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General Chat Thread, Do you add value to the learning experience? in General; Does what we do as network managers/ ICT techs increase the students learning or are we just keeping things ticking ...
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    Do you add value to the learning experience?

    Does what we do as network managers/ICT techs increase the students learning or are we just keeping things ticking over?

    From the training that is given to IT specialist, it's all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking your runnging the IT for a branch office of a goverment department. One might become concerned about the security and reliablity of computer equipment and data to the detriment of every thing else.

    Part of tthe problem is that all the measurables tend to focus on administrative tasks whether the MIS is running and is secure and whether teachers can do form filling, lesson planning etc. These tend to have more legal ramifications then whether or not little Jimmy knows how to setup Lime Ware to download video clips (whose content of course will all be educationally relevant )

    But then again that's how are jobs are defined. We look after we what we are given and the same teaching staff that seem to need help with doing the most mundane stuff in Word and Excel, are put in charge of selecting the most apporatiate ICT resources. The IT Techs do not concern ourselves with educational effectiveness and teachers don't think about security and deployment practicability.

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    Re: Do you add value

    The idea for this topic came from blog posts on a similar theme by GrumbleDuke and mberry. Miles Berry is a head teacher and former IT manager. In his blog he is concerned that EduGeeks might be too focused on the securing technology and not what the students can get from it.

    He raises the counter example of Higher Education where staff and student are given greater scope to surf the web and connect their own equipment to the organisiational network. What this fails to acknowlege is that uni students are over 18. They have complete responsilbity of learning. There's no one from the admin office who ensures they attend classes. As for dress code ... yeah well, you see what I'm getting at.
    University lecturers are pretty much 'just instructors'. School staff are in a large part in loco parentis

    Bill Fitzgerald replying to Mile's blog said that
    you can't teach responsibility if you can only choose to do the right thing
    Very pithy and in fact our very own RoyG raises a similar point in another thread before being shouted down by a chorus of angry NMs.

    But Roy is no fool. He had a backup plan, basically using disk scrubbing hardware that works like DeepFreeze or Fortres Grande.

    Tell you what Miles I'll make you a deal. I'll divert the money normally spent on enforcement technology (e.g. NetOp etc, Securus, CensorNet, A B Tutor etc) to educational purposes if teaching colleagues actually take responsibilty for what goes on in their classes

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    mark's Avatar
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    Re: Do you add value to the learning experience?

    This is a really big question at the moment.

    I wholeheartedly agree with us IT techs in schools having a learning focus. I think it's healthy for us to constantly be reminded of it.

    The idea [quoted by Wombat] put forward by Bill Fitzgerald on Miles' blog is a common one that I come across a lot from teachers:-

    you can't teach responsibility if you can only choose to do the right thing
    How far that goes, according to Bill, is quite far. To paraphrase:- 'kids should have the ability to destroy the locally installed O/S and software'. In his experience, he has had more work maintaining locked down systems than with this scenario. [i'd like to know how!]

    As Wombat says, we've been over this with our resident punchbag RoyG

    I think we really do want to give our users the best opportunity we can to learn, that's our primary focus in setting up our systems in the way that we do.

    Like it's often said though, this needs to come from the top, and be carried out by the whole team.

    What do I do in my situation?: a new IT teacher can't control a class: make them not play games in his lesson. This has a detrimental effect on the whole class.

    The kids choose to do the wrong thing. What happens then?

    My solution is to lock them down so they don't have the choice to do the wrong thing. Maybe they just then do something else unconstuctive: chat, throw stuff, break stuff etc..

    My managements' response has always been that the teacher should be in control. But the reality is that they're not. At least that's my reality!

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    Re: Do you add value to the learning experience?

    In situations like this I make myself very unpopular ... people know my feelings on trying move away from the stereotypical roles that techies have always done in schools ... and part of this is in combat to the centralisation of services that is being pushed from BSF and RBCs.

    I am sorry to say that I get dirty with this fight sometimes (and believe me ... it can be a fight).

    I will let you into a little secret of mine. If I ever come acros a teacher that is not interested in listening to me, my suggestions or following my rules I hit them where it hurts.

    I question their teaching. I question that the students are learning in their lessons and whether they are following whole school policies on lesson objectives. I put them in the situation where they have to justify what they are doing ... to another teacher (usually their line manager).

    But this is not a quick process ...

