It’s been a question that has been preoccupying me for a while: what to do about a lack of IT resources in school? (1) Make the best of what we’ve got and work around the difficulties without complaining (2) Make the best of what we’ve got but complain about the lack of suitable access (3) Give up due to the lack of suitable access.
I reckon most teachers could allocate themselves into these groups. I have to admit that I aspire to (2) but a lot of the time I verge into (3).
However, some teachers (such as Jaye) strongly feel that “we don’t live in an ideal world, and I’m afraid sometimes we have to make the best of what we’ve got” (I am hesitant in quoting you Jaye, but having read your blog I do get the feeling that this does briefly summarise your approach to this issue). I’d suggest that this approaches my (1) from above.
I have a problem with this argument. I do intend to try to make the best of what Glow has to offer – more than that – I’m really looking forward to it! However, from a personal perspective, I do believe that the lack of suitable access will severely restrict its usefulness to my learners. If I feel this way, should I not say so? I would argue that ‘complaining’ about the lack of access to PC’s is an argument on behalf of Glow, not against it.
I feel that Glow will not be a success just because it has been produced by LTS, or because teachers must use ICT in their lessons as part of their GTCS registration, or because it is a part of AiFL or aCfE. As has been shown with many initiatives in the past, they have to grab the imaginations of the grass roots to succeed – they cannot be directed from above.
I think Glow will be a much bigger success if the barriers to hardware are removed from non-IT classes. I appreciate that in the current climate that this is unlikely to be resolved – but does this mean I’m a complainer for saying so?
As part of module 1 we have to try out a research method and feedback to others on the course. In addition, to satisfy my geekish tendencies, I’ve been trying to use technology to do this. I’ve come across two useful tools which I thought I should share.
I popped into comet to see what they had in the way of dictaphones after talking about recording interviews one Saturday. As I browsed through the options looking for a mac compatible device, it struck me that there must be a way of turning my iPod into a dictaphone. The ‘helpful’ salesman assured me that although this would good be idea, they do not exist – his evidence? They don’t stock it! I wasn’t convinced and went home to see what trusty old google would say. It does exist: the Griffin iTalk pro:
This has a number of advantages over a dictaphone in my view – I now have an audio storage device with a massive memory for much less than the cost of a dictaphone (as I already owned the iPod). Plus, I think it will be much less threatening to the pupils as they are so familiar iPods and the iTalk just looks like the many FM transmitters which slot into iPods.
The second tool I’ve come across is Free Online Surveys.
I wanted to try out a questionnaire with my pupils, but didn’t really want to spend our budget (or the planet’s resources!) photocopying lots of printed questionnaires. So I tried out this useful website to create an online version of my questionnaire (you can have a look at it here). It’s so easy to use and allows 50 responses per 10 days per survey – you can simply make copies of your surveys if you need more responses though. On the free version it only gives you a webpage summary, but these could easily be transferred across to excel manually.
It would be so fantastic if schools subscribed to a site such as this. It would allow quick and easy feedback from staff, pupils and parents which would be easy to analyse – and best of all, it would not involve reams and reams of photocopying!
One last thing, for our third module 1 Saturday we had to read up on one research method and feedback. I was assigned questionnaires and my group seemed to like what I’d produced so I’ve uploaded it onto a fantastic website I’ve found recently – scribd.com
Ooh, I was grumpy on Thursday. Although I’m still a bit annoyed that I might have to rethink my plans, I’ve decided that as this is a very narrow, personal and quite negative way of reflecting on some very wide ranging proposals.
Gordon has helpfully summarised the proposals. I’d like to use this summary as a frame for my thoughts:
“1. New qualifications in literacy and numeracy will be developed at SCQF levels 3, 4 and 5. Pupils will take these in S4 or later and will include a mixture of internal and external assessment.”
Although clearly literacy & numeracy skills are essential for our learners, does creating new assessments mean that these skills will be improved? There is a drive from CfE to embed these skills more explicitly across the curriculum and perhaps this is an attempt to ensure this happens? Does this replace traditional Maths & English qualifications, or is this as well as?
“2. Standard Grade and Intermediate 1 and 2 qualifications will be replaced by a new set of qualifications at SCQF levels 4 and 5. Standard Grade foundation level (SCQF level 3) will be replaced by Access 3.”
This is the most eye catching proposal. I’m finding it hard to objectively reflect on this, and I suppose this is partly due to the fact that I have no idea what these new qualifications will look like. It is clear to me that these qualifications do need rationalised and a rethink is in order, but how far will it go? Will the learning outcomes be dramatically different, and will they be successfully reflected in the assessment materials? I suppose only time will tell. So, it appears that I actually agree that change is necessary – I just don’t like that it’s happening now!
“3. Highers are seen as the “gold standard” of Scottish education. All national qualifications, including Higher and Advanced Higher will, however be reviewed to ensure consistency with curriculum for excellence.”
This is probably good news. It’d be even more scary if these were being replaced at the same time, and it would be frustrating if they weren’t tweaked to fit in with the changes taking place below.
“4. More flexibility will be embedded in the system. This is likely to include a winter diet of examinations and the most able pupils bypassing lower levels.”
Interesting…In my limited experience, flexibility costs money – primarily through smaller class sizes. Although great in principle, are schools equipped to offer real flexibility? If not, how will this be resolved?
“There was a very clear indication that pupils would not take qualifications until S4 at the earliest except for exceptional circumstances. It was also noted that new qualifications would be likely to be implemented in 2012/2013, ie for those pupils currently in P6.”
I’m not sure what is meant by this S4 thing. This is when the majority of pupils sit their exams anyway. Does it mean that pupils wont formally embark on these qualifications until S4? Does this mean that the traditional S1/S2 is being extended into S3? If so, what impact does this have on a school like mine which decided a few years ago that S2 wasn’t working so they now start their Standard Grade/Intermediate 1/Access 3 courses in S2 instead of S3?
2012/13? – that leaves us with another three years of the current system. I suppose that this means that we should have a fair idea where this is all heading in two years time (and we already have an idea from the Curriculum for Excellence experiences & outcomes). So, I suppose if I develop our activities in line with CfE, they will probably transfer across to the new system – and maybe help us to contribute to the consultation process?
So overall, I think I’m in favour of this. It has been on the horizon since I arrived back in Scotland as a teacher, and in many ways it’s exciting that it’s happening now. However, change is always threatening and uncomfortable – but it’s also inevitable.
I’ve just seen this on the BBC News website:
Although this threat has been there for some time, my heart sank when I saw it. When these initiatives & changes come along, I find it quite hard to commit to putting in extra effort to update and improve courses which could well be in the bin very soon. To finally see Standard Grade’s card being marked is particularly disappointing for me personally. Due to the current “efficiency savings” we are having to review our departmental resources as we will not be able to afford the photocopying in the future. I had decided to use this as an opportunity to try to develop & improve the course to encompass the Curriculum for Excellence experiences & outcomes and to incorporate activities which are based on ideas such as active learning and social constructivism. In fact, I have started the process of collecting some baseline data for this project this week. This would obviously be a very long and demanding task – probably taking nearly two years to complete.
I am now faced with the prospect of carrying out two years worth of developmental work (and encouraging my department to join in) with the axe hanging over my (our) head(s) – so to speak.
I know the new courses will probably not be a million miles away from what we currently have and that they (probably) will incorporate Curriculum for Excellence experiences & outcomes [for some reason this isn’t actually mentioned in the article – surely this is what is driving this change!?!?] – but this doesn’t help with my demotivation. I really struggle to go the extra mile when I’m not sure of the long-term plan.
Am I being unreasonable?