Wednesday, June 13, 2007

3 secondaries in 30 hours

Today and yesterday I've been working with Geoff L (ICT consultant in Aylesbury Vale) in three secondaries in the north of the county. This is along similar lines to what we've been doing in primaries - i.e. funding time for school staff to spend time:

  • get an idea of what the software is capable of;
  • spend some time learning how to use it; and
  • (most importantly) think about how this relates to existing practice
in order to help the school think strategically about things. Yesterday was a morning spent in Buckingham School and part of the afternoon spent with the Senior Leadership Team and ICT "reps" from the Royal Latin School (which is right next door to Buckingham); today was a morning spent in The Cottesloe School in Wing, north-east of Aylesbury.
Both the Cottesloe and Buckingham visits were part of a four session programme in each school. Here's (roughly) how it works:
  • We agree to fund cover time for six staff for four sessions spread over about a month;
  • The school can add people to this if it wants to - but it covers any additional people;
  • The first session is spent explaining what a Learning Platform / VLE might do, how primaries are using it (a bit of "look what's coming" always helps), how other secondaries have used it;
  • The next sessions are practical sessions designed to help each person to create a course and think about how this might impact / supplement / complement their existing practice;
  • As part of this we encourage the school to think about who might be the Moodle admins, who might be course creators and other similar "organisational" issues
  • Anything that gets created as part of this (and, we hope, other resources as well) gets shared with other secondaries across the County.
So both at Buckingham and The Cottesloe this week we moved into the first of the practical sessions, and it was really encouraging that at each school another six or so staff attended on top of the six we had funded. It's a much better way of doing this than through "come to us" Inset sessions - it's done in the school, so only two people (Geoff and I) travel rather than a dozen people from the school, and it's much easier to get a "feel" for how the school is, plus it shows willing on both our part and the school's.
One interesting aspect of the Cottesloe training is that some of the staff had already been using Moodle without realising it as part of a national mentoring programme - so we were able to Backup their courses on the national Moodle site and restore them into the Cottesloe Moodle site in about five minutes, even though the other site was running a newer version of Moodle (1.7) - which was very exciting.
The session at the Royal Latin School was a little different - the RLS have had Moodle for a while now, but it's been difficult to get it off the ground. This was the school which (back in the day) ran Moodle and DigitalBrian (12 letters, anag.) in parallel and chose Moodle - this was a way of explaining to the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) and various ICT reps about Learning Platforms in general and their VLE in particular. This session came out of a meeting I had with an Assistant Head at the school who wanted to broaden things out to a wider audience in the school, so for this session I created a simple course on the RLS Moodle and enrolled everyone present as students on it - using the principle that you understand things clearer as a teacher when you've experienced them as a student. So there was a simple Choice activity to allow the "students" to vote on what they'd see as the main use of a VLE/LP, a forum for them to explain their reasoning behind this and a (spoof) assignment to find an entertaining image of a current US President and submit it as an Upload a Single File Assignment. It was a really rewarding session to do - the first time I've done this with an entire SLT in a "hands-on" session and I hope it was useful. All things being equal we'll do a similar three or four day set of sessions in the autumn term at RLS.
One of the things I've being thinking about recently is the best way to work in secondaries. In primaries it's often a case of leading the schools, in secondaries it has to be more of a collaborative effort. So (roughly) here's a plan for the next set of secondary training sessions:
  • secondaries will develop (and share) materials based on their specialism(s);
  • the secondary in question must include staff from their specialism in the training, and their specialism co-ordinator if possible;
  • this should enable them to work effectively in an area they are already developing and also share things to the wider educational community (i.e. other secondaries);
  • ideally a reciprocal system would develop, with schools using high-quality materials from schools who had a different specialism, offering materials based around their own specialism, and collaborating with other schools who shared their specialism so as to minimise the duplication of effort;
  • we'd also solve world peace, hunger and...
A pipe dream? Let's hope not...

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