Thursday, June 29, 2006

Putting the Community back in the College

Today I've finished two days of Inset training at the Chalfonts Community College, with a number of staff who came along to find out how best to support their Departments' work using the Chalfonts Learning Environment. It was a really good couple of days - the first time a school (inside the LEA anyway) has turned round and said that they'd like some input aimed at those who weren't already the keen ones and (more significantly) the first held during the day - and during term-time. Other sessions in other schools have been please come if you're bothered sorts of things - everyone's tired, it's clearly optional and not instigated by the SLT. Result? Tired, sleepy people - and about 10% of the number of those who are supposed to be there. I don't blame them...
It got me musing about how the sort time a school allocates to something is an obvious indicator of how important it is to the school. If your SLT is convinced that something's important, then you can expect at least some support in terms of time, resources, support, understanding (especially if you get something wrong or not quite right first time). In Chalfonts it's taken a while to get this sort of commitment - which is understandable, as this sort of area can be seen as esoteric, optional, geeky, only for the keen etc., but now the school's there and more than a couple of people 'get it' then some really creative thinking (and action) can happen as to how the whole area of online learning can (and will) impact teaching and learning.
So what were some of the outcomes of our two days?

  • the genesis of a General Studies course (which schools like for lots of reasons, some of them financial...)
  • creative thinking about audio assignments as part of music courses, including a BTEC qualification, peer review of band composition in forums, the use of Audacity (with Wink) to put the creative tools in the hands of the kids outside of the classroom
  • I switched off the Moodle restriction on the use of the embed tag so that the Science staff could embed the Google videos of Brainiac in their Moodle pages (one comment from one of the people there: "Google Video has got to be the most useful educational resource of the last five years")

  • The ICT person downloaded shedloads of courses from Darren Smith's fantastic E-Subjects site and dropped them straight into the CCC Moodle. Was he happy? Oh yes...
  • Everyone realised that Assessment is both a limiter and a driver in this. When someone from an exam board wants to print out a student's entire work on a Digital Art course to have it in a paper portfolio, we have a problem...

There was a point, fairly early on in both days, when the penny suddenly dropped. It became clear to those who it fell near that this wasn't the preserve of the keen, or the AST, or the geek, but something far more... well, mundane. So if you're a school, how do you treat people who want to use this? I was reminded of a blog posting I'd read recently on How Not To Lead Geeks... so here's my first draft of something:

How Not To Lead Those Feeling Their Way In Online Learning In Your School

  1. Treat them like geeks
    It's an ICT thing, right? Say you don't understand it, that it's for the ICT Department (and that they're too busy with the KS3 on screen tests)
  2. Never admit you don't fully understand online learning
    Let's face it, if they don't understand it, there's always a chance you might. So don't let them tell you anything...
  3. Focus on the management data
    Maintain that the MIS side of things is far, far, more important than the experience of the teachers and learners.
  4. Get your (school's) chequebook out
    If you need a box to tick, and the box is labelled "Spring 2008", then pay a company to come and do the thinking for you, and then implement what they think.
  5. You Are The Only School In The World
    There's no such thing as another school that you'd want to work with, or learn from, or welcome Year 6 pupils from. Pick your own solution in isolation and everyone else can go... well, somewhere else.

OK, so it might not be completely accurate, but it's a start. Anyone got any more?

1 comment:

  1. RE: How Not To Lead Those Feeling Their Way In Online Learning In Your School

    What strategic managers and headteachers et al don't realise, because it isn't on their personal/ professional institutional event horizon yet - is that acquiring a VLE is for life not just the current spending round.

    Basically it is a committment to a whole raft of management that augments and extends the way they do things already but within "virtual" space.

    The days of paying someone to "solve" an initiative (and let's be frank that's how some people will see it) are over. Sorry - they just are. SO the principles of extensibility, interoperability, localisation, sensitively designed AUP's are paramount over and above things like MIS. Otherwise why are you doing it? Trouble is, as consumers, many managers just don't GET IT yet and only after the fact will they realise they may have bought a I should imagine a set of ideal features your VLE should have in terms of pedagogical, community and instituional outcomes or ideals for your particular "community" needs to be in place. But I will come back to the fact that models need to be forged and then questions asked such as - can your VLE provider do this - if not why not because that is crucial to the way things are done in schools or will provide a lever to the way things are changing. The problem as I see it is that the 12 - 16 year olds GET IT as do the open source and Web 2.0 service providers but not the strategic managers, BECTA in its new role as channel for government and rubber stamper of commercial/ institional frameworks for provision in this country and many commercial firms; I persoanlly know of one blogging champion being bought in by a rather large commercial VLE provider to explain Web 2.0.

    We may be in danger of funding obsolescence already - would you base you future employment on that if these questions aren't asked now?
    Ask yourself that question seriously - I mean it?

    It's good to see that you are beavering away at these issues Ian and at LA level. If these points aren't aired then there will be no debate...