Wednesday, 8 October 2014

What Does an ICT Savvy Student Look Like?

I need to start thinking about where I am going regarding the use of ICT in my classroom and not just about solving the issues in front of me. Within science education I feel that I have moral purpose and understand the place of my subject within the curriculum. But what about the other parts of my job; the pastoral side and (prominent for me at the moment) the ICT side.

As I have said before our school have asked the students to each bring their own iPad to school. There are a few students who haven't, but they usually do have devices of some sort. As predicted by a lot of the articles about BYOD that I have read there is some issues over the level of use of the devices within lesson. I agree that as a parent I would be concerned if my child had a £400 device and was not using it effectively. But what does using it effectively mean?

When the scheme was first announced by the chair of governors at a speech day he spoke about 'skills for life'. Our Saturday lesson programme has been transformed for key stage 3 into PHSE lesson taught by the pastoral staff in the hope it will give them skills and knowledge for life. The iPad 1-2-1 scheme is also supposed to give the students the 'skills for life' in an increasingly technological world.

I actually like this idea better than introducing iPads to improve learning. I read all the time that there is no evidence that ICT will make much different to the learning. For many members of staff incorporating ICT into lessons is going to be a stretch. On top of all the curriculum change embracing new technologies and creating the resources to go with them is going to be a lot to ask.

For me technology is a great way to keep myself organised and I hope that the students will pick this up too.

So what does a tech savvy student look like?

I did some research about the use of ICT in business. The vast majority seem have stories about the transformation of their business by being able to reach customers better. The others seem to say that by designing an app helped communication within the company. That didn't seem to apply to the students.

Instead I wrote the following aims: students live in an increasingly technological world, where businesses, organisations and individuals are using advances in ICT to communicate, collaborate and organise. Students need to be aware of the benefits and risks of this as well ash the practicalities of using technology.

In no particular order, a 'technologically advanced student' will be:

  • using RSS feeds, twitter, social networking apps, instapaper, read later, to collate potentially useful information and resources for later use. They may even do this in collaboration with others
  • accessing alternative forms of media such as podcasts, video and blogs. They will probably do this in short chunks. This may be related to work, but also related to the interests of the students.
  • sharing, communicating and collaborating on work projects over distance and time using electronic devices. This may be communicating with other students, but also will be communicating with teachers.
  • organising time, resources and work using shared calendars, email and folders that sync across several devices and maybe shared with many others.
  • able to manage their workflow
  • aware of their own digital footprint and act according when using social media.
  • able to produce a range of media to be consumed inside and outside school. This maybe in conjunction with school work, charity work, social work or to raise awareness of an issue. This will involve blogging, video, podcasts, documents, images, infographics, websites, GIFs, and presentations. 
  • supporting others in their use of electronic devices.

They may go further and:

  • produce their own app
  • learn how to code
  • investigate computer networking
  • build their own computer
  • use ICT in another enterprising way

I would admit that it isn't necessary for students to be able to do all of these things for their learning, or even their life. But I do think that it is important that students are aware of all the implications and ways that ICT can be used.

The next steps are working out how we get there? Do we use technology for learning? Should we be restrictive and prescriptive about the way that technology is used in lessons? What about outside lessons and in extra curricular activities? Will practice change as a result of technology and what will the behaviour of our students in lessons look like? How will these changes impact on their employability? Is it even possible?

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Nicky Morgan and Workload

In this article it is stated that Nicky Morgan wants teachers to spend more time teaching and less time on paper work.

This statement scares me.

What I want is to spend less time teaching so I can spend more time preparing and marking. I don't do any unnecessary paperwork, I can't remember a time when I did.

I need schemes of work. I need time to prepare the 7 years of new ones that will be coming in within the next three years. I need to time to ensure we are properly risk assessed for each of these - unnecessary paper work?  I need time to set up the new trackers for the new assessment that will come with the new changes. I need time to work on the appraisal of staff that has become more important now that it is linked to pay and all that entails. I need to complete forms about students with statements, I need to give information about students who are applying for access arrangements. I need to give information for UCAS references. I need to fill in written lesson requests. I want to complete a planner and mark book. I want to complete a review of the exam results and I feel I should have a plan of action for the year to work from.

I want to teach less. I enjoy teaching, I enjoy standing in front of my class. I enjoy talking to them about their learning. But I enjoy it more when I am properly prepared. I enjoy it more when I can think and speak because I am not surviving on 5 hours sleep per night. I enjoy it more when I know the tasks I have prepared are meaningful and not just being used because they are all I have. I don't want to have to tailor my lesson to a CGP sheet just because its the only resource I have with the time available. I want to have the time to adapt my resources given what I know about my students' learning from the previous lesson.

Teaching is exhausting. Teaching when you are under prepared is stressful and exhausting.

If Nicky Morgan thinks that the answer is Pearson Co writing schemes of work we can all buy into she couldn't be more wrong. I estimate it will cost £250 per year group per GCSE subject and £300 per year group per A-level subject to buy into the subscriptions for schemes of work. Somewhere in the region of £20,000 per year on schemes of work that aren't actually very useful. Even with online testing it doesn't take away from the fact that the teacher still has to mark work and review what the child has done. Open questioning cannot be marked by a computer. Writing of schemes will still have to be done - especially in science, where we need to have thought about the risk assessment for what we are doing in our own context.

I want is for government to consider how they bring in changes to the curriculum. Does it all need to be thrown up into the air? Can it be changed in small chunks where need is identified? This would mean a couple of lessons could be rewritten and resourced rather than 7 years worth of teaching in the space of three?

But I also want is for government to consider the length of PPA time. How many hours should I teacher be working in a week? How long should it take to plan a lesson, and how long should it take to mark work? Input all of this and workout how many hours per week a teacher should teach for.

Something like, if you teach a class for two hours per week it probably takes a hour to mark their books, and another 40 minutes to plan the lessons. (If you already have a great scheme of work). Add to that 50 minutes per week spent in staff briefing, one hour spent in a staff meeting, 40 minutes per week spent on break time duty and hour doing a club after school, with 30 minutes preparing it, and 25 minutes per day of registration. This means we are looking at 6 hours per week unavailable to teaching. If we are to work 40 hours per week 34 is available to teaching and preparing for teaching. By my calculation 55% if that time should be in front of a class, which is 18.5 hours.

This leaves no room for dealing with any pastoral or staff related issues. No time for referencing, exam entries, carers advice, coaching a fellow teacher, CPD, peer observations, report writing, replying to emails from parents, organising rooms for open evening, parents evenings, concerts and plays, organising a tutor group assembly, organising trips and talks.

Currently teachers will teach around 22 hours per week. If Nicky Morgan was able to reduce this to 18 hours per week I believe it would make a positive impact on teacher workload.

I can't see it happening though. At the moment an 8 form entry Year 7 group would require 200 hours of teaching per week, which would be 9.09 teachers. Teaching 18 hours per week would be 11.1 1 teachers per week. So £40k per year extra just for Year 7. Multiply that up through 7 year groups and it would be 14 extra teachers. We're looking in the region of £300k per school. Any head got that to spare in their budget? Thought not.

Ah well, Nicky Morgan can expect stressed and tired teachers to complain for a while yet.