Tag: Academy (page 1 of 2)

On private schools becoming academies.

The King’s School isn’t too far away from where I live. It’s about to merge with a local primary school to turn from being a £9,990/year private school into an Academy.

I have mixed feelings about this, for a number of reasons. But first, a couple of (massive) disclaimers:

  • I attended a session for ‘potential Oxbridge candidates’ at The King’s School when I was 17 years old and felt very out of place
  • I used to be a senior leader in an Academy and didn’t have the happiest of times whilst I was there

If you’ve read what I’ve written for any length of time, you’ll know that I’m against private schools. So a school moving from independently-funded to state-funded status, should be a win – right?

I’m not so sure.

First of all, the Academy system as it now stands is problematic. It strikes me that the current government have taken the previous administration’s programme and turned it into a trojan horse to remove the power of Local Authorities, to eventually disapply the entire school population from the National Curriculum, and to create a pseudo-market in state-funded education.

Second, as one parent mentions in the Guardian article it’s not a good thing if a private school merging with a state school is being done “to prop up a school that’s failing to recruit enough students”. Could it be that, like banks, private schools could see government funding as a ‘bailout’?

Finally, and this is something that many people have reminded me of in my attacks upon private education, nothing happens in a vacuum. Compared to the local area, Tynemouth is already an extremely expensive area in which to live. My family certainly couldn’t afford to live there. Chances are that selection-by-fee-paying will be replaced by selection-by-house-price.

So we have a fudge. A pseudo-market in a pseudo-state system with pseudo-traditional examinations.

Perhaps it’s time to move to Scotland.

Image CC BY-NC Paul Thirkell

You need us more than we need you.

I’ve exhorted readers of this blog more than once to subscribe to Dan Meyer’s blog. It’s ostensibly about the teaching of mathematics, but the tangents are just fantastic.

Read the following, taken from a panel session Dan took part in (he’s now a PhD student):

I’m a grad student in my second year and I’ve never shared this with anybody here, least of all my adviser, who’s in attendance, but I don’t understand the incentive structure for what you do and what I may do someday. You write amazing things and you study amazing things and you write them compellingly in journals that are not read by practitioners very often. They affect a lot of policy, which I think is a really good, top-down approach. But then I’m over here and I can post something that’s seen by 10,000 people overnight. That’s the number of subscribers I have to my blog right now. Or any number of these things. So the incentive seems strange to me. Like I don’t understand this brass ring I’m chasing. It seems like a strange prize at the end of a finish line of grad school. So there’s the question and then there’s also the encouragement. You have so many soapboxes available to you. Find a kid like me and ask him how to do a webcast or something. You have so many — and to restrict yourself to peer review, I don’t know. There’s very little upside to me, it seems.

I feel this, and so do many others my age and with similar higher level qualifications.

So what are you (the academy) going to do about it?

‘So… what do you do?’ (v2)

Pigeon-holes. Not those, of course, of the physical variety in which you might keep racing birds, but those of the mind. That, and people’s seemingly-innate desire to find areas of common ground in any given situation. Combined, they’re a potent, but potentially destructive force in society.

“So… what do you do?” is a question I try not to ask. It’s only one step removed from, “What do you do for a living?”, asked explicitly to answer the implicit question “Are you of any value or interest to me?”. I have a three step strategy to answer such questions:

Questioner: So… what do you do?

Me: I work at Northumbria University

That satisfies 80% of queries. Sometimes that’s followed up by:

Questioner: Oh really, what do you do there?

Me: I work for an organization called JISC that’s based at Northumbria and deals with educational technology.

This deals with a further 15%. Only about one out of every twenty people ask for the full details:

Questioner: What type of things do you do?

Me: I work for a part of JISC called JISC infoNet. We’re funded indirectly by the taxpayer and provide guidance on digital technologies mainly to senior managers. We produce ‘infoKits’ which are detailed online briefings to get the further and higher education sectors up-to-speed on relevant topics. I’m currently working on  some giving guidance about Open Educational Resources and mobile technologies. JISC saves the taxpayer more than thirty times what they cost to fund.

