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
- 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)
- 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...
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?