We were looking for a new website. Our old site was a showcase for the school but its use was limited because: • Updating required knowledge of additional ICT programmes not in common use; • The work of updating relied heavily on time commitment from one person; • Few members of the school community accessed the site on a regular basis; • The only interaction we had was from previous pupils who found it by searching and emailing to maintain contact; • We were limited on what could be placed on the website due to the need to maintain security for pupils.
We were seeking a website that would: • look professional with minimum effort • allow use of existing documentation • update easily & quickly using existing expertise of staff • encourage different members of the school community to access for meaningful purposes. • Genuinely improve offsite learning.
How we got started: • We discussed our needs with a supplier • They came up with a new product which we agreed to pilot. • Four senior members of staff used mind mapping software to brainstorm who might use our website and for which purposes. • We shared this model with staff and asked for their ideas.
Next …core group working: • The core group looked at our plan and identified where we already had documents or web pages on our old site that would meet the need. • The core group received training on our new product and began to experiment with some ideas. • Our eyes were opened to new possibilities for exploiting the learning platform.
What we learnt: We could assign rights of access to each page on our site protecting some with a log-in We identified named roles for SMT, governors, staff & pupils so each could access only those pages that we specified We learnt how to model our own pages in word or convert word documents into web pages by adding simple hyperlinks. To make notice boards onto which we could attach documents for specific amounts of time. Uses include staff memos; letters for parents etc To set up discussion groups protected by login for staff, pupils or governors to discuss issues. To set up collaborative areas from where shared documents can be logged in and out and do not get lost. To use personal work space (50mb / person) to which each member of staff can upload individual documents for personal use. To use the learning platform to store and organise school paperwork so that it is accessible for different audiences
The senior group planned a strategy for website development • We planned what to teach, to whom & when. • We Modelled. For approximately two months we prepared pages to illustrate to staff what could be done before we launched. • To involve all staff • in planning for pupil involvement we used on-line discussion. • In ownership – we ran competitions to design banners etc. • We identified the key ITC skills needed by staff and prepared simple training packages & aide memoirs. Staff meeting time was then devoted to allowing staff to experiment with support from the core group.
Planned Pupil Involvement • Assembly was used to showcase the site. • The Parrot Needing a name began on-line discussion. • A series of competitions revealed weekly on notice boards encouraged site exploration. • Puzzles to find your way around the site • Competitions to design pages • Competitions to design clip art • Staff identified pupils without home internet access • Computer club was launched before school & at lunchtime - staff encouraged website use in these clubs.
The Big Launch…. • Children launched their website to parents. • They showcased its features on all school computers during an open morning • They celebrated with a balloon launch. • All pupils & parents were given pens with the website address.
Problems overcome or lessons learnt: • The personal commitment of an ICT coordinator to previous websites. • We sacrificed some flexibility in terms of the “prettiness” of the screens in order to obtain ease of use. • Reliability of internet connection in school. • Even three years on we still need to promote the site to parents, pupils &staff.. • We needed a PDF writer to improve speed of download for larger documents. • A realisation that a learning platform is dynamic and never finished – unlike a static website – it needs constant attention and daily use.
How we use the site today: • The design of the web pages, before log – in, has become less important. • We use more web links to direct users to other sites than at first e.g. The parents centre, Local authority pages for specific information, charity sites etc. • The pages after log –in and the sharing of documents has become more important. • Networking with other schools using a platform has become more desirable.
Quickly sorting documents • We can place files in a searchable repository by tagging them in a specific yet easily taught way. • We can use content manager to place packages of documents on any website page. Extra documents or revisions added to a package appear automatically. • We can add documents to a resource gallery and from there - position them onto a page as a download.
