Search this site

Get in touch

Contact Terry Freedman

Thought for the day

Each day a randomly-selected "law", observation or suggestion will appear here.

Last 100 articles
Free subscriptions

Free guide to using interactive whiteboards

IWB Guide Cover26+ suggestions and tips. Free to subscribers of Digital Education (please see the link below)

 Subscribe to our free newsletter, Digital Education!

 It's free. Signing up entitles you to various freebies. We use a double opt-in system, and we won't spam you.

Click the image above for a free sample edition.

Sign-up page.

The DfE Assessment Innovations series collated. This booklet is free to subscribers of Digital Education.

Be notified by email if you prefer:

Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

The Amazing Computer Education Project Book

Remember this?

Amazing Web 2.0 Projects

It’s been downloaded over 35,000 times. I’m hoping to create a similar Computer Education Projects book, which will also be free. Find out how you can help by reading this article:

The Amazing Computer Education Projects Book

Digital Education

News, views and reviews. In-depth articles. Guest contributors. Competitions. Discount codes.

(Not necessarily all in the same issue, but each issue is full of good stuff nonetheless!)

Sign up for our free newsletter now!

Oh No!!If you can't find what you're looking for...

Assuming you’ve tried variations of your search term and checked the spelling without any luck, you may find the article Finding stuff on the ICT in Education website helpful.

Alternatively, if it’s not an article you’re looking for, try looking through the menus at the top of the screen.

E-Books for Sale

Want to make your ICT lessons more interesting?

Then Go on, bore ‘em: How to make your ICT lessons excruciatingly dull is just right for you.

Clustr Map
Terry Freedman's Social Profile
Powered by Squarespace


Amazing News About the Amazing Web 2.0 Projects Book

I thought you might be interested in some news about the Amazing Web 2.0 Projects Book.

As of 5 minutes ago, it had been downloaded at least 11,928 times since the 14th March.

I’ve received and read some great comments about the book. You can view them here:

If you can spare three minutes, please give me some feedback via a poll I’ve set up:

(This is the link behind the 'Take our poll' text over on the right-hand side.)

It consists of just three questions, so won’t take you long! Thanks.

If you like, place a link to the poll from your own website or, even better, embed the poll using this code:

<span id="poll_70_1_v">

<script src="">



All you do is go into the HTML view of your blog post or web page, and put that code within the Body section, ie between the tags <body></body>. You should see the questions as they appear on the link above once you have done that. Once someone has voted, they will be able to see the results of the poll so far.

As the poll is actually hosted on my site, it won’t use up valuable real estate on yours.

New developments

I’m going to be announcing some exciting developments in relation to the book, and the contributors to it and the subscribers to my newsletter, Computers in Classrooms, will be the first to know about them. Here is one for starters:

I’ve set up two methods whereby you can embed the book on your own website or blog if you want to.

Firstly, there is a SlideShare option.  The links are live, ie you can click on them and they work. Also, the subject-project  list near the beginning of the book now contains hyperlinks to the projects cited. You’ll see the embed code near the top right-hand side of the screen.

Secondly, I have created a Myebook version. To obtain the embed code, you will need to open the book and then click on the Info tab. The advantage of this over the SlideShare version is that it looks and sounds like a real book, and you can zoom in to read it more clearly. Also, you can grab parts of the screen and email it to a friend. Unfortunately, though, the links don’t work, simply because I don’t have time to create them all manually – I’m waiting for the automated version of the book builder to do that for me!

Here's what it looks like:


Thanks again for contributing to this ebook, and for spreading the word about it. Judging from the number of downloads and the comments written about it, I think a lot of people have found it very useful so far.


31 Days to Become a Better Ed Tech Leader

How do you get to be a better educational technology leader in a school? Lots of reading, obviously. Plenty of networking, both online and offline. Getting to conferences, again both online and offline. But where do you go for a more structured approach, that you can do in your own time and at your own pace?

