Terry Freedman considers why the Naace ICT Impact Awards are such a valuable feature of the educational ICT landscape in the UK.
Some years ago I was driving in America, and I passed a school with a massive sign which read: “Chuck Evans*: Teacher of the semester!” In those days, we Brits would never dream of even acknowledging success, let alone celebrating it. Ask a colleague how his lesson went and you might receive a muttered “OK I suppose. Could have been worse.” if it had been really successful!
Fortunately, that all changed when Becta, the now-defunct ICT advice agency, introduced its ICT impact awards. Well, Becta may have gone the way of all flesh, but Naace, the subject association for ICT, is still carrying the flag as far as acknowledging ICT impact is concerned.
The word “impact” is important: ask any Ofsted inspector. You can set off all the multimedia effects you like, but at the end of the lesson the inspector will simply ask: how has this aided the children’s learning? Likewise in every area of educational ICT: doing something is necessary, but not sufficient. It has to have an impact.
Each year, Naace invites the ICT community to nominate people for the various categories of the Naace ICT Impact Awards. These are as follows, with this year’s winners alongside them:
· Curriculum support – Andrea Carr
· Early years – Jack Davidson
· Global community – David Mitchell
· Inclusion – Ceri Williams
· Leadership – Simon Finch
· Local community – Ian Usher
· Primary – Chris Mayoh
· Secondary – John Partridge
· Technical support – Tony Sheppard
· Lifetime Achievement – Dr Christina Preston and Penny Patterson
(You can find more details of the winners on the Naace website: http://www.naace.co.uk/events/conference2013/naaceimpactawards2013/winners).
Nominees then have to submit a statement to say why they think they should receive the award. A panel of judges then reviews all the submissions, and makes its decisions (the process is slightly different for the Lifetime Achievement Awards).
The key thing to bear in mind about this process is that it is all about peer recognition. Nominees are selected by Naace members, and the submissions judged by Naace members. As Mark Chambers, CEO of Naace, neatly summarises it:
“It’s a process of recognition from within our community of excellence in ICT.”
And that word ‘community’ is important too. I like to think of Naace as a sort of extended family. It comprises teachers, ex-teachers, local authority advisors, consultants, technical support people and suppliers. Indeed, it is the commercial members of Naace which sponsor most of the Awards. Naace is a niche organisation, but not an exclusive one. That’s where its strength lies. That, and the astonishing amount of expertise held by its members, all of whom are professionals and know what they are looking at when it comes to making a judgement.
But isn’t all this just a case of mutual back-slapping and self-indulgence? Not at all. Mark points out that the Awards have a very important function in that they help people to recognise good practice, and what works – be that over a relatively short period of time or, indeed, a person’s career.
Also, because it’s a peer-oriented process, even simply being nominated is a source of great pride to the people concerned. José Picardo, publisher of the Box of Tricks website (http://www.boxoftricks.net), writes that he feels
“extremely humbled at the fact that the words impact and award are being uttered alongside my name deliberately – and not by mistake, as one might imagine might be more likely.”
Simon Finch, who received the Award for “For his commitment to ensuring a safe and supportive learning environment for the education sector”, commented:
“I am very pleased and grateful to be chosen for the award. It is good to see that esafety and digital citizenship are valued by the ICT and education community.”
A similar sentiment was expressed by Andy Field, a teacher nominated in the Secondary category:
“I was delighted to be nominated for a Secondary impact award – great for myself, my school and my students that our IT work has been recognised and identified as having a wider impact. A great honour and really appreciated.”
Andrea Carr, winner in the Curriculum Support category, is also pleased – not only with the Award, but to be working with the Naace community:
“I am delighted with the award not least because the NAACE community has been hugely supportive of the work Rising Stars has done over recent years. It has been a pleasure to be able to help bring together this knowledge and expertise into curriculum materials which are now used by schools around the country.”
Recognition and celebration are important, of course, but there is another compelling reason for having the Naace ICT Impact Awards. As Mark points out, the ICT community in England has been going through enormous upheaval recently. The ICT curriculum has been labelled as ‘boring’, and the emphasis is increasingly on computing rather than other aspects of ICT such as digital literacy. Mark believes it is important to balance some of the current messages by recognising the achievements and indeed the legacy of the educational ICT community.
Three things struck me while looking at the list of nominees in the various categories. First, that there was some pretty stiff competition. Second, that individuals can be pitted against companies – and in one case, that of technical support, the individual won! Third, the quality of the submissions by nominees. In some cases this took the form of a written statement, in some it was a PowerPoint, and in others it was a video. In at least one case, it was a web app. All were produced with great care and attention to detail. The list of nominees is too long to reproduce here, but you can see them for yourself – together with why they were nominated – on the Naace website: http://www.naace.co.uk/events/conference2013/naaceimpactawards2013/shortlist.
Looking at the supporting statements, something else struck me: the sheer quantity and range of activities undertaken, not just in total, but by each individual. Where do they find the time and energy?!
Since Naace launched the scheme in 2011, to ensure that the good work started by Becta did not become a mere footnote of educational history, there has not only been an increase in the number of nominations received, but the calibre of those nominees continues to be high. Mark puts this down to a growing understanding of what really works.
As for the Lifetime Achievement Award, which is, in effect, sponsored by Naace itself, Mark states that the awarding of two winners rather than the more usual one reflects the strength of the people who are around at the moment. Indeed, he goes so far as to say:
“We could probably have awarded even more! These two candidates have really stood out.”
Mark goes on to reflect:
“We’re pleased with the outstanding quality of the Award-winners, and proud to recognise the expertise of Christina Preston and Penny Patterson in particular.”
We live, as they say, in interesting times. But if the quality of the Award nominees and winners are anything to go by, our future is in safe hands.
Terry Freedman is an independent educational ICT consultant, and a Naace Fellow. He publishes the ICT in Education website (http://www.ictineducation.org/) and the Computers in Classrooms newsletter (www.ictineducation.org/newsletter).
Why not join Naace if you’re not already a member? Check out the Naace website at www.naace.co.uk for details of membership, courses, and other interesting and useful information.
* Name changed