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"ICT in Education" - 5 new articles

  1. The art of execution
  2. Ideas for the computing curriculum: #4 Fun and pointless? Why not?
  3. Coming soon
  4. Don’t say it with Tweets
  5. The view from here... New Zealand, By Derek Wenmoth
  6. More Recent Articles
  7. Search ICT in Education
  8. Prior Mailing Archive

The art of execution

A big problem which faces all organisations is actually getting things done. So, if you are an ed tech leader, what can you do about it in your school or department? Here are 5 key actions to take.

Intro: planning vs doing

There seems to be a tendency these days to confuse planning to do something with actually doing it. Don't get me wrong: without planning, even of the most rudimentary kind, your efforts are going to be far less fruitful than they could be. As the saying goes: failure to plan is planning to fail.

Now, planning in today's educational environment, at least in Britain, usually comprises a hierarchy of action which sees the corporate vision at the top, followed by a broad strategy setting out aims, followed by more detailed targets which address objectives. The purpose of the targets is to enable the organisation to fulfil its strategic aims.

Another way you could think of this hierarchy is that it is moving from a strategic to an operational mode, in which the latter is concerned with the detail. Unfortunately, in all too many establishments, the strategists do not wish to get their hands dirty with operational matters, and the people charged with actually doing things do not share, or are not aware of, the overarching vision.

Does that matter? Well yes it does, because it means that there is a good chance that the strategic aims will simply not be achieved, because in reality nobody is taking responsibility for making sure that they are.

But at some point you have to actually do something! Photo by Steve Jurvetson https://www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/

Ensuring that things actually get done is known as "execution", and it's your responsibility as a leader to make sure that execution is a mantra throughout your entire team. So how do you go about making that happen? You need to do the following:

Step 1: Know what you want

Have a clear idea of what you want educational ICT to achieve. Call this a vision if you like, but I would say don't get hung up on so-called "mission statements" or meaningless phrases. When I see straplines in advertisements like "striving for excellence" or "Because children matter" (I made those two up, but if you have actually seen them please let me know so I can change them!) I conclude that someone has too much time on their hands and should be doing a proper job instead of generating meaningless trivia like that. So don't try to be clever or witty, just say what you want to achieve as succinctly and comprehensibly as possible.

Step 2: Create a supportive team

Make sure you have a team that supports the vision. You can do that by involving them in thinking about the vision and making sure they have had a hand in framing it, so that it's a shared vision. But if you think that taking the team on an away day, or having a day's in-service training, to brainstorm the vision is going to be enough, you have a shock coming. That is just the beginning. Each member of the team must know how their particular skills contribute to the realisation of the vision. That's quite hard to do. In my experience, technical support people, for example, see their role as keeping things going, without seeing how they contribute to the bigger picture. You need to get everyone -- technicians, classroom assistants, parents -- to understand what the overall vision is and how they can help to realise it.

Step 3: Deliver the goods

There has to be a bottom line, in terms of things getting done. My bottom line is very simple: if you undertake a commitment, you have to deliver. And if you can't deliver because someone else is holding you up, don't give up, but deal with it. This is tied in with the next point.

Step 4: Take responsibility

There needs to be responsibility. I have always taken the view that with regards to the things I know about, I don't know everything, and in respect of the things I don't know about I need to appoint or create someone who does. Having done that, I share the responsibility, which means that I set up a situation in which each person is critically important to the overall success of the team. But -- and this is crucial -- I take the ultimate management responsibility.

Let me try to give you a flavour of what this means

Firstly, when I was a Head of Department in a school, when it came to delivering the scheme of work I asked each member of the team to take responsibility for a unit of work. That meant looking at the objectives for that topic, finding resources, drawing up outline lesson plans and running one or two training sessions for the rest of us so that we could teach the unit and use the resources properly. I did make myself available to hold people's hand, metaphorically, where necessary, such as in the case of newly-qualified teachers, but the unit was theirs, which meant that the responsibility was theirs. That sort of approach is extremely effective in helping people grow in the job and start to think in a leadership way themselves, and therefore to promote the overall vision without needing to become a sort of Stepford wife.

