Often good things come at once. Sometimes they come at the same time and you can’t make them all – but yesterday the all worked out fine and I had a busy but fantastic day that I had to share on my blog!

On a normal day I’m in school all day, teaching classes, preparing for them or doing work around my e-learning responsibilities. Most of my CPD nowadays I tend to do in my own time, via twitter, online groups such as edtechroundup or evening meetings like Mirandamods. Occasionally I get to go to a course, in the daytime – a real old fashioned Inset!

This Thursday was one of those days – I headed over to the institute of education for a morning session on mentoring. This was the third installment of this course aimed at people like me who are mentoring participants in the graduate teacher programme (a method of teacher training in the UK). The course was useful and we learnt about different methods of mentoring most of which was new to me. By the time we had finished it was too late to head back into school so I’d arranged to try and teach my A-level computing class online.

I headed over to the British Library, a wonderful place to work, and it has free Wi-Fi. I sat myself down in the cafe and waited to see if any of my class would join me in an online flashmeeting. Almost on the dot the first students arrived – 3 joined from home and 3 from the school library. We had a 40 minute online lesson and it went okay. The main problem was the other fascinated year 13 students in the school library who kept on coming over to see what was going on. One even joined the lesson. Aside from these disruptions we actually got some work done. I talked the students through database normalisation using a hefty powerpoint presentation. It was hard working out if students were listening, participating or learning. I gauged this by asking questions and getting students to summarise what I had been saying. Based on the answers obviously something had got through! I did get a few strange looks from people in the library cafe.

No sooner had the online lesson finished when I got a skype call from Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano also known as @langwitches . Her 6th grade class interviewed me as part of their project on Jewish communities around the world. I’ve tried to help set them up with different friends of mine on different countries. Apparently Silvia has managed to cover every continent even Antartica! The girl who interviewed me asked great questions and I really enjoyed our 10 minute chat and meeting some of Silvia’s students. I’m very jealous of their project and look forward to seeing the results!

After an hour to kill in the British Library (which flies by when you have work to do) I headed over to the Moorgate offices of Oracle UK where I listened and joined in with the Owers Lecture 2009. The title of the lecture was “Can we reverse the decline of schools’ computing especially with girls”. The two main speakers were Kate Sims and Stephen Heppell who gave plenty of food for though. This was carried on through an audience discussion (we’d by then reformed into a circle) where we heard many points of view. I hope some of the lecture will soon be shared online by the people that were recording it. It’s well worth watching and I will add a link here if it arrives.

Overall a fantastic day – I like to think my school gets value for money when I pop out for an inset!

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.

Teachmeet

Posted on May 18th, 2008 in VLE | 3 Comments »

I’m looking forward to Teachmeet on Monday in Essex. I attended my first one at the Bett Show in January where I met lots of interesting people and heard lots of interesting talks that lasted a maximum of 7 minutes. Entertaining, interesting, educational, inspiring and perfect for my attention span. I wasn’t sure I’d make this one in Essex as it’s a bit of trek through the rush hour M25 from Rickmansworth. Luckily it’s at a time when I normally have year 11 who are off on study leave and I’ve got the blessing of my school to leave early. Not that I feel I’m taking a liberty when the event isn’t scheduled to finish until 21:30! One more difference this time from last is that I’ve put my name down to talk. If I’m lucky enough to get picked out of the hat I’ll be talking about… my experiences using technology with gifted and talented students – I guess I better write about it up here too, just give me a bit of time to get it sorted.