Tag Archives: senior leadership

How do you plan?

Lifecycle Management

Developing a process

Whether you are using ITIL, FITS or other ideology / tools to help you develop a support service, you will find that you will borrow, adapt, use, tweak, refine and make wholesale use of a plethora of pre-existing examples of procedures. It is a simple fact of life that sharing and comparing procedures is more efficient than re-inventing the wheel in isolation.

However, you will find that there will be occasions when you have to create a process specific to your school and your school’s services. You may be the first school you know to move to a specific technology or to use it for a particular purpose, within the curriculum or for services involved in running the school. It is at this point you can fall back on two areas of support for such tasks.

You might have developed a house style for your processes with set communication routes, set timescales, a pre-defined hierarchy of decision-making and clear mechanisms for measuring success. Or it might be that you truly are starting from scratch.

Either way there are a number of ways that spending some time looking at Lifecycle Management could be beneficial to helping developing processes. Those with FITS or ITIL experience, especially ITIL v3, will tend to look at the whole service first to see where the process sits and then work on it, but the principles are basically the same.

In ITIL the service lifecycle is made up of 5 sections

  1. Service Strategy
  2. Service Design
  3. Service Transition
  4. Service operation
  5. Continuing Service Improvement

And these we can change into some simple questions.

  1. What do we want?
  2. How is it going to work?
  3. How do we get it to work?
  4. How do we keep it running?
  5. How can all this be improved and how can we use it to improve other things in the future?

And those with ITIL or PRINCE2 experience are now screaming that this is over-simplifying the process … and they are right, but we have to start somewhere. It is hard to talk purely on theory and go on about simplifying ITIL or FITS, so we will have to look at a real world example which we have to fit processes around. Let’s go for a big one that will affect every school, no matter whether a school runs additional management software from companies such as RM, whether you run thin clients, schools who manage computer deployments from central systems, all the way to small schools with a handful of computers … yes, we are talking about INSTALLING NEW SOFTWARE.

Over the coming weeks I will be looking at the questions above and applying them to the task of installing new software, looking at the wide range of options, looking at how different schools and schools systems might come up with different answers, looking at what the impact is on those having to come up with solutions, giving real examples of how schools have overcome obstacles to developing these processes and looking at the various roles within schools who will have to be involved.

As always, I am always interested in talking with schools who have gone through some of this and if anyone would like to be involved then please let me know.

Perils & Pitfalls of Mobile Tech … extra

I was asked a while ago if I could write up the transcript of either my talk on the problems trying to roll out mobile technology into schools which I did at TeachMeet Midlands, or if I could write up the transcript from the video version already on my blog …

My sincere apologies for the delay in getting this done, but here it is …

The Perils & Pitfalls of Mobile Tech in Schools

But Sharepoint Is a Business Thing … We Are A School

Originally posted at Sharepoint365 – http://sp365.co.uk/2011/07/but-sharepoint-is-a-business-thing-we-are-a-school/ 

After reading the various blog posts from the great and good of the world of SharePoint you don’t need me to talk technical, about the architecture of the servers, about the importance of design and branding, about particular functionality in an education or business environment … so what on earth am I going to write about?

Well, I specialise in facilitation, introducing people and things, suggestions about how people can approach new technologies … oh dear … I am starting to sound like a special advisor to a Minister of the UK Government.

So where do we start with SharePoint? Well, I can tell you what it is not. It is not a Learning Platform. It is not a replacement for an aging file server. It is not a cheap way of getting Office applications. It is not a complex system. It is not a solution to the lack of ideas you have about how to manage your life and your work. It is not the only tool in the world that allows for collaboration. Ok … one of those statements is correct … and it is the last one.

Sharepoint is a complex, powerful, wide-ranging tool that can address a number of areas in your school … if you just sit and think for a few minutes. Go on … I’ll still be here.

Done?

Over the next couple of posts I will look at simple tools and simple ideas about how Sharepoint can be used to make a difference in how your school manages school business, and where possible I will make direct reference to blog posts that have already appeared to help you get a wider picture. Today I am going to talk about team sites.

What is a Team Site?

Well, we all work in teams in one form or another. We all tend to generate stuff during that work. Files, conversations, lists of information, meeting dates, minutes of meetings, lists of jobs / tasks … it can go on, and on, and on, and on … and whilst we all have years of experience of emailing stuff to one another, forgetting to email stuff to one another, emailing the wrong versions, emailing the wrong people, writing meeting dates in a paper diaries and then forgetting to change the dates when a meeting has to be rescheduled resulting in you being the person that turns up 3 hours early to a meeting and wondering if you have no friends because you are in a room all by yourself … go on, admit it, we have all been there.

So what is a Team Site?

Out of the box a Team Site has all the generic functionality you come across a Sharepoint site. It is a blank canvas, and one which is handy to play with to learn how to get around Sharepoint. But it is only as useful as you make it. So let us look at the needs of an average secondary school department, having a quick thought about a few important functions which go on behind the scenes and away from the classrooms.

Let us consider coursework for GCSE English. The co-ordinator will always have a massive job to do. This will involve the recording of coursework as it is completed, unit by unit, by each student, which teacher marked it, whether it has been moderated, who by, does it meet all the required criteria, have the results been passed to the Exams Officer, has it been selected for external moderation, has it been sent off, and so on. To make sure this happens there will be guidance documents on what each unit of work entails, where it ties into schemes of work and resources, staff training on particular units and resources, staff training on moderation, feedback sessions between senior teachers in the department and other teachers …

Where does this fit into Sharepoint then? And let us keep this as simple as we can to start with (no InfoPath or workflows yet).

The Team Site is available to those who teach GCSE English and to other key staff such as the Exams Officer and SLT. This gets you looking at permissions. It also means you are looking at who the data owners are (in data protection speak) and ensures accountability.

