31 Days to Become a Better Ed Tech Leader -- Day 21: Organise a Team Meeting With a Difference

A task a day for 31 daysIf you lead a team of ed tech teachers, you can do a lot with team meetings; in fact, you can turn (at least some of them) into opportunities for professional development. It's a very good idea to occasionally depart from the standard team meeting format and put on a "special". This helps to keep interest high, and enables various goals to be achieved, including staff professional development, which I discussed in the post about attending conference. They can also help the team to maintain its "edginess" and dynamism. As Doug Woods said in his comment about the post on resources, the most precious resource a school has is its staff. Help them become even better, and in so doing improve the team as a unit.

1 Invite a guest speaker

It may be difficult to get someone to come for just an hour. However, if you invite them to spend the afternoon, say, being shown around and taken into some lessons and talking to students, they may be willing to address you and your team afterwards. The benefit for them is that get to see a real school in action, and which prevents them from losing touch quite so rapidly!

Alternatively, invite another member of staff or even a student to give a talk on something of relevance. It may be about a generic issue such as assessment or lesson observation, or a more specific one such as how your students use Facebook.

If you invite a student to an after-school meeting, make sure you obtain parental permission and check that it's OK with the powers-that-be.

Remember: all guests should be offered refreshments.

2 Evaluate resources

Make team meetings productiveIt helps to prepare for this. For example, ask teachers to come armed with a list of topics that they need resources for, and/or a list of resources they have come across or acquired but have not had time to have a proper look at. There's a rubric I devised which you may find helpful.

Also, consider getting in inspection copies of books and demo software to look at.

You could also consider combining this idea with the previous one, and invite a product salesperson to come in and give you a demo and answer questions.

3 Invite the senior management/leadership team to meet YOUR team

Yes, they know you and your team and what you do -- but  do they? Why not invite them along to look at the kind of activities the students are asked to do, and have a go at some of the whizzier things themselves? Make sure there is student work to look at, and be prepared to discuss examination results and that sort of thing.

4 Do pupil work scrutiny

"Work scrutiny" means going through pupils' books and folders to try and gauge what they have leant and achieved -- in this case in the use of educational technology. It can be very useful if you can, with permission of course, go through the pupils' books from another subject, such as English, although a request to do so could be construed as being some sort of inspection.

The purpose of doing work scrutiny is to find out how good a job you've done at getting pupils to use and understand educational technology in general. Read more detail in the post about looking at students' work.

5 Watch and discuss a video podcast

There are plenty of technology-related podcasts available. It could be useful to watch and discuss one or two, in case there are issues you could raise with students. (Look out my forthcoming post about a great video to get the intellectual juices flowing.)

6 Listen to and discuss an audio podcast

See above.

7 Have an international discussion

This is a variation of inviting a guest speaker. Why not arrange to speak to an ed tech teacher or her students in Canada or the USA, say, via Skype? Obviously, you have to keep an eye on time zones (which is why, being based in the UK, I did not mention Australia or New Zealand).

8 Do moderation

"Moderation" means going through pupils' work and assessing it, in order to make sure that everyone has the same understanding of (a) what the standards are against which you're assessing the work, and (b) how to interpret and apply them. It is not the same as work scrutiny, mentioned earlier.

9 Share best practices

If you or a team member has done something that worked really well, or heard about something that someone else has done, it should be shared. This idea could be combined with the first one, ie you could invite a guest speaker, possibly from another curriculum area in the school, to talk about what other teachers have tried. If you arranged for another teacher to come and look at what you do,

10 Share ideas

Why not discuss the activities you already do, and see if other ways of achieving the same thing can be thought of? Ideas that sound promising could be put into practice on a limited trial basis -- see the next idea also.

11 Share research results

For this to work, at least one person has to have done some research of course. It could be classroom-based research. For example, you may have decided to try out one of the ideas generated in the ideas "special" meeting with one class as a pilot study. The outcomes can be discussed here. Or someone might report back on a conference or an exhibition they've attended.

12 Have staff training

Use the time to be shown how to use a particular application, and to practice using it. This can be especially useful if a unit of work is coming up that requires people to have a knowledge of, say, how to use a wiki or desktop publishing.

13 Create resources

The one thing that teachers always complain they have too little of is time. So make a space for them to create resources. Doing so in the same room as others gives people a chance to bounce ideas off their colleagues.

14 Share news updates

This works especially well if you have asked different members of your team to be responsible for different things. For example, are there changes in the rules about writing school reports? Has anything happened in the edublogosphere that ought to be brought to your colleagues' attention?

15 Do development planning

What courses will you put on next year? What needs to be done for the new course starting in September? What courses do you hope to run, or should you be thinking about running, in 3 years' time?

