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Blue Skies Thread, Could it ever work in General; Teachers have taken a lot flak from various postings on this site for their lack of ability to cope with ...
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    Could it ever work

    Teachers have taken a lot flak from various postings on this site for their lack of ability to cope with IT. In a spirit of fairness maybe it might be worht asking whether the technology they are being asked to work with is entirely appropriate.

    What we have is a situation where equipment and software built for a corporate enviroment is being retrofitted into an educational one. The same can be said of the training of technical staff. In alot of cases our trainging assumes we are going to work in the IT department of Big Bank Plc or MajorRetailer.com

    Is the life of teacher really comporable to the branch manager of a bank or the sales rep for a widget manufacurarer's firm? Is it just a case of more training?

    Could it ever have worked or did the politicians force a disruptive set of circumstances on schools all in the name of modernity.

  2. #2
    kerrymoralee9280
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    Re: Could it ever work

    Could BSF not be brought into this at the same time, in a different kind of way?

    Let's make all schools the same, with the same IT, the same subjects etc etc. Is it me, or do different schools have different catchment areas, and different, individual goals that need meeting when it comes to educating kids.....

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    beeswax's Avatar
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    Re: Could it ever work

    Is the life of teacher really comporable to the branch manager of a bank or the sales rep for a widget manufacurarer's firm?
    No, it definately isn't. If you produce a faulty widget you can scrap it/recycle it. There's a different ethos in operation in a school, and while all good managers in the business world will try to instill that ethos into their workforce, I feel it's something that comes naturally, for want of a better phrase, to those of us employed in schools. We all of us put in that extra 10% as and when needed.
    I'll hold my hand up and say that IT in education baffles me at times. There are so many specialised subjects you're expected to be a master of, and that's doing the job full time, so I don't expect teachers to get their heads round it. We're around to make sure the tools work, and that the teacher can deliver lessons as planned.
    There are some teachers who will never grasp IT, no matter how intelligent or young, and to be perfectly honest, I don't care. Identify them and give them more time and patience. A class of unruly 16 year olds on a non uniform day is hard enough to deal with, why should they have to attempt the more complicated manoeuvres involved in IT? Let them master keyboards and IWB's, the "clasroom furniture" if you will, the stuff which delivers the lesson, but the smooth running of the gubbings in order that they can do this is down to us.

    In a spirit of fairness maybe it might be worht asking whether the technology they are being asked to work with is entirely appropriate.
    In a some cases technology designed for business is being shoehorned into an educational environment, and technicians and teachers alike suffer the consequences. Then their is the downright badly designed educational software (see all the posts regarding Nelson Thornes for example) which disrupts education more than assisting it.

    Could it ever have worked or did the politicians force a disruptive set of circumstances on schools all in the name of modernity.
    I feel that this government (I don't want to get into a left/right argument here) has recognized we can't compete with the likes of China in the manufacturing stakes, we have to move to becoming a knowledge economy and with it there has to be a seismic shift in what we learn, and to a large extent, how we learn. Just as we're breaking down the work patterns our fathers (ok, and some of us oldies) knew, so the "barriers" between different subjects in school also become blurred. Teachers will have a lot on their plate.
    Studies have shown that teenagers do, in fact, perform/learn poorly early in the day, so there's already talk of moving the school day for them to start at 10:30am, and finish later in the day. The one constant in this is money. Is any government, of any colour, willing to fund this change fully, or will it be so much hot air?

    I went on a visit to an Academy last week, along with my NM. Our head had asked us to go along and assess IT provision, and what we could adapt for our own new build in 2011/12. We were the only technical staff there. The rest comprised (I think) of a couple of companies with BSF contracts, two groups from local government and three schools hoping to learn from the experiences of this particular Academy. One member of a school SLT made the observation that technicians were holding back advances in education, and apart from the two of us, everyone else present murmured agreement. I find that attitude depressing, especially when anyone who's visited these message boards will soon realize just how hard the majority of us are working to get things working.