The Calendar is a shared calendar which can be used instead of a sheet of paper passed round with deadline dates. It contains the meeting times, dates and locations. The meetings can also include relevant documents just like an email attachment … but we will mention that again later. The meetings can have alerts so you know when work is due to be completed prior to meetings.

Now most logs and records of coursework and marks will be on paper or spreadsheets. It is the work of a moment to use a spreadsheet to create a list. The spreadsheet already has the information you want, or at least the headings. This then allows for records to be created or amended for students as their coursework as it is completed and then marked. The spreadsheet is viewable by all and creates an open atmosphere between staff as they look at who is late completing the work. It also allows senior teachers in the department to provide additional support to staff who are not meeting the targets or deadlines.

Document libraries will contain files, videos, etc from the exam board or versions of work to use for moderation comparison. These can be linked to within the meeting appointments rather than attached (see, I said we would come back to it).

And this isn’t even looking at Wikis … a fantastic collaborative tool for sharing best practice. And we also haven’t covered the use of discussion forums to allow for healthy and private discussions between the team without it being all email traffic and the risk of emails being spread outside of those who need to be involved.

Now, none of this is exactly rocket science, has been mentioned by many other educational sharepoint enthusiasts, it is flexible enough to allow schools and departments to say “actually … I like the list bit and the discussion bit, but we already meet on a regular basis so no need for that” and it is powerful enough to have more functionality to add as people become more adept at using the team site.

So, there we have it. Team Sites and why a business tool can mean effective and improved management of a secondary school English department.

Red Tape or Legal Backing

I know I’ve been a bit quiet recently. This is mainly down to workload (lots of meetings), a lot if DIY (converting part of the house/garage into a home office) and bouts of Man-Flu. However, I have been inspired a bit with a new group I have been involved in over on LinkedIn.

There is a new group, for those looking at the legal position on eSafety when it comes to areas such as monitoring, logging and accessing what children are doing with computers in schools. The group was formed by a Brian Bandey, Doctor of Law specialising in international IP, IT, Cloud, Internet and eSafety Law, and he started the ball rolling with the following breakdown. It is a part of a longer report which I think will make interesting reading.

The Legality of a School Technologically ‘reading’ a Pupil’s web activity

or

“Interception of Pupil Web-Browsing”

Introduction

The question being posed is, in a sense: “What are the law-based issues over Pupil Internet-Browsing Activities being captured by desktop monitoring services.” There’s a reasonably complex network of different Laws from different spheres active over this area and they don’t apply in equal measure to pupils vs. staff. However – although the action of the Law can be summarised, it needs to be understood that a considerable amount of detail is being lost.

Interception and Monitoring

The two main pieces of legislation in the UK with regard to interception of communications (which includes monitoring)are: The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (‘RIPA’) and The Telecommunications (Lawful Business Practice) (Interception of Communications) Regulations 2000 (‘the Lawful Business Regulations’).

In essence RIPA provides that:

–           to intentionally and without lawful authority;

–           intercept a communication on a private system in the course of its transmission;

–        unless it is done or authorised by someone with the right of control e.g. the headmaster or his IT manager acting on his authority;

–           …. is a criminal offence.

Interception is defined widely in RIPA and includes making some or all of the contents of the communication available, to someone other than the sender or intended recipient. It is thought that transmission may also cover access to both read and unread messages e.g. on a academy/school central server.

How does the School have a Legal Right to Intercept?

An obvious route for the School is to secure good evidence of Parental Consent in the case of Pupils and Employees consent in the case of Staff. For ‘belt and braces’ – one needs to ensure that authority is given by the person (internally) who has “the right to control”.

So the Law is that Lawful authority is required to intercept:

–        If there is no lawful authority then consent of the sender and receiver of the communication is needed;

–        RIPA allows some limited interception by the controller of the system without the consent of the sender or the recipient;

–           RIPA sets out the conditions under which third parties such as the police may intercept.

–        The Lawful Business Regulations are the main source of lawful authority for the controller of the system to intercept and monitor. They permit the monitoring or keeping a record of communications for purposes such as standards, national security, prevention and detection of crime, investigating unauthorized use, and ensuring effective system operation.

–        The interception must also be relevant to the business of the system controller. (NB: This is the clinching argument for Educational Establishments – since there can be no argument that Interception and Monitoring of Pupils Web-Browsing is entirely relevant to the School’s activities)

–           Every effort must have been made to tell users that interception may take place.

–        Communication which has been intercepted and contains personal data is subject to the Data Protection Act 1998. (I’ll return to this subject)

Thus, it begins to become obvious that the Interception and Monitoring by Schools of Pupils (and Staff) Web-Browsing (and E-Mails for that matter) is perfectly lawful if carried out sensibly with reference to RIPA and the Lawful Business Regulations.

The Obligation to Monitor and Intercept

This is a serious and complex subject but I must touch on the School’s obligations to actively monitor Pupil-Pupil E-Communication (I talk of E-Communication since Pupils often shuttle communications through FaceBook or BeBo which aren’t e-mails per se).

The School must simply not ignore its Common Law Obligations (the Law of Negligence) and its Statutory Obligations (the Health and Safety Acts and the Education Act 2002) to keep Pupils Safe.

Educational Institutions have a duty to ensure the safety of their students and to protect them from any reasonably foreseeable harm. Liability arises for psychiatric conditions caused by repeated exposure to obscene or offensive material when using the institution’s IT facilities.

It is also now well-established that psychiatric conditions arise for the victims of Cyberbullying.

Finally, It is also now well-established that such psychiatric conditions which arise for the victims of Cyberbullying can lead to suicide.

Data Protection Law

This is a simple issue. Schools collect a very great deal of “Personal Data “ (a term defined under the Data Protection Act) on their Pupils. E-Mails can be Personal Data and the School simply needs to treat this data like any other – that is in accordance with the Data Protection Principles.