A task a day for 31 daysI don’t know the answer to that question, so I thought I’d start my own ‘course’ – actually just a series of blog posts for the next 31 days. Inspired by such luminaries as Darren Rowse, Steve Dembo and Shelly Terrell, the 31 Days series sets a new task every day. Taken as a whole, these challenges should help you do an even better job than you’re doing already. So it should prove useful even for old hands, as well as folk who have just taken on a new job as ICT or Technology leader or co-ordinator.

What was that about a daily task? Don’t worry: I know everyone is busy. Therefore, the task I’ve set for each day shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to consider and start the initial steps. I’m not suggesting that each task will only take 15 minutes in total; rather, I am asking you to set aside 15 minutes a day to look at the tasks, maybe jot down some notes about it, perhaps talk to colleagues about it. In other words, each task is a sort of jump-starter to get some different ideas flowing.

The new series will start on Friday, but you can read the first two instalments later today if you’re a subscriber to Computers in Classrooms, the free newsletter.  You can sign up using the form on the newsletter page.


8 Point Room Check

Use a checklist to help keep the facilities in tip-top conditionHere's a checklist you can use to help keep a computer suite in tip-top condition. Make sure the students know you will be checking as well.

Room number ____

  • Are all the computers working?

  • Are all the printers working?

  • Do the printers have paper in them?

  • Have discarded print-outs been cleared away?

  • Are all the mice working?

  • Are all the monitors working?

  • Is the network working?

  • Is there a student User ID list handy in case someone forgets their details?

This article was originally published on 14th October 2006.


50 Rules of Social Media Etiquette for Students

I've just been checking my Google Reader subscriptions., and came across this interesting post from Social Guy. It contains 50 'netiquette' rules for students, categorised into General, Twitter and Facebook. Helpfully, there are sections devoted to job-seeking and grammar as well.

Observe the rules of etiquetteI don't agree with all of these 'rules'. For instance:

Substituting “2″ for “to” looks like you’re in junior high.

Well, perhaps, but it also saves one character, which could be crucial!

Another one:

You might think it’s nice to send an automatic message every time someone follows you, but it actually makes you look lazy and unengaged. Social media is about the personal effort behind the connection.

I agree, but not responding at all for a while also makes you look unengaged.

I shouldn't use this set of rules completely out of the box, but as a very useful starting point for discussion with students.


Volcanic Ash Surprises

I find two aspects of the current situation surprising. (In case you're reading this in 10 years' time or something, the 'situation' is that a volcanic eruption in Iceland has thrown a huge cloud of ash and smoke over half of the western hemisphere, resulting in a flying ban over Western Europe.) This has resulted in thousands of teachers being stranded abroad, leaving schools in the position of probably having to close unless they can get enough cover teachers in.

The first surprise is that nobody in the media has, as far as I know, accused teachers, headteachers and the entire educational establishment of gross irresponsibility. Last year, when some schools had to close because of the weather conditions, the papers were full of rubbish about how schools had wimped out. The facts that (a) the Met Office had issued severe weather warnings and told people not to make journeys unless they were absolutely necessary, and (b) that the transport system itself had all but collapsed in some areas (I was due to give a talk in Nottingham and couldn't even get to the station!) completely escaped them.

So here we have this volcanic ash cloud, which you can see in this video:

OK, so teachers can't fly back to Britain and their schools. Couldn't they hire a boat? Or knock up a raft? Or swim? It's only a matter of time before some in-depth report proves that all of these options were possible.

More seriously, here's a question, and this indicates the second thing that surprised me in a way. Given the investment in ICT over the last couple of decades, and the ubiquity of devices like web cams, and wireless broadband, why should schools and teaching and learning be disrupted, as opposed to inconvenienced?

To put it another way, what has not been done to make continuing schooling possible, even in the event of this kind of situation? I'm not saying this as a way of knocking schools, or to be provocative: it's a genuine question. If we can figure out why we can't almost carry on as normal in this sort of extreme situation, it ought to be possible to work out what is needed to ensure that the use of technology is truly embedded in educational practice in more normal circumstances.