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    russdev's Avatar
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    Re: Could it ever work

    @beeswax

    Did you defend our honour I would have but then that is what gets me into trouble with people

    Russ

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    beeswax's Avatar
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    Re: Could it ever work

    Let's make all schools the same, with the same IT, the same subjects etc etc. Is it me, or do different schools have different catchment areas, and different, individual goals that need meeting when it comes to educating kids.....
    The only problem is that the various companies providing managed services are tied in with other providers. For example, Northgate tends to favour Fronter as a VLE. Move to a different LEA, and their managed service provider will be in league with someone else. There may be an argument that this sort of diversity will encourage competition, and that this competition will result in improved products. However, as we've seen with the case of Nelson Thornes, this evolutionary theory doesn't seem to apply. My worry is that schools will be locked into "software ghettos" because of contracts higher up the food chain, and innovation will fall by the wayside.

    There doesn't seem to be any standard in educational software, there's no one to say, "these are the criteria you have to reach before you release it on the market", the equivalent of an MOT. The purchase of much of this software is in the hands of teachers, and this is not meant as a criticism, but I wouldn't be the only techie who has had to tell a member of staff that they can't install a certain peice of software on the network because it only has a single user licence.

    As for catchment areas, this can add £10,000 or more to the value of your house, and so you are going to get these differences, and generally speaking, the better off who can afford these prices are going to get involved in school life, to pester the head etc.
    The one thing that stood out for me about the National Curriculum is that it tried to ensure that pupils from Newquay to Newcastle were receiving the same level of literacy and numeracy training, and that they were being tested to a national standard.

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    beeswax's Avatar
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    Re: Could it ever work

    Quote Originally Posted by russdev
    @beeswax

    Did you defend our honour I would have but then that is what gets me into trouble with people ;)

    Russ
    I bit my lip. My NM wasn't as controlled though.

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    daveyboy's Avatar
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    Re: Could it ever work

    No – and its not going too.

    First I’m going to talk generally here – this is not about individuals or any one school, it’s about the main, the most, the largest percentage.

    Before the ‘digital revolution’ our teachers took the learning materials into the classroom. Our students had nothing else but what was in front of them to learn.
    They only needed to be able to read, write and add up to learn something.

    Today we have computers and the internet. A couple of Billion web pages. At the click of a button, students can access most of these – and for the main - all more interesting than the lesson being taught to them.
    We ask them for a document – their work – That is basically half of what they have to learn, and the other what they have found by searching the internet. Time is spent on finding pretty pictures, the layout and selecting fonts, rather than learning.

    Our world is now about MONEY, results, schemes of work, targets and reports. Teachers who live ‘in the now’ are teaching students to pass the exams – not teaching them their subject. Students only need to learn Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V (and where the DEL key is – just in case) and how to search the web.

    LEA’s, SMT, and the movers and shakers in education have moved the goal posts. Mistakenly, we all think it’s about T&L – it’s not, it’s about money.

    When was the last time you had any training on software? When was the last time you taught a member of staff something that wasn’t done in a rush / needed for the next lesson / for the tenth time in two days? When was the last time you taught the less than confident members of staff how to surf the web?
    When was the last time you were involved with any other staff training?

    Because it costs time and money, something which schools and teachers do not have much of. They have been sold the idea that the VLE/MLE is great, it will save time, save on support costs, make teaching easier, etc, etc.

    I’m afraid the skies get bluer the further up the chain you go. Now its ‘student blogs’– who is going to police them, who is going to make sure that the wrong things are not being said, or that cyber bulling isn’t going on? We try to stop messaging (MSN etc, etc) yet we are looking at just another way to do this. Some teachers think it’s a great idea – live on the web too. Yet we are all up in arms about Bebo and such. What makes this any different?
    Mobile phones are another. Let’s give our students the power to take live video with sound and than upload it to any site they wish.
    How long is it going to be before a child uploads something to the local or national news? I hear the BBC now accepts phone video. Our students can do this right now on Bebo & Youtube. When is it going to happen to YOU? How long is it going to be before a student makes a complaint AND has video evidence too?

    School managment is changing too, And I think that most are still in the dark ages. But thats another issue.

    Until business stops seeing education as easy money & teachers get the time, training and are able to focus on teaching – not paperwork and admin; Until managment changes, and becomes 'Staff & Student focused' and not pondering to all and sundry - it will never work.

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    GrumbleDook's Avatar
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    Re: Could it ever work

    @ITWombat

    I think the first part of your post is the most relevant.

    In a spirit of fairness maybe it might be worth asking whether the technology they are being asked to work with is entirely appropriate.
    Most here know that I am looking at things from a different point of view to from where I was 3 or 4 years ago ... or even 2 years ago actually.