Human Rights and Privacy Law

The Law has always recognised that Students when at School or some other Educational Establishment have only limited rights to Privacy.

Consider:-

A Teacher sees John whispering to Jane in the Class. She moves forward (unnoticed) to overhear the conversation and overhears John’s whispered (bullying) threats.

Are we really saying here that John had his Right to Privacy under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (to which the UK is a signatory) and the Human Rights Act 1998
(Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 is the Right to Respect for Privacy and Family Life) contravened?

The answer is a resounding “NO”. So it is with any pupil communication

It should be noted that in the famous case of Copland v. United Kingdom the Court considered that the collection and storage of personal information relating to the applicant through her use of the telephone, e-mail and internet interfered with her right to respect for her private life and correspondence. While the Court accepted that it might sometimes have been legitimate for an employer to monitor and control an employee’s use of telephone and internet – the need for informed consent was paramount.

But, as a matter of Law, Children cannot give informed consent.

So we return to the overarching need for the School seeking appropriate consents from parents.

Dr Brian Badey

www.drbandey.com

It really does cover so much, but it needs a bit more teasing out for me. When thinking about the barriers to adoption and acceptance of AUPs in schools it would be helpful to identify the areas which are covered under legal grounds for children, for introducing children into what they are likely to find or have to deal with as adults and which sections are there as moral/ethical agreements between the school, the children and the parents.

I’ll try and keep things up to date on here as interesting comments are made by various people. It is also worth pointing out the use of words such as Negligence, Law, Consent as these are specific to how these words are used within law (hence why they are capitalised), yet there are many times other with reference these words with using them solely with respect to the legal meaning, but as part of context from other Acts of Law, reports, government advisories, notices of Statutory Requirements and so on.

The group is gaining a broad range of members, but it could do with a few more specialists … perhaps an expert in Child Law, those involved in safeguarding investigations and those involved with unions (to work out the impact on staff, who are being monitored by the same systems).

(Edit – I’ve updated the post with the full statement from Brian).

The Ignorant Bliss Of The Idealist

It seems a bit strange to say this, but I may have said some stuff that was wrong. Yes … me … saying I could have been wrong. Then again I could have been perfectly right and this is just a cunning plan to make people feel sorry for me and make them pay attention to what I have written.

On Wednesday 2nd February 2011 a thread started on EduGeek.net around the fact that one of the respected regulars was happy to report that after some time they had been allowed to set up SIMS on staff laptops and then also allowed to remove full admin rights from Staff and lock them down. As a result they couldn’t install software, only change their background and add icons to their desktop.

Over the years this has been a continual battle for some members … to be able to take control and run their systems the way they should be run, with decent security, forcing staff to make use of the support team so that they can plan, stop viruses entering the network, and so on … I’ve been there myself and supported many others in similar positions. The problems that centre on Data Protection, security of files and data, prevention of network intrusion by non-school devices are real world problems …

But … and there is a big but … the simple fact was that I have a problem with people wanting to lock things down without due consideration for how it will affect the technology to be used for learning. I know that it might seem a bit strange for me to take this stance, but it is one born out of frustration.

My first point was that when software gets installed there is not time to test every single function, and quite often the first person to find these faults are teachers when planning lessons. By applying restrictions this can be made worse … from experience of macros in access and excel, templates in CAD/CAM software, preferences in Open Office, the ability to run embedded flash files. Now, you could argue that this is a good thing as they are likely to find the same flaws the students would do when they try the same activities during lessons, but that isn’t why it happens in most places. In fact, having talked about this with some people over the years this has even been put forward as an excuse to use to be able to force staff to accept lockdowns. Not in many places … but enough for me to worry about it.

The next worry raised was about license compliance. After all, if you give people the rights to install software then how will you know what is installed? How do you know they will not put on ‘dodgy’ software, possibly downloaded from interesting sites on the internet, possibly borrowed from a friend what they think is legitimate software they have purchased from the market but is, in reality, as black market as the movies we all get warned about in those wonderful “you wouldn’t steal a car” trailers we get on DVDs. They might even remove software the support team has spent ages getting set up. Turn off the automated software updates and the anti-virus. The risks are endless.

But these are adults we are talking about. Grown people who are capable of following instructions if they are explained to them. And so we hit the next barrier. The argument that SLT do not back up the support team when they explain to staff how stupid they are when they do any of the above. It goes into a downwards spiral of either blaming staff who follow this route or SLT with no backbone ….the only escape is to take control themselves … or convince others to allow them to do so.

Here is a key point. Read it carefully. If this is you, and you are doing it because you don’t having backing from SLT or you have far too much bitter experience of stupid staff … then you are only masking over the symptom. You are not fixing the problem.

Those of us who want to treat staff as knowledgeable users and ensure that SLT understand and accept the risks and benefits of technology feel your pain, we do, … you are not on your own. It happens in all aspects of a school. Go speak to your Bursar / Business Manager about why most staff are not allowed to do anything other than order items through them. Ask about why some departments get monthly financial reports, or even weekly at some points in the year. Ask pastoral staff about why they always have to deal with parents complaining about their child being sent out in a particular lesson but they are fine in others, by taking extreme control you ensure that the job is done.

But is it?
Who is it that thinks about how the kit and software will be used?
Most Support staff will shy away from giving educational advice to teachers. I know what the reaction would be from most teachers when a member of support or admin staff comes up to them and talks about T&L. Thankfully this is changing, but it is a two-way thing.

So, am I an idealist who thinks that Network Managers are being horrible to teachers or am I just trying to stop people ignoring the main problems?

I don’t think it is such a surprise that most people who reacted are from a secondary base. Talking to staff in primary schools or those who support primary schools there seems to be more trust, more freedom, both to make mistakes and to gain a lot more knowledge about how to use IT.

But … I know most people are not saying that I am wrong … just that in the real world it doesn’t work the way I think. I think it does and even if it doesn’t for you, then perhaps that this should be part of your targets … to look at how you can give staff more freedom and responsibility without creating too much work or putting IT systems at risk.

