#RethinkingICT – 25th June 2012

I had been looking forward to this event for quite some time, especially as it would give me the chance to meet some of my digital colleagues in an analogue environment (thanks @mrlockyer for the analogy)!  @Chrisleach78, his Headmaster (Mark Seymour) and many of the staff at Winchester House School had obviously put a lot of work into organising and promoting the event and a lot of thanks must be given to them.

For me, the event started on Sunday evening by picking up @infernaldepart from Banbury Station and then going onto the Premier Inn at Silverstone.  Once there, we met up with several of our online friends for our informal version of #RethinkingICT which we had tagged #RedrinkingICT.  It was great to meet with @mrlockyer, @mracolley, @oliverquinlan, @theheadsoffice, @mattpearson, @jennyfer37, @MissPhilbin and @ebd35.  I’d booked a table in the adjoining Green Man Pub where the manager had kindly organised our table so that we could eat, talk, drink and watch the football at the same time – will definitely be back here next year!

The following day it was up bright and early for the short drive to #RethinkingICT for morning coffee and biscuits and a chance to say hello to a few people and collect the delegates pack.  Then off to the main hall where we took over the stage and seating which was set for a production of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe!  The agenda for the day included three 1 hr sessions of delegates doing 10 minute presentations.  Rather than me reinvent the wheel, please look at the links below to the unedited notes shared by @sharland via Evernote on the day of the conference.  Please also take a visit to Brian’s blog that has lots of fantastic posts, including more detail about #digitalstudies

  1. @tomcrick
  2. @mberry
  3. #digitalstudies
  4. @ianaddison
  5. @lifson
  6. @dneg
  7. @shindles
  8. @theheadsoffice
  9. @mrlockyer

I believe, also that @chrisleach78 is putting together all the notes from the presentations at the new #RethinkingICT wiki; here you will also find a link to the #digitalstudies wiki which received so much positive feedback on the day of and the days following the conference.  I would strongly encourage you to take the time to read @sharland’s notes above in conjunction with the original presentations on the #rethinkingict wiki to get a better flavour of the day.

The presentations continued after lunch and were followed by Breakout Rooms which Chris had organised to encourage further discussion based on the earlier presentations.  I obviously started at the #digitalstudies room where we were pleased to see a good number of people who were very positive about the subject that we are proposing.  Healthy debate was had about exactly how to assess the work done in the pupils portfolios as, although we would like to move away from traditional grading, many schools’ SLT will still require feedback in the form of levels – @jennyfer37 and @mracolley intend to take this debate further and will hopefully add to the detail on the assessment part of our wiki – Watch this space!

A room of particular interest to me was the Digital Leaders room; this is a brilliant concept to promote pupils to positions of IT leadership and responsibility within their own schools and even the local area.  I am very keen to take this further and would recommend you looking into it in your school.  I intend to invite pupils to apply for the positions and then, whilst being continually trained, will ask these pupils to run staff training sessions; pupil help clinics; do general running repairs (e.g. printer jams) in their own lessons, make training screencasts and trial software.  I genuinely believe that this could be a really big change in schools!  To read more about Digital Leaders, visit their website or follow @shelibb or #DLChat on twitter.

In conclusion, the event was very worthwhile and I believe should be an annual one (if Chris is up for it!).  In no particular order, I will take away from the day:

  • new ideas to use in the classroom
  • a new set of ‘analogue’ colleagues
  • more encouragement that #digitalstudies has a place in schools
  • confirmation that Digital Leaders are a great idea
  • greater understanding of the need to really get on top of exactly how to assess ICT
  • the need to set up a #digitalstudies blog to promote further discussion
  • Confirmation that there are a lot of teachers trying to make ICT or its successor an exciting and useful subject

Thank you once again to @chrisleach78 for all your hard work in setting up this conference!

Corporate IT Forum

This is a companion post to the one that Brian Sharland (@sharland) has posted on his blog and is a reflection on the day that we spent talking with members from the Corporate IT Forum.  Many of you reading this post will already know that Brian, myself and Chris Allan (@infernaldepart) are the steering group for #digitalstudies and have created a wiki and moodle website to support this upgrade to the exisiting ICT curriculum.

To put things in perspective, the Corporate IT Forum comprises of many Chief Information Officers or equivalent from some of the UK and Europe’s largest Businesses.  They represent over 10,000 IT Professionals and have an IT spend of €35 billion per annum. They are obviously very keen to ensure that the curriculum being taught in schools meets their future employment needs and that it has the breadth to produce the IT professionals and leaders of the future.  Ultimately, they currently and will continue to present their findings to the Government especially in the run up to a possible new 2014 PoS.

Those in attendance at the Forum when Brian and I were invited (sadly, Chris couldn’t get away to London for the day) were almost twenty strong and included John Harris (Head of Global Architecture at GSK); Myron Hrycyk (CIO Severn Trent Water) and Orpheus Warr (Chief Architect, Channel 4 Television), to name-drop but a few!

The day started with Brian and I meeting face to face for the first time as all our meetings had been done in Google Hangouts or via Twitter Power.  After a few motivational words we were ready to go.  On arriving at the conference room it was quite daunting seeing the name tags (and corporate positions of those in attendance); however, we were made to feel very welcome.  I did have a concern that we were there to tick of a box (spoken to teachers? YES; invited teachers to speak? YES); however, it was very apparent that the Forum believes passionately in doing whatever they can to help ‘guide’ the Government to ensure that a flexible curriculum is in place that will ensure that the UK can produce IT Professionals and Leaders for years to come.

