This week on ocTEL one of the activities is to reflect on strategies for Learning Technology
Activity 1.2: Reflecting on strategies for Learning Technology
This activity is about strategy and how you or someone in your role might contribute to a strategy for using Learning Technology in face to face, blended or online learning context.
A: If you have your own example, reflect on the following questions…
I am currently in the process of writing a new strategy for Activate Learning, this is still a work in progress, with further consultation. So for the purpose of this activity I am going to reflect on the ILT (Information and Learning Technology) Strategy I developed and wrote for Gloucestershire College.
Did you contribute to the strategy, if so, in what capacity?
I was responsible for the strategy, both in terms of development and delivery.
Is the main focus of the strategy on Learning Technology, or if not, what is its main focus?
The main focus was not on learning technology, but on learners, and specifically, outcomes for learners.
How often is it reviewed and is it flexible enough to adapt as things change?
It was a three year strategy. For me it was important that the focus was not on specific technologies, as this wouldn’t provide the flexibility required. By not naming technologies, it would enable the college to take advantage of new technologies and innovations as they arrived on the scene.
The strategy also had a specific section on innovation to ensure that the college could adapt as things change.
A strategy also needs to be a living document, not a static constraint on innovation.
Does the strategy impact on your practice and if so, how? If not, why?
A strategy in itself, will do very little. It needs to be followed up with an operational plan.
Finally, if you were to provide input to a new version, what, if any, changes would you make to it?
The key change I would make, would be to build on the teaching, learning and assessment strategy. If possible the strategies would be worked on together.
Thursday was our College Development Day, one of two days of the year where we “close” the college and every member of staff takes part in staff development activities. For the first time in a few years we did a “pick and mix” in which staff are provided with a choice of sessions and can pick and mix to create their own personalised day of training and development. There are, as there was this year, a few compulsory sessions, but generally staff are free to pick what else they will do on that day. An example would be that all teaching staff had to attend a session related to our forthcoming inspection, but were free to pick what they wanted from the menu for the rest of the day.
The challenge for me however was that this process means is that staff generally choose what they want to do, rather than what they should or need to do.
So the sessions we planned on Turnitin, LanSchool and Accessibility were either cancelled or cut back, and the sessions on digital imaging and iMovie were oversubscribed. It also is apparent how you need to “sell” sessions to staff to get them to sign up.
I generally spend the day delivering training and this year was no exception, my first session was for my Learning Resources team and looked at the strategy, vision and focus for the next three years as part of a re-positioning of the strategic vision for learning resources which includes the library. It was also an opportunity for the teams from my three libraries to get together as a whole team. It was an interesting session and it was great to see that they could see the importance of a focus and a vision but also the need to revisit what we do and why we do it. I will probably cover this in more detail in a future blog post.
The second session I ran was an introduction to Mac OS X. I planned this session as we have recently recruited new staff into the libraries and as we have Macs in the libraries they asked for an introductory session. I kept it simple, first showing them this video from Apple, before going through Finder, Safari, iMovie, iPhoto and Garageband. I mentioned Keynote and Quicktime too. Overall feedback was positive and many of the session participants realising that OS X isn’t that different than Windows and if you can use Windows you can use OS X.
My afternoon session was much longer, and was a supportive VLE workshop. The session allows participants that time to reflect and build on their courses on the VLE. If they get stuck, need advice or want ideas, then I am around to provide that support. It worked very well with staff having a chance to “play” and try out new things that will enhance their learners’ experience.
As well as the ILT sessions I was delivering we had booked some excellent external trainers, many of whom will be familiar to readers of this blog for their appearances on the e-Learning Stuff podcast. Each of them delivered a range of sessions with a real focus on adding interactivity through ILT into teaching and learning.
These days reinforce the importance of training and development for practitioners, especially in regard to the use of learning technologies. Our focus for the day was less on the technologies themselves, but much more on the actual use, how they can support, enhance and enrich learning.
Over the next few months I will be following up staff who attended not just my sessions, but all the ILT sessions to assess the impact of the training. Experience has shown that not everyone takes on board what they learnt, but most do.
One of the issues with embedding technology into teaching and learning is the resistance to the embedding by practitioners.