We Are Running a Good Service Apart From the Delays 

It's a GOOD serviceAs people who travel in London will know, the section of Transport for London responsible for running the tube service feel the need to continually announce that they are running a good service. If an individual were to exhibit similar behaviour you would probably conclude that they were suffering from deep feelings of insecurity. Such a neat diagnosis would be shattered, however, upon hearing the announcement I heard a while ago:

We are running a good service, apart from the delays and cancellations.

Well, if it's good enough for TfL it's good enough for me! I'm running a good service here apart from the lateness of the latest issue of the newsletter, Computers in Classrooms, and an article on change management planned for today (I'm sure there's a bit of irony there).

The reason for the delay is that I was contacted on Friday and commissioned to do some work by today. That wouldn't have prevented the newsletter coming out this morning, were it not for the fact that as I was about to send off the completed work, I discovered that it had disappeared. I have no idea what happened, especially as I am assiduous in saving my work every few nanoseconds. I finally limped into bed at 01:40, having typed it all up again.

Handy hint: Never mind about the paperless office and going green: always print out your work when you've completed it. Not only is it easier to proofread, but you have something to copy from should a disaster similar to the one I've just related befall you. Fortunately, last night I had done just that, so all I had to do was copy rather than think: much easier when it's past midnight.

Getting back to the newsletter, the issue I'm working on features some great articles from wonderful guest contributors. You can read more about that, and sign up for this fantastic free resource, by looking at the announcement I made last week.

Another (good) reason for delaying the newsletter publication is that a few things cropped up towards the end of last week that I want to include, so I am still doing a bit of delving. That means, incidentally, that if you happen to know of any schools or teacher/groups that are managing to continue lessons using technology, to get around problems caused by the flying ban due to the volcanic cloud, I'd be delighted to hear from you.


Also on the web: 04/17/2010 (p.m.)


Managing Change: The Importance of Planning

If you're going to bring about real change in an organisation you have to have a plan. You need a vision, of course, and you have to engage people and get them excited about the vision. But if you don't have a plan then nothing much will come of it. As the old saying goes, failure to plan is planning to fail.

I feel embarrassed writing that: it ought to be a no-brainer. Yet I can't count the number of times I've sat in meetings and heard the team leader say, "OK, so by next month X will have happened. What's the next item on the agenda?", to which I've piped up: "Er, exactly how is it going to happen?".

Planning is essentialMuch as I'm slightly suspicious of targets and deadlines and milestones, the inevitable paraphernalia of rigorous planning, there is no doubt that they are necessary. (The reason I'm 'suspicious', by the way, is that it is all too easy for the targets to become ends in themselves, divorced from the context in which they were conceived, and therefore unrelated to the actual point of it all. A good example of this is how some police forces in Britain instruct their officers to return to the police station an hour before the end of their shift in order to complete a report about how much time they've spent, and who they've met, in the community.)

Good planning consists of the following elements:

  • Having SMART targets in place, ie targets that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-related.
  • Having deadlines in place for their achievement.
  • Where necessary, having 'milestones' in place, ie key events, with dates, by when things should be achieved in order to keep on track.
  • Knowing who is going to be responsible for what.
  • Having a mechanism whereby progress can easily be recorded and viewed. I think for a lot of purposes you don't need dedicated project-management software for this: a spreadsheet will do the job if used properly.
  • Above all, having regular and frequent review meetings to see if the work is still on course to be completed by the agreed dates, and if not, the reasons for that, and what might be done about rectifying the situation.

These are not the only considerations. In order for the plan to be effective, team members must have a large say in its construction. I hate using buzz words like 'ownership', but in this case it really is appropriate: if people feel they're just being 'done to' then it may be hard for them to feel fully committed.

There should also be a no-blame culture. If people feel they're going to have strips torn off them if they admit to not having achieved something, or if there's a shoot-the-messenger culture, most people will simply take the easy way out and say nothing. That merely stores up problems for the future.

