Thursday, 24 November 2011

Recent CPD

Since half term, I have attended several CPD events covering my diverse job description - Learning Resource Coordinator (not Manager as I am not responsible for the LRC on a daily basis, more strategic management), Assistant Head of Sixth Form and Careers Coordinator 11 - 19.

On 2nd November, I attended the Launch Event for the Apple Regional Training Centre at Isca College of Media Arts, Exeter.  Whilst a very short event - just 1.5 hours long, the focus was on the use of Ipads in teaching and learning with the main presentation delivered by Kelda Richards who describes herself as a lead practitioner in media technology.  Her presentation took the form of a pub quiz on Ipad and showed 10 great apps.  Those that stood out for me were Shazam, an app that identifies music; i-nigma, QR code reader;Newstand; Dropbox and Pearltrees which she described as apps to make your life easier, although I was aware of these, it was great to have a chance to use them on a Pad and I thought the way of presenting them as a quiz was very innovative.

I then attended a Management and Leadership one day training course run by Plymouth Training and Consultancy.  This course was included as part of my performance management and links to my new role as Assistant Head of Sixth Form which requires me to lead and manage teams of staff, including teachers and support staff.  The trainer began by explaining the difference between management and leadership; management being associated with working towards a development plan and having a more operational role, whilst leadership tendd towards the visionary, identifying followers from your staff to share your vision.  We also looked at all the different roles and responsibilities of being a manager (very scary and daunting), but decided that it came down to prioritising; i.e what is happening today?  There were many opportunities for personal reflection, including considering whether your management style was autocrative (all about me), democratic (delegate, but with some control) or delegative (delegating with free rein) and decided that sometimes you have to be all three!  We also looked at John Adair's concept of managing the task, managing the individual and managing the team as well as the six core functions of leadership; plan, initiate, control, support, inform and evaluate.  Much to think about in terms of my management and leadership skills! 

My last conference attended was Careers SW's annual event 'Employability'.  Having attended these in the past, I know that these events are excellently delivered and I particularly identified one of the workshops I attended as being very interesting.  This workshop was led by a representative from Demos who had recently published a report on 'The Forgotten Half'; that of the 50% who were not part of Tony Blair's vision of 50 young people moving onto Higher Education.  As the person in my college with responsibility of delivering the UCAS application process and raising awareness of HE to all students, this was of especial interest.  The report identified 5 premiums (what makes a young person employable?); being a graduate (HE is still the best protector in the labour market), individual character and transferable skills, level 2 literacy and numeracy, previous work (part-time, internships, voluntary) and Level 2/3 vocational qualifications citing a negative return on lower level NVQs if not person is not pre 25.  The report also focused on what schools had to offer in order to ensure effective progression for their students; intensive literacy and numeracy teaching and support, build students' characters through enrichment and broaden assessment for students on vocational qualifications (more of a workbacc offer)  In addition, an interesting and pithy look at the Government's plans for an all age careers service as part of the Education Bill from Paul Chubb, Careers England and the conference was very informative indeed.

My next CPD could be at the UCAS Annual Conference for Teachers and Advisors, so as to ensure that I am up to date with the necessary information, advice and guidance when supporting students and staff with post 16 progression.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Sharing Good Practice; Social Media

On Friday 21st October, I attended a networking session at a neighbouring secondary school which was part of a whole authority INSET day for school staff.  The day was originally planned as a support session for those schools using OLIVER, but was expanded into more of a 'Cyber Library' session with a presentation led by myself and supported by the LRC Manager on our use of social media both personally as a CPD tool and within the LRC.  

Our presentation medium took the form of a prezi ( with the link to mine here is a presentation tool that I have been playing around with for a while now, although this was the first time I had used it formally as a learning tool and as an alternative to Powerpoint, the attendees appreciated its innovativeness and online sharing possibilities.  When planning the session, we brainstormed why we valued social media and Web 2.0 coming up with words such as collaboration, reflection and informing which we were then able to link to those Web 2.0 resources we had used, focusing on the teaching and learning context in which they had been used, i.e. titanpad and linoit fitted neatly into collaborate, whilst animoto and glogster have been mainly used for informing and presenting. 

