Thinking out cloud

Cloud

I received an email from a primary school recently along these lines:

I wonder if you can offer advice. I have put off updating our office software for quite sometime now as what we had (MS Office 2003) (I know, an ancient relic) seemed to do the job, teachers were familiar and the costs were quite high. I think it is time to move on but unsure what to. I wonder if cloud computing services are the way to go, or other free packages in terms of traditional software such as open office. Or should we look to something completely different.
I would value your thoughts and observations of schools on your travels!

I responded something like this:

Hmmmm Depends on a few things really but here are some considerations:

  • Do nothing – consequences are what? Stuff gets even more out of date and misaligned with what’s out there in the world. But it is an option for a little while yet maybe.
  • Upgrade your MS Office software and licences to something a little more contemporary – consequences are quite severe in terms of a financial hit and you will also need to think about any ‘transitions’ staff (and pupils) may have to make to ‘new’ software which is fairly different from a user point of view.
  • Install ‘Free’ Office applications (such as Open Office) – ok, this is a cheap option and one that many schools I know have taken. It certainly does the job and has a similar enough look and feel to the ‘authentic’ applications to be manageable.
  • Cloud solutions – I’m thinking Google Apps for Education (GAfE) and Google Drive here (although Microsoft have their own equivalent – Skydrive (more later)). If you were to explore this option, it requires a fundamental shift in thinking about how everything works. Stuff is no longer done ‘locally’ on a machine (although it can feel a bit like it) but it is done via a browser. The other essential difference is the way in which documents become far more fluid in terms of sharing and collaboration – this is powerful stuff and potentially truly transformational. However, it is very much a new and different way of doing things with new and different approaches to workflow. This takes some considerable getting of the head round things (especially as a whole-school thing). The same is true for the Microsoft offering, they provide online storage (Skydrive) and a set of cloudy, browser-based software apps called Office365 (think Word, Excel, Powerpoint etc) that look very much like conventional MS software (comfortably familiar for some perhaps). All the same sharing, collaborating etc is available with Office 365 as with GAfE. The difference between these two though is that you can get going with GAfE immediately cos it is part of the (the local authority solution) thing every school has. Now you’ll ask me how to do that… erm… I’ll find out. I know of schools doing this stuff extensively (but not sure about within our local authority). So, as with anything, I recommend a bit of trying stuff out. Why not install and play with Open Office? For one class? Why not see how (one class?) gets on with GAfE? Then informed decisions are easier to make.

I offered to extend the request to this blog, see what responses people came back with, and there came the following response: real money casino app for iphone

Thanks for that, very comprehensive! We have dabbled with open office and I have used google docs a little, just not quite the same, but all valid points you make. It would be interesting to hear what other people do so no problem with sharing via a blog. Also, I find that some features get blocked by the firewall, so if we moved in that direction I would want to be sure we can use it. The issue of having to log in too bothers me for cloud computing. The children log onto the laptop/server and would have to log into the cloud service too, unless we can find a way to facilitate a single log on.

So, what are you doing in your school?
What do you do about ‘Office’ applications or software, licences etc?
Have you elevated into the clouds? Is it sunny or stormy up there?
What are the pitfalls? The advantages?
What about firewalls? Logins?
Do you do different stuff with different ages of pupils?
Have you recorded your progress for us and others?

I’d love to see some replies! Many thanks in advance!

**UPDATE**
I suppose some people just like the speed and efficiency of Twitter as I got some useful replies there: real slots online for ipad

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Front to back?

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photoI had an email from a school recently. I thought I would record my response here as it illustrates my thinking on an approach schools seem to sometimes take to technology purchases generally and ipads in particular.
The school said they were looking into purchasing some IPads for students within school and were wondering if I could offer any advice or point them in the right direction. top 10 gambling sites

They were seeking answers to three specific questions at this point:

  • What IPads are being used for and how they can enhance learning? video poker download
  • Which model IPad is the most popular within other schools?
  • Are other schools using Macbooks for synching/updating etc?

I replied as follows:

I am sure you appreciate that these are *big* questions that you are asking and perhaps not the easiest to answer in an email. Having said that, I’ll do my best.