We were asked to present for about 15 minutes and Brian and I had prepared perfectly for our talks, half expecting that we would present, they would say thank and then we would move on.  With a lengthy Q & A we were talking for closer to 45 minutes.  All the questions were great and proved to us the genuine interest that all the members in attendance had.  Brian spoke about how #digitalstudies got up and running and the contents and necessity of having the four strands (authoring, literacy, society, technology).  He then went on to talk about the need for project based assignments that incorporated all four strands and that the projects must have a real world element.  To do this he used the Beowulf example which is similar to the one that can be found on the wiki.  He also commented on the need for ongoing evidence of pupils work in the form of a portfolio.  I then went on to talk about how the resources are organised on the wiki and the importance of freely sharing best practice amongst teachers.  The wiki is ideal for this.  In Chris’s absence I also spoke about #digitalbadges and how the development of these is crucial in giving learners a longer term recognition of their achievements.  Indeed, it is this recognition that learners can keep and develop on for life.

Both Brian and I highlighted that although we were an initial band of three, there are now up to 40 people that have signed up to the wiki and several schools that are trialling the idea from this September.  We also spoke honestly about the need for technical support and knowledge in terms of making the wiki more user friendly both in terms of adding new resources and retrieving existing ones.  The easier the wiki is to use, the more people will use it.  In a similar vein we also spoke of technical support for the #digitalbadges – after all, we all full time teachers with busy timetables!  The feedback from this conversation was very positive and we look forward to more communication in the future.

Other areas that arose during the meeting were the consistency of the skills required by the different examination boards.  The Forum, quite justifiably are very keen to make a case that the requirements for qualifications with the same subject title should be more consistent.  Preliminary conversations were also held about the need for projects in school to have a greater link to those that actually exist in business.  Early indications are that many of the members will look into the possibility of creating scaled down scenarios from their own sectors for use in schools.  The other exciting development was the preliminary conversation of getting more professionals to come and talk about their own careers in schools.  There are so many roles out there that involve IT, that it is unreasonable for a pupil to understand what a “career in IT” involves as it is such a vague expression.  We are also hoping to create links with the wonderful people at STEMnet who share the same passions as we do – hopefully more to follow.

These are definitely exciting times ahead – hopefully we will know much more when the minutes from the meeting are published.  In the meantime, thank you for all the support and constructive feedback.  To learn more about #digitalstudies and how you could implement it in your school take a look at the wiki, Brian, and Chris’s blogs as well as following the digitalstudies hashtag on twitter.

Hardware – Custom PC Task

PCI Slot

When teaching about hardware, we usually use the internet and text books to read up on individual components and how they work.  Looking back on what I have done in the past, I have realised that learning about components in isolation is not a great way of gaining an understanding of how computers work.  This term, I did something a little different (although definitely not ground breaking!).

I got a couple of old machines and took them apart as I spoke to the class.  Then as each component emerged from the increasingly cannibalised case I passed it around the class.  It was incredible to see the increase in interest just from the fact that the pupils were actually handling something.  I was also embarrassingly surprised at the number of pupils that didn’t know quite how small a CPU was!  To consolidate this interest, the pupils were then asked to find the components to make their own custom PCs.

This task has also been a revelation, as it made me realise that in the past I hadn’t spoken about different types of motherboards and CPU sockets; nor had I spent much time talking about different types of RAM or buying them in matched pairs.  By actually handling the parts and talking about building their own machines, it has prompted more chats about the smaller details that would normally get overlooked.

The amount of discussion in the class has been great, especially as for the high end machine the pupils do not have a budget!  One pupil has chosen 4 x 60″ 3D screens for his high end machine!  He now has to investigate exactly how far back he would need to sit to be able to see them!

I am so pleased that such a small change to my delivery has made a larger than expected change to the pupils interest!  The brief sheet that I gave the pupils after our classroom discussions can be downloaded here. Hardware – Custom PC Task

History of Computing mini-project

I have started this mini-project with one of my classes in the hope that it would stimulate conversation about the History of Computing.  The first lesson was spent coming to grips with the various time-line creators including TimeToast, Whenintime, Tiki Toki and TimeGlider (most opted for TimeToast).  After this, the lessons have been great, with the pupils really getting into the spirit of things.  Listening to conversations between them has been really interesting, especially as time after time, they seem so surprised at what was being used when “Dad / Mum was a kid”.  They are really taking on board just how quickly technology has been moving since they were born and how they take things for granted because they have never known anything different.

Y8 House Building Project using #digitalstudies and #badges

After posting my draft idea for a Y7 project this morning, this is my second draft at the Y8 one after receiving useful feedback from @mwclarkson whose original idea I have ‘borrowed’ from extensively!  As with the Y7 project I have tried to keep in mind the following:

  1. The project should be about integrating the 4 strands (technology; authoring, society, literacy) over the whole year and NOT teaching elements in isolation
  2. The project should be about mirroring what happens in ‘real life’ rather than making things up for school
  3. Pupil progress must be evidenced through the use of a bportfolio
  4. Pupils should be encouraged to learn both collaboratively and independently
  5. Assessment of pupils work will be done through the issuing of badges which I have previouslyblogged about

Again, as with the previous post I really would welcome both constructive and positive feedback either in the comments section or via twitter @teachesict .  If this image is too small, you can download the original from here – I have included some more comments after the image:

  • The project is taught from left to right, although the last 4 items can be dipped in and out of
  • Throughout the project the pupils are expected to be learning about HTML / CSS so that they are ready to create the website (this is in place of the more ‘traditional’ homework)
  • Pupils will be expected to blog about their learning, especially with regards to their HTML / CSS progress
  • Progress will also be evidenced when pupils upload and comment on each others work as they progress through the sections
  • In the diagram above I have also included where badges can be awarded.  This is very much in its infancy but I want to get an idea of how I can use them.