As a result I am setting myself a task to speak with as many people who do give more freedom to staff and find out about the journey how to get there. I will try to coach it in such a way that it will help SLT, IT Support and teachers speak a common language and try to develop an agreed goal. I am not saying there is any magic button that can be pressed … the Strategic Leadership of ICT course is sorely missed as a tool helping the process of change, often a long and sometimes stressful time, needing support, understanding and compromise on all sides.

Failing that it will also include a few hints and tricks about how you can work from the inside to make changes.

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.

Do *You* Know A Technical Champion?

Last year, in Northamptonshire, we tried something slightly different. With all the work that goes on nationally through TeachMeets, Unconferences, and other alternative CPD events it was clear that there is so much educational expertise that doesn’t seem to stick its head above water too much. Now, we all know about the success which is EdGeek.net. It is fantastic to see them at BETT each year and I am the proud to be the only member who has been to every conference (it helps that I used to organise them, I suppose), but when I moved to the county council team it was hard to pinpoint exactly what benefit it gave the county.

There were a number of regular members who were absolutely fantastic and who went out of their way to help others … but the same was true of folk in the county who weren’t members. Since I was running the half-termly meetings for IT Managers and IT Support Providers I was able to see that the unconference style would not be the best thing in the world to bring everyone together … but what would? What really drives the technical community together? Other than ranting about users, the chance for free food and a some of use doing the stereotypical thing of speaking geek about the latest gadgets … what would help?

Well, continuing the group meetings was a start. In spite of it sometimes being the Tony Sheppard show there were frequent speakers from the schools, talking about implementing disaster recovery options, deploying windows 2008, tailoring the EMBC filtering for local control based on user-groups, layer 3 networks, purchasing and procurement, data protection, BCS, security …

But were there people out there who could make more of a difference? I definitely thought so … and still do … and so I looked at what funds I had available for projects and I put together a plan … a cunning plan … a plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and … hmm … we are going into stereotypes again, aren’t we.

Let’s see what we can do to find the Über Network Managers … the people who are technically inspiring; who have a fantastic grasp of managing the impossible (remember folks, miracles we can do today, the impossible requires at least 24 hours notice!); who can communicate with children, staff, middle and senior leaders; who can check over a budget spreadsheet and find the erroneous double entry for an ink cartridge; who can provide a healthy discourse on Bloom’s Taxonomy and why it had to be converted for the digital world …

Where can we find this wondrous being?

Well, you can’t … or rather you can, if they are given a chance … and sometimes there is not a chance because the top people can still have to spend their time fire-fighting, bailing people out of stupid ideas and trying to do the impossible in *less* than 24 hours.

So what could I do to help them? Give them the knowledge and tools to help themselves, or even give them the time and recognition needed to fine-tune their existing skills. And so the idea of the Technical Champion was born. Someone who has been fast-tracked into a management scheme aimed at middle leaders, but from a technical angle. And where do I find a course for this? Can there be something out there that takes a healthy dose of service management, project management, change management and shoves it all together with some processes to get the ball rolling?

Yes … FITS does this and since I had been banging on about how it would be the bedrock for good practice across the county it was about time we had some folk with real experience of the training. So, we funded four Network Managers, joined by a member of staff from ULT and myself and a fellow NCC Harnessing Technologies Manager … we did both the practitioners’ and managers’ courses.

I now had a core of 5 people representing schools, who could either share their experience and expertise directly with other schools, or who would feed it to schools through me.There are case studies to be written up over the coming 3 months and still more work to do with them.

And so, a year later … I am now expanding the group. I am now funding 8 more Network Managers, IT Technicians and ICT Coordinators through the FITS Practitioner course, being mentored by some of the existing Technical Champions too. The themes this year will be Communication and Change Management. They will have their own Moodle-based community to discuss and plan things together.

And the really exciting thing? For me … there is very little work. Gone are the days when the LA adviser was the High Priest … we are not the fountain of all knowledge. Instead the expertise in each school is key. As much as I have a fairly big ego, I happily hold my hands up and say that my hands on knowledge on technology is not as up to date as those working on it each and every day.  Then again, there is no Network Manager who is an expert on every bit of technology out there … or an expert in how it can be used most effectively either.

It also helps if you remember that each school is slightly different and will respond to the same problems or requirements in different ways. Helping the group to understand how to be flexible is important too. The best way of doing that is to get them to share … but accept that there is no single ‘best way’ of doing something …

So, the deadline for applications for the next group is Friday 29th October. We already have more applicants than places and so each applicant (who already has the support from their school) will have to write a short pen portrait of themselves and say what they will bring to the group. The existing Technical Champions will make the final decision and the FITS Training will be in December.

What does this have to do with areas outside of Northamptonshire though? Well, I am pretty sure that we all know someone who could be a Technical Champion. They might be a regular on EduGeek, they might be someone who is a key figure in your local LA IT forum / meetings, they might be someone who always gets calls and emails from others for advice and pointers, it could be they are a regular blogger, it could be that they are a community figure who develops things for free …

I know that I can’t fund people to go on FITS training, but I would still like to hear from you if you think you are, or could be, a technical champion. This is not replace any other forum, group, website, etc … this is just to try and link together a core group of like minded people who would be interested in generating some case studies, sharing some experiences and helping each other with a little constructive criticism.

The Perils and Pitfalls of being ‘The Block’ to learning & teaching

Once again I fall into the role of the fervent defender of the blighted IT Support teams in schools. As much as I enjoyed a good argument (oh no you don’t!) there are times when I feel that the word compromise is missing from the vocabulary of some people.

In a short break from the course I am on at the moment I picked up a tweet to a blog post from our friend Spannerman2.
It makes for good reading and raises an important points about IT and ICT & Computing as subjects, about the lack of subject specialism in teachers of these subjects and about the amount of effort which goes into running (& locking down) a school network.

