Back in December the West Wilts Federation invited each of its schools to bid for money to spend on new technologies. You can read some of the background to this project here and there are descriptions of what each school bid for, and how it worked, on the Wiki here.
Yesterday we attended a conference at Melksham Oak school where everybody shared the successes, learning points and next steps of their individual projects. It was a fantastic session, throughout which I tweeted heavily. There are some really amazing things going on out there and I’m excited to see how it’s going to move forward.
For me, there were three clear messages that came out of what everybody said.
Some of the stuff people have done is really cutting edge and exciting, like the 1:1 iPad use at Lavington (I learn from Mark Anderson, currently doing his own exciting iPad project, that there is a dearth of schools doing this). BUT! They’re not TELLING anybody!
Granted, not everybody is as verbose as me and can’t be expected to blog their every move, but better updating of the project Wiki, and more publicising on the school websites, would make this work accessible to a lot of other educators.
I think people don’t share, partly due to time, and partly due to thinking other people might not be interested. However, if we don’t start sharing better, there’s going to be a lot of wheel reinvention coming up.
Much was made of staff needing training with these devices. One school produced a digest for staff of ideas and successes to get the word out. Another ran half hour sessions after school to “show and tell” ideas about what could be done.
I think staff need to be made to feel confident using the devices. A lot of the time, the kids will be able to teach you something you didn’t know; but teachers can be reticent in asking pupils for help, in my experience. That’s one hurdle.
A point was also made about increased cynicism amongst staff following misuse of the devices by students in the classroom, leading to a decline in willingness to try them again. I feel this is Mr Darcy syndrome – “Their good opinion, once lost, is lost forever”. Instead of backing off entirely, though, we need to repeat the experiment until the pupils can get it right. Part of new technologies in the classroom for me is about training the pupils to use it appropriately.
Six of the eight schools explained that their existing wireless networks had not been up to the task of supporting the new technologies. This made me wonder whether the project should have started first by addressing the infrastructure of the schools involved and making sure it could support the devices chosen. There’s no doubt these devices could really fly with better connectivity.
On the other hand, though, using the devices without Wifi has, I think, made people a bit more creative. People have found ways to use their new techs without having them connected to the Internet. We bought Mifis along with our kit which allows us to connect outside of school, which we might not have tried if we’d had wifi in school.
So, there are pluses and minuses for this one.
Overall, the project has been really exciting so far. I feel extremely fortunate to have been a part of it and look forward to developing some new bits and pieces in the future. I think my favourite thing (it’s very hard to pick just one) was the use of iPads to collect questionnaire responses on a field trip; these were then collated and graphed before the pupils even arrived back, and ready for analysis in the next lesson. That’s a couple of dull number-crunching lessons saved immediately, and pupils straight on the meaningful work. Love this!