    When I started in this school (as NM) I had to find out which HoDs were interested in doing things slightly differently ... blogs, podcasts, IWBs (used properly) and I tried to make sure they had the best kit ... I treated them nice and they treated me well in return.

    I had experience of this from my previous school and was able to get a number of things settled within 6 months ... and I was amazed at the speed of that.

    I have honestly put down a 5 year period of making some major changes to how IT impacts on learning and I have had to accept that some of those will not happen because they will cause other problems.

    I know things will break ... so we put in RIS, decent(ish) AV, really good anti-spyware and have a few spare machines just in case.

    One person I talked to about student responsibility and independant learning actually told me not to worry about the students being independant learners ... start with the staff ... if they can't do it the students never will.

    The teacher must feel that they are as capable of the student, but getting the school to accept that the move to independant learning relies on teachers need to adapt and become facilitators as well as mentors / coaches / instructors is hard. Then showing that students have responsibility for themselves they need to understand consequences ... and this builds into Citizenship amongst other things. And let us not forget parental roles in this ...

    The IT impact on the move to responsible learning is a considerable on but it is not the only one and without whole school thinking on this you get people aiming for the same thing working in opposite directions.

    I have to admit that 3 years ago I did not think like this ... even 18 months ago (when I got the promotion) I didn't have this clear a view ...

    And I have to re-evaluate my thoughts every time a conversation like this comes up. Hopefully the research I will be doing over the next 3 years can actually pin down some real world examples of the changes I am pushing for and to see how they compare against work done by people striving for the same goals, but through different methods or from different positions in the school.

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    Re: Do you add value to the learning experience?

    This could be a long reply …..

    First, staffing levels – if techies are swamped with keeping things going, there’s no way they can even start to contemplate the bigger picture.

    I’ve always viewed the computers / laptops in a school as tools, expensive as they are, they are only a tool – there to get a job done. Whether it be typing an essay, taking a register, sharing an idea or finding information. Look at industry, a computer is a tool to get the job done, they aren’t there for the employees’ pleasure or to satisfy their curiosity as to how it works. For me it’s not about right and wrong choices, it’s about preparing students for the real world.

    Computers need to work and the staff need to know that they will work in a manner they expect them to. This I see as the primary role of tech support. If it doesn’t work as expected, forget everything else, it won’t get used.

    Additionally we have an obligation to ensure nothing illegal is happening – copied software, hacking, viruses spreading, etc. Leaving a system open to these possibilities is asking for trouble.

    Once a system is in place that ensures this is happening then it’s possible to look at ways the tools can be used to enhance the teaching and learning.

    How staff expect the system to work varies from person to person, school to school. It’s down to all parties to discuss this, SMT, Teachers, non-teachers, techies. Discussions on changes, upgrades, policy decisions need to be understood at all levels. All parties views need to be taken into consideration.

    A major issue is staff competence using the tools provided. A key way to enhance the teaching is to help staff develop the knowledge needed to use the tools provided. Once they have the knowledge, they know better than techies on how they can use the tools to enhance the teaching and learning.

    From this you would hope staff would share their ideas and experiences with each other and techies. From this, good practice can arise and new technologies can be trialled.

    Another way we have tried to enhance teaching is provide some multimedia specialist skills, such as video editing / recording, graphics, presentation and poster design. This gives direct benefits of staff having more options available for teaching and can have a direct effect on enhancing the teaching.

    But as with most things techies do, it’s the indirect – taking on tasks the staff don’t have the time or skills to undertake themselves and wouldn’t be an appropriate use of their time to learn the skills needed. By undertaking these tasks we free up the staffs time, letting them focus more on the students. You would expect the more time a teacher has to teach, prepare lessons, mentor, mark, etc. the more time they can focus on enhancing teaching and learning.

    So, I don’t think we can alone enhance the teaching and learning but by providing tools that are going to work, by passing on the knowledge of how they can be used and freeing up teacher time we can play a part in the process.