    I work with staff to ensure that they are using the technology the college has appropriately. With some it is a battle as they just want the latest toy or to have the same amount of money spent on them that another department has had, but others are well worth the time and effort to give them something extra because they actually have a goal with measurable outcomes.

    I am nasty to some departments because I will not release funds for eLCs unless they can show me what the difference the software / resources they want to buy will make. For others I like to reward them for time, effort and results when it comes to using ICT with students or to create resources for students.

    I *don't* agree that an in-house team can or should know about everything. I *do* think that even though a good number of schools could class themselves as 'Enterprise' when it comes to the number of users they support or the number of machines that install / maintain they do not provide a service of the same standard.

    There is a thread over on the TES forums about NMs and Techies in the usual vain and one person has responded that a previous techie at the school thought his middle name was God ... and I tend to think that a number of us do think that way (I know I did for many years) ... and I still that is not completely out of place many are expected to perform miracles all the time.

    I think a bit more give and take is needed on both sides, and a heap more communication. The lack of long term planning and discussion about those plans is scary. Schools now have to have a 3 year development plan and that has to be linked into financial spend ... and all redesignation paperwork is expected to treat ICT as an embedded subject the same way that English and Manths should be with numeracy and literacy.

    Yes, more training is needed for teachers and techies, but when this has been done in the past it has not worked (NOF anyone?) and technical courses are just way too expensive because they are focussed on business that can pay for them.

    A final point I would like to make is that although many of us think that our schools are innovative and forward thinking, or that we have individual staff who are (whether it is ourselves or just that rogue maths teacher who seems to spend more hours in front of a computer than Jake when he is told that a young lady is on ICQ asking for him), these innovative schools and staff get written and talked about ... and the people further up the chain want to use these ideas to try and make a difference to the education of students. This means pushing for change and pushing for improved standards in facilities and support. Yes, this is often not discussed in the right way with all the staff it will effect, but at least applaud people for wanting to make a difference and try to learn to spot the different between those just wanting toys and those wanting to raise their game.

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    daveyboy's Avatar
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    Re: Could it ever work

    Dook - was you drinking last night / this morning?

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    localzuk's Avatar
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    Re: Could it ever work

    I think, in time, it will eventually come together.

    At the moment the problems that hold back the flawless integration of IT into teaching are:

    1. Educational software companies don't understand their market and produce very low quality software full of problems (ie. difficult to install, difficult to maintain, tied to old OS's etc...). This isn't restricted to the small companies (in fact, I would go so far as to say that the one man band companies *do* think about the problems more!), but major ones like Capita.
    2. LEA's don't understand the needs of their schools. For example, Capita provide SIMS.net to all schools in Somerset via the LEA. We, as far as I know, don't get consulted on what would be good as new features etc...
    3. Many IT techies/NM's take it upon themselves to have a 'can't do' attitude. They are deliberately obstructive to new ideas simply because they don't want extra work.
    4. On the other hand, many IT techies/NM's have to much of a 'can do' attitude and take on projects they simply don't have the time or skills to handle. This leads to systems being implemented that work 70% of the time, which ends up being worse than not having that system.
    5. SMT in schools don't understand the complexities of deploying something new. An example would be the KS3 ICT computerised test that became optional. Many schools started deploying this without understanding the outrageous requirements it had in terms of server hardware and in terms of time. They seem to simply look at the advantages of a system and go by that instead of looking at disadvantages and whether or not we can actually afford to do it effectively.
    6. Funding. There is a lack of it really. Too many people are having to get along with botch jobs and fixing issues and aren't receiving proper funding to cover proper investment. For example, our ICT budget this year was £1k - this covers maintenance of all equipment in school and also purchasing of stuff for the ICT curriculum. Now, considering we have 30 projectors that were installed 3 years ago, it would be sensible to expect many of them to break... I have spent £700 on lamps already. Another lamp dies and I've had it for the rest of the year. If this had been planned for in advance (ie. when the projectors were bought, depreciation had been taken into account) we would have a big enough budget to cover all these breakages.
    7. Most teachers don't ask techies/nm's if something is possible before doing it and finding it doesn't work. This then leads to the 'the IT in school is rubbish' attitude that many teachers have. An example for me would be the introduction of audio editing software across the network without any testing whatsover due to someone having been booked to come in to do a special lesson with it. Surprise, surprise, it was slow and there were issues on the day.

    You will see that many of those come down to a single core problem; the total lack of communication at the different stages of ICT use/deployment in school.

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