Saturday, October 06, 2007

Moodle training - and some tools to help

At the moment I'm in the middle of I don't know how many sets of training in schools... The Royal Latin School in Buckingham, about ten primary schools in Aylesbury Vale, about eight around Wycombe, plus we've just finished training in The Amersham School, Dr Challoner's High School and are in the process of doing follow-up support visits at The Grange, The Cottesloe School and Buckingham School.
Primaries are done in regional groups, with up to two staff from each school coming to a series of four sessions in their locality which aim to introduce them to Moodle and put them in charge of their school's own VLE. We also try and run termly workshops for those who've been through the training and want to share what they've done or bring any issues along to have them solved.

Here's how our secondary training works: I work with one of our ICT Consultants and we arrange a series of dates -typically with about a week between them but this varies depending on availability. We will pay supply cover for six members of staff to attend four sessions of three(ish) hours, always in the morning if possible. The school can also send up to six other people, but will have to cover them itself. We try and insist on a member of SLT/SMT being involved, to provide the leadership mentioned yesterday, and if possible someone in charge of the school's specialism. The best example of this working was where the Headteacher (a) attended and (b) hand-picked staff who were keen and capable - and also where the use of the VLE is an overall school target.
This is rooted in a firm belief that we're better off spending our money on investing in people rather than investing in software licenses. I don't know of any piece of software which can, by itself, magically transform teaching and learning, but I'm willing to bet whatever professional reputation I have that what will transform teaching and learning are staff who are capable of thinking creatively about how tools such as those found in a VLE can be used, and also have transferable skills to use those tools. That's why we fund the schools to cover staff to be released - it sends out a message that it's important (twilight training sessions are rarely well-received and send out a signal that this is only for the keen ones or those who don't have a life) and (hopefully) it highlights to school leaders that resourcing this sort of development (whether in time or funding) is a crucial enabler for it. After the four sessions we'll book in an after school training session for any staff who are using the VLE to bring along issues or problems they're having, which we'll solve during the 60-90 minute-long support session.
We try and work the sessions as alternating between brief demonstrations at the front, followed by worked through examples of whatever it was that was demonstrated, then some time to practice and discuss how thec tool in question might be used. As ever, training people in something new isn't always that straightforward, so here are a couple of tools which might come in useful:
  • Mousepos√© is a slick little tool (for Macs only, US$14.95) which allows you to spotlight part of the screen while dimming the rest - useful for higlighting certain areas. There's a PC version called MouseLight (Windows, £10.17) but I was looking around for a free tool which would do the same - I came across MouseShade (Windows, free), written by someone on the message boards at DonationCoder. It's not as snazzy as Mousepos√© or MouseLight, but does the job. A really useful tool which mimics some of the functionality of interactive whiteboard software without needing a 100MB download.
  • The next tool is something which is really quite fabulous for something so small (well I think so anyway). ZoomIt (Windows, free) is a tiny download from the Microsoft web site which has many useful functions - and for me it seems that the zoom function (using the mouse scroll wheel or the up and down arrow keys once the program is enabled) is the least of them. It's a very simple program for annotating a screen (these annotations aren't persistent, so hide the tool and they are lost) but it's a simple tool which could be very useful when you just have a projector and a wireless mouse, rather than an interactive whiteboard. Pressing w or k gets a white or black screen to write on and there's also a timer which will run on the screen if you want to give people a set time for discussing something, or simply a break from what you're saying!

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