What structure and size makes an effective IT support team?

I am looking at IT support team structures for schools of approx. 900-1000 pupils, with a VLE and looking to be cutting edge in ICT teaching and learning. What structure and size do you think is best?

Structure, we currently have . . .
Director of IT
Network Manager
VLE Manager
IT technicians x 2.5
IT Admin/SIMs Manager x 1

What structure/roles do you think is most effective?
Do you think there is enough in our IT support team, or too many staff?
What alternatives would you suggestion?

Many thanks in anticipation . . .

I’m still quite shocked that it can be 2013 and there can still be firsts for women

I enjoyed the grand finale of the Proms yesterday, the Last Night of the Proms. There were some brilliant contributions from the soloists Nigel Kennedy and Joyce DiDonato, as well as the classic rousing anthems! . . .

I noted beforehand that Marin Alsop was going to be ‘the first women to conduct the Last Night of the Proms’ but I did not think too much or deeply about it. A passing thought of good for her and why not a women?! At the end of the day give the best person the opportunity/job regardless of whether they are male or female.

When Marin gave her speech my ears pricked up at the statement, “ I have to say I’m still quite shocked that it can be 2013 and there can still be firsts for women.” The word ‘shocked’ stood out. It made me think, I wonder how many ‘firsts’ are still out there for women?

Should I be shocked at things women have yet to do? Maybe . . . perhaps it depends on the context and certainly if it relates to human rights, equality of welfare and opportunities, economic well-being etc. Equally, perhaps there are things we should be shocked at that men have yet to do?!

Marin finished her speech with, “I want to say to all the young women out there, as I say to all young people: believe in yourselves, follow your passion and never give up, because you will build a future full of possibilities.” Hopefully, it is what we all share at school, often and with passion, to our young people. But what encouraging and positive words for young people to hear from someone ‘up there on the stage’, who has achieved to such very high levels of music. I am pleased Marin made the time to share this to young people.

Twitter is merely insignificant ‘twittering’ . . .

My comments would be:
1. It is the most powerful CDP opportunity available today. Do not underestimate the value of Twitter and its potential. Embrace it, you can learn so much from the professional/global experiences of others.
2. For those actively communicating and interacting via Twitter it is a genuine expression of community, where people share and support one another professionally and through life’s challenges.

I love a bargain, but when it comes to ‘energy’

I love a bargain, I think we all do! But when it comes to creating energy my bargain mentality stops. As a global society, where we impact one another by our actions, have we not learnt lessons from the nuclear power station disaster in Japan? Life is precious and cannot be taken for granted. The proposed plan for a new nuclear power station development at Hinkley Point in Somerset leaves me cold and deeply concerned.

When nuclear power goes wrong it’s ‘massive’ and personally I do not believe it is ever worth the risk.

For me personally it is not about the money we spend or save as energy consumers, it is about the bigger picture, the future of neighbourhoods/vast areas – the potential for contamination and the negative/life threatening impact on health and life expectancy for a very significant number of years.

I love a beautiful environment and we need to source energy with care. Wind farms for example need to be located with sensitivity. But some developments we risk at our peril. Sometimes the potential risks are not worth the short term financial gains. For me nuclear power will never be an option, we have to develop other sources of energy.

Google forms and any associated e-Safety/data protection issues

Can anyone help with the following? Are you using google docs or forms or know of schools that are?
A colleague has raised a concern regarding the use of Google forms within school. I.e concerns about using cloud technologies and services that store data electronically that is not within the UK or EU territory. They reference the associated implications in the event of a data Protection breach and advise that the data is virtually impossible to recover; so raise the potentially difficult legal situation in terms of the school complying with the Data Protection Act.
How do schools assess and manage the risks? What do we need to put in place to use such technologies and comply with Data Protection legislation/requirements on a school? I am not sure how straightforward this is to solve, but imagine it cannot be too hard as many schools are using e.g. Google docs and forms.
Please could you share what your school does or any related links/docs/blogs you know of? Many thanks!