It does, however, throw stones. I don’t think stone throwing is any good at the moment in education. It just generates a lot of people pointing their fingers and saying, “you are doing it wrong!” without any ideas or support for getting it right.
In conversations on EduGeek.net there have been ideas shared about how you can make things more manageable and flexible on a school network, about how you can give freedom to staff and students, about how to manage situations better and stop the ‘them & us’ perception which can be the stimulus to things getting out of hand when there is the slightest problem.

So here are a few ideas. First we will have the objectives … the school needs computers systems. It needs three types of systems really.

Let us cover the easy one first. We want a system that allows for the running of a school, the day-to-day stuff of administration, the ordering of toilet roll for the toilets, the paying of staff, keeping records on students … you know the sort I mean. It used to be that this network was kept as separate as possible from everything else. It had to be … it holds sensitive data, it needs to have careful controls over who can do what with it … both legally (DPA) and for audit reasons. However, more and more senior leaders have realised that this network holds some really valuable and vital information. Stuff that can make a difference in the way teachers operate in the classroom … and teachers also need to add to this information too. So that means it has to overlap with the other systems in the school. Problem number 1 arises, but we will come back to this one.

System number two is the one used by teaching staff to deliver what they do, day in, day out. Teaching. I don’t want to turn this into a ‘them & us’ post … I never do … and sometimes people have to remember that those most likely to read my blog from the teaching community are those most likely to understand and want to push what tech they have … in fact, the people who are the cream, those who have risen to the top … but try to remember that there are those who can do *some* of the things that you do and are learning fast … but there are also those who struggle … not just with tech, but with classroom management, with change in general … and I am thinking about *all* staff in schools. A single solution is not always the best thing … having one setup for all staff … only giving limited access to doing stuff … but the problem is that at the moment it takes time and investment to give a more flexible system for staff. There are little things which can be done, like giving rights to install software on their laptops, giving more relaxed filtering … perhaps not even ‘filtering’ as such, but just logging what is used on the internet (remember folks … audit trails!) But what happens when a laptop is brought back in to the IT team to be fixed because something they downloaded at home seems to have broken stuff (after they have turned off the anti-virus or stopped it from downloading updates or running scans) … and that is if you are lucky and they don’t just plug it into the network and infect other computers where teachers have also turned off the antivirus too … and so you have to fix their machine. You might need a spare laptop or two so that they still have a machine to use in the classroom (back to investment again) and then there is the time and staff to fix it. Problem 2 appears … planning for the inevitable workload that comes with either building systems to deal with having to fix problems like this or having to do it on a case by case basis.

And so we go on to system 3 … the most problematic because you are having to cover three conflicting needs. The student workstations / laptops. Here you have to think about what software is needed, who gets to choose that software, pay for it, develop resources for teaching using it or even for teaching the software itself (either the skills / concepts or the specific software … that argument is for another day) … and then let us think about that touchy area of classroom management. I don’t like people blaming technology when it is being used as substitute for classroom management … I’ve spoken about how filtering gets abused this way before and the same applies to locking down the desktop, turning off the ability to right-click, where things can be saved … it all boils down to how much disruption in the classroom the teachers can handle, the amount of effort which is needed to fix problems that arise and so on … So we get to Problem 3 … and this *is* aimed at the teachers who might read this blog. COMPROMISE. Oh, that was also aimed at the Techs too.

So what happens when we need these 3 systems to overlap … or even be the same system?

I would love to say that this is a perfect solution out there … but there isn’t. It will *have* to vary from school to school purely due to the nature of each school, the emphasis each school might choose to put on classroom control, on how much investment the school puts into different aspects of IT, what technology gets used, the strength of things like Web 2.0 tools, of VLEs, of email, of using data straight from the MIS … so many factors that *no-one* can give a single system that will suit everyone.

Instead … how about thinking a little more about how you are going to get to where you want to go. I can guarantee that the end system you want cannot be delivered overnight and be usable by everyone without considerable pain … so you are likely to have to do things in steps. These steps have to be done with compromise and I’m going to say my usual mantra … Change Management!

So … let us think about something that gets raised a lot at the moment. The introduction of student owned devices (yes … I know I have avoided mentioning the learners themselves … more below) can be considered in a few stages, some technical, some pedagogical. If you are going to introduce this sort of system then yes, you will have to segregate it from system 1 … the stuff you have to legally protect. A typical way of doing this would be by having a ‘dirty’ wireless network … a separate WLAN that is only used by students, *may* have some restrictions on it … but will give them access to the internet at the bare minimum (even if you choose not to filter then at least log it). You then have to consider how it will be used in the classroom. Will it be used in conjunction with a VLE? Online stuff such as Live@Edu or Google Apps? How will you ensure that the iPad is being used for work and not just to watch stuff on iPlayer? GameCentre? The netbook is not being used to just hog the school internet connection to pull down pirated video or software? Or the laptop used for chatting on IRC, tweeting about what they got up to last night or on facebook poking their mate in the class next door? The same way that it used to be notes on pieces of paper, or ‘interesting’ magazines shared by some of the boys (actually, both of those still happen too) now there is a new range of things to distract the learner …

One way of dealing with this is by using the student wireless network to force the student to log into the school terminal server system (various solutions are available to do this via a website) and so that they can use their own device in the school but with some element of control by the teacher / techie / school.

There is still another way … the idea of privilege, of use versus abuse. And this is where we talk to the learner. They can make some of the best and worst suggestions and decisions you can come across. It might be that they want the system to allow them to do nearly everything, but on the understanding that if it is abused that they get locked down. Hmm … that might even work in conjunction with other polices the school has? Wow … revolutionary concept?