If all three questions have been asked, this usually leads to a longer conversation where we both get to talk about what we enjoy and find interesting in life. I am, of course, slightly more loquacious than the above, but you get the idea. :-p

Apart from my absolutely most-hated phrase which I will no doubt write about soon – a phrase banned in our house since the birth of our son – apart from that particular phrase, the one I revile most is the one which asks what you do for a living?. Every action and utterance has a symbolic element. In this case, the questioner not only assumes, but serves to endorse and reinforce, societal notions that what a person does to earn money is necessarily the defining feature of their life.

I’m currently reading a book about Greg Mortenson called Three Cups of Tea. Whilst I’ve only devoured the first six chapters, Mortenson has already attempted to scale K2, been kept alive by the hospitality of a tiny, remote, and very poor village, worked as a emergency-room nurse, slept in a car to make ends meet, and returned to Pakistan to build a school after raising money through the writing of 580 letters. How would he have answered, “So… what do you do?” at this point of his life, I wonder? I’m guessing he would barely mention what happens to pay the bills.

I do enjoy working at JISC infoNet – how could I fail to? It’s a flexible occupation where I’m surrounded by great people doing work that the sector respects and deems worthwhile. I didn’t enjoy my previous job, however. I was constrained and cajoled into doing things against my better judgement. Refusing to sell out, I changed jobs (and educational sectors) and took a pay cut, despite having moved my family to a different part of the country specifically for the previous position. I write this not to self-aggrandise, but to make a point:

Your mission in life is bigger than your job.

So what’s my mission? I’ll find the specifics later but I’ve got the broad brushstrokes: improving user outcomes. Let’s just check that back against what I wrote 14 months ago, shall we? Does what I said then still hold water?

So what do I do?

  • I blend digital and physical worlds.
  • I tell stories about how learning can be.
  • I show people stuff.
  • I research.
  • I find the best of the best.

My job’s what I make it. I can live with that.

Is that still true? Absolutely. 😀

E-Learning Strategy Overview (a.k.a. my 3-year plan)

I’ve already blogged about why I want to make myself redundant as Director of E-Learning after 3 years. At the end of this month – next week, in fact – I’m due to hand in my E-Learning strategy. I wanted my strategy overview to fit on one side of A4. Unfortunately, it’s run to two sides, but at least it’s still fairly short and to the point! 😀

It’s available ‘live’ (with any subsequent changes) here (via Google Docs), or below as a static PDF:

Creative Commons License

I’d very much welcome any comments or thoughts you may have on the above! 🙂

My Google Apps Education Edition ‘nano presentation’ at TeachMeetSLF09

NCEA Google Apps nano-presentation from NCEA on Vimeo.

There’s ways and means of getting to places you want to go. In the case of conferences and meetings a good ploy is usually to volunteer to do a presentation. In the past – with the BETT Show, for example – to get there I’ve either been asked to, or volunteered to speak. That’s allowed me to get there for the real reason I wanted to go. With the BETT Show it’s to attend TeachMeetBETT. 🙂

Today, however, is a bit different; I’m off to the Scottish Learning Festival for the first time. In a (slightly ironic) turn of events I’m being allowed to go by the Academy without having to speak, yet to secure my place at TeachMeetSLF this evening, I’m having to do a (very short) presentation!

