14 things to check when using education technology

This article was originally published in 2008. Apart from a few obvious points, such as the references to CDs, large monitors and, in some schools these days, computer rules, very little requires changing in terms of the advice. But the interesting aspect of the article is, I think, what is implicit. Having two computers out of commission would have been an issue in those days. Bring Your Own Technology had yet to be a possibility for most pupils. Laptops were still expensive enough to make class sets of them something to dream about. There were tablet computers, but the iPad was still two years in the future. The reference to planning to use the internet: nowadays it's virtually unavoidable because so much is online. When you think about all that, it is hard to remember that the article was written less than a decade ago!

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10 things to do when someone follows you in Twitter

 

If someone follows you in Twitter, the polite thing to do is reciprocate, right? Well, maybe so, but I think it needs a little more thought than that. Here is a list of the steps I take when someone follows me.

Incidentally, the same techniques, with a bit of adjustment, work for any social network situation where people can become your "friend".

 

#1: What's in it for you?

 

As a general rule, I think about what I hope to gain from the relationship. Relationship? Yes: as soon as you follow someone, or they follow you, you have a relationship of sorts, whenever you want it or not and regardless of whether you pay it any attention. The only way to avoid it whilst remaining within your Twitter network is by blocking that person.

Now, my primary reason for wanting to link with anyone online is my interest in educational ICT. I have a secondary interest, that of business, because I run my own business. I am also interested in writing and journalism. And that is pretty much it. Unless you have the most amazing powers of persuasion, chances are that I won't be your friend or follower unless you come into one of those categories. Yes, there are the odd exceptions, such as connecting with someone who likes the same sort of music as I do, but even there it is almost certainly the case that I already "know" or know of the person through one of the other spheres I have just mentioned.

This is very much linked to my main website, of course. The focus of that is ICT in education. There may be a great, newsworthy article just begging to be written -- but if it's not to do with ICT in education it probably won't be me writing it, and if I do, it won't be on that website.

What it comes down to is this: I don't want to populate my Twitter network with people who have little or nothing to do with my main interests, because that will only make it more likely that I will miss something important from the people who do. That's why I don't agree with the people who advocate following as many people as possible: I think one needs to be more discriminating than that.

In summary: decide in advance what sort of people you're happy to follow, ie the ones from whom you're likely to benefit from following.

That's the backdrop against which I take all of the steps that follow.

 

#2: Check the tweets

 

When I receive an email to say that someone is following me, I click on the link to their Twitter page. I then check look to see what they've been tweeting about. If it's mainly technology or education-related, that's a good start.

If it's about what they had for breakfast over the last week and a half, that's a real turn-off but not a "deal-breaker".

If their tweets are all along the lines of "Great investment opportunity: make $5,000 a week for 5 minutes' work", I will block them straight away.

If they haven't tweeted yet, go straight to #5.

 

#3: Check the numbers

 

The next thing I do is check how many people they follow, and who follow them. If they have 3 followers and are following 5,000 people, I probably won't follow them. I would just assume that they're a sort of Twitter groupie and are following everyone in sight. I like to think that they want to follow me because they like what I write about, not to boost their numbers. But I won't dismiss them just yet -- you can't say I'm not fair!

If they have 5,000 followers and follow nobody, that seems on the face of it a bit egotistical and a bit pointless. But I still won't dismiss them just yet!

If they follow 5,000 people and have 5,000 followers, they're probably some sort of spammer. I almost certainly won't follow them. In fact, I may even block them, because this sort of thing usually goes hand-in-hand with the third type of tweet mentioned in #2.

 

#4: Who's who?

 

I like to check who the followers are, and who the followees (is there such a word?) are. If I recognise some names I respect, I'm usually happy to set aside my doubts for a while.

 

#5: Check their profile

 

If it is blank, or says that they're a professional goof-offer, or that they manage a real estate company and enjoy engineering in their spare time, I won't follow them. I have nothing against real estate workers or engineers, but I don't see what any of that has to do with me. See #1.

 

#6: Check if they have a website

 

If they don't, I almost certainly won't follow them unless I'm reasonably satisfied according to points 2, 3, 4 and 5. The existence of a website tells me they're (probably) serious. It also gives me a chance to find out more about them.

#7: Look at their website URL

If they have a website, but it's URL is www.goofingoff.com, I won't follow them. If it's some generic website that I can't check, like www.blogger.com, I won't follow them.

#8: Check their website

If we've made it this far, I'll check their website. In other words, unless I have been totally put off according to some of the earlier criteria, and if they do have a genuine-sounding website, I will look at it. If it's interesting then I will probably bookmark it or subscribe to its RSS feed even if I don't wish to follow them in Twitter (just yet).