Reasons why we are implimenting BYOD

The reasons why we will be implementing BYOD include:
. to increase pupil engagement and involvement in lessons
. to facilitate greater pupil independence
. to provide increased opportunities for creativity
. to enable additional collaboration between pupils
. to enable spontaneity, to seize ‘the idea and the moment’ – anytime and anywhere

What will it look like? Pupils will:
. carry out internet searches to find information, to aid their understanding and knowledge
. read and evaluate articles via the Internet, to consider and evaluate different viewpoints
. research – to create articles and produce projects that link with their studies and/or individual interests
. work on written documents and edit them, applying approriate grammar
. produce creative writing, using and applying a range of skills and techniques
. create ebooks, with a focus on content and creativity in presentation
. look up words for meaning and correct usage
. find music
. blog, to share with a global audience their learning and interests, and to interact with others
. use games that support their learning
. take photographs that can be used in a range of educational ways
. produce and edit videos to support their learning and the learning of their their peers
. explore multimedia opportunities
. complete homework
. undertake revision
. work on collaborative projects and assignments with their peers

Increasing pupils will take a greater lead in their learning, ‘flipping’ the classroom, with the teacher giving input and support as needed.

Implementation of BYOD in a school

This post follows on from my previous post where I sought feedback from schools worldwide who were already using BYOD. I would like to thank Michele Botha and Nick Saucers in particular for their very detailed and informative responses which have significantly informed the content this post (you can listen to Nick’s response via the comments section of my previous post) .

Before introducing BYOD

Step one:
Establish the purpose

Be clear why you wish to introduce BYOD. What changes are you seeking to bring about? Is it to enable, for example:
. greater engagement from the pupils in lessons?
. pupils to work at a higher level of Bloom’s taxonomy?
. greater creativity, or independence and/or collaboration?
. or? . . .

Step two:
Preparation – technical and safety

. Make sure you have sufficient WiFi capacity and coverage throughout the school for the number of devices that will be connecting
. Address security levels needed and cover e-Safety issues and input needed before implementation. The security levels need to be more robust/extra layer beyond the firewall as adding in significantly more devices, with different settings and multi entry points to the school’s system. Pupils must know how to use devices responsibly, appropriately and without putting themselves in danger
. Set up a different network for different user groups
. ensure you have the funding to cover the preparation and support from the decision makers for sufficient on-going budget funding to support ICT updates and technical support

Step three:
Preparation – staff

. Make sure that all staff have the necessary skills/an identified group of core competencies. All staff can use and are familiar with ‘x’/’y’/’z’ . . . could be e.g. google docs. or google Apps; they will be cloud based tools
. establish common language, using a learning management system such as e.g. Edmodo or Edcanvas

Step four:
Preparation – pupils and parents

. Engage pupils and parents in pre-discussions and run an information evening for parents

Step 5:
Pilot/trial

. Run a trial with a defined group of pupils (they will need to have a defined set of basic core ICT skills). Participation optional (NB schools have found very high percentages of pupils have suitable devices already and some will acquire a device at Christmas, or a birthday, or when a parent ‘upgrades’ their device/s, when parents know their children would benefit by having one. With primary aged pupils feedback supports little ‘tech envy’ and a willingness to work with others/share their device)
. Set perimeters and publish guidelines for devices e.g. minimum spec. for security and safety protection settings, screen size, keyboard or not needed, processing speed, battery use without re-charging etc. Make clear what the school system can and cannot support. N.B. do not suggest specific devices as new models are being introduced all the time. Also, feedback suggests laptops, or similar spec. of a smaller size, are proving to have greater functionality than iPads – great thought needs to be given to this area before making decisions
. Parents to fund the purchase and maintenance of devices, plus insure the device against damage and loss
. Parents and pupils to sign an acceptable users policy or similar
. School to ensure suitable and safe storage of devices (e.g. lock classroom or lockable pupil lockers)