The video above is a quick 2-minute overview of how we at The Northumberland Church of England Academy (at which I’m Director of E-Learning) have started to use Google Apps Education Edition. I’m hoping to inspire others to use it as I honestly believe that it can enhance communications – and therefore teaching and learning – within an educational organization. 😀

A video introduction to using Google Calendar for timetables and meetings

I pushed out a new video to all staff at the Academy today. It’s 6 minutes long and demonstrates how to use Google Calendar in conjunction with Google Docs for lesson timetables and meetings. Although there’s unfortunately no RSS feed for it, you can catch these kinds of videos and general E-Learning stuff I produce over at NCEA E-Learning Updates.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFs4ntTk7mU&color1=0xb1b1b1&color2=0xcfcfcf&feature=player_embedded&fs=1]

This can be seen as an update to the following posts I wrote a few years ago:

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Why I’m trying to make myself redundant.

cc-by-nc-sa Kaptain Kobold @ Flickr

(cc-by-nc-sa Kaptain Kobold @ Flickr)

A week tomorrow The Northumberland Church of England Academy opens its doors to students for the first time. As you’re probably aware by now, my role there is Director of E-Learning. I want to be in a position within three years whereby I’ve made myself redundant.

I’ve had the same conversation with a number of people. It usually centres around two basic questions:

  • What will you be doing as Director of E-Learning?
  • What’s the next step after this position?

The answer to the first should be easy, but it’s not. Whilst I’ve got a job description, things aren’t always as cut-and-dried as they appear on paper – as I’ve found out already! It’s also been written by someone who’s not an expert in the field, and therefore should be seen as a starting point to an evolving role. In the main, however, my priorities remain those I set out in my interview presentation:

  1. Attendance – providing for  ‘anytime, anywhere’ learning.
  2. Behaviour – ensuring accurate and up-to-date information flows freely between relevant parties to enable Academy spaces to be conducive to learning.
  3. Communication – allowing for every member of the Academy to be (potentially) accessible both synchronously and asynchronously at any time.
  4. Design – promoting best practices, workflows and – of course – Open Source Software.
  5. Engagement – making staff aware of the latest and greatest, as well as how older technologies can be fused with new ones in a pedagogically-sound way.

If I do my job properly, I should be akin to a Sherpa, guiding and leading the way for Academy staff and students. Communication is my main priority in the first instance, with Google Apps Education Edition and our Frog Learning Platform being the focus. Once these are being used adequately, the second stage is to promote best practices. In this respect, it’s all about the heuristics – something I’ve blogged about before.

The final stage is to ensure technologies are being used to engage students. You’d think I’d start there, wouldn’t you? But I reckon by getting staff enthusiastic about the tools I’m helping provide, this will rub off on the students and lead to engagement in any case. I’m of the opinion that we’re talking less than 5% of staff who will really need their hands holding. Peer learning and time-saving elements become valuable when you’ve got 400 members of staff to get around…

So in the meeting I’ve got next Wednesday where I’m to outline my vision for E-Learning at the Academy to the Teaching & Learning group, the above is pretty much what I’m going to say. I want to be redundant within three years. I want a culture of experimentation, collaboration and blending to take such hold that they don’t need a ‘Director of E-Learning’ any more. I see the role as being akin to that of the DVD recorder: it was a necessary step between VHS recorders and hard-disk based PVRs (like Sky+) but that’s all. I’d like to see aspects of the Director of E-Learning role to merge with those of the Director of Teaching & Learning and Director of Operations.

We come back, then, to the second question I’ve been asked several times – what will I do after this position? What will happen if I’m successful in making myself redundant? My answer: I don’t know. This position didn’t exist three years ago!

Are you trying to make yourself redundant? How/why? :-p

Acceptable Use Agreements, Definitions & Digital Guidelines

Over the past week I’ve been working on policies and documents relating to E-Learning and electronic resources at the Academy. The following are links to the Google Docs that were created with feedback from my Twitter network. They are very much still in draft form and I would therefore appreciate further feedback! 🙂

The idea is that the Acceptable Use Agreements stay relatively static, with the ‘Digital Guidelines’ and definition of what the Academy deems ‘inappropriate’ being more flexible and fluid.

Creative Commons License

All of these policies and guidelines are available under a Creative Commons license. You must give attribution, not use them for a commercial purpose, and share any derivative works using an equivalent license. Other than that, use away!