#9: Check their profile or About page

If they have a website, I'll try and find out a little more about them there as well. Bottom line: are they who they purport to be, or some sort of scam artist or pornbroker (no, that wasn't a spelling error)?

#10: Home at last!

If all the previous nine hoops have been jumped through satisfactorily, I click on "Follow"!

Conclusion

I suppose all of that makes me sound like some sort of prima donna or intellectual snob, or as if I'm paranoid. I'm not, though I suppose you'll have to take my word for it. But if you think about it, these 10 steps are not a bad blueprint for how students should evaluate requests for online friendship. And although it all seems like a long and drawn out process, the whole thing from start to finish takes me 5 minutes at the outside. The reason I often keep people waiting for a response when they follow me is not that the process takes a long time, but because I usually end up trying to process lots of "follows" in one go, a couple of months after receiving the notification. (But I'm trying to improve in that department!)

I'd be interested to hear what you think of these steps, and how you respond when people follow you in Twitter or other social networks.



 

23 factors to consider when evaluating digital resources

Ask the questions below, perhaps on a form devised for the purpose. Ask other staff and, where appropriate, pupils to do the same. Obtain an evaluation copy if possible, and seek the views of the Local Authority or other advisory person or organisation, and other teachers.

1. What is the name of the resource?

2. What category does it fall into, eg Word Processing, Games?

3. Which computer systems will it work on?

4. How much is it?

5. Where appropriate, how much is a site licence?

6. Is it available via LGfL or another (cheaper) route?

7. What is the printed documentation like? Will users be able to understand it?

8. Is the on-line help good? Will pupils be able to understand it?

9. Do the graphics enhance the program, or distract one's attention?

10. Is the colour scheme too dull, too garish? Is it suitable for sight-impaired pupils?

11. Is the layout good, ie uncluttered, clear?

12. What print options are available?
13. How suitable is it for the classes you want it for?

14. Does it allow access by people with Special Educational Needs?

15. Does it meet the National Curriculum requirements?

16. Where appropriate, is it suitable for the examination in question, such as SATs?

17. Is it suitable for the scheme of work being followed?

18. How easy is it to use?

19. Does it make good use of the computer?

20. Will it attract pupils' interest in the short-term?

21. Will it be able to maintain pupils' interest in the long-term, eg through differentiated tasks?

22. Is it good value for money, taking into account things like the site licence cost?

23. Will it enhance your existing software resources?

Note that most of these questions apply even to free software, because of the opportunity costs involved.

 

Tomorrow: factors to consider when evaluating books.

 


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Checklist: 9 General Principles for Recruiting Technical Support Staff

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Image by Terry Freedman via Flickr

You may have the opportunity to advise your senior management team on the appointment of technicians to support the educational technology provision in your school. Here are nine factors to consider.

  • Decide on whether to recruit your own technicians or use agency or Local Authority (School District) staff. The decision will be based on considerations such as finances, and whether there would be enough work to justify the employment of a full-time technician.
  • Decide on what sort of tasks you need the technician to do. If they require little technical expertise, such as changing printer cartridges, it may be better to hire or give additional training to a teaching assistant instead. Use Becta's technician job description tool to assist you.
  • Decide on the level of expertise you're looking for. This is related to the previous point.
  • Decide on the sort of person you need: a backroom person who will have little contact with staff, or a frontline person with whom staff will feel comfortable in approaching on a day-to-day basis.
  • Decide on how many technicians you will need. Hiring too few may prove to be a false economy, especially if they leave and take their knowledge of the network with them.
  • Ideally, there will be a budget to cover salaries. Bear in mind that for a network manager or technical team manager's post, you are competing in the "real world" market place.
  • If the school cannot offer a commercial salary, you will need to sell the advantages of working in your school. For example, will the person be required to come into school every day during school vacations? In many respects, working in a school environment is more challenging than working in a small to medium-sized company. This is a potential selling point to anyone who wishes to acquire a wide range of experience in a short period of time.
  • Advertise in the most appropriate place. For example, if people skills are more important to you than technical skills, it may be more cost-effective to send a letter out to parents than to advertise in a technical periodical.
  • Make it a requirement that applicants be ITIL (The Information Technology Infrastructure Library) trained, or experienced in something similar (such as Becta's Framework for ICT Support, or FITS), or be willing to be trained.

 

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Checklist: 8 things to check every day in a computer room

Here'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. It's not rocket science by any means, but may be useful to give to a classroom assistant, parent helper or student monitor.

  • 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?