Data management

Oh. My. Word. Data management is a big deal. I mean, I always knew it was, but suddenly, being on the inside, as it were, I’ve been given a new perspective on just how big a deal it is. While data management isn’t exactly what I was appointed to look at, I’ve fallen into it because it does have implications for teachers’ time.

At the moment, we use EduAdmin because it is an incredibly powerful reporting structure and because it has the ability to cope with the complexity of our timetable. The down side to it is that it is modularised, which means that it’s a pain to get information out of. To see one child’s address, telephone number, email, timetable, etc, etc, etc you have to go into a new section or module for each and every piece of data you want to view. It doesn’t have a dashboard approach that many of the newer systems have. It also doesn’t talk to other programs very well, which is another problem.

However, a while back we took the decision to stick with it because EduAdmin have promised that they were working on fixing that. They have come up with another module that is their first attempt at a dashboard approach. It’s still not perfect (e.g. when you look up a child’s email, you can’t just click on the email and have a new message open up in Outlook), far from it, but it’s a big step in the right direction.

As a result, one of the first projects I’ve been involved with is trying to move our DT system and intervention register (register of all intervention strategies employed for individual students) into the EduAdmin database. We’re also looking at moving one of our other systems – late for class – into it as well. If it all works, which I think it will, it will mean that (using the new “dashboard”) it becomes easier for teachers to see all the information they need for students with only a few clicks. Let’s hope so, because I’d like to get an early ‘win’ on the job.

Other things I’ve achieved have been to help one of the departments with their spreadsheets. I’ve also been able to help one of the new teachers get her head around EduAdmin, and I’ve helped another teacher learn how to create shortcuts on her desktop and to install Dropbox, so that she’s now confident and is teaching others how to do the same!

IT survey

As one of my first tasks in my new post I conducted a whole school IT survey (nearly 1000 kids plus about 50 staff). Because we haven’t yet bought a membership on SurveyMonkey and the free membership only allows 100 respondents, we did the survey on paper. I then had a team of kids who helped me to summarise the data. (I still have to pay them in chocolate for their time.) There were some really interesting results from it, so my next task is thinking through the implications.

Meeting the experts

My other half is also an IT type. He’s given me some contacts in schools around us who are doing something similar to my post. So far, I’ve been to meet two of them. It’s been fabulous meeting others and talking with them about more than just the nitty gritty, but about their vision and dreams and hopes and aspirations.

Of course, the nitty gritty stuff has been interesting too. I’ve already been exposed to a few nice little applications that I might otherwise have missed. Of course, I can already feel myself falling into the trap of wanting to implement them all, right here and now. I have to avoid that if I’m going to step back and try to see the bigger picture and look at this stuff holistically! I can see that that’s going to be tough. I like playing with new toys, and can’t wait to try these things out to see how they work and whether they will work in our context.

I have come away from both meetings feeling overwhelmed with ideas of things to try, but so thrilled and enthused and convinced that I am on the right track. (I even got a half-joking job offer from one of the schools!)

I’ve also made contact with some folks in the USA who have recommended stuff for me to read, which I’m keen to do. Of course, now I need to find some time to do the reading and get to grips with all that is out there.

Hmm…. time. Yes. That stuff I have so precious little of. EEEEK! Just seen the time now. Am already late for my next meeting.

New joys, new frustrations

With any job there comes a measure of joy and a measure of frustration. With teaching, I love the actual teaching. I hate the admin work that goes with it. With this new post, I’m loving being able to spend time helping my colleagues, and doing research, and thinking. However, I’m finding it frustrating to find the balance between my teaching responsibilities, and my EdTech responsibilities. I’m also finding it particularly difficult not having my own space anywhere.

While I always teach in my lab, when I’m not teaching, it’s being used by the wanderers. It’s great for them to be able to use it, because then they are almost always teaching in one venue, which, as any teacher will tell you, makes a huge difference to your teaching. For me though, the frustration is that the only other place I can work in is the staff workroom. This is a great space, but means that I can’t shut the door on others while I get on with my thinking or research work.

I love that people are asking me questions. I love being more available to help them. I don’t want that to change. However, I do need to find somewhere in the building where I can work undisturbed to be able to get the bigger pieces of EdTech work done. I simply have to.

A new experiment

Following the launch of Siyavula’s “FullMarks” programme (which I helped with), and seeing how FullMarks tries to integrate in a holistic way with a few other applications, it struck me that my school has no-one attempting to integrate the various IT things going on in the school. We have our network administrator and a CAT teacher, and then a few odd bods (like me) who are keen to introduce new stuff.

So I went to the principal and proposed that he create a post for this, which he duly did. I applied, and was appointed.

This blog will hopefully document my progress through the year and beyond as I navigate this journey. My responsibilities are:

  • to look at the use of IT and educational technology (EdTech) in the school
  • to research the EdTech that is currently available to use
  • assess what will work in our context
  • formulate a policy for the implementation of EdTech at the school over the next 3-5 years
  • prepare a budget for the implementation of EdTech
  • implement the various applications that we decide to use in an integrated way
  • train teachers in the use of EdTech (which could be as simple as teaching them how to use Excel or PPT)

I’m hoping to try and use this information as part of my master’s degree as well, in the use of IT in schools, or to enter the Innovative Teachers’ Forum competition, but first I need to find my feet!