Tuesday, 23 December 2008

A key to getting things going

Me being starstruck at NECC with Kevin Honeycutt

Kevin's Keychain -what a great idea!!

Finally school has finished on what could only be described as a year of real ups and downs for me and the school. We have been going through a huge rebuilding and re-organisation programme at my school and the last few weeks of school were incredibly difficult with effectively only one third of the school available for use. The projects are huge and we are starting to see the finished product as we pack our bags for the long break.

In this climate of change, many find the process unnerving and the usual shedding of staff, non renewal of contracts, interviews, departures has really taken it toll on staff morale. The last week has been an attempt to heal some of this and look towards next year with hope. Meetings, planning and general unwinding have been a major part of the last week of school.

My year's highlight would have to be NECC and though the school has not asked me to present about my trip, I want to do something to create change. With so many other things happening it has not really been given a time on the school calendar, but with the reality of lots more computers in the school next year and my job as the head of curriculum for year 8, this was an opportunity to do some training of staff. I offered the opportunity to staff to come and have a sandpit session and try some new tools and said the session was voluntary.

The humour that has been required to survive around school lately was really needed on the day- the door the library was blocked by huge cranes lifting out classrooms and we had to enter by a back entrance. The whole session was one I had thought about for quite a while. I was extremely nervous about it - people feel so confronted by tec hnology and I didn't want to add to the problem.
I had been inspired by Kevin Honeycutt's presentation at NECC where he had used the simple prop of a keychain with a tag for each application or software that he covered in an inservice. These tags are laminated and have the link and a note about what the software is for on the back. They can go on the keyring he provides and the collection can be neverending- just like the learning involved. As Kevin says,'Teacher's love to collect things and if they are laminated they don't throw them out'.

This all sounded fine and then on a WOW 2.0 interview Kevin provided a link to his template and I downloaded it. Many of the apps on his template are great but some I wasn't going to use and some I would use weren't on there. So I had to learn Excel very fast and created seven new tags. These then had to be printed and stuck together, cut out and laminated. I found some cheap carabiners for them to use as the holders and after many hours of cutting and hole punching I took my self doubt and my packets of tags to the classroom. My dear friend Pam came along to help and although there were only eight staff who took up the offer, it was a great start to learning for me - how to deal with all the usual issues with adult learners - and for them.

I started with showing them 'Did You Know' and 'Pay Attention' on Teacher tube and then got them to make and account and favourite those two vids. Most had never done any of these things! I showed them where the embed codes were and said we would use these later.

Then we had a look at 'Searchme' a really beautiful visual search engine and Silobreaker which is a topic based news aggregator. After we had done these three I gave out the first sets of tags and instead of guffaws I had lots of delight and wows ! Those who had been taking notes relaxed and started to explore because they knew they could come back late and find what they wanted.

We moved on to getting a gmail account and some had done Google docs with me and I showed those who hadn't what it could do. Then we started individual blogs using blogger- none had done any of this before. First entry included uploading a photo . Then for the second entry they had to find a video on their subject area from teacher tube and get the embed code and upload it.

This process was about where we had a break. After the break I showed them Voicethread and got some started on that and also Animoto. By the end of the morning all had a blog and were happily blogging, embedding and uploading away. Several were starting to produce their own content. Most had eight new tags for their keyrings and could say they felt confident to do this on their own. My challenge to them was to ask them to be my assistants when I did this with the whole staff and most said they could!

So my reflections
- the small group was a blessing and having Pam and tech support person Euan Bradley as helpers was essential.
- the keytags idea really works! People are grateful for something given to them and the fact it is a handy prompt to remember the learning and to show what they did is fantastic
- this was a tricky group - almost minimal users and mostly older women, but they came and tried and were telling me what they had done next day. They were supporting each other and it was fun!
- the sandpit idea was good -come along and try at your own speed
- my main focus was 'How could you use this in your classes?' We could have done more apps but the conversations around this question were fantastic and for a group of tired out folk who just wanted to rest- I take my hat off to their professionalism and enthusiasm.
What Next?
Do it again with the next who are willing to come. The videos set the tone and focused people's minds on the task,
Have help to answer the questions.
Make lots of keytags- people want their one!!!
Go on to wikispaces,nings, social bookmarking , google readers, twitter- maybe an in-school one using yammer?, using the flip videos to create content themselves, movie maker ...
My list will go on and perhaps a wiki of what we do would be good- something like the 23 things site as challenge with lots of support and a list of go-to people for support... I am on a roll here!

Looks like I will be making lots of keytags ... thanks Kevin!!!

Here is the link for the template again -http://iconnectilearn.ning.com/forum/topics /2084620:Topic:6146 Please note you have to be a member of Ning to enter this site and the template is available in pdf , excel and numbers formats


Pam Thompson said...

Sue, thanks for this post. It sounds as though you provided a comfortable and non-threatening learning environment for those teachers. The key chain idea sounds great. I remember Trudy Sweeney talking about it at the CEGSA conference when she returned from NECC08. Now you've blogged about it it's all falling into place.

Good luck with your new working space next year.

Pamelarvo said...

This was a most interesting post Sue - you have encapsulated so much and described feelings and events sharply and evocatively. You really did a great job that day and made a significant start to what must have seemed a formidable task - the journey has begun. It was exciting for me to be able to make my little contribution too!Looking forward to accumulating more tags.

Anonymous said...

Sue, great post with wonderful ideas, all practical and based on success! I'm going to think about this some more.