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    Re: Do you add value

    My goodness.
    Quote Originally Posted by ITWombat
    He raises the counter example of Higher Education where staff and student are given greater scope to surf the web and connect their own equipment to the organisiational network. What this fails to acknowlege is that uni students are over 18. They have complete responsilbity of learning.
    I know, and indeed acknowledge in my original post, that there's a greater duty of care for us in schools than for folks in HE, however I think there remains much that we can learn from how they do things there, where a culture of innovation flourishes, I suspect in part because a greater degree of trust is placed in staff and students. I'd like to do more, and see more being done, to encourage greater pupil responsibility for learning, and independent learning, at school level, but perhaps I'm being naive.
    Quote Originally Posted by ITWombat
    School staff are in a large part in loco parentis
    in loco parentis is one thing, in loco custos quite another. Parents actually, for one reason or another, are far more relaxed about filtering content and locking down there son's and daughter's computers than we are...
    Quote Originally Posted by ITWombat
    Tell you what Miles I'll make you a deal. I'll divert the money normally spent on enforcement technology (e.g. NetOp etc, Securus, CensorNet, A B Tutor etc) to educational purposes if teaching colleagues actually take responsibilty for what goes on in their classes
    Thanks for the offer Again, I'm probably being naive, but aren't teachers supposed to take responsibility here? And shouldn't the pupils be taking responsibility too?

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    Re: Do you add value to the learning experience?

    From a practical point of view;

    There are plenty of ways you could give pupils greater control over PCs and still keep them reliable (eg Deep Freeze, Net Runna, Shared Computer Toolkit or even Virtual PC). As long as the PC get rebooted before the next lesson then it should be back to the same state.

    As far as Internet is concerned, as long as you have a decent firewall/proxy solution then it should be possible to limit access where necessary and broaden it when required.

    Responsibility;
    The nature and complexity of IT systems surely make it difficult for staff to take full responsibility for them (why do we have tech staff if not to support pupils/staff). In many cases in primary schools (and possibly many more in secondarys), the pupils know more about the systems than the teachers.

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    Re: Do you add value to the learning experience?

    Whatever we all think about our contribution to learning at the moment, it is difficult to see how this can continue under BSF.

    At the moment, our schools have the ability to choose how we (ICT support staff) spend our time. In some schools this means the ICT support staff can help in classrooms and make a real contribution to teaching & learning.

    Under the BSF regime, schools will no longer directly employ ICT support staff, these will be employed by the ICT service provider. Whether this is part of your LA or a private company, it is difficult to see how anyone directly employed by the ICT service provider will be able to spend time actively supporting teaching & learning, especially if you are reduced to staffing a helpdesk, or suddenly find you are responsible for 5-6 schools.

    There is evidence to suggest schools will have to pay more for the managed service than they currently do for their 'in-house' service. At a school I am involved with the bursar reckons the managed service could cost the school £40k-£50k extra per year, with fewer people on site to support the day to day operations. No additional funding for this extra cost has been promised by Government.

    If you want to be involved in the teaching & learning, start looking for a job as a classroom assistant or teacher.

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    Re: Do you add value to the learning experience?

    There is evidence to suggest schools will have to pay more for the managed service than they currently do for their 'in-house' service. At a school I am involved with the bursar reckons the managed service could cost the school £40k-£50k extra per year, with fewer people on site to support the day to day operations. No additional funding for this extra cost has been promised by Government.
    I've seen the SLA for a school being done near me. There will be no more helping out with staff who need their hands holding, no more video editing. In short, there will be a large drop in service and in increase in costs. Any work that needs doing that is not in the SLA will cost extra to the school.
    It sounds harsh, but some of the schools being caught up in BSF had brought this on themselves. Poor IT management and a lack of funding had left schools with Win 95 on the desktops still and some very (very) dodgy 'bodge' jobs holding the networks together. When the BSF assessors cam round they saw no chioce but to go down this route. If the schools all had decent setups and investment then the outcome may have been different.
    I will however be interesed to see just what the schools think of their new service after a year or so though. perhaps it will actually encourage staff to learn how to use their softwrae and systems instead of relying on others to do it for them. Perhaps not though. Mind you, any gap in their knowlege will cost the school for the extra support that will be required.

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    Re: Do you add value to the learning experience?

    I don't want to get involved in teaching kids in a classroom that is what the teacher gets well paid for. I am a professional in my own right and have been taken on to do a specific job of keeping the school IT running smoothly, This is a very complex task which has many strings (forgive the pun), I have the whole school issue of IT plus anything else that plugs into a socket to contend with and do not have any time to spend showing kids how to build a database etc because the teacher of that subject has not got the knowledge or even intends to obtain the knowledge because they feel that is what you are there for.

    If the teachers were to take on board the learning of applications like they should, if they are to be regarded as teachers of that subject, then all well and good they would not need us in the classroom other than for technical help. Which is what we get paid a measly salary for, being technical, not teaching the teachers how to use an application because they are too lazy to learn or regard it as an admin job.