Being able to share our Web 2.0 and social media travels was extremely cathartic, in that you are never sure how far down a path you have gone until you take the time to reflect.  Having to justify the impact of these tools on teaching and learning was also very useful and insightful.  Using Web 2.0 tools and social media to support teaching and learning is not about the 'ooh' and 'aah' factor, but instead using them to engage with the students and being able to share learning with teachers and other students (both in and outside the classroom) and in the case of our personal CPD, other educational professionals.

We also took along our three new Ipads which were the focus of much envy.  Being very new additions to our LRC, we were only able to offer a limited idea of how we were using them at the time, although there was much discussion on apps to support curriculum areas which then led attendees onto to talking about Kindles.  Only one school present had actually purchased a Kindle (we have an e-reader, plus the Kindle app on the Ipads), and we were able to share our Kindle project: 10 Kindles to be purchased and trialled with post 16 students initially.  One of the issues we face in our college is the overwhelmingly diverse range of student reading abilities; from students with a reading age of less than 6 to those achieving three As at A-Level.  This means that much of the LRC budget is focused towards those texts designed to improve reading at a more phonics orientated level which can mean that post 16 students, studying Level 3 courses, may miss out on access to those more obscure texts which are relevant to their studies.  An example of this is a recent request for the 'Man who mistook his wife for a hat' by Oliver Sacks which as a recommended read and not a course text may not have been purchased in the past.  However being able to download this text cheaper via Kindle also means that we use less of our precious shelf space as well (books and PCs all vying for space can be a headache).  Another great feature of Kindles is the ability to download a sample which will ensure that we buy exactly what the students want to read as they will be able to trial the book first for free.

It was a great opportunity to meet up with some fellow school library staff (an OLIVER group was set up on so we can continue to support each other as we familarise ourselves with this Library Management System) and I will be using linoit to ask for some feedback to my presentation which can then be included for my Chartership.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Digital SIG (School Improvement Group) Meeting

This week the teaching staff split into the three college SIGs (School Improvement Groups); Learning, Digital and Literacy.  I belong to the Digital SIG (although I was a member of Learning for several years with the LRC Manager often attending the Literacy group) and the meeting proved to be extremely pertinant to many of the proposed actions in my Personal  Professional Development Plan.

Initially we discussed via Google Docs, the cooperative vision for our group.  Being a Cooperative Academy we hold the cooperative values above all else; self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, solidarity which form the basis of our daily teaching, learning and pastoral care.  In turn, they also underpin our staff CPD, for example, with leadership being devolved to individual teachers and not restricted to middle and senior leaders, working towards a common goal  "we will all share a commitment to the development of new technologies to enhance teaching and learning"  Although I have trialled Google Docs in the past, I have preferred using Titanpad (see earlier posts) as it is much easier to share the document with a class; no need to add individual e-mail addresses for example)

We then moved to to forming SIGLets (small cooperative groups) which would focus on more specific aspects of new technologies and their role in teaching and learning, including use of Ipads and Kindles, Mouse Mischief, Web 2.0 International Links, Blogging using My Big Campus, Prezi and U-Tube.  I chose Ipads and Kindles which fitted exactly with me having bought three Ipads for the LRC and negotiated to purchase 5 Kindles (see previous posts) as well as this being an integral part of my PDPP.  Other members of the group include two PE teachers who all have individual Ipads and are using them to great effect both in their teaching and their personal planning, an English teacher who wants to work with me in trialling various apps to support her Year 12 students who are studying Othello and a MFL teacher who is interested in how Ipads can be used in teaching Spanish; this is particularly good as the MFL department's use of the LRC is often limited to using the PCs so a more innovative approach is welcomed.