Secondly, when I led a large team of people who were dealing with technical things I didn't understand, but which I had to make decision about, I had a deal with them, in effect, which went like this. You give me advice based on your technical knowledge, and I will take the managerial decision about it. If my decision turns out to be the wrong one, I will carry the can and you will not be held accountable -- unless I discover that you misled me, either deliberately or through incompetence, in which case you will be on the carpet.

Step 5: Know what’s going on – and what isn’t

The art of execution in a nutshell is this: don't think that drawing up plans and lines of responsibility on paper is the same as delivering the goods. You need to know what is actually going on in practice, and to insist on knowing why something that should have happened hasn't.

An earlier version of this article was first published in 2008. I think th content still stands, don’t you?


Do you use an interactive whiteboard? If so, subscribe to Digital Education, the free ezine for people with a professional interest in education technology and related matters, and download a copy of Making the most of your interactive whiteboard.

    


Ideas for the computing curriculum: #4 Fun and pointless? Why not?

ideaIn this series I’m going to be making some suggestions, putting out some ideas. These are based on presentations I’ve given. I can think of how these ideas, or their implications, might be applied in the classroom. However, I think it better if I stand back and let you do that part of the work!

I’m a great believer in what has come to be known as “authentic learning”, that is school work based on real issues. But I still think there’s room for creating things that, ostensibly, have no purpose at all.

A case in point is the pair of alerts I set up in Excel once, using Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). I had created a spreadsheet assignment for the students, and on the spreadsheet I placed the following box:

A message box in VBA...

As you might have predicted, when a student clicked on the box, which of course was irresistible, they received the following alert, accompanied by a recording of my voice telling them to get back to work:

... and the inevitable response!

Pointless, right? Except that it piqued their curiosity:

“How did Sir do that?”

That led to an exploration of IF statements and “pseudocode”, and an exploration of how we might have made it a bit more complex, using IF-THEN-ELSE.

There are a few lessons from this I think:

1. I’m a great believer in the good writer’s adage: show, don’t tell. Don’t say, for example, “He was angry”. Rather, say “He scrunched up the paper till his knuckles were white”. Similarly, set something up for the students to marvel at and explore. If I’d have said “today we’re going to look at IF statements”, I’d have probably been met with a collective groan. Get them interested first, and your work is made so much easier. Obvious, but worth stating nonetheless.

2. We covered IF-THEN and IF-THEN-ELSE statements, and we did so on a need-to-know basis. I didn’t try to teach them anything which might be considered to be prerequisites for learning those concepts. I think people can learn bundles of concepts in a non-linear way, and come back to them at a higher level or in greater depth at a later stage.

3. Just because something is apparently fun and pointless, doesn’t mean it isn’t actually serious and purposeful!


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Coming soon

I’m working on the next edition of Digital Education, and it contains some really great articles. For example, Mel Thompson asks whether philosophy should influence educational policy-making, which may seem a bit outré but, surprisingly enough, there is much that advocates of “computational thinking” would agree with I think.

John Partridge, who wrote about project-based learning for a previous issue of Digital Education (see that link for his article), evaluates how it’s going, now that the new Computing curriculum has been in place in England for nearly a term.

There are articles by Peter Twining and Mike Sharples, academics who are currently undertaking research that is of practical use for teachers, while Darren Bartlett suggests five practical steps you or your technician can take right now to make sure your school computing set-up is secure.

All that plus news, views and some interesting-in-a-quirky-way stuff!

If you’d like to see a sample edition of the newsletter in pdf format, click on the picture of the cover of a previous issue, on the right-hand side of the ICT in Education website. Newsletters are usually in html or text format.

Subscribers get access to a range of freebies, such as a guide to assessment for learning techniques, assessment innovation and making the most of your interactive whiteboard.

That’s all from me for now!


Paperless office?