I’d like to thank Andrew Churches, whose excellent Digital Citizen AUA was the starting point for the Primary and Secondary AUA’s above. 😀

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Acceptable Use Policy – feedback required!

I’m in the process of putting together the Acceptable Use Agreement (AUA) that students at the (3-18) Academy will sign in September. Although everything’s subject to change, I’d like to base on principles and make it as short as possible, rather than have some monolithic document that people sign but never read. The latter state of affairs means that although the Academy’s back would be covered from a legal point of view, it would have little or no effect on thought processes and behaviour modification.
This is not my first foray into the world of the AUA. I discussed Acceptable Use Policies (AUP’s) on this blog last year in AUP 2.0.

blocked

BLOCKED by ~Devastis @ deviantart

As Director of E-Learning at Northumberland Church of England Academy, I don’t want a situation similar to the one depicted above. I want clear policies whereby both staff and students know where they stand when it comes to internet access and filtering. As far as I’m concerned, resources should be available for teaching and learning unless a clear case can be made otherwise.

I’m in the process of putting together the Acceptable Use Agreement (AUA) that students at the (3-18) Academy will sign in September. Although everything’s subject to change, I’d like to base on principles and make it as short as possible, rather than have some monolithic document that people sign but never read. The latter state of affairs means that although the Academy’s back would be covered from a legal point of view, it would have little or no effect on thought processes and behaviour modification.

This is not my first foray into the world of the AUA. I discussed Acceptable Use Policies (AUP’s) on this blog last year in AUP 2.0 after some thinking about how access to the internet via mobile devices was likely to completely change the landscape. David Warlick, around the same time as I was doing this, put together the School AUP 2.0 wiki to collate resources and thinking from around the internet. That’s a useful resource and I’ve spent a good deal of time looking at the various options and permutations.

To my mind, the best AUA I’ve come across is Andrew Churches’ Digital Citizen AUA which he’s kindly released under a Creative Commons License. I’ve taken that and – after discussion with the Principal Director of Operations at the Academy – adapted it. This is how it stands currently for students in the Secondary phase:

1. Respect Yourself
I will show respect for myself through my actions. I will only use appropriate language and images both within the Learning Platform and on the Internet. I will not post inappropriate personal information about my life, experiences or relationships.

2. Protect Yourself
I will ensure that the information I post online will not put me at risk. I will not publish full contact details, a schedule of my activities or inappropriate personal details in public spaces. I will report any aggressive or inappropriate behaviour directed at me. I will not share my password or account details with anyone else.

3. Respect Others
I will show respect to others. I will not use electronic mediums to bully, harass or stalk other people. I will not visit sites that are degrading, pornographic, racist or that the Academy would deem inappropriate. I will not abuse my access privileges and I will not enter other people’s private spaces or work areas.

4. Protect Others
I will protect others by reporting abuse. I will not forward any materials (including emails and images) that the Academy would deem inappropriate.

5. Respect Copyright
I will request permission to use resources and suitably cite all use of websites, books, media etc. I will use and abide by the fair use rules. I will not install software on Academy machines without permission. I will not steal music or other media, and will refrain from distributing these in a manner that violates their licenses.

By signing this agreement, I agree to always act in a manner that is respectful to myself and others, in a way that will represent the Academy in a positive way. I understand that failing to follow the above will lead to appropriate sanctions being carried out.

Those in the Primary phase would be asked to sign a slightly simplified version of the above with more age-relevant words included. The ongoing Google Docs reflecting how they currently stand can be seen here:

I’d really appreciate feedback, comments and ideas on the above! 😀

One step ahead of the storm.

Ahead of the Storm

Started as Director of E-Learning yesterday. Not going to be teaching at all until September – even then probably only 8 periods per week ‘across Key Stages’. Mostly team-teaching and modelling good practice. My primary role is to support teaching and learning using educational technology.

I have a vision.

Lots of meetings. It would seem I need to become more of a political animal…

(Image credit: Ahead of the Storm by Roy Levi @ Flickr)

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