The idea is to explore the use of Ipads as a SIGlet with the aim of putting together a presentation/workshop to initially the rest of the Digital SIG and then the remainder of the teaching staff as part of a CPD training session later in the year; tying in with the cooperative value of self-help – "we will help members of our community to help themselves 
develop increased access to, understanding of and proficiency in using new technologies".  I am also delivering an informal training session to a group of school Librarians on 21st October on my fledgling use of Ipads and Kindles as well as attending a course 'Ipad and Beyond' led by Bev Humphrey in November at the Renaissance Learning Offices.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

New app to try

Have been alerted to some great sounding resources today on SLN, the School Librarian group on Yahoo, which I joined earlier this year.  First one was free e-books from OCR, specifically AS and A2 textbooks which are available to download through Interchange.  These would be great on our Kindles and Ipads in the LRC (see previous post) and indeed stored on our College Intranet for use by students and staff with a link from our new LRC webpage.  The second resource is Easy Bib which allows you to scan a book's barcode with your Iphone/Ipad and OCLC retrieves citations for you in MLA, APA and Chicago formats.  A similar app is Quickcite which can be used on both Apple and Android tablets.  I acknowledge another user's point that they only retrieve citations for books and not websites etc, but still great apps and ones we will be trying with our Ipads.

Friday, 16 September 2011

New term, new year

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
  • Kindles
  • Clickview
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.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Reflections: ICT in schools

Last week I was alerted, on Twitter, to an article in the Guardian entitled 'Is Michael Gove's concept of learning in the digital era outdated?' by Keith Stuart on 5th July 2011.  A very interesting article which looked at Michael Gove's endorsement of the use of video games in the classroom and which then moved on to consider ICT in general.  The report raised a very interesting point however which was that it appeared that Gove's impression of ICT in the classroom was limited to that of 'carrot and stick' or 'work hard and then you can use the computer'  "do the equation and get ammo to shoot the aliens". This is completely at odds with the way in which I and my colleagues (here at my school and nationally) use ICT to support learning and teaching, therefore I decided to take this opportunity to reflect on our practices.

A qualified Librarian, I have been the member of staff responsible for the LRC (operational as LRC Manager until recently and then strategic management only) for the past 10 years.  Using PCs as an information retrieval and presentation facility is an integral part of our services to students and staff, however as stated in the report "computers are a tool for developing and exploring ideas" *and it is this practice which I want to reflect on.

As my school is a Cooperative Academy and a member of the Cooperative Society, collaboration is an integral part of all teaching and learning which takes place here.  I have always endeavoured to keep the LRC at the front of cooperative learning through membership of the Learning SIG, although I have since replaced this by becoming a member of the Digital SIG which I believe is more appropriate and relevant to my position and chartership.  I have used and witnessed ICT to encourage students to work collaboratively when undertaking research tasks, e.g. Scribe, Sage, Serf, Crusader, delivering training on this as well.  This allows students to cooperate on a single task, each bringing their own strengths to the group, i.e. writing (scribe), leader (sage), e-research (serf) and generating ideas (crusader).  However well this works when researching, it is still only touching the surface of what ICT can achieve in terms of creativity and interactivity.  

This year I have really explored Web 2.0 both personally and professionally (not just dallying with it).  This blog has allowed me to reflect on my progress with digital literacy and my Twitter account has been invaluable to me in terms of professional support and networking.  Add to these my membership of SLN, a Yahoo group for School Librarians and my small and limited network of fellow professionals has grown in a way I couldn't have forseen ten years ago.  So why should my students be limited to just those they sit next to, or in the same class, or year or even school?  I am sure this is what is meant by a globalised learning community and one which enables "a more entrepreneurial approah to learning...[with students becoming] more active and independent learners with the teacher serving as consultant, not chief executive"*  Certainly this is the way in which much of our cooperative teaching and learning is carried out with the Guide (teacher) on the Side and not Sage on the Stage.  