What IPads are being used for and how they can enhance learning?

This is *huge*. Where do I start? Really the question could be asked more broadly about ‘technology’ and the answer would be wide and complex. In a way, it would be helpful for the school to undertake some visioning of how they want technology to integrate and support the learning experience and then consider whether ipads might be part of this. Many schools mistakenly start their thinking with the device and then on to how it might support learning. In some ways this is the wrong way round. I have a little further reading on ios considerations and deployments in school here: http://bitly.com/bundles/dughall/k but this is merely a drop in the ocean.

Which model IPad is the most popular within other schools?

Again, I wonder if this question is coming from thinking that is the right way round. What is it you want to achieve? Then ask which device will best suit the vision. Why ipad? Why not an alternative tablet? Why not Android? Windows 8? Why not netbooks? Laptops? Ipods? Why not a mixture? Again, ask yourselves: 1. What do you want to do? and then 2. What will help you do it?

Are other schools using Macbooks for synching/updating etc?

Yes. Or an iMac. There is no doubt that the deployment of large numbers of ios devices is greatly helped by having a MacOS PC (laptop or desktop). real money roulette app iphone

It does worry me that some schools seem to be getting their thinking a bit ‘back to front’. Of course, for large purchases, it would be appropriate for for school governors to ask a question that I always find helpful: “What was the thinking behind this decision?” and the associated: “What alternatives were considered?” and “Does this represent the best value for money?”

 

PELeCON Kidsmeet

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Recently, as part of the larger PELeCON conference in Plymouth, Pete Yeomans asked if I’d like to come and help out with an afternoon ‘Kidsmeet’ session. I immediately liked the idea of this and wasn’t disappointed. The idea was to invite kids (aged 8-12) to come along with their parents and attend a workshop (in the truest sense of the word) that would involve them making some stuff. Also in attendance were Jo Neale, Paul Hutson (The Night Zookeeper), Pete Yeomans himself and some teacher trainees from the university.

IMG_4533

Plymouth University provided some ‘kit’ in the form of ipads, Flip cameras, laptops, some Robosapiens and other resources and attendees were invited to avail of the kit to produce stuff. What might that ‘stuff’ be? Well, they could do stop-frame animation, something using Scratch or Kodu, a piece of music, whatever. There was also the understanding that the resultant ‘artefacts’ would be showcased to conference delegates later in the afternoon (a true proud-dad moment for me).

Will and Fionn test-driving their Kodu games

Will and Fionn test-driving their Kodu games

I set myself up as something of a Kodu person and introduced it to my own son, Fionn (10) and an 11 year old called Will. Both Will and Fionn are huge Minecrafters and so I was interested to see how they got on with Kodu. Both boys definitely needed 5-10 minutes introductory input to get them into what it is that Kodu actually does and the ins and outs of the software. I was glad I had brushed up on it myself in advance of the Kidsmeet. In an astonishing display of rapid, highly-motivated, intuitive learning, Will then sped away with the software, quickly finding his way to achieving the results he was looking for, opting to use the Xbox controller as his interface device of choice. In a couple of hours, he had produced a couple of wonderful, working games with considerable complexity.

IMG_4537Something I realised but should have known is that the stop-frame stuff was probably the activity of choice because it was something intuitive – the ICanAnimate app is so straightforward, it requires no prior experience or input (point and click). Scratch and Kodu (and to a certain extent the Robosapiens) need a little bit of teaching to get them off the ground. On reflection, I’m sorry now not to have got some people going with Scratch.

IMG_4545I really like Kidsmeet and am left thinking about how I might be involved in future events such as this or even the possibilities of organising one.

 

 

 

Why I like the model and why I think it works:

  • Kids learning with and alongside parents is a very powerful thing
  • This highly constructivist model is very effective
  • There was a joy about the learning and activity
  • The session was very open-ended (perhaps a little too much so)

What might be an improvement:

  • A little more direction for the participants. Think effective EYFS practice here – it isn’t just the presentation of the resources and opportunities for learning that are provided, the skillful practitioner leads learners in and moves them along (I’m not saying this didn’t happen, just that I, personally might have done it more and is something I’ll bear in mind for the future)
  • Some way to shift people away from the comfort zones (too many(?) opted for stop-frame). Again, EYFS approaches would help.