Finally, I think that as far as any planning involving technology is concerned, the flexibility to change or reinterpret goals is vital. When I worked in a Local Authority, each team had a one year plan which was derived from a  three-year educational plan which was derived from a ten year community plan. Given that ten weeks is a long time in educational technology, feeling restricted by plans laid down ten years ago is madness. You may not be able to change the goal itself, but you may be able to change how its interpreted. For example, a goal like 'get parents more involved in their child's education by attending parents' evenings' might be interpreted in terms of checking their child's progress online and taking part in web-based discussions with their child's form tutor.

Certainly, spending plans should be revisited frequently. For example, a three year plan to equip every classroom with an interactive whiteboard may need to revised in the light of the entry of 3D projectors into the market.

The key thing in all of this is discussion, discussion, discussion. It may seem to slow the whole process down, but I think if you're hoping to achieve non-superficial changes that last, there really is no alternative.


Making a Good Impression: Efficient Reading

These days, doing a good job as an ICT or Technology Co- ordinator/Subject Leader is not enough. In order to get on in your career, you have to be seen to be doing a good job. In this series, Alison Skymes looks at ways of making a good impression.Today: how to read more efficiently.

Alison SkymesWhen it comes to reading, most people approach the material in the same way they approach a packet of cornflakes. In an age of information overload, that just ain't good enough. You have a job to do: not only to keep up-to-date for your own sake, but to do so in order to keep your supervisor and others informed. How you gonna do it?

Here are 9 great tips.

If the material is well-structured -- in other words, if the person writing it was more concerned with making sure you could get the gist quickly than with his own ego -- efficient reading should be as easy as falling off a log. But even if the writer spent more time thinking of flowery descriptions than worrying about your need to get stuff done, you can still save time by reading it properly.

Here's what you do:

1. Don't even open the document. That's right: just keep it closed, and spend 5 minutes thinking about what you're looking for, and what you think the document might contain in relation to that. Sounds like a waste of time, right? But it ain't, because what you're doing is setting up some mental hooks on which to hang ideas as they come up from the material, or from your interaction with the material.

2. Read the table of contents, if there is one, as that will help you get a feel for what the document contains. Well, with any luck: if the author has used totally unhelpful section or chapter headings, like "All's well that ends well", you won't have much joy.

3. Always start at the end. Well, at the summary, to be more precise. That often comes at the beginning, in the form of an Executive Summary. Whatever. Read it first, because you'll be able to cut to the chase without all the intervening argument. Like the man said: Just gimme the facts, ma'am.

4. If you still don't have what you need, well, you're going to have to read more of it. Start by reading the first and last paragraphs in each section. The first one should say what is covered. If you've chosen a good source, the final paragraph will summarise what's just been covered.

5. Still not enough? OK, start again, but this time read the first sentences in each paragraph too.

6. Put these techniques together to read the newspaper quickly: the headline and first paragraph, plus the picture and picture caption, should tell you all you need to know.

7. Good website articles and blogs should help in two other ways: firstly, they ought to be short; secondly, they should be tagged -- and the tags should give you a good idea of what the piece is about.

Efficient reading isn't the same as speed reading, but you can always do some things to help you read faster:

1. Ask yourself if you really need all the detail. If the answer is "no", then you can skim-read the document. A good way of doing this is to train yourself to look out for certain "signpost" words -- and then ignore the rest of the sentence. For example, "for example" is an obvious kind of signpost: it tells you that there is an example coming up. Duh. Well, if you already get the point, or you don't need the detail, why waste time reading an example? Another signpost word is "Moreover": that is often used to embellish a point, and whilst it isn't the same as an example, if you're in a real hurry you might want to skip it. At least for now.

2. Another thing you can do is to read more words at once. You can train yourself to do this, and there is software that can help you. I tried out Rocket Reader. It's a program that tests your reading speed and comprehension, and trains you to see more words at once. The reading/comprehension test is a little artificial: in a real context, you would probably have some familiarity with the subject matter, hopefully some interest in it, and almost certainly some forewarning of it. As for the section that trains you to read more words at once, I'm not sure how permanent the results are, but there's nothing to be lost by trying it out -- especially as there is a ten day free trial of the program. 

By reading efficiently, you can become more knowledgeable about more things. That will help you a lot when your boss starts asking for your opinions on things.