I am now focusing on bringing my involvement in teaching to life with book group blogs on My Big Campus and to allow true collaboration of ideas and answers.  I have trained and then watched the LRC Manager use Animoto and Glogster with students in the book group and Manga Club and I see real possibilities for Glogster in curriculum subjects; indeed I am planning to work alongside a Science teacher to introduce Glogster with the help of one of his students who is a keen user of this resource.  I follow several school library accounts on Twitter and am currently undecided as to the best place for my LRC's (and CEAIG/Sixth Form) online presence in terms of social networking; Twitter, Facebook or something different?  In the last day or so I have explored Google+, but have decided that I need to wait and see as to whether Google's answer to social networking is going to be truly 'across the board'; there is no point in using a social networking site purely because everybody else is or it is the latest thing, at least in professional terms and by that I mean teaching and learning as well.  However I am determined to use the homepage facility offered through Oliver, the LMS we have recently upgraded to, to form the basis of our online identity with links from our website.

I have attended staff CPD sessions and seen demonstrations of Mouse Mischief in Windows and online mind mapping sites (as an keen advocate of the Thinking Maps we use at school, I am not keen on using this as I prefer a whole school approach) and as part of the interviewing panel for the Learning Technology Manager's post I have seen demonstrations of Prezi (which I have already used), Google Docs and online whiteboards.  My task next year will be to begin evaluating the impact of using ICT for collaborative learning, looking at ability ranges and differentiation, success of learning outcomes e.g. coursework results and assessment for learning.  I am sure that this embedded approach is how we should be using ICT in our teaching and learning and not just as a 'carrot and stick' or a basic information retrieval facility.  

* Stuart, Keith. 'Is Michael Gove's concept of learning in the digital era outdated?. Online: Guardian Newspaper. Accessed 12/07/2011

Thursday, 7 July 2011

'To buy or not to buy?'

Having submitted financial bids to my Principal earlier this year, I was initially pleased to be informed that extra funding was to be set aside to allow me to upgrade the Library Management System from ALICE to OLIVER; both with SoftlinkHowever I was recently informed that my additional bids for electronic mobile devices had also been approved and that I could go ahead with an order for the LRC.  This news however left me in a quandary - which devices did I want to purchase? Kindles, android tablets or Ipads?  Not a bad position to be in, but one which was forcing me to think of value for money in terms of curriculum use and teacher/student support in teaching and learning.  

Having had a Sony e-reader in the LRC for a year or so and had fairly indifferent responses from students and staff, I was reluctant to go down the route of Kindles.  Having a device which was largely restricted to reading e-books did not appeal to me as I prefer devices which allow users to swap between different applications depending on their individual needs.  Having spoken to staff and students about Kindles, the overwhelming response was either "we prefer reading proper books' or "you can do so much more with an Ipad"

This then left me with tablets or Ipads.  Luckily the PE department were already experimenting using Ipads in their teaching and so I borrowed their precious Ipad for the day and spent a fab few hours exploring its functions, downloading a few apps and generally finding out how it worked.  I viewed a recent thread on SLN which listed a wide range of apps which were being used by school Librarians/LRC Managers and downloaded a few of them so as to give me an idea of which ones may be usefully employed in the LRC.  Pacific Disaster Center proved to be a great example; free and immediately of interest to the Head of Geography who downloaded it onto his Iphone.  This app would link into research lessons on natural disasters, allowing students the opportunity to find out about natural disasters in the Pacific region happening right at a particular moment.  I also loved the Kindle app which satisfied my interest in exploring and introducing e-books to my students, but having it on the Ipad meant I wasn't limiting myself.

Having discovered I love the Ipad 2, I then went to talk to my IT Technical Support Team about what they thought.  Their immediate response was "it won't link to the college network and you can't get Microsoft Office" to which I was ready with "I don't want that - I have 24 PCs in the LRC which do that already".  They then asked why I wanted Ipads and again I had my primary reason ready; offer additional resources, i.e. apps, as part of research based LRC lessons, enhance information retrieval practices in the LRC as well as being a 'carrot' to staff and students alike, i.e. 'look how cool your LRC is?'