It might be that the desktops are set to be rebuilt each night … so that if the students do mess things up then it is not a problem. It might be that you have systems that go back to a baseline after each log-off. you can do almost anything … but there has to be a reason to do it, it has to be a balance between what is possible, what is practical and what delivers some sort of benefit.

So … there we go … a start … I’ve already prodded a few of the detractors to techies locking things down or wanting to drop working systems to go to Open Source based purely on ethical principle rather than education need or practicality … if they want to change then I want to see a range of options and some sort of roadmap about how to adopt it, both technically and pedagogically. “Just because…” is not a suitable answer. I might want to put studded tyres on my little Smart car just because … you never know, we might get heavy snow tonight … it might become fashionable … it might mean I can drive over an ice rink to drop off James Bond to do a bit of bomb disposal and save the world … or it might tear up a recently resurfaced road … cost me a fortune to buy and get fitted the new tyres.

So … a start … let us see how it goes from here.

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.

The Promised Post – how to annoy teachers, techies, LAs and RBCs in one go!

I’ll be honest and say that there will be something in this post for everyone … something positive and something that will knock you down so that it makes you re-examine a few of your preconceptions and practices! I make no apologies for this and have done it purely to get people to think all that more carefully about how they approach each other’s views and make the common mistake that others are incompetent, inflexible or just doing things ‘wrong’. They may be thinking the same of you.

Why am I making this post? It all stems from a number of conversations about eSafety, the roles of different staff in educational institutes and the ongoing battle of reliance of technology to solve problems.

Let us fade back a few years to when I was a lowly mouse-cleaner support technician who decided to write an Acceptable Use Policy. I actually wrote 3 sections and it was done with the help and support of a few friends who worked in the ISP sector. It was based around a very precise T&Cs document, with an accompanying more readable description of the services the school ran with the boundaries about how users could use those services and finally an agreement statement that was a basic summary. Since I was a lowly techie it was passed through the chain, adapted and the T&Cs were dropped (not surprised to be honest … even *I* was a bit wary of the legalese in it). The students sign the agreement and the AUP Terms were posted in each IT room. Hmm … not really a rigorous plan for eSafety and still centred around the teacher telling the student off for doing general naughty things and the IT team telling them off for messing about on the computers (searching for stupid stuff on the web, trying to play games, etc). As much as I enjoyed the feeling of control and even felt that by making the students ‘fear’ me it would allow the teachers to get on with the job. However, as I started to become more interested in the application of IT in schools I rethought a number of my ideas around this.

Introducing a 3 strikes policy went some way to trying to push some sense of responsibility onto the students but it still separated the school discipline and the IT discipline. A new Vice-Principal meant that some of this was taken out of our control and I was not happy about some of that … the lack of understanding how filtering worked and how the IT could be abused by senior staff at the school left me feeling powerless as others took more control and made (in my opinion) wrong decisions. Oh how we learn and grow though.

Moving on to another school as a Network Manager I knew that this had to change and the move was made to trying to ensure the responsibility was with the teacher and form tutor for the discipline, but the IT Team would gather evidence … but is that just a case of passing the buck? So, we had filtering in place to make life as easy as possible for the teachers to understand why things worked the way they did. Teachers and students, generally, had the same access and this caused problems. Sites that disrupted lessons where blocked, but then the students used email to ‘chat’ during lessons. We couldn’t block them from that because it was then needed by other subjects … Getting promoted to the Senior Leadership of the school helped to work with staff so they understood the boundaries and having an ICT working group helped feedback into defining those boundaries. They were adapted so that staff could access things like youtube and facebook, and students could use blogger where needed. There is so much more needed but the staff were not ready for it. Things are still moving at the school and it looks as if they are now ready to take more ownership too.

My side line has been with a support community for IT Professionals in education. The IT Managers, Network Managers, System Admins, IT Technicians … a variety of titles and a variety of job roles but generally with the remit of setting up and looking after the IT in a school or schools. This takes me back to my power hungry days of control and there is the idea that because we understand the technology best that we should make the choices about it. Whilst still at the above school I also started working with the LA on a number of projects including working with the local RBC so I had an inside view to their view of the technology as well.

It ended up with me coming to the LA for 12 months to work on a variety of projects, working with some brilliant colleagues and over the last 10 years from starting in the education sector to now I have come across a wide range of technologies and approaches to eSafety and education. The conversations, discussions and heated debates will go on and on, and recently there was one about the use of tinyurl that made me re evaluate a few things and stick things down on paper. Eventually I have come to the following conclusions. Look away now if you are easily offended but stick with it if you want to see my reasoning.

1 – People sometimes are too blinkered to try and understand why technology can be bad, and feel that their small bit (that is affected by larger choices) is being targeted.

2 – Technology is not the answer. Relying on it and relying on the people that control it is not only bad but it is short-sighted.

3 – Disregarding the people who understand the technology is just as short-sighted, nay, even stupid.

4 – Do people really understand the technology involved? Heck, I don’t know everything and if you think you actually do then you are being short-sighted and fooling no-one but yourself.

5 – Top-down decisions are often stupid, and so are bottom-up decisions. Let’s face it … you can’t trust those people in the middle either! Don’t trust the techies, the teachers the LA or the RBC to get it right!

hmmm … there … I think that pretty much covers how people feel about it all. Doesn’t it sound stupid when you see it all together.

Ok, let’s look at the Tinyurl incident first. That will cover the RBC side of things. Tinyurl.com is a fantastic way of shortening really long URLs so that it doesn’t break apart the format or flow of documents, can be customised to make it easy to remember and for things like twitter or IM it keeps messages short. So, what is so wrong with it then? Well, the way the site works is that it wraps the header of the target website as it passes through filters. What that means is that I can create a link for the playboy site and for some filters it will not get automatically get blocked. This works for a variety of sites and I will actually be spending some time of the coming weeks to look at it in more depth, examining the actually technical process of how the website passes through the filter and seeing how things can or can’t be tweak. The main product I will be looking at for this is NetSweeper as this is what my local RBC use. How do you get around this problem? Simple … you block tinyurl.com. There, problem solved. But what about those people who use it and have it in their presentations or on websites? Heck, I have seen it in white papers, research studies and used by those working in government agencies or projects? Oops.

