Tuesday, 2 August 2011

change of school

Seven weeks ago, I left one workplace to start work at another. It has been a difficult shift. From head of department at a decile 3 school, with 1800 students, to a teacher in charge role at a decile 9 school with 800 students.
I have been thrust into a school of change, and little leadership in the development of change. They seem to think that I can implement the changes required within a short amount of time and a full teaching load.
The staff at the school are looking forward to the changes that have been in the making for 4 years, however, them seems little thought in the way that they will impact the teaching and learning.

So far:
Google apps implementation has been setup by watchdog, provisioning has been setup from moodle to create and manage users
moodle2 has been setup and implemented by dataview, through a rather difficult and issue prone MUSAC websync
myportfolio has been setup and developed by the previous teacher
Single Sign On, this is being developed by the new providers of the idp service here in the city. It is taking longer than I thought.

All of these things are great and we spent 5 years developing, implementing and accessing these at the previous school, however, I am having to get these things done in 5 weeks, through rather difficult conditions.

I am also going through a number of other issues at the school through the development of ICT infrastructure, my classroom looks like something from 3 years ago, with a mixture of 14", 17" CRT screens and at least I have a slightly up to date computers in the room, though they look rough and have PS2 mice connected, which seems to have an issue of be unrecognized by the OS, which mean you have to unplug then, plug them back in and restart the machine, which impedes learning for the student and develops issues within the class.

The classroom, although an interesting design has its own issues, I need to remove a computer from the back of the class which students seem to like sitting at which does not allow to see the board or projector.

The projector is something out of the ark, I have been told that it is probably one of the first ones that was put into the school. Although the remote for it is still in the class, it does not seem to want to work with it, which means climbing onto a desk and turning it one and off by hand.

I keep getting told how great things are now that we have webmail, as well as remote access to the system, something I have been used to for as long as I have been teaching. Considering I now believer that teachers own devices should be allowed to access email systems so they can keep in contact with what is going on.

There is also the development of ICT within the school, I keep getting called into meetings that I am unprepared for around the development of a strategic plan.

21st Century Learning Facilities?

Sadly most of our teaching and learning spaces are 19th century spaces. Needs have changed. We need classrooms with improved technological capabilities, and multi-functional capabilities to enhance leaning by including facilities such as a video conferencing suite. The BOT needs to be proactive in working with the BOP to ensure a major upgrading of facilities which will meet 21st century teaching and learning requirements.

IT needs both now and in 2-3 years

Decile 9 Orewa College has recently hit the headlines “since telling parents the ipad 2 will be a compulsory stationery item for all year nine pupils next year.” While the move is welcomed by IT specialists, critics say “the device is not an affordable option for all parents.” The ipad sells for between $799 to $1148.

“Principals Association president, Patrick Walsh, said it would probably only be 4-5 years before ipads became compulsory but the question remained as to who was going to pay. In lower decile schools the Government needs to intervene and pay, or provide a subsidy if we want to keep pace with the world economy.” He went on to say, “There’s no point the Government rolling out the ultrafast broadband if they’re not going to help provide resources in schools to use it.”

We are a decile 9 school. Would our parents be willing to purchase this technology?

While I do not think that we are ready to make a laptop compulsory, I do believe it is a future consideration. In the meantime I am keen to explore ways to increase student engagement in learning using something they all have great ownership of, their cell phone! This has the potential to take this technology from their pockets and put it on the desk thereby solving a current classroom management issue – undercover cell phone use in class!

We are now connected to ultrafast fibre and while our IT contract over recent years has helped upskill our teaching staff, our infra-structure (both computer and facilities) is not 21st century and we battle to find significant funding to keep pace with modern technology.

Within the next 2-3 years we want students to be engaged in their learning through the opportunities we are currently putting in place. Most importantly we want to be developing and assisting students to access course material at home and continue the learning from class through resources and activities. We want to see students developing their lifelong learning portfolios, their eportfolios and we are putting in action Google Apps – online office and productivity suite to help students communicate online with their teachers and their peers. All of these are available easily for the students through Single Sign On, which allows them to access all of these through one username and password managed by the school network.

Currently we are beginning to see the development of on-line resources in the Learning Management System with the introduction of Moodle this year, both in collaborating in teacher resources and professional development, but much more is needed.

We are also in the process of upgrading the school network to cater for the changes of learners needs, with the School Network Upgrade Project (SNUP), this will allow us to make use of the Ultrafast Fibre connection to the school, as we upgrade the internal workings within the school. Also with the upgrade of the school servers this allows us to develop our internal storage capacity and allow access to services from the outside. However, there are some more developments that need to be made, establishing a backup server to allow us to continue if one server fails, as well as adding a SAN (Storage Area Network) which allows us to build our storage capacity as we move to meet the requirements of Learning and Assessment through developing all of our subjects through digital literacy.

Next steps for us include:-

- Video conferencing facility
- Library computer suite upgrade
- Multi-purpose (or multi-disciplinary) computer suites
- Ability for students to bring own devices to connect to the school network through wifi access, (improved access for boarders to the Managed Learning Environment)
- Investigation of Interactive Whiteboards to assist teachers in developing materials to assist in student learning.

am I enjoying it, I think I was at my last school for way to long and was lucky with what was available for me and my students, something that I think will take a long time to become available at my current workplace.

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