It comes in handy at parties too.

I hope you've enjoyed this series. What strategies have not been covered in your opinion? Do leave a comment if you have any suggestions.



Computers in Classroom Update

Here's an update to the announcement I made a few days ago. I'm still working away at producing this edition of the newsletter, which has been a little delayed because I've expanded it somewhat since I last wrote about it.

For a start, the review of Tagxedo, the new word cloud generator, has grown into a comparative review of four such applications, including an in-depth exploration of one of them. In fact, far from being a novelty item, this could help you address some of the data-handling requirements of the curriculum, and help to get colleagues on to the educational technology train as well.

I have also been able to include an interview with Melendy Lovett, senior vice president of Texas Instruments and president of the company’s worldwide Education Technology business . We discuss the decline in the number of students going into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects at university, especially girls, and how it's affecting our economy.

There will also be at least the first instalment, and possibly the second as well, of a new series I'll be starting aimed at colleagues who wish to become a better ed tech leader.

All this plus news and comment, as well as the other articles I mentioned in my earlier announcement:

  • Why teenager Maddi from Australia loves ICT.
  • Why teenager Ethan from England loves his iPhone, and thinks he should be allowed to use it in school.
  • Headteacher Jeff Lewis on his love of educational technology, and how that's reflected in his school, and the work of the Leading Leaders Network.
  • Why educational editor Peter Robinson is a trifle cynical about Harnessing Technology and techno-evangelists.
  • And why ICT consultant Doug Woods thinks that technology could and should help students ask questions.

I am going to pull out all the stops and try to get it completed so you have plenty of weekend reading to keep you busy! That's assuming you're a subscriber, of course! Otherwise, why not sign up using the form below?

Please fill out this form to receive our newsletter.
How you heard of us:
Your purchasing power:
Where you live:
Main age group: 0-5
Please indicate that you agree to the Terms of Service
I Agree


Making a Good Impression: Efficient Writing

These days, doing a good job as an ICT or Technology Co- ordinator/Subject Leader is not enough. In order to get on in your career, you have to be seen to be doing a good job. In this series, Alison Skymes looks at ways of making a good impression.Today: learning how to write efficiently.

Alison SkymesAnyone can write, right? Um, think again! A lot of people equate "long" and "unfamiliar" with authority. In fact, the opposite is usually true. Writing should be plain, simple, and well-structured, and fit for purpose. Simple really!

There is nothing rocket science-ish about this. The main question you have to ask yourself is: do you want people to actually read what you've written. If the answer is "no", and you intend your long-winded prose to "bury bad news", I'm afraid I can't help you.

So, assuming that your motives are honest, here are 7 useful tips.

1. Avoid jargon. Jargon is any specialist term that non-specialists are unlikely to have heard of, or may they have heard of it but without really knowing or understanding what it means.

2. Avoid adverbs. Most of the time you can take out words like "really" or "very" -- what, for example, is the difference between "useful" and "very useful"? Either it's useful or it ain't. The only time  a relativistic approach makes any sense is when you compare two or more things. Thus, if product X is useful, and product Y is even more useful, that's fine.

3. Avoid speech mannerisms like "In fact". If it isn't a fact, why bother to say it?

4. Summarise, summarise, summarise. Why should any concept or proposal take more than half a dozen bullet points, or maybe a side of Letter or A4, to explain? In fact (oops, sorry!), why not send it as a single text message?

5. Structure the document (1). For example, have a summary at the beginning. That way, your audience can read that and then skip the rest until they have more time. Or they may even decide they don't need to read the whole thing at all.

6. Structure the document (2). For example, insert a table of contents. Even if the document is only 10 pages, or even 5 pages, long.

7. Structure the document (3). The first paragraph of the document, or of each section, should set the scene and tell the reader all they need to know.

If you wanna stay on the right side of your boss, don't try to be clever: the simpler you make things, the more intelligent and indispensable you will appear.

Tomorrow: How to read efficiently.