Many factors are discussed for the reasons, from fear of technology, to a lack of time. These discussions fail to recognise that there are many practitioners for whom embedding technology is something they can do in the same time as everyone else. Can time really be the issue, isn’t it much more about priorities than a lack of time?
As for the fear, I am sure there are some real technophobes out there, those for whom technology is a really scary thing that needs to be feared (like dragons) and should never be used. These people probably don’t have a television, a microwave, nor a phone (let alone a mobile phone). These true technophobes do exist I am sure, but as a proportion of practitioners in education, they must be a very small minority, less than 1% for sure and probably a lot less.
So what of the others? Those that say they are fearful of technology?
Well I suspect that these use technology on a day to day basis and probably don’t actually consider it technology. I recall one practitioner been quite proud of the fact that she was a technophobe, however when questioned further she not only used the internet, but used IM and Skype on a regular basis to talk to her daughter in Australia! What is apparent talking to many practitioners who don’t see the need or feel they can use technology for learning, in their day to day life use technology all the time for their own needs and in their non-work life.
One issue that appears to be a barrier is that these practitioners have issues in transferring skills they have built up in their day to day life to using these skills to support teaching and importantly learning.
The same can be said with learners and a recognition that learners who use technology all the time, don’t necessarily know how to use technology to support their learning.
So how do we get teachers who use technology on a daily basis to be able to transfer their skills into the effective use of technology in the classroom?
That is a question that may take a little longer to answer.
You recall the general knowledge quiz game, where you had to fill in your six pieces of cheese (or cake) covering six different subject areas.
One of the traits of playing the game was that you favoured certain subject areas and avoided others. You liked History and Geography, but avoided Arts & Literature. As a result you answered many questions on the subjects you liked and virtually ignored the subject you didn’t.
When it comes to embedding of learning technologies (ILT) into a curriculum area, managers of those areas do something similar.
They may be excellent at pushing the use of interactive whiteboards with their staff and teams; but as they don’t like the VLE that much, it gets ignored or only paid lip service.
Likewise when using learning technologies to solve issues in the area; you may use it to solve some areas, whilst ignoring other areas.
The same happens when it comes to writing ILT action plans for curriculum areas. These plans will favour particular technologies and some problem areas. Other technologies and other problem areas will get ignored.
In order to avoid this happening, we have decided to make use of the cheese concept for Trivial Pursuit in order to ensure that curriculum teams make best use of the range of technologies available, ensuring none are left out; likewise ensuring that learning technologies are used to solve issues in a range of areas, rather than one specific area or a few areas.
The areas we have chosen for our cheeses are based on the needs of our corporate college ILT Strategy.
We have two sets of cheese, one with a technology focus and one with a learner focus.
In later blog posts I will go into more detail about the different cheeses and exemplar action plans for those cheeses.
The key though for managers is that they MUST plan and COMPLETE action plans for each of the twelve cheeses. They can’t just ignore a cheese because they “feel like it”.
This should have the result that across the college there is a more holisitic approach to embedding of ILT into the curriculum. That weaker areas are not ignored in favour of stronger areas. Eventually the whole college will be moving forward in the use of ILT to enhance and enrich the learner experience; something that is essential as the world of technology is moving too.
Today I am in London for the Becta Next Generation Learning Conference 2009.
Is this the Ferl Conference, well no.
Is this the Post-16 Practitioners Conference, well no.
Are all the usual suspects there, well yes!
The theme of this conference is much more strategic and aimed at senior management than previous conferences I have been too, which reflects the new strategic slant that Becta have had over the last few years.
It’s a typical ILT conference, even with voting units, it’s a very passive transmission of information experience, with keynotes (and even though they haven’t started) workshops which will consist more of presentation and five minutes for questions.
There is wireless, but this wasn’t announced to the audience, so it was down to rebels like me to find out what the code for it was.
So far we have had Siôn Simons, Stephen Crowne and currently listening to Jane Williams.
Should be a good day as conferences go, but I suspect I will get more from the people than the presentations.
We never have enough time, however I have managed to find the time to spend some time talking about time…Over the last ten years or so I have been supporting staff in FE in the use of learning technologies, all the time when I run training sessions though I hear the following comments:
“I don’t have the time.”
