IT in education. It is a shame when the agendas of some stamp all over others … and the really sad thing is that most of the folk involved in those groups are not doing it intentionally … they are fighting for the same goals, but things get twisted around, certain businesses have their say and you just get that sinking feeling that we will be having similar conversations in 5, 10 and 15 years.

I put out a series of tweets earlier to express my initial feelings and to try to pass a message to others.

The name change from ICT is part curriculum need, part branding / marketing / spin and part politics (at both Gov’t and interest group level)

Considering the amount of cross-over with some of the interest groups I have a feeling a number of friendships are getting strained

For those doing great things under the umbrella of ICT, keep going. The snobbery against it will disappear over time … and we will all win

If you do poor things under the umbrella of ICT then this is a wake up call … and we hope things improve

But a Plato those enthusing about Computing … please don’t deride those doing great things as ICT, or allow others to do so!

Politics is a fickle thing … you never know when those in power will turn against you.

I hope this sums everything up for you …

Play nicely, play fairly, share and don’t let others tell your friends that they are not good teachers / educators / techies when you know they are!

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 …

I’m sure I had some budget left?

Let’s face it … we have all had this thought in our heads at some point in the school year. We may have even said it out loud in front of the Bursar / Business Manager as we try to sneak an order in for something. We may be at the point of having to work out what we can’t do until the next financial year and hoping that we can at least do a little bit of what is needed, or buy essentials.

Well, I hate to break it to you but it is not going to get any easier. Whilst the CSR might have been reasonable to schools, you will find that the extra money will not come the way of any form of technology (I am not going to get into the political debate about whether there is actually an extra money. There will be for some and not for others … presume the worst, hope for the best!) This means that all those posts you might have read from Ray Fleming and Miles Berry are more relevant than ever.

If you haven’t read them then go and do so … don’t stop to read this drivel … read and read!!!

Oh … you are back … good show!

Where was I. Oh yes, budgets. All those out there who have a long term school development plan which take care of development of technology in the curriculum, how to fund it and when to change it please pass go and collect £200 … oh yes … there goes Paul Haigh and Mike Herrity … and a few more. Good to see you again chaps. And not forgetting Elaine Brent … actually … quite a steady stream of people going past now …

Ok, and let us see who is left. Ah … as I thought … still too many of you.

Let us see what we can do to deal with some of the problems. Have you looked at the LGfL/Becta Budget Planner? I know that it is a bit old, but still perfectly serviceable. You may have to use a bit of lateral thinking for virtualised servers and it doesn’t quite cover cloud services (not all of which are free) but it is a good starting point, and it will be a huge improvement on having nothing to help in planning your costs. There may even be someone who fancies putting this into a series of Google forms to help people in their planning, or it could be incorporated into your Sharepoint setup …

This is presuming that you know what kit you have got. I’m not going to start a rant again about inventories, configuration management databases, definitive software library … most people will have read my earlier posts about how important this is, how they are important to supporting FITS and how IT Support can struggle without them. There are plenty of good discussions on software to gather most of this for you, whether it is open sources (GPLi / OCS NG, etc) or built in with other tools (SSCM, NetSupport DNA, etc) and there are others out there with far more hands-on experience to review the software … so I will let you make up your own mind. Just remember that you cannot plan what you are going to use technology for, or look at what technology you need unsless you know where you are starting from.

And then we hit the big snag … not a small one … or even a middle sized one … but a dirty great big one that means you could have to delve into your god-like powers again. Surely you have heard the motto of the IT Manager who has stuff dropped on them days (or hours … or even minutes) before it is needed.

Miracles I can do today … for the impossible please give 24 hours notice … and some pizza … and coke … and chocolate … and a bit of time off afterwards … and did I mention the chocolate?

Yes, the White Paper means the goal posts are shifting once more. Some of you will be in schools who are not that bothered. You may have SLT who are strong enough to recognise that the goal posts always shift and so you adapt or just create your own … sticking two fingers up to the world of politicians and they know what they do is good for the kids. For others … you might find that the targets of the last few years (or perhaps the last few months) are now out the window.

The first thing I would recommend you do is to take stock of what you have (darn it … I’m talking about the inventory again) but not just the physical aspect … but the functionality too. What software have you got? Office suite? Stuff for graphics and art? CAD/CAM? Programming? Numeracy? Go on .. delve down into that long forgotten cupboard of old software and check the licences on them?

Now, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to try and find out what the educational need is for the school. Are the school going to change any of the courses they run? Perhaps drop Media or Music Technology (well … you didn’t need those Macs you were planning to buy, did you?) and concentrate on English and traditional music courses (let’s all get classical).

Well … some English courses are now very media laden, so check out about cross-over of kit. Did you know that those Macs you did buy for the fancy sampling also have tutorials for playing the piano? Why not look at things like GigaJam to make the use of them for teaching the local community to teach themselves keyboards, etc …

You get the idea … if you have a tool to do 1 thing then try to find 3 other things to do with it.

Projectors and IWBs … now I know IWBs have been round for ages but by teaching staff how to use it to save annotations from what they have been doing during that lesson (save as PDF, upload onto your VLE) then you can get revision materials created without having to get a heap of handouts printed out before the exam at the end of the unit / course … another cost saving there …

I think you get the picture now.

Find out what you have got.

Find out how it can be used.

Find out what changes the school plans to make.

Talk with people about making the most use of the kit.

Talk with SLT about buying stuff that will have the most impact for least money.

Be prepared for change … change is inevitable.

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.

How do you share the joy and share the pain?

A thread has popped up over on EduGeek.net about setting up user groups in schools … quite a step forward to have more input into how IT is set up at your school, but it is more than just about sharing a few ideas.

This isn’t too disimilar to one of the learning conversations at TeachMeet Midlands really. I put forward a few suggestions and requirements for this and will expand this a bit more.

  1. It has to have the backing and support of your SLT. It may have been your idea, a department idea or their idea … whatever way there needs to be backing and support from SLT.
  2. It has to have some defined goals, preferably some that tie into your schools’ development plan, is part of student voice and you have SLT backing that decisions / recommendations made by the group will be seriously considered. 
  3. It needs to be tied into staff CPD to ensure that it is not just an elite few who benefit from it. The idea is that IT/ICT is a tool, so you need to work out how to get as many people using the tools and resources as possible. This means sharing by a variety of methods. It could be formal training sessions, it could be just-in-time training via video tutorial, it could be cascaded good practice within departments … the wider the range the more likely you will get uptake.
  4. There needs to be a good cross-section taking part in these types of groups … not just the ICT elite … get more mid-range users involved too. Enthusiasm will often be more important than ability, but it is also handy to work with ‘realists’ (not pessimists) who can be critical friends.
  5. Do not get disheartened if for every 10 ideas the group has only 1 gets used … it will grow over time. Eventually, you might be lucky enough to have a 50% development rate. Having good examples of who the ideas were used elsewhere can help.
  6. Make sure that although only a few people will attend as representatives of the large school community, the conversations / discussions / presentations / videos / software is available to as many people as possible. It is an important factor that all feel included and helps with continuity planning for the group, people will move on, members will run out of ideas or take on other groups and tasks, new or existing staff also need a chance to have their input too.

There are a number of other things that could be put into this list and feel free to suggest more links and examples, this is not a definitive list of things to do, just a starting point.

There is more work to be done on suggesting *how* student voice can have an input in to user groups … I would be interested in hearing of examples.