Documents we store on the web: • School policies & prospectus • Guidance notes for parents • Staff handbooks & guidance notices • Useful resources • Governor papers – dates for meetings etc • SEF documentation • Assessment exemplar samples of work • Staff Training
Creating E-learning materials • With our VLE we also gained software for the collation of e-learning lessons • This enables us to create our own packages of work suitable for use on a white board. • These packages operate in word but attach into a single package all the hyperlinks, supporting software etc needed to deliver the lesson. These packages can be shared between teachers using the methods already described. • E-learning objects can be placed on a website so that pupils can revisit them after a lesson for independent work or to share their learning with their parents at home.
Creating shared learning materials • At first the core group were trained by external trainers provided by our software company. • During our first year we used external grant money to cascade this training to all staff by releasing them for two school days each – working together in small groups. • We then obtained more grant money to continue this work with other schools. To date we are on our third project.
Aims of the Projects • To raise the quality of whole class teaching with the use of music/video clips/sounds/enhanced experiences • To organise the use of resources available for teaching into a more useable packages. • To enhance geographical, historical & mathematical teaching by the use of modern technology
How the projects were structured. • An initial half day briefing for heads. • Each project then began with an orientation meeting to show demonstrative material and discuss the project – each just before a holiday to allow time for reflection before work began. • Groups of 10 -12 teachers from half a dozen schools met for three days at New Invention. • There was a gap between each day to allow time for independent work. • On the third project an extra dimension was added requiring each delegate to train another from their school.
Prior knowledge. A core group from New Invention Junior identified some key skills necessary for using this approach to ICT and designed a questionnaire to assess confidence. Experience with the geography group then further clarified some key issues that could quickly and usefully be shared. For the second history project a CD of useful source material (music clipart etc) was pre-prepared and key skills such as hyperlinking taught at the beginning.
Deciding what to do • Part of the initial half day with teachers involved discussing the focus for their work and avoiding obvious duplication of effort. • Where two teachers were researching the same topic as in Tudor history for example, we agreed different lines of enquiry.
Clarifying the Tight Learning Focus • Experience has taught us that authoring is addictive, time consuming and it is easy to get enticed into blind alleys! How to avoid this? • Mind mapping software was used pre-installed with key questions to identify important decisions – with the added advantage of teaching a new skill!
The stimulus! Projects need a stimulus. • Samples of authored material from New Invention Junior School • snippets of teacher’s TV. were used to show possibilities.
The Result • We have created some new materials for the teaching of geography, history, maths & English. • We have established a parallel learning platform to our own to which each primary school has access. • Our aim is to meta- tag the learning resources made by these schools into a shared repository accessible to all teachers in each school. • We hope if we can continue and expand this network the repository will accumulate sufficient resources to convince the most reluctant teacher that it has something to offer their pupils.
Extra Benefits • An increase in the ICT skills of all participants • An increase in the confidence with which the participating teachers showcased their finished work to others. • The sharing of good classroom practice such as for example the use of primary source material. • The exchange of working methodologies. • The evidence for all this development could be seen in the contrast between interim exchanges of ideas and the viewing of unfinished work at regular intervals.
The Keys to Success • Having experienced ICT confident staff to help solve problems as they arise. • Working together in the same space in dedicated time. • Individual laptops on which to work. • A clear vision of teaching objectives. • Exemplar material to set a standard. • Regular input from a senior manager to challenge, praise, encourage or refocus as required. • Support from the heads of each school to view completed projects etc. • The opportunity for teachers to showcase their work.
The vision – our wish list for the future! • A world in which e-learning packages are available for any person with allocated rights to access. • A VLE as the heart of a school community and a gateway to wider learning via the world wide web. • E-learning packages that exploit the power of the world wide web • E-learning packages that could enable learning to take place beyond the classroom by: • re-visiting work packages at a later date to reinforce learning • Or exploring work packages alone when not in school • Or re-visiting work packages to explore new avenues in more depth. • Wider on line consultation by using a survey tool to be offered at the next VLE upgrade. • Links between our facility management system and our VLE for integrated timetables, assessment & report writing. • Sufficient time and energy to complete our list!