Your newsletter editor is hard at work sifting through the submissions for Digital Education, the free newsletter for education professionals. Have you subscribed yet?

Read more about it, and subscribe, on the Newsletter page of the ICT in Education website.

We use a double opt-in system, and you won’t get spammed.


    


Don’t say it with Tweets

Now that the Christmas card season is almost upon us, I thought this item from a few months ago might be appropriate. I received a press release back in May (I'm slightly behind with my emails) which states that people prefer receiving handwritten 'thank you' cards rather than a quick tweet or text message. This comes from research carried out by Clinton's the card company, so I imagine that if the research had shown anything else we might not have heard about it! Even so, I think on anecdotal evidence there is probably a lot of truth in this:

I have a cousin who likes to send and receive handwritten 'thank you letters'.

Happy New Year, by woodleywonderworks https://www.flickr.com/photos/wwworks/

Someone once told me that if he received an electronic Christmas card from me he'd delete it, as he thinks people should take the time and trouble to write and send proper cards.


Do you use an interactive whiteboard? If so, subscribe to Digital Education, the free ezine for people with a professional interest in education technology and related matters, and download a copy of Making the most of your interactive whiteboard.


Here's what the press release said:

"Research for Clintons finds that a handwritten thank you letter or card has six times the impact of a thank you tweet. In the study, commissioned by card makers Clintons, researchers found that, while 160 billion instant messages were sent last year, it's the hand written gestures that make people feel happy.

In an Omnibus poll of 2017 adults, 79% of respondents said they liked receiving a handwritten, hand selected card or letter through the post, compared to 13% who said that they liked receiving a Tweet. In another study, Clintons found that the average UK adult writes between 25 and 50 words by hand per week – fewer than ten a day.

Surprisingly, antipathy to digital greetings reaches into the first fully digital generation.  Only 7% of 18-24 year olds said they were happy to receive a thank-you via text."

I think the statistics relating to 18-24 year-olds is interesting. Now, even if you wish to take this research with a grain of salt, it might be worthwhile to find out what your students think. I have to say I myself am always impressed when I receive a handwritten note rather than a text message or email. Do your students think that an electronic 'thank you' is so effortless that it amounts to not being a real 'thank you' at all?


This article first appeared in Digital Education, the free newsletter for those with a professional interest in educational ICT and Computing. One of the benefits of subscribing – apart from access to unique content – is articles in a timely manner. For example, this article was published in the September 2014 edition.To sign up, please complete the short form on our newsletter page. We use a double opt-in system, and you won’t get spammed.

    

The view from here... New Zealand, By Derek Wenmoth

Derek Wemoth, the Director of CORE Education in New Zealand, tells us what's going on in his part of the world.

As the school year has not long started in the Northern Hemisphere, we’re looking ahead to the final term here in New Zealand, with summer on the horizon, along with exams and the usual end of year events.

As we view the year from this perspective, there are a number of things that feature on the landscape in terms of the role that digital technologies are playing in our lives and in our schools.

Digital literacy

A recent report released by the NZ government titled Future-focused learning in connected communities, suggests ten priorities to help inform government planning around 21st century skills and digital competencies. The focus of this report is on transforming teaching and learning, enabled by technologies that are now widespread in our society. (http://www.minedu.govt.nz/theMinistry/EducationInitiatives/UFBInSchools/FutureFocusedLearning.aspx)

The concept of digital literacy is a key part of this report, placing an emphasis on preparing all learners with the knowledge, skills and digital competencies to actively participate in New Zealand’s rapidly changing 21st century economy and society. The report writers argue that to be successful in 21st century society, citizens must be able to operate effectively in an environment shaped by digital technologies, such as the increasingly pervasive use of the internet and social media.

The report goes on to recommend that the NZ Ministry of Education:

  • Recognise digital competencies as essential foundation skills for success in 21st century society.
  • Support digital competencies with cross-curriculum resources, a responsive assessment framework, professional development and a programme of evaluation.

