New term, new year, new academy status. My chartership focus on e-learning has been rather lost since I returned from holidays as a result of my new job (still within the same 11 - 19 institution, still with a learning and library focus, but one which also encompasses being one of three assistant heads of a very large sixth form). Although my responsibilities within the sixth form are largely associated with IAG (information, advice and guidance), I am also required to monitor attainment, analyse data and offering support and intervention to students when required. Such has been the need to immerse myself fully into student destination and results analysis, being available to interview prospective Year 12 and 13 students that my focus on Web 2.0 and e-learning has taken a back seat. Indeed I am yet to really take a good look at some of the literature I have bought recently; Improving Students's Web Use and Information Literacy by James Herring and The Innovative School Librarian edited by Sharon Markless.
However, earlier this week, I met with our new Learning Technology Manager; a very new post and appointment following an interview process of which I was a part. The main focus of the meeting was to help the new manager understand how the LRC and its staff had been involved in pushing forward and promoting the use of new technologies and e-resources; a meeting which was being replicated with the rest of the department heads across the college. In an initial conversation we planned to consider the following:
- the use of Encyclopaedia Britannica Online as an e-resource
- I pads in the LRC
The college has subscribed to Britannica Online for seven years with monies originally from NOF (New Opportunities Fund) and more recently as a result of several successful curriculum bids approved by the Principal. However while usage of the resource is fairly high in the LRC (research based subject lessons, homework support and inclusion in Information Literacy lessons), it is rarely used in other areas of the college (although both the Music and ICT departments have made use of it in the past). As a result I sent an e-mail around to all teaching staff asking them for feedback:
At the time of the initial subscription we were particularly worried about students finding inaccurate information from Wikipedia, however this company has considerably changed the way in which it carries out its information gathering processes and indeed some universities (LSE and Imperial College, London) are embracing it as an information resource and teaching their students to be discerning when it comes to referencing Wikipedia.
I would be very grateful for any feedback as to:
- Should we keep Britannica or not and WHY
- If we do keep it, how can we effectively market it to you and to students? (In the past we have produced advertising material - posters, powerpoints, business cards as well as word of mouth and including it in research based lessons in the LRC)
The few responses I received either commented on its lack of visibility on our VLE, the need to access it via an additional login and password alongside a member of staff undertaking her PhD saying that Wikipedia had been recommended to them as a first point in any research undertaken. With these responses in mind, we discussed the renewal of Britannica for the 2011/12 academic year and eventually decided that we would renew the licence for one more year. Our main reasoning for this was we had already been given the funding to renew the licence for another year, we both believed that students having access to a concise, up to date and accurate encyclopaedic resource was essential given the sometime vagaries of Wikipedia and finally we wanted to explore other options and a year's renewal period would give up opportunity to do this; other options include using the Public Library's Cyberlibrary online service and incidentally having access to many more online resources, or re-educating staff and students with effective search strategies, evaluating sources etc.
Having bid for three Ipads last term, they arrived over the summer holidays together with the cases designed to make the pads indestructible, however the fact that the desk PCs in the office are still waiting to be replaced (the new PCs are in their boxes in my office), means that I am unable to download ITunes in order to get started. Extremely frustrating! Nevertheless I have continued to research educational apps; Pacific Disaster Center for Geography, Virulant for Biology (thank you Nicola Mcnee), Monster Anatomy (Biology, Health and Social Care, Applied Science and Sport), Math Bingo (yet another go at attracting Maths to the LRC) and Shakespeare in Bits (English and Drama). We also discussed purchasing 5 Kindles for use in the LRC, an idea which I fell upon, and decided that we would trial them with sixth formers (upload them with set texts in English A-level, and text books from all subject areas) and to satisfy requests for books which are not held in the LRC. For the time being the Kindles would be restricted to LRC use only as will the Ipads.
We then moved to discussing Clickview, a resource which the Head of ICT and I have been very interested in purchasing. A facility which offers schools online access to digital media in all subject areas, which can be fully integrated into our LMS, college Intranet and VLE and also enables staff to record live television sounds ideal, but needs to be investigated, researched and adequately resourced, both in terms of ICT and staffing to ensure whole college buy in. Finally we briefly talked about improving communication methods with sixth formers which came about as a result of my emerging role in within the management of sixth form; in the past I have considered Facebook and Twitter and whilst I may still use Twitter, the Learning Technology Manager suggested My Big Campus which we are trialling as a replacement for our VLE. Overall, it was a very productive initial meeting with the Learning Technology Manager and I look forward to moving these ideas and plans forward.