Sunday, May 16, 2010

Better Days

I've written two very negative posts this weekend. End of marking exhaustion maybe or the realisation that time is slipping away in my current role and I'm running out steam to keep battling against things I want to change. Whatever, if I don't write something more positive soon I'll have to rename this blog Grumpy Old Teacher. Time for some optimism and a review of things that have been going well.

First a sentence that, when I was a student teacher and an NQT, I never thought I'd write. This year I have really enjoyed teaching my year 9 groups. I remember being reduced to tears by one year 9 group when I was an NQT and I dreaded every lesson with them. The timetable negotiations always revolve around each teacher trying to reduce the number of hours spent teaching year 9 to an absolute minimum. Student disengagement and behaviour issues have been at the root of this reluctance to teach this year group. ICT is an optional subject at my school and particularly once the options forms have gone in the students tend to have the attitude that they don't have to do any work as it doesn't matter anymore. Last year, which was my first year as the KS3 co-ordinator, we tried introducing OCR Nationals as a way of focusing students and giving them a purpose to the ICT lessons. This failed, partly due to being introduced half way through the year ( no decision being made until we had a new HoD ) and partly due to not having any core curriculum time in KS4 so most students would be unable to complete the course.

During this time I began to think more deeply about what I wanted to achieve with the KS3 curriculum and became convinced that cutting KS3 to yr7 and yr8 was counter to my instincts about what ICT could offer re higher order thinking skills and equipping students with digital literacy skills that would support learning across the curriculum. As a result I have spent this year rewriting the year 9 SOW to make it more engaging and relevant. We started the year looking at the impact of Social Media on society, including introducing Edmodo, Etherpad, Delicious and Google Docs. This took the curriculum completely away from the Microsoft Office dominated lessons and succeeded in drawing in some of the less engaged students. It also lead to plenty of discussions with individual students and evidence of students actually thinking about the issues. Key comment from one girl was 'miss I didn't know I was good at ICT until this year'. Result!

The Digital Literacy project that I've blogged about previously also went went well and really engaged the students. It also had some great spin-offs. When a colleague who ran the library left, some of my students set up a wiki to collect farewell messages for her. Other students have set up their own google sites for themselves and their families, including a Lady GaGa fan site that seems to be getting a lot of hits.

We are just finishing a Scratch game programming project which have proved very popular and again seems to be lighting some fires rather than just filling buckets. One thing that has come out it was the opportunity to model how to learn new skills. I used to be a programmer so am aware of programming principals but did not always know how to achieve something in Scratch. I therefore sat with students and went through figuring it out with them. Hopefully what I have shown them that it is not as important to know how to do everything as it is to have strategies to work it out. Mind you, in answer to a review question about what have you learnt about programming games I did get the response 'so far we have learnt to leave game-making to the professionals'.

I now look forward to my year 9 lessons and will really miss the students when I leave. Here's the SOW we have been working through:-

Another thing I've been really pleased about this year is the progress with staff e-learning CPD. Several colleagues have started to write their own google sites, many are using Google Docs, Wordle and Wallwisher and one colleague has started her own blog. With gain time kicking in soon I hope to build on this and prepare colleagues for the introduction of netbooks in September.

And finally I've secured myself a new job as HoD ICT in a school in Bristol. I'm very excited about this and can hardly wait to start again with a new challenge. I have also started discussing ICT curriculum development with like minded teachers across the country via Twitter and the #ictcurric hashtag and website. See - my optimism levels are returning - maybe I can keep the Web 2.0 Optimist blog title a little longer.

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