My next port of call was to the Head of Science who had already put in an order for Windows 7 tablets for use in the labs.  An especial lure for him however was their ability to access the college network, hence his decision to purchase tablets. He mentioned the range of apps which are available to download (I was already familar with this as I have a Blackberry myself), but I was keen to have the Apple guarantee as far as apps were concerned.  My final consideration took me to the Business Manager to explore purchase of apps.  I asked her if it would be possible to do this in a similar way whereby other schools are buying e-books with Amazon vouchers; a voucher for a certain amount is purchased which the Librarian/LRC Manager can then use to buy e-books.  In the same way we would be able to purchase vouchers from Apple which could be then used to buy apps. 

So what did I decide?  An order was placed for three Ipads, plus three specially sourced cases which appear to make the Ipad virtually indestructible and I am now eagerly awaiting their delivery.  More to come in the new school year on this subject I hope!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Virtual University: Designing Schools for the Creative Age

At the end of last term, I watched a session with the virtual university, part of the Microsoft Innovative Schools community of which my school is a member. The session's title was 'Designing Schools for the Creative Age' and evoked a combination of wistful longing at some of the gorgeous learning spaces that were presented, but also with much food for thought for the situation my school finds itself in; previously a BSF school, we were one of the unlucky group who lost their funding shortly after the coalition government came into power.

The session began with an overview of the twelve measures, the Language of School Design, with which to consider any innovations in terms of learning spaces; enquiry and project based learning, student directed learning, community based school, collaborative in learning teams, interdisciplinary, culture of excellence, data driven, safe and secure, nature as school, lifelong learning, community as school and global and creative age school. For me one statement stood out suggesting that the design of school physical spaces is very much a part of our schools which we forget about; often we are extremely preoccupied in focusing on an evolving curriculum that we do not consider how to move our learning spaces forward to match and our schools end up resembling fortresses. Another important comment was made regarding consultation and the need to work alongside your stakeholders rather than just dictating what you think is best. It was a timely reminder to me as sometimes I get so caught up in my latest innovation that I forget to ask other people what they think or want.

The session then moved onto looking at traditional learning models, e.g. ‘cells and bells’ to a fully connected learning network encompassing the global and creative age; learning studios with breakout spaces, project based areas, seminar rooms with movable walls, information gathering ‘cafĂ©’ areas and easy access to outdoor learning spaces. There are five design patterns most commonly seen in schools: closed network (cells and bells), classrooms with computers, learning studios with multiple activity zones, classrooms with breakout spaces and classrooms with learning commons.

The redesign whereby corridors are removed is an extremely popular one; a variety of learning spaces, separated by permeable edges (seminar rooms, project based areas, lecture halls) surround an open space utilized for collaborative projects, informal seating for ideas gathering, resource areas (books, technology, audio visual media, instruments, art supplies). With permeable edges (movable and/or transparent walls), the ratio of teachers can change from 1:25 to 4:100 allowing for cross curricular links and teaching. Learning studios tend to encompass areas for multiple activities including active zones for more hands on learning, storage and project work. Cave spaces are extremely important; individual reflective spaces with 2/3 solid walls to provide a sense of enclosure and security.

All redesigns need to reflect the use of technology in teaching and learning so as to achieve this global and creative age. Effective wireless technology, moving away from fixed desk PCs, instead laptops, android tablets and smartphones with faculties supported by learning commons, often grown out of what was the library, but redesigned to reflect 21st century learning; firmly embedding technology amongst the more traditional printed word and using permeable edges, informal seating , cave spaces and technology pods.

Whilst the virtual university session was very enlightening and certainly gave me food for thought where the LRC is concerned, I was also pleased to try out the UK Partners in Learning with Microsoft which has given me another networking and resource sharing tool to help develop my digital literacies and that of the students and staff in my school

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Collaborative research using

Having been alerted to this website via my Twitter PLN a few weeks ago, I have been waiting for an opportunity to use this to support teaching and learning.  Having already explained in a previous post that I am not one to try something new just for the sake of it, I waited for an appropriate lesson and class to trial this collaborative website. allows groups of people (in my case students) to work on one document at the same time, recording ideas, answers, research in real time.  With an extremely similar appearance to Word, a Pad is intuitively easy to use.  Having set up my account and assigned myself an individual site address, I then began to play around with the site myself, investigating the best ways in which the documents could be shared; giving the unique URL to the students to copy into their browser, e-mailing it through Titanpad or even assigning the URL through Frog, our VLE, in the same way as we would any resource.  Initially I decided on the first way for the time being.