Further reading:
Paul’s essential pre-meet cribsheet
Tyla Elworthy’s reflection
Jo Neale’s blogpost real casinos online slots

Some of the animations:

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Dilemma!

Dilemma

Another school governance post. A ‘partner’ post to my one on the Role of the Staff Governor. This time, I have been thinking about the challenges that face parent governors and the problems they face with the different metaphorical hats that they need to wear.

Here are some thought-provoking scenarios that parent governors may face. What do you think? Have you had any similar ones? Can you think of others? How would you deal with them?

1. Through discussions at governors meetings, you are aware that a member of the teaching staff has been experiencing relationship difficulties and has consequently been taking frequent time off school as sick leave and for a variety of appointments. A group of parents approach you and demand to know what you, as a parent governor, propose to do about it. How do you respond? What about if your own child is in that teacher’s class?

2. There is another parent governor who you also know socially. Over coffee, they start to express concerns about the ability of one of the teachers at the school, saying that they are not up to the job and that children are not making progress. How do you respond? What about if the concerns are about the Headteacher’s competence/ability?

3. You are a parent governor in a primary school that does not have a formal school uniform. You believe very strongly that the school should have a school uniform and expressed that view at a governors meeting at which the decision was taken to continue without the uniform. A parent approaches you and says “I really think there should be a school uniform! What a stupid decision! What do you think?” How do you respond?

4. You receive an invitation on Facebook to join a Facebook group that is critical of the school/headteacher. How do you respond? If you are not on Facebook but are aware of the group’s existence, what would you do?

5. You are on an interview panel for the appointment of a teacher. After interviewing a young female candidate, the headteacher says “Oh, we wouldn’t want to appoint her, she’d be off on maternity leave in the next couple of years and we’d have a right headache finding a temporary replacement.” How would you respond? real money virtual games

6. Your child has a really good friend in his/her class that is also your next door neighbour. The child is excluded from the school because of a behavioural incident. His mother, your friend and neighbour, comes round to your house to ask you what you think and to say how unfair she thinks it is. How do you respond?

7. A parent comes up to you and says that they think you obviously became a governor because everyone knows that the children of parent governors get treated more favourably. How do you respond?

8. A parent tells you they are really unhappy with their child’s class teacher who they say is always shouting at the class and making their child unhappy and not want to go to school. They say to you, “You’re a governor. Can you sort it out?” How do you respond?

Image thanks to Broodkast on Flickr

Torn

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dilemmajuliamanzerova

 

 

 

 

 

 

My first post in my capacity as a school governor!
In readiness for a course that I will be running for the first time on ‘The Role of the Staff Governor’, I was thinking about what a difficult role it is from the point of view of potential conflicts of interest and the various ‘hats’ one would need to wear in different situations and contexts. I think that similar challenges exist for all school governors but are particularly accute for parents and staff members of the GB – with staff perhaps edging it in this respect.

I thought I would gather some interesting and challenging scenarios and dilemmas to present to delegates on my course in order to provoke some discussion. This is something I have always done on my course for parent governors and some excellent conversations inevitably follow! I have asked colleagues and my Twitter network and come up with the following:

1. Your headteacher comes to you with diary open to ask to put in some dates for the both of you to meet prior to governors meetings to discuss the upcoming agendas. How do you respond?

2. A staff colleague asks you how you will be voting and says to you, “You know, don’t you, what the majority of staff think about this. You need to represent us by voting our way at the meeting.” You don’t share the majority view. What do you say? How will you vote?

3. A staff colleague approaches you insisting that you raise the issue of the broken staff-room fridge at governors. How do you respond? What if it is the issue of the dangerous paving in the staff car park?

4. A staff colleague sits down next to you in the staff room and starts moaning and slagging off a parent (who is a governor) suggesting they must be dreadful in governors meetings. How do you respond?

5. In a governors meeting, the Headteacher is reporting on the progress of pupils. You become aware that the data has been ‘spruced up’ in a way that you think is deceptive or gives a misleading message to governors. What do you do?

