Just say Yes!

I wonder how many times I’ve had a good idea (or a bad one) and managed to talk myself out of it. It’ll just make more work, I’ll look stupid when it falls through, I won’t pull it off, someone else would do it better than me.

I remember, some years ago, being invited down to the Emirates to do a 15 minute talk on collaborative technology. I think it was because I started a shared slideshow on Google Docs to collect and share ideas for non-techie teachers but I’m really not sure.

I’d never stood up in front of other teachers before, I was on sage or role model, I’d never even been to a conference. I read the email, read it again, thought for about 30 seconds and replied yes and hit send. I did it quick because I knew that if I thought about it I’d say no.

I didn’t know what I would say, what I would recommend or how it might be perceived. And I’d have to wangle the day out of work. But if I said yes quickly then what the hell, I’d just have to make it work. And I did.

15 tools in 15 minutes turned into a 10 minute rush through as they were running late by the time it was my turn, but it went down very well. It led to my first Teachmeet (where I further compressed it to a 7 minute version – mostly by skipping all the pauses to breathe I put into the original), a further series of sessions (including a visit to BAFTA) and ultimately, gave me the confidence to run all kinds of CPD sessions that have kept me sane.

At the same time, I’ve had lots of ideas for after school activities. I’ve bought sewable, wearable Lilypad kit, PicAXE robots, Arduino kits, Raspberry Pis and more. But my Y11s need coursework catchup time. It means more work when I am flooded with marking. It doesn’t provide ‘measurable impact’ for my appraisal. I’m tired!

However. In the same way that my CPD sessions, my CAS work and my other ‘extra’ stuff keeps me sane, running this kind of stuff is a big part of why I became a teacher in the first place. Not to get people through exams, or controlled assessment. Not to make sure my PP, SEND, Level 4, Most Able and other cohorts make the requisite demonstrations of progress according to their KS2 data. Not to convince students who ‘don’t like IT’ that they should engage for 60 minutes a week because I want them to. Those things are important, but the thing that really gets the blood flowing is working with enthusiastic people who want to know more about something.

I did that in passing before I was a teacher, and it was what made me look into a PGCE. It’s why I like running CPD for teachers. And it’s why, when I saw a tweet showing a wind speed graph at the Forth Bridge during a storm I decided I was buying a weather station, talking to the science department and doing something with students.

It’s early days, and I’m not sure I have a clear end goal – but then the end goal isn’t really the point. I’ll find some interested students, we’ll do some stuff, get lost along the way and we’ll all learn something. I don’t really know what I’m doing – so it may all go horribly wrong. It will undoubtedly cause more work for me. And I’m sure there are others (@tecoed) who could do it better. But if I don’t say yes quickly then it won’t happen. And that would be a great shame.


ICT Films

Abandoned cinema 1962

Originally uploaded by phill.d

At school we have a licence that allows us to show any film to students for no charge.

Thinking about extra-curricular activities, it would be great if kids understood what it was like to have to use dialup to connect to another computer (War Games), or how people viewed the internal workings of a computer (Tron).

I’m thinking about having a monthly #ictfilm screening and encouraging students to come along, bring some popcorn and gain a bit of ICT insight.

Throwing suggestions open to Twitter I got the following suggestions (in no particular order).

War Games
Short Circuit
The Matrix
Johnny Mnemonic
The Social Network
The Pirates of Silicon Valley
Terminator 2
I, Robot
War Games 2
Minority Report
Silent Running
Weird Science
Total Recall
Fifth Element
Source Code
The Last Starfighter
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
The Net

I’ve not seen all of those, and I’d have to check certificates (is there a way I can exempt the certificate with parental permission as it’s for education purposes, I wonder?).

Any other ideas?

Extra-curricular alcoholism

A colleague of mine in another school wanted to start an extra-curricular club involving a media project. As this could easily hit a number of cross-curricular themes, one of the Deputy Heads suggested he go and see the Head of English, Head of Drama, Head of ICT and the G&T Co-ordinator.

This got me thinking. And looking around. We have a number of school clubs. The ‘traditional’ clubs – sport, music, drama – all seem to have the usual cohorts of the very sporty, the very musical and often the more disenfranchised, respectively. But the other clubs all seem to draw almost if not exclusively from the G&T register.

As a teacher, there are advantages to this – you get the more able students, the more enthusiastic students, the more independent and hard-working students. This means that the outcomes are likely to be better and there will probably be fewer side-issues to deal with.

It seems to me though, that excluding the 90% of students who aren’t on the G&T register is a little unfair. Yes, the majority of those 90% would probably exclude themselves – but at least that is their choice. Why should only the academically gifted be given the best opportunities?

Drama is a case in point. Some of the students that struggle academically, and often those amongst the most challenging students we face suddenly thrive and find a place to participate and add value, both to their education and to the school, in the Drama department’s productions.

I have no doubt that targetting and stretching the more able children is important, but I just can’t help but feel a bit eliteist if I support the idea of G&T only opportunities.