For many years now I have watched, led and taught students to undertake research, sometimes individually or in groups and across the whole range of curriculum subjects, but all seemingly with very similar outcomes.  Great swathes of information cut and pasted into Word with little or no understanding, flashy PowerPoints with little relevant subject content and scrappy pieces of paper with scribbled notes.  Working in a Cooperative Trust school I now frequently observe excellent examples of cooperative and collaborative research; our specially adapted Sage, Scribe, Serf, Crusader model can be seen across the school, but I was looking for a way in which we could improve the quality of our research, how it is transcribed into note form and then retained for future use, e.g. coursework or timed assessment purposes.

I chose to trial Titanpad with an able Year 7 class in Humanities as part of their preparation towards meeting the author, Paul Dowswell.  As they were focusing on his novel Auslander and linking this to a recently studied topic on the Holocaust, I asked the students to work in cooperative groups and to record their research on a Pad; set up in advance and the URL given out as part of the task.

All went well at first.  The Year 7 students thought that this was a great way of recording their group's research.  They worked out for themselves that it made sense to subtitle their work, e.g. Name of student's group which ensured that their work was kept separate from others.  They loved the idea that each group/user was automatically allocated a different font colour so they could record their research quickly and easily.  It was all going too well.  The subject teacher was also excited and was given a brief demo on how to set up as a user etc.

Suddenly from across the LRC there was a call "Who has deleted my work?"  Uh - oh.  It transpired that one student had managed to delete all the class's work.  Instead of wasting time trying to find the culprit, I asked the students to begin again which they did willingly, possibly because it was a new piece of web 2.0 technology for them.   However a few pertinant instructions on the importance of saving their research as they went along didn't go amiss, although seeing all their work disappear before their eyes was certainly an inducement in this case.  I was then alerted to the comments springing up in the Chat sidebar; an unfortunate addition from a classroom point of view perhaps, but one which could be used productively.  The allocation of different font colours to each user helped me to identify those groups engaging in chat rather than research and a reminder that their chat would be forever immortalized on Miss's Titanpad account.

By the end of the lesson however each cooperative group had successfully completed their research task and I had an online Pad with an entire class's work in one place.  No scrappy pieces of paper or e-mails to have to read through; it was all on one document with different font colours identifying individual users so I could see at a glance if and how the lesson's learning outcomes had been achieved.  The ability to then export the Pad as a Word document, PDF etc is also useful.  This ensures that a Pad, collaboratively produced by a class, can be then used for individual study purposes; this negates the actions of those students who may not have fully participated in the lesson.

In conclusion?
A piece of Web 2 technology which I will certainly use again for collaborative research and indeed I have now created a Pad for a Year 9 GCSE science research lesson on Intensive Farming and the LRC Manager is using a Pad at her next book group meeting to record questions for Paul Dowswell . The ability to delete other students' work will hopefully encourage greater online social responsibility amongst students particularly as we, as a school, move further down the Web 2.0 road.  The possibilities for peer marking and editing are also intriguing.  

Monday, 14 February 2011

First Thoughts on Chartering

Having had my first meeting with my chartership mentor on Friday, this is my first attempt to begin to rationalise my thoughts and plans for the next year.  I am lucky to have known my mentor for a number of years now; as a senior post holder in the public library service when I got my first job as a Library Assistant, then as a School Library Advisor for the SLS when I got my current job in a secondary school and now finally as a school governor and parent of students who attend the school I work at.  She has a wealth of knowledge and past experience and I am very pleased at the prospect of working with her for the next year.