6. A curriculum leader or Head of Department is invited to report to governors about developments in their subject/department. There are some fundamental inaccuracies that you are aware of. What do you do?

7. Another (non-staff) governor asks you your opinion of one of your teaching colleagues. They say they have a right to know about the quality of teaching because OFSTED expect governors to know this stuff now.

8. You are in the supermarket when a parent sidles up to you saying, “You’re a governor up at the school aren’t you? I hope you don’t mind me saying but I’ve got a real problem with that last letter the Headteacher sent out. It was…” How do you respond?

9. You are in the supermarket when a parent sidles up to you saying, “You’re a governor up at the school aren’t you? I’ve heard that there’s a real problem with bullying/drugs at the school. Is this true? What are governors doing about it?” How do you respond?

I would love you to suggest any more in the comments but would also very much welcome your responses to the scenarios! Please do contribute!

The Twitter discussion went off on a slight tangent into a discussion as to whether or not governing bodies should have staff representation at all, or indeed parent representation. At that point, I had to attend a committee meeting (at which we were presented with a report from the Head of Maths…). Please see my other post on the challenges facing parent governors.

Amongst all the people who have helped, I am grateful to the following Twitterers:
@chilledteaching @balance_ec @runsworth @global_teacher
@sugaredpill @ideas_factory @andyisatwork
@clare_collins 
@cwcomm1 @5N_afzal @ingotian us casinos 18

and to Julia Manzerova on Flickr for the image.

BETTophobia

 

 

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I don’t like IKEA. I’ll tell you why. It is because of what I call ‘IKEA Fear’. The symptoms of IKEA Fear are a mounting sense of disquiet that commences the minute I pass through the large revolving doors. This disquiet worsens progressively as I meander first through immaculate living rooms, on through offices, bedrooms and kitchens until it becomes something visceral within my chest and stomach, usually around the time I reach the carpet, curtains and cushions – urging me to run screaming from the building clutching at my hair.

I have contemplated this feeling and the possible reasons for it. I have a theory based upon nothing other than my own tenuous guesses. I think my problem may possibly be similar to conditions such as agoraphobia or claustrophobia, and here are a couple of exacerbating factors:
• There is a disorientating absence of any reference to the outside world. If you are lucky, you might glimpse a rectangle of far-off, semi-industrial car-park through a distant fire door (the location of which is noted in the event of a panic-induced exit in due course).
• There is a disturbing juxtaposing of comfy, soft, homely environments in which you can sit and imagine oneself in the bosom of family relaxing after or during a meal… until you look up and witness the horrific, industrial tangle of ducting and steel. I don’t mind telling you that this contrast messes with my head.

Now, on to the BETT Show 2013. This year, it relocated from Olympia to Excel- a move I welcomed initially as it certainly improved accessibility for me. This welcome feeling was short-lived. On arrival at Excel, I attempted to feel upbeat and optimistic but that familiar disquiet, the IKEA Fear, started to creep up on me. I apologise to those friends of mine whom I encountered on that first morning, my brow knitted and jaw slightly tensed. I put on a brave face and greeted you enthusiastically but I wasn’t quite myself. Walking the (seemingly) mile-long boulevards, snickets and ginnels of the exhibition space, my anxiety mounted until I had to make a swift exit. David Mitchell and Julia Skinner were fortunately on hand to scoop me up as I composed myself over some lunch with them.
I struggled throughout the two and a bit days at the show. My misery was mitigated only by the wonderful encounters I had with lovely people. The social, the teachmeet, the laughs and the learning mean that I won’t be boycotting in future. I will take the rough with the smooth.

I miss Olympia. I miss the quirkiness, the characterful architecture, the nooks and crannies, the expanse of sky spread out above. I also miss the opportunities for out-of-body elevations to the balcony for welcome, reorienting breathers during which one could see the layout, establish the landmarks or spot a friend to pursue.

Oh, and I didn’t even see anything especially exciting or innovative in those long corridors of anxiety. Next year, I will dedicate myself to establishing quick exit routes whilst also seeking out people – after all, it is them that make a visit to BETT worthwhile.