Word Cloud Shoot-Out

What's better: Wordle or the new kid on the block, Tagxedo? Each has plenty to recommend it, but what's the best one to use?

I've been putting Tagxedo through its paces, and written up my findings in the latest edition of Computers in Classrooms, which will be available later today.

What's this meant to be? See the newsletter article for full details.

Subscribe to the newsletter

If you'd like to receive the newsletter by email, please complete the form below. We use a double opt-in system, which means that you will be asked to confirm that you wish to subscribe. The subscription is free.


Please fill out this form to receive our newsletter!
How you heard of us:
Your purchasing power:
Where you live:
Main age group: 0-5
Please indicate that you agree to the Terms of Service
I Agree

The newsletter archive

If you like, you can have the newsletter delivered to your news reader. Just subscribe using the button below.




Web 2.0 For Rookies: Geotagging

Geotagging is the term given to the adding of geographical metadata to photos, videos, tweets, websites and other media. This ' metadata ' can include longitude and latitude, and other attributes such as altitude. There's a fuller version of this summary information over at Wikipedia , but let's think about the applications of this technology in school.

You can geotag photos, which is a fancy way of saying that you can embed geographical metadata into your digital photos. Have a look at the information -- the metadata - shown below for two photos. One important difference between the two is that the one on the right includes information about where the photo was taken.

Spot the difference

There are several ways of entering this information in a photo. One is to buy a camera that does it automatically. That's still a bit of an expensive option. Compact models are starting to appear at a price which makes it feasible to consider having two or three in a school for lending out to classes, but not one per class, much less several per class unless the school has a clearly thought-out policy regarding the purchase and use of handheld devices. (For example, Scargill Junior School uses sets of SmartPhones for geotagging photos.) This is a clear example of where allowing youngsters to use their iPhones would make perfect sense, if managed carefully. If the kids have the technology, we should be providing educational opportunities for them to use it. Seems like a no-brainer to me. (There's a good article in the early-April issue of Computers in Classrooms in which a teenager describes how essential his phone is to him. I believe he sometimes even uses it for talking to people!)

Another option is to place your photo on a map in Flickr . This works well, but can be a cumbersome process if there are lots pf pictures to process. Obviously, it would be a good idea to make this process an educational activity in itself: something the geography folk could get involved in perhaps? There's a geotagging group on Flickr , with links about how to use the mapping facilities there.

Yet another approach is to but a wi-fi-enabled storage card, which is what I hope to experiment with soon. This looks like a brilliant option. It's not exactly cheap, though, and at the moment it seems to me that you'd get better value for money by purchasing a new gps-enabled camera than one of the full-works eye-fi cards, even though it would cost you more. I think this is an area where careful research, and some patience, are required.

So what can you actually use geotagging for in education? One obvious answer is anywhere that mapping is relevant. For example, a presentation about a school trip can be made to come alive by placing the photos taken on a map. And school excursions can themselves be made more exciting by the use of geocaching , which is essentially a treasure hunt that makes use of GPS-enabled devices to find hidden objects.

Get SmartExploration of different habitats in the local area or school grounds can include geotagging the photos taken. In Scargill Junior School, mentioned earlier, the children use the SmartPhones to take pictures of minibeasts , and the exact location of the insects is recorded at the same time, enabling them to find them easily again, and to place them on a map.

Anything involving measures of distance or altitude will not only thrill the geography teacher, but will be welcomed with open arm by the mathematics teachers too. For history teachers, also, the use of geotagging to explore where past battles took place must be an exciting prospect. You could also bring in a discussion of the impact of information technology on society: in England during WW2 rural place names and signposts were taken down so that the Germans would get lost if they managed to land on our shores. (See this set of Yahoo! Answers , especially #3.) How useful would that bluint approach be in this day and age?

Even the artists can get involved. You can find out how by going to Lesson Planet , where a multitude of suggestions for geotagging and using GPS-enabled devices will be found. You have to log in to find out the detail, but there are pages of ideas which subject specialists should be able to make sense of.