I am also pleased that my school seem to be taking my Chartership seriously by agreeing to fund the costs.  Not very much to pay though I hear some of you say, but in the current economic climate in which we continually hear of the closure of public libraries, SLSs and school libraries along with librarian redundancies, I am very relieved that my school still seem to hold a library (or LRC as here) and a professional librarian in high regard; the support for my CPD being evident of this.

We have decided to make the focus of my Chartership digitial literacy; a decision which seemed to come easy given the current debates about the value of libraries and librarians in a digital world.  In addition my school has recently become a Microsoft Innovation School and as a result we have the amazing opportunity to really explore the use of ICT, digital media and social networking in our teaching and learning.

We have had two staff training sessions in recent weeks; the first when we began to look at different forms of media to engage and interact with students, e.g. podcasting, but it was the second training session which began to really enthuse me.  It took the form of five workshops each led by staff members; Twitter and Youtube, Blogs and Wikis, Mischief Mouse, Facebook as well as an introductory insight into the Microsoft Innovation Programme and an opportunity to become part of the workspace for Partners in Learning.  Having already recorded my thoughts on Google docs for the school, I won't go into too much detail here, but there were a few ideas which seemed to stand out for me.  Having been using social media for some time now to enhance my CPD, being told about nings, wikis and blogs was a bit frustrating at first.  However just listening to other people's experiences began to really focus my mind and allowed me to reach past this stage and to think seriously about their application (and that of others) in teaching and learning.

I had already dallied with the idea of using Twitter to regularly update students of the latest careers related opportunities; being Head of Careers for Years 7 - 13 has always given me a bit of a headache in how to present information such as Open Days, Apprenticeships, college courses etc.  Putting up posters is so time consuming and does anybody really take any notice of them.  I have already tried something similar and created a forum on our VLE (Frog) for staff development courses.  Previously all the course information was kept in paper format in box files in the LRC and now new information is simply posted onto the forum with a link to the web address. Using an online forum to record book reviews, the school book group already loves using Animoto to present their book reviews, was next and there really should be a place where staff can share book reviews online so our students can see us reading.

Other ideas include revamping the LRC pages on the college website and exploring Livebinders and to effectively support whole class research tasks.  As a Cooperative Trust college, it is also essential to consider everything in light of our cooperative ethos.  I see an interesting year ahead of me.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

My first post

Over the last six months or so I feel that I am getting the hang of this Web 2.0 lark.  Up to now I have been so overwhelmed with the many different tools that exist I have always been a bit put off. 
  • Which ones to explore? 
  • Will they work through my school's filter system?  Answer: probably not. 
  • Which ones to try with my students?  How will use of Web 2.0 improve their learning and support content led teaching? 
Deep down I always understood the relevance and support Web 2.0 could offer me in my own personal CPD and also craved new and innovative ways to engage with my students at school, both in the LRC and outside in the classroom, corridors and in the virtual world.  However I have never been one to try something new just for the sake of it and I certainly didn't want to explore lots of different ideas only to result in a series of half hearted attempts which have no impact at all on my professional career and that of my students' learning.

Having to choose a particular area of focus for my Chartership has enabled me to make a serious attempt to tackle some of the latest technological developments and I began with developing my own personal learning network through Twitter and using Google Reader to track blogs etc which are most interesting and useful to me.  I know of some fantastic librarians out there in schools (this is my area of professionalism), whose blogs, tweets and school library web pages have been invaluable to me.  Thank you - I can only aspire to be like you.  This new blog is my first step to publishing my thoughts, ideas and initiatives on the latest technological developments in Web 2.0, e-resources such as the I-Pad and Kindle and their impact on learning in schools within the context of the LRC and its integral role in supporting both teaching and learning.

Having had a meeting with my line manager last week to redefine my job description, I have been lucky enough to have been told to focus on the LRC's virtual role and explore different Web 2.0 tools and their role in teaching and learning with the aim of using this as my main Chartership focus.  A meeting next week with my mentor should enable me to begin this process properly.