Exams

The examination season will soon be upon us here in the Antipodes, and while it’s unlikely to happen this year, the prospect of the national senior secondary school exams moving fully online appears to be getting closer. The national qualifications authority (NQA) has announced its intention to explore a variety of online assessment forms and introduce them into the NZ landscape within the next few years. (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11138311)

Digital devices

Asking students to complete exams online will only be possible, of course, if they have access to a digital device that allows them to do that. Internationally there is a growing emphasis on providing learners with digital devices, under the guise of BYOD or 1-1 programmes, they amount to the same thing – ‘how can we give every child access to a device that they can use to connect to their learning?’. New Zealand is no different, and in the build-up to our general election, the main political parties have all included some reference to this sort of strategy in their manifestos.

Ensuring all learners have access to suitable digital technologies, regardless of location, background, abilities or socio-economic status is one of the recommendations made in the Future Focused Learning report mentioned above. It will be interesting to see if this recommendation is acted on after the election.

Network For Learning

Access to devices is only a part of the picture, however. These devices need to be connected to the internet - the faster the connection the better! Like many countries, New Zealand is investing heavily in layout down a high speed (fibre) network throughout the country through its Ultra Fast Broadband (UFB) http://ufb.org.nz/ and Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) http://www.chorus.co.nz/rural-broadband-initiative programmes, due to be completed by the end of 2016.

As the network is rolled out, the Ministry of Education is working with a Crown-owned company called The Network for Learning Limited (N4L) http://www.n4l.co.nz/ to develop and operate a managed network for schools and to provide a range of education content and services to ensure that all students can benefit from the opportunities provided by digital technologies.

The N4L Managed network will enable schools to access the internet over faster and more reliable connections than the ones most schools are using now.

A key element of this network is the N4L Portal named Pond (https://www.pond.co.nz/) which is designed to act as a central hub for digital discovery and participation, where educational resources can be accessed and shared more easily and effectively.

eLearning Planning Framework

Computers have been used regularly in schools and classrooms in New Zealand for four decades now, and in that time there have been lots of exciting things trialed and learned about how the use of digital technologies can enhance learning. With the increased investment in digital technologies has come an increased interest to know that they are being used productively and are contributing to making learning happen.

This thinking has led to the NZ Ministry of Education to commission the development of a framework to provide schools and teachers with a self-review tool to gather evidence about practice and a "road map" for building e-learning capability. Called the e-Learning Planning Framework (ELPF) http://elearning.tki.org.nz/Professional-learning/e-Learning-Planning-Framework it is available to NZ schools as an online tool or in hard copy. This evaluative tool is now being used extensively by New Zealand schools and teachers to help them work towards their goal of fully integrating digital technologies and eLearning practices into their programmes.

About Derek Wenmoth

Derek WenmothDerek Wenmoth is the director of CORE Education, a not for profit educational services organization in New Zealand. Derek is regarded as one of NZ education’s foremost Future Focused thinkers, and is regularly asked to consult with policy makers and government agencies regarding the future directions of NZ educational policy and practice. He was on the reference group that developed the Future Focused Learning report mentioned in this article, and a part of the team that developed the eLearning Planning Framework (ELPF).

In recognition of his work in this area, Derek was designated one of 2008’s “Global Six” by the George Lucas Educational Foundation which recognizes individuals making a difference in education. http://www.edutopia.org/daring-dozen-map-2008

Contact details:

Email: derek.wenmoth@core-ed.org

Web: www.core-ed.org

Blog: http://blog.core-ed.org/derek


This article first appeared in Digital Education, the free newsletter for those with a professional interest in educational ICT and Computing. One of the benefits of subscribing – apart from access to unique content – is articles in a timely manner. For example, this article was published in the October 2014 edition. To sign up, please complete the short form on our newsletter page. We use a double opt-in system, and you won’t get spammed.


Do you use an interactive whiteboard? If so, subscribe to Digital Education, the free ezine for people with a professional interest in education technology and related matters, and download a copy of Making the most of your interactive whiteboard.

    


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