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!

For the last two years I’ve been studying for an MA in ICT in Education at Leeds University. The last piece of the puzzle my MA Critical Study (a 15,000 word research project) went in the post last week and the process has come to an end. Looking back the whole MA was proof of the power of online collaboration, from start to finish.

To start the story at the beginning; in 2006 I was looking for an e-learning related MA. I was a regular reader and poster of the forums at the Times Educational Supplement. Another contributor recommended the MA at Leeds that she was taking and one thing led to another. I’ve since recommended another person the same way!

My entire MA was via online distance learning using the First Class learning environment. There were both online and face to face students. Lecture notes and podcasts were posted online. We had a forum to discuss set reading or tasks and we met once a week online for a live discussion on a topic set by our tutor; often and article or an assignment. At the end of each module we wrote a 6000 word assignment to prove that we had learnt something. (Though that sounds a little cynical the assignments really helped me revise much of what I had learned).

One of the problems of being an online learner can be a lack of community. This was certainly hard. Often our discussion forums were quiet and pleas for help in the class discussion forums drew few responses. This is where my other communities came into use especially when it came to my critical study. Being a science (computer science) graduate I had no prior experience of carrying out a research project for my bachelors degree. Back then I wrote a piece of software and wrote about the process and how it worked. For my MA study I wanted to research how my students used VLEs. The whole process was new to me. My first port of call online was a message sent to the Mirandanet discussion list asking for details of any academic research on VLEs in schools. The response was small but gave me some excellent leads. A similar question to my twitter network brought back some other leads and as I delved further and found other links I shared them back to my twitter followers some of whom found the links equally useful.

My next problem was creating a research questionnaire. I put my draft out to twitter as well as to some friends (via e-mail). Two individuals on twitter gave me some superb feedback (David Nobel and Theo Kuchell) on how to improve my quesitonnaire. Help with analysing the data came via e-mail from two other people that I had never met before, one the research methods tutor at Leeds University and the other a friend of a friend in Manchester. When it was all done it was time for the dreaded proof reading. Again twitter proved very fruitful with great comments and extra commas from Lisa Stephens, Mary Cooch, Ian Usher and Dale Jones.

My acknowledgements page was large and proof of the power of online communities. Of the 12 people I mentioned by name I had only met 4 in person.

Now the MA is done I’ll have more time to spend on rebuilding our school VLE from scratch and I’ll keep you updated right here!