Step 6:
Implementation across chosen groups/year groups

. Address accessibility for all – provision for those without devices, can they borrow or hire from the Media Centre/Library? For homework, if pupils have no Internet access at home could they access in the Media Centre/Library? Or would you provide a google map pin pointing access points in the local community?
. In parallel with implementation add in additional e-Safety input/digital citizenship skills. You could consider the Digital Drivers’ Licence

step 7:
On-going training and development

. Have a tiered ICT CPD programme for staff. Staff will have different levels of competencies and will need to develop from different starting points. Give them options; to work through defined skills/competencies on their own or to attend school run training sessions
. Use your Digital Leaders (or equivalent, i.e. pupils that support ICT development and cascading skills etc) to assist peers and to run INSET for staff and parents

Questions to primary schools worldwide that are using BYOD/BYOT

Implementing BYOD

I am keen as a school that we introduce BYOD or potentially BYOT, and embrace the cultural shift in teaching and learning that this facilitates; ‘flipping’ the classroom and giving pupils ‘extended digital wings’. I am equally keen that we implement this with thought and care so that the best possible learning opportunities are facilitated and robust/appropriate security and e-safety is ensured.

Some questions to educators who already operate BYOD/BYOT, would you recommend:

1. Introducing staff BYOD then pupils at a later date so that any initial issues can be addressed before going ‘whole school’?
2. Separate networks for each user group? Also, do you include parents?
3. A phased approach with pupils, e.g. e-readers as a starting point, and then other devices after a period of time, or would you go for a full range straight away?
4. Limiting the range of devices on-going e.g. iPads plus one or two other devices, or keep it open and flexible for learners and their families? At primary age have you included mobile/smart ‘phones as a BYOD option or have you limited it to non-‘phones i.e. tablets only?
5. An introductory session for parents explaining the initiative?
6. Insisting certain specified level of security and e-safety systems are in place on the devices before they can come into school? School loading these or parents install/arrange?

Concerns:
7. Would parents feel under pressure to buy devices for their children?
8. Would pupils feel upset/left out if they do not have their own device?
9. Would there be issues with pupils seeking what they perceive is the best device and bullying link with this and/or negativity to other pupils with more basic devices?
10. What if parents felt their children are not using the devices enough to justify the cost?
11. Who loads the Apps onto the devices and ensures they are age appropriate and e-safety safe? Parents – having signed up to an acceptable user policy?
12. Would BYOD ‘sit’ comfortably alongside a VLE or do they tend to conflict? Are schools tending to move from VLE to completely cloud based?
13. Can you block the Internet and whitelist certain sites on all tablets and smart ‘phones when the pupils’ devices are out of school? Or are some devices better suited to this? (And let the school’s own filter take over during the school day).

Over all:
14. How do you know when your school is ready for BYOD and that parents will, quite literally, buy into it? Is it having the vision and passion and sowing seeds/drip feeding over a number of months that it will be coming and the benefits so all come on board increasingly? Or . . . ? Are certain trial/pilot projects recommended first?
Has anyone shared a timeline for the implementation of BYOD and what is needed at each stage?
15. Are there ‘model’ BYOD policies that one can refer to?
16. Is there a cloud based storage size that is generally accepted as advisable per pupil and per member of staff? (Our usage would be around 360 pupils and staff, although not all would be using at one time). Assume the IT Network Manager could work this out and the necessary Internet connectivity – speed and capacity . . .
17. Is your wi-fi totally cloud-based and does it allow school to monitor what happens on the network? Do you have a free open network for pupils using this? Does it have a proxy filter system or have you had to teach the children how to input for a proxy in school and a direct internet connection at home?
18. How familiar with cloud based Apps do staff need to be before launching BYOD?
19. How much training do staff need before you can introduce BYOD, or given that classrooms are increasingly being ‘flipped’ – with pupils having a much more active role in leading learning, do staff need minimal if any training for a school to make this move? (Assuming all security, data security and e-safety elements have been addressed (including an additional layer passed the firewall), and adequate wi-fi coverage, capacity and storage is in place).
20. What expectations are schools sharing with staff once BYOD is introduced? For example are all teachers required to facilitate opportunities for own devices to be used in all subjects and all lessons? Or something different.
21. What is the youngest age pupils BYOD has successfully and sustainably been implemented? 10 – 11 year olds or not recommended until older?
22. What ICT skills must pupils have before introducing BYOD?
In the primary setting, we thought the form room could be locked, or devices in a locked cupboard, if the teacher is not in the room. Devices in from home daily, charge and maintained at home etc. Or would you recommend something different?
23. Have you introduced a scheme to help parents purchase devices at reduced prices or over a period of time to spread the costs or have you left it up to them to source?