16 Discuss data

How well are your students doing? How much progress have they made since last year? Are there differences between the attainment of girls and boys? What does your data tell you about these sorts of questions?

17 Discuss ways to become better

This is not quite the same as discussing ideas (see above). Having analysed the data, you will probably want to discuss ways in which to improve -- but this can be a stand-alone activity. A very useful starting point is to approach it from the point of view of a student. As a student, how do you know how well you are doing, for instance. In fact, why not ask the students what they think you're doing well, and what needs addressing, with suggestions?

18 Focus on pupils with special educational needs

Take a look at your handouts or VLE pages for your students. Do they require a higher standard of reading than some of your students possess? What is in place to ensure that students at risk of falling behind get the extra help they require? In fact, going back a step, what is in place to make sure that you find out in advance which students are at risk in that sense? What about students with physical disabilities? Have you catered for them?

Use a meeting to discuss these issues and then draw up an action plan to deal with them.

19 Focus on pupils who are gifted and talented

If pupils are under-challenged they become bored, and bored children often become disruptive. What extension activities are in place to prevent that happening? Again, use the meeting to identify gaps in the provision for such students, and decide who is going to what about it by when.

20 Have a good clear-out

Do you and your team really need that copy of the version of the National Curriculum that was changed in 2000? It's nice to have an archive of historical material -- but only if you're a museum. I have always found that clearing out a load of obsolete stuff has a really liberating and refreshing effect on the whole team.

21 Do budget planning and analysis

Is too much money being spent on printing? Are costs in one area significantly greater than in others? What peripherals and consumables need to be bought before the end of this school year, and what needs to be planned for next year?

Involving the whole team in such discussions can lead to a greater sense of shared responsibility -- as well as some good money-saving ideas.

22 Plan capital purchasing

What equipment needs to bought next year, and what replaced? How about over the next 3 years? You'll need to have your development plan handy for this one. It also ties in with planning professional development (see below).

23 Discuss success and challenges

What's going well, and what not so well? Clearly this is related to other suggestions here, such as sharing good practice, but there is a subtle difference in emphasis. To make this work, there has to be an atmosphere of trust: nobody likes to say in public what is not going so well for them. It also ties in with the Niggles and Quick Wins suggestions (see below).

24 Do joint lesson planning for team-teaching

If there is a chance to have some team teaching, why not use meeting time to do some joint planning? In fact, even if you are not  going to have team teaching, planning lessons together (doing so in pairs works well) can lead to new insights and ideas. It can be a great way to freshen up everyone's teaching. See also the suggestions about creating a lesson plan bank.

25 Discuss lesson observations

If you have a chance to observe each other's lessons, the results can be discussed here. With permission, you could video parts of lessons and use the meeting time to watch and then discuss the videos. Alternatively, and perhaps less threatening to people, carry out this exercise using a third party video. For example, Teachers TV lets you download and use video clips.

26 Departmental policies

When was the last time your departmental policy on assessment was looked at? Do you have one about accessing the VLE? How about equal opportunities? Obviously, in an ideal world the policies will be lived in practice. Nevertheless, the documentation ought to be reviewed and, if necessary, updated at least once a year.

If you think about it, an evaluation by an inspector, who will not have the time to see everything that goes on, can be affected by the sight of a set of policy documents that are clearly 5 years old. Sometimes, the policies themselves are fine in principle, but the terms used have become obsolete. For example, a sentence like "Pupils are not allowed to bring in their own diskettes" looks old even though diskettes are still in use. But changing that to "memory sticks" will only solve the problem temporarily. It may be better to try and future-proof it to some extent by using a general term like "media" instead of a specific one.

27 Niggles list and simple solutions

What sort of things are upsetting people, and how might they be tackled? One of the things that always used to upset me, for example, was teachers leaving the computer room as if it had been hit by an earthquake. Or take the case of a school I visited recently where someone had walked off with a video lead, because it was "stored" on someone's desk. What creative or even very simple solutions could be implemented to deal with such occurrences? See the next suggestion too.

28 Quick wins

In a way, this is similar to #27, but is more outwardly-focused. Walking around the school, what could be done very quickly and inexpensively to make other teachers want to make greater use of the educational technology facilities? Why not ask your colleagues, via a survey, what they like and dislike about the provision, and invite suggestions to improve it? You could then discuss the results at this meeting.

29 Plan professional development

What professional development do the team, and its individual members, require? What's coming up in the next year by way of conferences or other events that may be useful to attend? You will need your development plan at this meeting, because it is much easier to get the go-ahead to attend an event if you can demonstrate how it will enable you and your team to meet your objectives.

Did you find this list helpful? All feedback greatly appreciated!

This is a variation and an update of an article first published on 22 August 2008.