VLE Staff Training

Posted on January 22nd, 2009 in VLE | 6 Comments »

In the world of Educational ICT money is often spent at hardware and software without thinking about training and time. It doesn’t matter how amazing technology is or what change it can facilitate, if teachers don’t understand how to use it or don’t have time to use it it won’t get used! There are many reports and articles that back up this argument but I think to most of us in the edtech world who aren’t salespeople (and to the honest and good salespeople of which I’m sure there are many) this is a given.

So the challenges of implementing our VLE are pretty much what I’ve expected. The jobs that are being done or need doing are: Finding time to create examplar resources, setting up a sensible look and feel for the system, setting up sensible navigation for the system, the admin part of uploading users, training pupils and training staff.

I’m going to have to just get stuck in and tackle as many of these things as possible simultaneously but right now my priority is to get the training off the ground.

We started with our inset in the first week of term where I spent an hour with the whole staff introducing the concept of a VLE and did a tutorial on how to login, change profiles, add a course and add items to a course. There’s only so much you can do with 80 people or so in an hour with only a handful of laptops. Nevertheless it was a good start and taster for everyone and at least gave people an idea of what was now available for them to use. A friend at a North London school who uses their VLE extensively across the school told me that every one of their whole school insets has to have a VLE related part, maybe that’s something to aspire to.

The next step is organising extra training sessions. I’m going to aim for sessions to have a maximum of 10 people in each and try to schedule them either during the day (taking staff off timetable for an hour) or after school. My plan is to offer staff the option of beginners, intermediate and advanced sessions at either time. I am also offering departments the option to take their training in departments.

We’ll see how it goes this term. I’d be quite happy to get a few groups of enthusiasts wanting to come back for more training rather than a large number of people with knowledge but less desire. I’m also wary of overstretching myself in terms of giving the training, but I’ll worry about that when I get there.

A quick question to you all to finish? How do you train the staff in your school or institution and what model works best?

Teachmeet 09 at BETT

Posted on January 17th, 2009 in conferences | 1 Comment »

Another year another BETT another Teachmeet

As Lisa Stevens said in her teachmeet talk it’s amazing how much you can learn in a year. Last year at Teachmeet the only person I vaguely knew was Drew Buddie. He introduced me to a couple of people and a few weeks later when we met again he told me to join twitter and start a blog. This year at Teachmeet I was down on the list to present, had been volunteered to run the flashmeeting and be cameraman and finally met 10-20 people that I had met online via twitter but never in person. It really is amazing how much of a network you can build up and how much you can learn in a year!

My talk didn’t get picked by the random name picker at teachmeet this year so I thought I’d write up here what I might have done.

First of all I wasn’t sure what to offer to present so I created a twitter poll on polldaddy and asked my twitter network to choose, you can see the results here

I won’t explain them all so here’s a selection that I’ll try and sum up in a few sentences each.

1. Using google sites: This is already written up on a previous post which you can read about here

2. Using audacity to make revision songs:  GCSE ICT class coming up to exams. I had a lot of musical students in the class so we wrote a couple of revision songs, got a guitar and recorded using audacity. One song was made up, the other we re-wrote the words of “fields of gold” to talk about databases! For advice on using audacity check out Jose Picardo’s blog. Nb. Audacity is a free open source audio recording and editing application.

3. Running a teachmeet style inset at school: In our January inset I organised a one hour long teachmeet style inset (Rickrolling Reflections). 10 staff members volunteered to speak and gave presentations on all kinds of things such as using drama games in class and techniques for questioning with students. We had prizes for the top 3 presentations. Despite the hall being an icy 14C it was a great hour or so.

4. China Masterclass using digital video and VLE for communication and collaboration: This is written up at length in a previous blog post here.

5. Creating cartoon strips with digital cameras: Get a class to draw a storyboard for a cartoon. Take them outside with digital cameras and get them to photograph each other acting out the scenes from the storyboard. Back in classroom take photos, put in powerpoint or other software, add speech bubbles, modify or edit photos where necessary. For extension work record audio to go with cartoon!

6. Teaching kids to fill out forms for nectar cards: I had a lesson on ICT in supermarkets and loyalty cards with a tricky year 8 class (aged 12/13). Two boys just weren’t interested and I couldn’t get them to complete any of the work. Instead I took them to the Nectar card website and got them to find out about Nectar cards. They both applied for one and in the process learnt to fill in an online form. I just assumed this would be easy but it took a while with questions like “Sir what do we put in the title box?” We also discussed who it was safe to share this information with and whether to tick the boxes allowing them to send you further mail. Both boys learn a very useful life skill. Once they had applied they learnt how the card worked, how to collect points and how much shopping they’d need to buy to get a free computer game. Great numeracy skills! I’m not sure I’d get a whole class to do this especially as you’re supposed to be 18 to get a Nectar card, but I guess that’s another life skill.

What’s the best way to introduce students to using a VLE? Students may be digital natives but my experience is that they don’t automatically know how to use digital tools effectively. They also don’t always know how to use digital tools sensibly. Children learn from an early age how to behave in a classroom and learn that different behaviours are acceptable in a classroom than are acceptable at home or in the playground with friends. In online spaces fewer students see these boundaries. For many students the internet is their playground and social space where they can say what they want to their friends using their own language and without having to worry about interference from parents and teachers. This in fact is one of the many reasons we are trying to combine the internet and teaching, many VLEs promise to make education available at home to students to use in their own time. I have seen many examples of students exhibiting what I would deem unnacceptable behaviour using VLEs and online tools. Examples are bad language, silly comments, use of offensive images, unconstructive criticisms of fellow students and just general sillyness. The vast majority of this is not done with malice but with good intentions or just for fun. When students use, for example, an online forum or chat, they are used to posting fun jokey messages to friends. Most wouldn’t dare do the same thing in an execise book, they would use formal language and no silly comments, the jokey messages to friends would probably be passed around bits of paper or in their personal planners.

So what is the answer? I believe students need good training as to how to use online tools sensibly so they can learn a difference between the classroom space and the playground space. If this is started young it should become second nature as students progress through school. A clear set of rules and consequences are also needed. These needn’t be overbearing or restricting. I asked some of my 6th formers to help come up with some simple rules for use of our VLE – this is what we’ve got to so far…

1. No swearing
2. No innapropriate images/video
3. No offensive behaviour
4. Don’t say anything that you wouldn’t say to anyone’s face
5. All images/videos posted must have permission from people involved
6. If any of the above rules are broken the user may be blocked or face further punishment.

Certainly not perfect but simple. We’ll see how they go.

There is a worry that by separating the classroom online space from the playgroung online space and by training pupils in a more formal style of communication we will put them off using online tools for learning. But looking at it from another angle if we train pupils to use online tools sensibly and effectively it may change the way they use them socially for the better.