MANY THANKS for responses! Or happy to Skype to cover the questions above.

BYOD, are we trailblazers or are we missing the boat?

We have the choice to be ‘trailblazers’ or to stand in the wake of innovation and then reflect in the months to come that we played it too safe . . .

Why not use BYOD/mobile devices in school? Children are using them out of school, so why not maximise the educational opportunities and benefits?

BYOD WILL happen in schools. It is merely a question of time.

We deal with ‘damage limitation’ everyday at school, eSafety and cyber bullying, and to date no situations/issues in our school have happened in school time / via school devices; rather they have happened at home via family computers.

So why not bring the positives of using your own devices into the classroom, ‘flipping’ the classroom and at the same time teaching children how to use their own devices safely and appropriately?

We cannot expect or rely on 100% access to any given device, but children will share devices and contribute what they have found . . .

Schools have limited capital so it makes wise financial sense too.

What is needed is:
. a fast, reliable and secure network, with robust WIFI network throughout the school
. the best possible Internet connections and sufficient/a high level of media storage
. the ability to ‘redistribute the bandwidth’ when there is overload, e.g. restrict usage of YouTube at times when there is excessive usage
. teachers who are willing not just to teach but also to learn from pupils. NB teachers cannot know every App and new technological development – we have to let pupils contribute and ‘shape’ future initiatives.

If we ‘fly the flag’ for creativity in teaching and learning and pupils being independent learners, increasingly, there seems to be only one way forward . .? Senior Leaders and Governors need to embrace ‘the tech revolution’ and support initiatives.

I am looking for examples of where this process is moving forward positively so I can share the benefits, please contact me/share what is working well . . . . Thank you.

The draft National Curriculum, reflections on skills and funding

Education is about preparing our young people for life beyond school in the broadest possible sense, so they are: secure in friendships; confident in social skills and skills for life; ready to make a positive different in their local community and able to respond to wider issues and needs in our global society; able to be ‘home makers’ whatever the context and ready for the world of work.

A school curriculum needs to teach empathy, resilience, independence and risk taking as well as key skills linked to different subject areas, and core knowledge.

Creativity, fun, appropriate challenges, passion and real life relevance need to be evident at every stage and within every strand of learning so that all children engage actively and begin the journey of life long learning.

These fundamental skills and opportunities are not jumping out at me as central and at the heart of the recently published draft National Curriculum.  Is that an oversight in the draft proposals or intentional, to ‘encourage’ more schools to become academies?  The success of academies is perhaps the legacy My Grove would like to be linked with?

The draft proposals are very much based on a drive for improving performance/academic success, but fails to mention or acknowledge other factors in this equation, other than parents.  Government funding of facilities, resources, staffing and teacher training sit alongside the curriculum in enabling the desired learning outcomes, plus the individual context of each schools.  Without adequate funding in all these areas it is not realistic to facilitate a broad and balanced curriculum for all and without full local community engagement it is not possible for all our pupils to aspire to and achieve their full potential.

Inclusion and equal opportunities for all, which is highlighted in the draft proposals, is fundamentally important but without increased funding to schools it will remain an ideal that cannot be delivered fully. Perhaps Mr Grove will be making a statement shortly to clarify future funding for schools, to sit alongside the new curriculum proposals?

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