An example of geotagging you may have come across is the Clustr map . Seen on numerous blogs , this is a map showing where visitors have come from. Variations may also be found on widgets which proclaim when the last visitor arrived on the site, and where they are accessing it from, and the sort of thing I experienced when taking part in a Classroom 2.0 Live discussion , when as people joined the discussion they were invited to enter their location on a world map. 

This kind of thing is, I have to say, terribly exciting! It's fascinating to see how many people in different parts of the world are looking at your stuff. It engenders a sense of curiosity ("What country is that ?" ), and even a sense of responsibility: in some cultures some of the things we say and do would probably cause deep offence.

OK, so geotagging is fun, and educational, but where does Web 2.0 come into it? I think there is the obvious answer that the sort of thing I just mentioned msakes it interesting and more meaningful to collaborate with other people from a different location. On a more everyday level, it's possible to take a photo of something, say a restaurant, review the thing you've taken a picture of, and upload both to a site where anyone looking for a restaurant (say) in that area will come across your review and photo.

My own view is that geotagging is not so much an example of a Web 2.0 application in itself, but it is certainly one that can enhance what I would call the 'Web 2.0 experience'.

Other useful references:

Educational Geo-caching (especially pages 10-13)

Geotagging in education

Google Earth for Educators

JSchools use geotagging , wikis , iPhones to teach


Making a Good Impression: Get To The Point!

These days, doing a good job as an ICT or Technology Co- ordinator/Subject Leader is not enough. In order to get on in your career, you have to be seen to be doing a good job.

In this new series, Alison Skymes looks at ways of making a good impression. Today: knowing when to be brief.

Alison Skymes

Many people make a big mistake when talking to their boss: they give what teens refer to as (albeit in a different, and usually seedier, context) TMI: Too Much Information. Unless your supervisor is a nit-picking, ultra hands-on, overbearing fool who is obsessed with operational rather than strategic matters, she just doesn't need to know it all, and what's even more important, she doesn't want to.

Sounds counter-intuitive, right? Well, put yourself in her shoes. She gets up at 5 am and does a pile of reading over breakfast. Arriving at work at 7am, she is confronted by the caretaker having a moan about someone flooding the boys' toilets -- again. 8.30 am comes and Mrs Grimes has phoned in sick, and her class is supposed be on a museum trip today. Then the bell has hardly stopped ringing when -- but you've got the picture by now, yeah? Do you really, honestly, hand-on-heart believe that she is gonna be interested in your 80 zigameg broadband connection?

Tell you what the boss will be interested in though:

Anything which gets the school a good press.

Anything that makes it more appealing to parents.

Anything that is likely to raise grades.

Anything, in short, that is going to make your boss look good.

So, you need to bear two things in mind before you go talking to your boss or write a report:

Fact: she is busy. Really busy.

Fact: she has taken the "what's in it for me? attitude to the next level.

Knowing these facts makes writing a progress report a cinch:

1. Never write more than a side of A4 or Letter-size paper -- and no cheating by using a size 5 font with no margins.

2. If you can, try and restrict yourself to half-a-dozen bullet points. Heck: go the whole hog and reduce it to a single tweet.

3. Lose the technicalities. Instead of writing, "We now have an 80 zigameg broadband connection", say "Teachers and students will now be able to access high quality resources from the internet -- all at the same time and in less time than it takes to blink."

But -- and this is of major importance -- always have the full story available at the click of the mouse just in case your boss wants more detail.

Tomorrow: Write right.


Who Needs Drivers?

One of the stories featured in the next edition of the Computers in Classrooms newsletter is about driverless cars. This is at once both exciting and terrifying, so I think it will be interesting to look at under the topic heading 'technology in society'.

The concept is not new, of course. Work has been going on in this area for a few decades. Here in London, England, we have the Dockland Light Rail, which can do its thing with no driver.

So, in case you're intending to read that article,  here is a video I made back in 2006 about the Dockland Light Rail. Think of it as an advance organiser, cf Ausubel. (If you're not familiar with that idea, take a few minutes to go through the SlideShare presentation below.)

Uploaded by terryfreedman. - More college and campus videos.