Saturday, 8 February 2014

What is IT Lieracy in 2014?

I've been teaching now since 1998, which in technology terms is a lifetime ago.  I still remember doing IT training sessions on "how to use Word" alongside older staff members who struggled with the very basics. Those days are a long time away!  I've always prided myself on being able to do what I needed to do with computers, without being an expert.  When smartboards came along, and powerpoint became a day-to-day necessity, I learnt how to use it, I've used all the IT tools that have come my way, and I've congratulated myself on being at least in the game, if not leading the pack.  I'm doing a blog, aren't I?

Well, now I'm not too sure I am still keeping up, and it's made me wonder what IT competency means for teachers and aspiring teachers. It feels to me like the number of programmes, websites and apps which I need to be confident with have exploded in recent years.  So, if we accept that we need more than Word and Powerpoint, what else do we need to consider?

Bob Harrison (@bobharrisonset) has put together a quiz to help you think about exactly that, and this was my first step in thinking about this whole area, and gives much food for thought. Watching the tweets from the people at #ililc4 has also made me wonder about my future priorities, and how fast I need to adapt. Here are my additional thoughts.

Managing your classes - Excel
A good teacher knows his/her pupils - their names, quirks, what makes them tick, AND what they need to progress, and that means data.  It never occurred to me when I was training. However, there's no escaping data, and it can be a powerful tool if you don't allow it to rule your life - which brings me to my achilles heel.  Excel allows you to track your pupils, identify trends, and isolate particular groups through the cunning use of filters. Now, in our school we use SIMS for data, but I feel like I only use the equivalent of the little toe of either programme. I was very envious of a fellow member of the #mfltwittterati who tweeted about his use of excel to manage data, whereas because I use it so badly, it takes me an age to do anything.  It really feels like "me no speaky excel". as the formulas especially completely baffle me.  He made the point that it was one of his pupils who showed him how to set it up, and it helps him immensely. This has to be part of your armoury.

Use your VLE
As astonishing as it may sound, our school has only just got a VLE, but the benefits are huge - the ability to help pupils have reference to materials, the ability to set homework.  It is a great resource, and you should make full use of it.

Social Media and flipping classrooms
I teach German and French.  The internet is a powerful tool, which has the potential to connect people, which means being able to get pupils to speak with, read blogs from and write to other people.  As my pupils have assured me, writing letters is very last-century, and even emails are incredibly clunky.  They also belong to a generation that teach themselves how to play the guitar from youtube.  We need to be able to tap into this, so this means...

  • class blogs, such as
  • skype
  • twitter for giving links and information
  • google docs and google forms
  • dropbox and wikis
  • edmodo - I haven't tried it yet, but it is on my list of things to do before the end of this academic year.
  • Apps such as Explain Everything or Show Me or powtoon to allow you to put together videos/presentations that pupils can watch at home
  • apps and websites for recording audio -, audioboo
  • video conferencing possibilities such as google hangout
  • for making flashcard memory games
The possibilities and potential of technology are demonstrated in this poster by @kazWd about engaging homework ideas.

The prospect of our school getting ipads is some way away, but many schools do have them, and their user-friendliness is much praised. @joedale is a source of much information.  Just as ipads and iphones / smartphones become part of everyday life, so we need to think about how we can use them.  Ignoring them isn't really an option.

Commercial websites and fragmentation of the market
Here's my problem.  I have a tiny departmental budget, and many of the commercial websites are simply out of my reach.  As attractive as their offers are, I can't take them up.

The development of what's on offer happens at such a bewildering rate, that I don't know how durable many of these developments are.  When it was just Microsoft Office, it meant that although you needed to adapt to the latest generation, you didn't need to worry about whether the materials you had developed would simply become unusable. Just as I consider getting to grips with google docs, someone moots the possibility that they may be obselete in a couple of years.  Seriously, I would welcome advice.

My priorities?
1.  excel
2.  blogs
3.  google docs
4. edmodo
5.  keeping my sanity

One thing at a time, and keep getting advice from my tweeps.  Keep experimenting, keep being positive.