Having written about 7 mistakes made by ICT Co-ordinators (and if you haven’t read that, go and read it now; don’t worry, I’ll wait), I gave the topic a bit more thought and then realised I could have easily listed a few more. Well, here are a further seven to be thinking about! Have you made, or are you making, these mistakes?
Focussing on educational technology
This may come as a bit of a shock, but you are the only one who really cares about using ICT – nobody else does. If you don’t believe me, put yourself in your colleagues’ shoes. If the person with responsibility for literacy in the school was trying to get you to encourage the students to pay more attention to using apostrophes correctly, you might think that’s a great idea, but deep down, taking into account all the other pressures on you, would you really care? You might give it a bit of attention so you could tick a box, but would your heart really be in it? Would you prioritise it?
Well, maybe you would, and maybe you wouldn’t, but I think it’s a pretty safe bet that if that literacy person could convince you that there’s a direct correlation between understanding apostrophe protocol and working out programming (sequencing) instructions, you’d pay a lot more attention. (Come to think of it, maybe there really is such a correlation.)
The point is that people act in enlightened self-interest. If you want the languages person to use technology, introduce her to Skype, so she can get her classes talking to someone overseas on a regular basis, in that other person's own language. If you want the geography person to take an interest in educational technology, introduce them to the joys of geotagging.
It’s a pretty simple theory really – although getting your colleagues to sit down long enough to listen to you could prove a bit of a challenge!
Not taking part in the conversation
The online conversation, that is. I know you don’t have any time, that you’re in school at 7 every morning and finally trudge out of the door at 6 in the evening, having spent lunchtime sorting out printers and after school running a computer club. I’ve been there, done that, and acquired the proverbial t-shirt. But what you need to do, I believe, is change your way of thinking, and regard the time spent online not so much as yet another drain on your time but as a potentially time-saving investment. One hour a week on Twitter finding out about new resources and ideas could save you hours of preparation time.
If you’re not convinced, then all I can say is, give it a whirl for two weeks. That’s a total of two hours spent online. If at the end of that period you look at the balance sheet and decide it wasn’t worth it, fine: you’ve lost only two hours.
Take a look at 25 ways to make yourself unpopular: #24 Do not contribute to education technology discussions for some further ideas. See also Steve Wheeler’s Seven reasons why teachers should blog.
Asking for too little money
I suppose this may sound somewhat ludicrous, asking for more money when school budgets are being tightened and Headteachers and Principals are pleading poverty. However, without wishing to minimise such concerns, there is actually plenty of money in the system. A couple of months ago I visited Jeff Smith’s school in London, and in his opening talk he, a Headteacher, said he believed that a school’s investment in educational technology was a question of priorities rather than money per se. Besides, some types of school are not allowed to make a profit as such, so you can do your bit for the common good by offering, out of the goodness of your heart, to mop up any surplus funds at the end of the financial year.
I firmly believe that even if you can drastically cut the operating costs of running ICT in a school, you shouldn’t be expected to run it on a shoestring, hand-to-mouth basis. In fact, much as I admire some people’s ingenuity in being able to create an interactive whiteboard out of a Wii Remote, or a visualiser (document camera) out of a webcam, I think that it probably does more harm than good to the image of ICT in a school. Let’s put it this way: the day the head of music announces that he has constructed a grand piano out of a load of old baked bean tins and some string will be the day I’d be prepared to knock up a piece of ICT equipment out of bits and pieces. By all means do so as an interesting challenge, or, I suppose, as a very last resort – but not as your starting point.
Anyway, if you ask for more money than you’ve been allocated, or you put in a bid for more than you think you’re likely to be given, what’s the worst that could happen? The Headteacher will say “No”! But she’ll secretly admire you for it!
Not keeping up-to-date
It’s hard keeping up-to-date, that’s for sure. But I have to admit I feel impatient and exasperated when ICT Co-ordinators and people in similar positions profess not to have heard of Word clouds or, worse, Twitter. The latter, surely, is now mainstream? But you need to keep up with research too. Doing so marks you out as a teaching professional, not simply a geek who has found themselves in a classroom in front of a bunch of kids. I don’t have anything against geeks, of course, but what I do object to is other teachers thinking the ICT Co-ordinator doesn’t know anything about teaching or pedagogy. Being able to talk about educational technology research as opposed to “only” the latest Android app is a pretty good step in the direction of changing that sort of perception.
Good places to check periodically or subscribe to are:
- Learning with ‘e’s
- Ofsted surveys
- Doug Woods’ blog (for opinion pieces)
- Stephen Downes’ OLDaily newsletter
- Vicki Davis’ Coolcat Teacher blog
- and, of course, The ICT in Education website and Computers in Classrooms newsletter.
If you look at that lot, you’ll also pick up some good references to other bloggers worth knowing about.
Trying to go it alone
If you have an ICT Committee in your school, use the people on it to become your eyes and ears in the world of ed tech. They have an interest in ICT, hopefully beyond merely what they hope to get out of the budget, so all you have to do is ask them to give periodic updates on the things they’re interested in anyway. If the school does not have such a committee, then consider starting one up. See 31 Days to Become a Better Ed Tech Leader -- Day 8: Set Up a Committee for more on this topic.
Not insisting on your entitlement to professional development
Whilst I think it’s important to use some of your own time to keep yourself updated and in the “conversation”, I don’t see why that should mean you’re prevented from going on relevant courses and conferences. At the very least you should be permitted to attend one key event a year such as, in the UK, the BETT show. Again, as with the money issue, you should at least ask and make your case. Then, if the answer is “No”, so be it, but at least you tried. See 9 Reasons to attend BETT 2012. That article contains reasons for going that you might put to your senior leadership team, and although it was written specifically with BETT in mind, the points made pretty much apply to any such conference.
Acting as a postman
In my early days as an ICT Co-ordinator I would pick up half a ton of stuff at BETT and then distribute it to various colleagues. I don’t think anything ever came of the effort. In fact, I think it’s damaging: professionals don’t go around delivering catalogues and flyers. By all means pick them up if you want to, and mention products and services to colleagues, but don’t just dish them out first. In any case, surely that is just the equivalent of junk mail or spam?
If you’re making any or all of these mistakes, don’t feel too bad about it. After all, Oscar Wilde observed that “experience is the name people give to their mistakes”, so you’re in good company! If you think I’ve left any out or if you violently disagree with me, please say.