August 22, 2006

Getting Things Done Mark II - Laying the ground

The previous post was what I feel is often the fun stuff - working with kids. But to work safely and securely there is a need in most teachers' gut for a baseline. A large part of the past three weeks has been gathering information in the form of documents, webpages, views and opinions, as well as finding out which of the 30 or so interest groups between East Lothian Council, Learning Teaching Scotland and beyond one must consult before moving off on a plan.

I think I've covered most bases - or will do this week - and invite comments for others I should be including in the important build up of policy and guidelines on, in particular, the use of social software by managers, corporate employees, teachers and students.

Click the link below to read the detail of what I've done so far.

New communications and new marketing

  • I've set up extra Technorati watchlists to keep an eye on what people think not only of my blog and me, but the organisations I work for, their main projects and future plans. It's been interesting and often constructive reading and helped raise some urgency in action to create guidelines on how we might respond to this and pick up the conversations.
  • David Gilmore, the original architect of Exc-el, has been great in preparing the ground for a new portal which will be scalable. This will provide a) a public face of which we can be proud; b) a place East Lothian teachers and managers will be able to quickly find and subscribe to information feeds; c) a place which will inspire more educationalists to reflect on their experiences and introduce social software to their students' school lives.
  • We are planning some more organised, more sharp and more relevant podcasting content from LTS, including an internal podcast (along with more internal team blogs) for the staff to communicate more effectively. Key communications staff have been contacted and soon we will be planning this with a strong team of nearly 30 LTS staff.
  • LTS and East Lothian staff will not find it easy to read, listen and respond to material if they cannot find and digest it quickly. An extensive programme of short courses on RSS and reading will take place across East Lothian and, hopefully, LTS - initial trials have taken only 15 minutes and proven invaluable to those staff. RSS feeds may be created for use on an individual's own blog. We will also be developing insta-feeds, which can be imported to a reader and immediately provide reading or media on themed topics (geography, marketing news, LTS news, interactive materials for French... and so on.)

Policy or guidelines

  • More LTS and East Lothian staff see the benefits of planning and communicating openly and instantly with the 'outside world', but want some reassurances about where lines are drawn. Neither organisation wants to restrict the creativity or reach of their employees, no-one wants egg on their faces either. 'Sensible publishing' (rather than 'safe blogging') is order of the day. Key contacts at SQA, LTS, East Lothian and the Web 2.0 world will be invited to fill up a guideline draft over a tight period of time. Final versions obviously lie with each organisation. Current policies from multinationals are being examined for commonality and will be integrated to the final policy.
  • Teaching and learning policy already created within East Lothian stresses the importance of learner experience. This reflects the opportunities today's technologies give to practise, practise, practise on a regular basis without killing kids with boredom - Wesley touches on this today in UK context. So the emphasis is on experiential learning rather than summative assessment; with the former the latter will come.
  • More internet safety work is required in schools to help learners and their parents understand the risks of social software when used poorly, not just in a predatorial sense but in an 'image' sense i.e. future job market position vs Google ranking of teenage content.

New educational material

  • I'd be looking for partners to help write material on digital literacy, or share what has already taken place in this field.
  • Work has already begun on Search and Research skills, intended for senior students, teachers and librarians. This will be put to trial in September.

Action research / Evaluation

  • What goes on in East Lothian and Scotland in terms of new technologies is unlikely to be new, but it may not have been put through its paces in our context. Therefore frequent evaluation is required. We are currently thinking of looking to find a researcher from an Initial Teacher Education background to carry out the Devil's Advocate role. Better still, teachers on the ground will be offered guidance on undertaking more action research (using Becta's guidelines to begin, along with existing GTCS schemes, for example).

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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