    If the network system and peripheral equipement is all up and running smoothly then this should be regarded as a bloody good job well done!!! which is what the teachers keep telling themselves when the targets for the GCSEs have been met but do they even whisper a thanks to the support staff in grattitude for the hours and hours of unpaid time they have put in, NO! they pat each other on the back and give themselves a pay rise.

    I am sorry to sound so negative but it really annoys me when headteachers cannot see beyond the end of their noses except to spout liberalistic ideals which went out in the sixties, they tend go with the middle class trends of doing good (or so they think) which then turns out to be a half hearted lets be friends with the kids type of framework which never works. For example mainstreaming children with learning difficulties into secondary schools, all this does is alienate the children who are then bullied so that they grow up unhappy and then turn into bulklies themselves later on in life.

    All this is done in the name of middle class do gooders trying to save the government money. For gods sake can we not have any fresh ideas which doesn't involve politics. If mberry wants to give the kids more freedom maybe he should ask the kids what they want directly and i bet the answer to that question would be "no more school it's boring" we want to play.

    Anyway i have ranted on long enough but feel better for it.

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    Re: Do you add value to the learning experience?

    All this is done in the name of middle class do gooders trying to save the government money. For gods sake can we not have any fresh ideas which doesn't involve politics. If mberry wants to give the kids more freedom maybe he should ask the kids what they want directly and i bet the answer to that question would be "no more school it's boring" we want to play.
    I thoink you mean 'liberal middle class'. I am middle class (I must be, I drive a Volvo) but after 13 years in the army I am pretty sure I am not liberal in any sence of the word. Still, I am often amazed when policies are introduced that even an amazonian indian can see will lead to tears and problems in a very short time indeed.

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    Re: Do you add value to the learning experience?

    Teachers and classroom assistants are there to teach and assist teachers in the classroom; not technical support personnel. If the network and IT system as a whole isn't kept running smoothly, then admin can't do their jobs effectively, teachers can't access their digital resources, and staff can't book their holidays online in their PPA/non-contact time and all hell will break loose!

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    Re: Do you add value to the learning experience?

    @Bossman
    Easy there mate. You can have a genuine disagreement without being gratuitously offensive.

    What Miles is aiming for is what we should all be aiming for. There's just a lot of steps in between.

    But at the end of the day remember we're doing this for the kids. If we really can't stand our working environment then we can go elsewhere.

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    Re: Do you add value to the learning experience?

    I would love to think that I could add value to the learning experience. Certainly, when I'm in a room and a class is going on, I'm happy to help out with the little things that teachers often miss. For example I'd say that it's more useful knowing the ALT-TAB command to flick between screens* than it is to know whether a touch screen monitor is an input/output device, or both.

    However... I am loathe to get involved because as a techie my job description does not cover that. On top of that, I'm also finding that more and more of my time is being spent tidying up after the little s*ds as they seem set to destroy their own teaching and learning environments by making my job harder.

    I will only add value to the teaching and learning experience when the teachers learn to add value to the support function. In this instance, value to me is for the teachers to learn to control a class and respond to IT Support so that when we say "please stop your little darlings from ripping the faceplates off the walls" - they heed our requests and do it.

    So, for me, it'll be a two-way thing - I'll give value if I think teachers are prepared to give value back to me, and at the moment the thing I value the most is my time, energy and money (budgetwise). Until that's valued and appreciated by others, I can't spend the time increasing the learning experience for the students. Simple.


    *Hmm, but usually seen in practice when the pupils are playing games....

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    Netman's Avatar
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    Re: Do you add value to the learning experience?

    Quote Originally Posted by NetworkGeezer

    But at the end of the day remember we're doing this for the kids. If we really can't stand our working environment then we can go elsewhere.
    Exactamundo Fonzie...
    Everyone working in a school should recognise that the bottom line is educating children. Not just academically but also in life skills. So what if one person looks after ICT and another paints walls and another teaches chemistry? We all do our part and it's all for the good of the organisation. A large part of that is teaching kids personal responsibility so Miles does have a good point - that's why, wherever possible I 'monitor' rather than 'block'. However, IMHO as an NM or tech, you must know what is going on at any given time on your network because you have a duty of care and a responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of the children... and if you don't know or can't find out what's going on then you do probably need to lock things down....

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