“When am I suppose to find time to do all this?”
“I am going to need more time.”
There are a few options when it comes to time and finding the time.
First option, double your working hours each week, this will give you more time for work, less for home, but remember it has to be for the same money!
Second option, don’t sleep! Sleep is somewhat overrated and think of all that time you are wasting sleeping, when you could be doing so much more. We live in a world which never sleeps according to an overused cliché.
Third option, use a time machine, such as the Tardis or H G Wells’ time machine and travel back in time to catch up on all the time you need, you might break a few laws of time, but I won’t tell.
Seriously though, time is finite and fixed. We can’t change the amount of time we have. All that is possible is prioritising how we use our time and working more efficiently
Everybody already uses technology to save time. People drive to work rather than walk. There are microwaves and fridges in staff areas which means it is possible to save time over lunch. Telephones enable quicker and easier communication and for planning meetings and contacts it can save time. Video recorders allow us to time-shift watching television programmes. Kettles avoid having to light a fire to make a cup of tea!
Everyday we use technology to make our lives easier and to save time.
Often learning technologies can be used to make our lives easier and importantly save time.
Do you give your learners any type of formative assessment, do you find the marking takes a large amount of time, or do you use valuable contact time, getting the students to mark each others’ assessments, or do you not bother as you don’t have the time? You can put assessments on a VLE and it can save time, as the VLE will mark the assessments for you. Importantly such formative assessment will allow you to identify learners having difficulties which can impact on retention and achievement.
Do you spend time finding or copying resources for students who missed a session, or have lost them. How do you cope with differentiation or providing a personalised learning experience in addition to this. By using a VLE and uploading interactive whiteboard notes, handouts, presentations, your learners will be able to find and access the resources they need at a time and place to suit them, saving you time and making their lives easier. However if you also provide additional resources, links, digital online collections, you can start to provide a differentiated and personalised learning experience which will challenge the more able learners and support the learners with greater needs.
Why not think about what you do have time for? What I mean by this is how do you prioritise how you spend your working week? How much time do you spend planning lessons and how much time do you spend creating resources for your lessons?
The following topics are covered significantly across many vocational and academic areas across the college. Do you create resources for these areas yourself, or do you use other peoples?
Health and Safety
Sharing makes sense and saves time. So how do you share when one of you is based at different sites on a multi-site college? You know I am going to say through the VLE don’t you?
How do you share when you are based in a college in Gloucestershire and somebody else is based in a college in York. You know I am going to say through JORUM don’t you?
Working together, both internally and externally, can have significant impact on the speed and quality of delivery. The ability to bring high quality expertise from different disciplines to share good practice, develop ideas and address learning and implementation strategies can be highly effective. Synergy means that working together produces better results than the sum of the parts working individually.
But I hear you cry, “I don’t like using other people’s stuff…”
I know, but I am 100% certain that everyone does use other people’s stuff not just now and again, but all the time. When you photocopy a page from a book or an article from a journal, that is someone else’s stuff. When you use an article from a newspaper or a journal, that is someone else’s stuff. When you show a video, that’s someone else’s stuff.
We use other people’s stuff all the time. Building on the work of others is a valid way of working. It is how academic research is undertaken, building on the work of others.
Using other people’s stuff saves time.
Time is valuable, but we can’t increase the time we have, we can prioritise how we spend our time and use technologies to save time. We all use technology everyday to save time and make our lives easier.
Learning technologies can be used to save time, make our lives easier in the college; as well as enhance learning, improve retention and increase achievement for our learners.
Having a high level of technology for learning equipment in a school or college will dramatically improve performance, so long as there is the right support and enthusiasm to embrace it.
In terms of FE, there was recognition of the value of VLEs (or learning platforms) in enhancing and supporting learning.
In the further education colleges it was found that learning platforms extended students’ learning into the home, and the management information systems provided greater efficiency and effectiveness for managers and teachers.
The BBC is reporting on the story and they pick up on the fact that though there was greater success in the primary and secondary schools, the impact on FE was marginal, there was little change.
It can be difficult to measure the impact of technology on retention and achivement, but there is now much more evidence that it can and does make a difference.
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