Well, in a number of places schools can actually take control of the filters supplied by the RBC and change the settings to allow tinyurl.com through. Erm … but doesn’t this then allow people to use it to bypass filters? Why yes … it does. Ah …

Ok, then this brings onto the idea of who controls filters. The number of teachers I hear moan (and I do really mean moan) about that fact that they cannot just change something when they need or want it, or that it shouldn’t be locked down in the first place … if I have a penny for each time I could definitely have a decent curry at least, with starter, poppadoms and peshwari nan. The number of techies who moan that teachers constantly demand unfiltered access with no concept of the nastiness that is out there or, when given extra access on their school ‘teacher-only’ laptop, let students go on it (on the teacher’s account) to search the internet … well, that would pay for the train ticket to London for me to go to the nice Indian restaurant not far from Olympia that I usually visit when at BETT. Add the number of techies and teachers who moan about the restrictions put in place by the LA / RBC … I could fly out to Mumbai to have the flamin’ meal! Who’s right and who’s wrong? They all are!

Again, based around the RBC and schools in my LA I will put forward how the technology works. Most large filters / proxies do so by checking the URL / IP of the website against a known database of dodgy sites. There is an official list put out by the Internet Watch Foundation that contains the sites you do not want to visit … ever! On top of this there are various categories such as porn, profanity, weapons, web email, web chat, drug use, gambling, match making, etc …. most filters are pretty extensive and some websites fit into more than one category. If a site is not in the list then the servers do a bit of intelligence gathering and look at the content. This will then plonk the site into a holding place whilst it gets reviewed. You still see the site but it will shortly be sorted.

Some filters operated at school level will look at the content of the page each and every time you view a site. This is costly and requires some hefty computers and interesting software. It can seriously slow internet access down if there is a lot of content checking to be done.

To get around the issue some schools will use a white list, a list of sites it knows are ok. The only problem is that access to adding sites is restricted otherwise all sorts of things can be added. And we come onto the first battle between school and LA / RBC, or the first battle between techie and teacher. Present policies in schools operate around the idea of block first and release later, and this applies to everyone. A lot of teachers don’t understand about the change control needed so that should something get through that shouldn’t, then we know who made the change. Since eSafety is ultimately in the hands of the Head and Chair of Governors then *they* are often the people that don’t want it to be too easy for anything to get through! I can’t blame them for that.

So, we then get some schools that leave things too loose so that it removes potential conflict between teachers and techies, or it is seriously loose (at the RBC / LA filter level) because the school is running software / filters in house to make it more flexible. Again, the battle between teacher and techie happens. See my comments about power and control earlier and note that this is often done for the best intentions.

So, we are left with filters that are too harsh because they block things like tinyurl.com or too loose because you can access all but the nastier things that the IWF want blocked. Oh … I haven’t really mentioned students yet either! You know … those funny things that can sometimes smell and tend to create a lot of noise? If we are talking about secondary (my main experience) then we are talking about 1/2 to 2/3 of them are actively trying to bypass whatever security s on the computers and get round the filters to listen to the radio, look at animé or play games, usually instead of getting on with the work they are meant to be doing.

We get to the stage where teacher A asks you to block the internet for student z because they are always on email or playing online flash games instead of doing their work … and teacher B says they can’t be blocked because student z needs access tot he internet for research and to complete work. Hmm … a chance to annoy those teachers reading perhaps? Classroom management! DO NOT RELY ON TECHNOLOGY!!!!!!

Ok, a bit harsh perhaps but try not to segregate abuse of resources and classroom management and discipline. It is a mistake I have made in the past and have tried to point out the flaws about it to people ever since. Technology takes you so far, but you need to do some work too.

However, technology can help and obnoxious techies (their turn now) who are not helpful and look down at you because you don’t have access to the technology (you may understand it, you might never get the chance to find out though) and will take control! Well, that needs to be more relaxed and there are ways of doing this.

The RBC and LA will always go for the highest common restrictions but they can have some darned good advice actually, but be wary that you will have to translate and adapt things for your school!

Ok … John Sutton made a post about AUPs the other day and I posted a response to it based around how I felt that they needed to grow within a school. http://bit.ly/11A1qu for the original post but here is my comment.

I consider AUPs to be a four step process.

1 – get the staff to understand the use and abuse of technology (AUP is not just about ‘Net access!) and why technology is a tool, kids are entitled to use whatever tools are available and why the first thing they should consider is the school discipline model and their own classroom management. Often greeted with disbelief that technology will not fix all their problems (and then onto heated discussions about filters, why staff are better than students and should be completely unfiltered and who are these IWF folk anyway!)

2 – Foster an environment of understanding and boundaries with the students and their parents. There are limits, the same way that life is full of limits. Learning about the responsibilty that students have in the worl is important and within the school access to resources is one of these areas, whether it is to PE equipment (wow … that discus really hurts when flung at someone’s head, and no … you shouldn’t intentionally hit the cricket ball at the windows!) or technology. If we don’t show trust to start with, it is nothing personal but it is about expanding your limits at a safe rate.

3 – Ok … if you really want to have a finite set of rules then here you go. A technical and legal-ish defined set outline the services available, how they can be used, their limits and the processes centred around their development, growth and how changes are made.

