I was reading an interesting news article today about the frustration a business man has about the lack of ICT skills pupils leaving school have. I can’t say I have found pupils so far advanced in their ICT skills that they learn nothing new in schools. Like adults, pupils vary in their skills in ICT, but generally, I find myself having to give guidance in some straight forward, basic ICT skills that many teenagers don’t seem to have. Computer games, ipods, mobile phones and MSN is where they seem to get their excitement, not blogs, Bebo, podcasts, etc. This is purely anecdotal on my account but wondered if any other teacher has discovered the same thing regarding ‘they’ are the natives and ‘we’ are the immigrants? I no longer buy into that. My ICT skills are very basic, but there are days when I’m astonished at the lack of ICT skills (and interest) in my pupils.

As regards the comment in the article about schools blocking SO many sites, I think we are all in an agreement on that. Last week I was in Yahoo, searching for an image of ‘America’, just to illustrate a stereotypical image of America, and it was filtered! Why? Who knows.

 

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It’s April Fools day today and I feel a bit of a fool for taking such a long time to write anything in this blog. So I wanted to explain myself and to be honest about education, teaching and the use of IT.

Essentially, I haven’t had the time. How often had you heard that from a teacher? Time is precious and it seems to be moving faster as I get older. Albums I thought came out two years ago are issuing 10 year anniversary editions! That said, the purpose of this blog is to record my experience of using IT in 2008. My experience is that between the middle of January to the Easter holidays, IT takes a bit of a back seat to prelim creation, prelim marking, NAB marking, report writing, extended responses and extended essay first draft marking, parents evenings, estimates, pupil levels, SQA data collation and generally trying to get S4 – S6 through courses. I suppose this is the boring, administration aspect of the job (apart from getting the pupils through courses) that eats into time and, personally, saps energy. I find during this time, the pupils are the high point of the day. IT has been used. Of course it has. Apart from the usual IT use in class, the first week of the holidays saw pupils e-mailing their second and third drafts of their essays, which I have now marked and e-mailed back. This could be seen as an intrusion into my holidays, but I didn’t have to do it. I decided I wanted to do it because it would save me time when I went back. As I’m sure all teachers must feel nowadays, we seem to hit the ground running EVERY term now.

I have managed to purchase a camcorder and two new laptops for the department so more stuff to learn and play with!

Marking and reports seem never ending at the moment. This slows down the pace of other jobs getting done but I did get the del.icio.us account opened. I did this at home and installed the two buttons and then realised that nearly all of the sites useful for my pupils were ‘favourited’ at work. I’m not ‘allowed’ to, or can’t have the del.icio.us buttons on the PC at work so I had to export my favourites to my home PC. Now I will have to get on with tagging them. I linked del.icio.us no problem to my typepad webpage but found it difficult to understand how to get it correctly onto this blog. Any advice would be greatly received. Also, can you install the two buttons (del.icio.us & tag) onto any PC? Surely you can but I haven’t quite worked that one out – mind you, I haven’t spent much time on it!

A wee story about the frustrations of school network machines. Over two months ago I bought a BBC dvd but it wouldn’t play on the PC dvd. It had to have the software on the dvd installed, but only the poor overworked ICT technician has the permission to do this(anyone else have this problem?).  He finally came to get the dvd working, which it now does BUT all the other sites that I use quite frequently, won’t run because of Adobe Flash issues. (I’m not allowed to load that up either). God knows how long I’ll now have to wait to get the PC back to the way it was and I’ll play the offending BBC dvd on the TV! So frustrating, (and, by the way, this is no criticism of ICT techs as they appear to be overworked and understaffed), and it helps explain the slow progress I seem to be having.

On a positive note, the P7 parents who came round the school last night were very impressed by the amount of ICT used in the department. They were particularly taken by the idea of pupils e-mail homework to me. So, onward and upward!

I have now linked this page from the pupils’ History Help page and spoke to the pupils about the purpose of the blog. I am hoping some pupils will give their views on the effectiveness (or otherwise) of my use of ICT and suggestions for ICT use. With the thought that some pupils may begin to have a look at this page, I decided to link to a very good blog entry by Sean ‘The Bassplayer’ about using the internet safely. He was inspired to do this after the apparently biased and headline grabbing sensationalist reporting that has become BBC’s Panorama. I missed the programme unfortunately so I can’t comment, but by all accounts from other blogs, it didn’t provide any useful advice. So Sean’s list is very useful.

Are we at a crossroads regarding reading books? Is it enough to get all your knowledge from sources other than a book? What would be lacking in your life if you never read another book?

I have taken small steps towards using more ICT in my teaching and, I must say, the postive responses I’ve had from pupils so soon has taken me by surprise in a way. Even doing something as simple as putting the sheet that I handed out to the pupils onto the webpage as a back up, has been well received. One pupil, who was not in school this morning, asked me in the corridor what she had missed. I mentioned an essay plan that was handed out and she immediately said “I’ll get that off the webpage tonight then.” There was no need for her to go all the way to my room and pick up that handout. More importantly to me is how quickly the pupils embrace a better way of doing things.

Over the hoilday period I received homework by e-mail – again, much easier for pupils to just ‘get rid’ of, i.e. hand in the homework, instantly rather than print it off and remember to put it into their schoolbag on the correct day it is due in. Great!

One pupil who was off ill, seem to apprecitate the ability to download the work from the webpage and to receive instruction from me by e-mail.

Well that’s my evaluation so far, but what do the pupils think? I’ve linked this blog to my webpage and I will tell pupils that they are welcome to comment on our use of ICT in their  education.

My next step – get on with this del.icio.us thing.

So this blog will not only allow me, my pupils and you dear reader (note singular!)to comment on and contribute to my usage of ICT, but to also keep a sort of record of progress, which will hopefully help with evaluations of effectiveness.

In August 2007, I finally got a Smartboard in my classroom. So far I have used it in a fairly pedestrian way but I am making more time to be more adventurous. I have also started to look at websites that offer free smartboard lessons. Two problems; very little on History for the Scottish curriculum and, secondly, some need to have IT administrator permission to download.

I have set up a website, for want of a better word, which is being used in a basic way but is popular by the pupils. I am basically putting handouts given out in class onto the site. Why? Pupils lose them, pupils may be absent. There are revision guides and exam skills booklets. One effective use was getting my Higher and Int2 pupils to construct a good introduction as a class with one pupil typing it up ‘live’. Once they were happy with it, it went onto the site. I need to get pupils to be more active on the site or maybe I need a wiki but I don’t know what they are and do. (Something to learn)

http://thegordonschools.typepad.co.uk/history/

I have recently set up an e-mail account specifically for communication between me and pupils. I did this to overcome some of the problems with long term absences and snow closure days. Early days for any evaluation.

mrdavidsonb21@googlemail.com

Apart from that, pupils have access to IT suites, can do homework on PCs and some have done Mary Queen of Scots films on their mobile phones.