4 – Agreement. The AUP is implicit as it is part of the school ethos. The same way you agree to wear a particular uniform, to take part in certain activities, to be a constructive member of the school community then you also know there are limits (expandable depending on your growth) that you have to operate in. This applies to staff and students. Some schools opt to have the same set of limits for both … it’s a school by school thing and is based on whether you are happy that use of technology is embedded in the school. The agreement is a conscious move by the school, the staff, the students and the parents to affirm that the understand this. If they refuse to sign then the school must question whether the family truly understands what the school does with regards to technology as part of the curriculum and ethos of the school. If, after discussion with the family (or teacher) there is still a refusal to sign then the school repeats that they are the limits that the school applies. Lack of affirmation to follow them does not mean opt out. It means that you are still in but if you complain when your son / daughter (or you as a teacher) gets hauled up about breaches of the AUP then you cannot use refusal to sign as an excuse!

A number of groups (including rehab groups, church groups, sporting societies, etc) will affirm their stance in agreement with their group on a regular basis. refusal to do so does not mean they are not part of that group, but it is a positive thing that should be embraced. If someone does not take part in it then it is a chance for other members to take the person to one side and find out what the issue is. It can be something minor … a few tiny bits of phrasing that is difficult to publicly say … or disillusionment with the group or a felling that they need additional support.

So .. it is not just about AUPs and technology. It is about affirmation and being positive about your role and the limits you operate in, help define and help grow.

So, there you have it. In spite of doing my best to annoy pretty much everyone, most of the above is based around compromise and a common understanding.

Ok, group hug is over and done with, and normal service now being resumed.

If you want to take more control and ownership as a school, as a teacher or as a techie then I will highlight a number of things for you to look at and investigate. I am not saying that these are right or wrong, but most have sufficient background behind them to show good practice. Also remember that I am basing some of my comments about how filter systems operate on my local RBC. Your Mileage May Vary and access to this level of control may be different from LA to LA, even within the same RBC.

1 – RBC filters are granular. It is common to set a site default level. This means that should people just go onto any old machine and try to access the ‘Net then they get a predetermined level of filtering. Set this as high as possible so people will not just go straight in and browse when bored. For us we can also set it so that when users log into the RBC portal they get a filter level as defined by the school. This means that should the site level be 4 (the most restrictive) and a student logs in then he/she could pick up level 3 or 2. This not only gives you the option to be more flexible, but to also allow you to audit when and what students are doing. You might want to set staff at level 1, the most relaxed, and give them access to tinyurl and youtube. Remember that if you do this then when they are logged in and have their computer hooked up to the projector, should then click on a wrong link then it could take them somewhere very embarrasing, and there is also the temptation for staff to allow students to use their computers / accounts! Data Protection stuff is for another day!

2 – If you want more control then yeah, run your own filtering, but be careful! There are a number of products out there that will do what you want, can sit inside your school and can give you even more granularity. They can tie into your school network so you don’t have to log in to anything, it automagically picks up who you are and what you are entitled to. Access to this sort of control can be delegated to staff (ie temporary blocking of ‘Net access for a specific student) but remember that this is admin work … something that Unions get a tad unhappy with if they find out that teachers are doing it. Also, one teacher may block, another unblock the student and it becomes political. You need to have some sort of change management in there … and this is more paperwork (electronic or paper-based). And this doesn’t get around the fact that you are still not allowing teachers to unblock specific websites. This level of control gets a little scary, but what it does mean is that you can have more control about what each specific group can and cannot use! This harks back to allowing the boundaries / limits that we put on our students to grow.

3 – This is still bypassing a chunk of the classroom management that I made a fuss of earlier. There are a number of tools that can help with this, some automated and some they truly do put power in the hands of the teacher again. If we take the automated tools first, there are the keyloggers and screen grabbers. If they see something going on (eg typing a bullying email) then key words will be recognised and a screenshot taken, a nominated person emailed with the screen shot (sometimes a techie, sometimes a head of year) and it is dealt with under the school’s discipline code. This works in two ways, it creates the environment of controlled watching (ie big brother) whilst forcing students to take responsibility for their actions. The down side is that it is too police like and open to abuse by pupils using other pupils’ accounts. The other option is to use active monitoring tools such as AB Tutor Control or SynchronEyes. Tools that allow a teacher to view each workstation in real time, lock out browser access if required, share a desktop with a student to support them and other tools that each piece of software gives you (eg SynchronEyes gives a virtual interactive whiteboard for the class to use). Again, this fits into the growth of boundaries as you will spend less and less time monitoring as students show responsibility.

So, we have a range of tools, with a range of people having ownership. There should be enough there for everyone really.

Your discipline policy will vary from school to school, but I would recommend that there should not be a difference in the status of teachers and support staff in it, unless it is a defined role (eg behaviour management tutor, dedicated pastoral specialists, etc). This helps to break down the barrier of them and us (from both sides).

Work with your LA to understand the limits of the technological solutions available and rather than have a go for it not being flexible enough have a look at whether you need to employ alternatives to fill gaps or give you room for expansion and growth.

Remember that as a teacher or techie, the responsibility does not ultimately fall with you, but your head. If he/she needs educating as to the possibilities available for using sites that are typically blocked then you need to show you still have some safeguards … an audit trail … and ensure that this is based on a whole school process, not just something for you as a techie or an ICT evangelist!

Finally, you may have realised that I haven’t actually been that offensive to anyone, just making use of stereotyped view points to show how little communication there may be within a school, between schools and LAs / RBCs and between society in general.

This is not a perfect blog entry, far from it. It has a number of holes that need patching over the next year and is based on a considerable amount of common sense. It has been aided and abetted by the AUP produced by an LA colleague, but conversations with frustrated ICT evangelists, conversations with Techies, with LA staff, with RBC staff and with providers of tools for schools.

It has also been aided by chatting with students, who are the first to admit that they want to push the boundaries they have been given, but they want something to push against otherwise how do they know they are growing? But the second thing they usually admit is that given a choice between work and play … it takes a good teacher to make them want to work and it take a good IT system to allow them to do it!

*Edit – decided to remove the password protection from this as I am pretty sure that I have covered everything I need to and no-one I have showed it to yet has threatened me with castration!*