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More #adventure less #futureprincipal

 
That person up there clinging to the rock high above the Llanberis Pass in North Wales is me. 

I love climbing, climbing is my meditation and my focus, my passion and currently my purpose. 

I’ve been climbing for about 5 years, but because  of those years I was totally committed to my work, I didn’t push myself physically or take the climbing opportunities that were offered to me.  This year I turned 30 and I made a promise to myself back in January as I sat quietly reflecting after a lovely birthday breakfast that I would get outside more, climb more, be more active and stop putting work at the top of my priority list. 

For the last 8 years my work has been my focus, my driver, and the energy I have put into it has been immense. I have been open about my ambition, I have written articles, blog posts, spoken at events and attended awards ceremonies all because I have believed two important things. One, I believed that ambition should not be silenced, shamed or downplayed. Two, I believed I wanted to be a college principal. 

This year has signified a lot of changes for me personally and professionally. Work is no longer my life. My job is a part of my life, a part I am passionate about, committed to and care deeply about doing well, but it is just an aspect of a complex, interesting and more rounded version of me. 

I still believe that those with ambition should shout about it, doing so has opened so many doors for me, although it may also have triggered some more negative responses in others. I still also believe that I want to be a senior leader, but for now  I want to focus on honing my skills as a middle manager and ensuring that personal wellbeing sits at the top of my list of priorities. Climbing, friends, family, being outside and enjoying the wonderful imperfect life we lead is my focus, saying yes to adventures and filling up on food for the soul. 

So this may be the end of #futureprincipal for now, but I cannot be more grateful for the opportunities that hashtag has given me. 

Let the adventure begin….

Thanks for the inspiration….

So I haven’t blogged for months, a new head of department job has totally consumed my time, and to be honest I just lost my blogging mojo a bit. 

But…I’ve decided to revamp my blog, spend a bit of time this week tidying it up and making it more relevant and also make a commitment to blog more often about my thoughts on teaching. learning, my career in FE and also Landbased education – my new home! 

The inspiration for this has come from seeing Beckie Dunsby and Scott Hayden today, whose relentless passion for all things tech and FE has reminded me that I used to be like that too. 

So guys, thanks for inspiring me, and here’s to many more blog posts! 

Happy Staff = Happy Students

This is Betari’s Box, and it perfectly demonstrates why happy staff = happy students.

Betari

If we think of the teacher as ‘me’ and start with ‘my attitude’, we can see how my attitude affects my behaviour, which in turn, affects ‘your’ (the students’) attitude and subsequent behaviour. This cycle is ongoing, so the more stressed and burnt out our staff, the more this will impact on students.

Just as negative attitudes can have a negative impact, so can positive attitudes have a positive impact. It’s hard to walk into the classroom day in day out, with a fixed smile and positive attitude. However, if you can find the energy to wear a mask when necessary and appear positive, then the implications of that are far reaching – your students too will be positive and optimistic. If we as leaders work hard to ensure the emotional well being of our staff, we will help them to need that mask less and less, and be able to enter that classroom with true positivity every day.

Simple stuff really, happy staff = happy students…enthusiasm and motivation are infectious, we have a responsibility to our staff and students to ensure that they are able to be enthusiastic every day.

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Why sharing is caring

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I love my job, there is no doubt about it that I enjoy going to work. The reason for that is that my role is primarily about supporting teachers to improve their teaching and the learning experience for their students. My focus is primarily technology, but I am also on the observation team so I get to see a broad range of teaching styles and innovations, as well as some not so great attempts at teaching. Seeing staff interactions with students means that I get to see the end product of all my hard work. I loved teaching because I was able to watch my students grow, develop, become successful and make progress. I now get to see this with teachers. Being able to see the impact I have is one of the biggest motivators I have for getting out of bed in the morning. When I see the positive impact of the work I do on staff and therefore on students, it is it clear to me that the concept of sharing is key to improved teaching, learning and assessment and therefore student outcomes. Everything I do is about sharing ideas, technologies, information and opportunities.

One of my colleagues paid me a huge compliment this week, she said that since arriving at the college (January this year) the culture and approach to using learning technology has greatly improved and staff are keen to try new things without fear. It was great to hear that, but at the same time, I didn’t feel I could take all the credit. Rather than spending the last 8 months telling staff how they should be using learning technology, I have instead been building communities of practice, developing groups of innovative teachers, chairing a new working group with an open floor approach to discussions, training early adopters to deliver wider staff training and developing a blog where we can share stories of great teaching and learning from across the college. It hasn’t all been down to me. The teaching staff in my college have risen to the challenge and have loved having the chance to share ideas, support each other, challenge themselves and push the boundaries of their comfort zones. By surreptitiously sharing the responsibility for improving teaching through the mechanisms I have employed, staff are happy to make improvements. They feel a part of the shift, that it isn’t happening around them or to them, but that they are integrated with and important to that cultural change. I have thrown staff in the deep end with new technology, and by that I mean a completely new Virtual Learning Environment, and asked them to deliver training to the remaining teaching staff within a fortnight. They did brilliantly – proof that sharing responsibility, resourcing and enthusiasm can make all the difference.

Changing the culture of a college, school or any institution cannot be done by one person alone. It can only happen when staff feel empowered to share their own experiences, try new things without fear of failure and work together towards a common goal of improving the student experience. Sharing is genuinely caring, it’s all to do with caring about the student at the centre of what we do and knowing that by engaging in collaborative practice, each one of their learning experiences will be improved.

iPads in FE

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This week I had the great experience of taking part in a live streamed panel interview along with the Principal of my college and 3 other members of staff, including a Head of Department, a Lecturer and another manager,

The college ran an iPad buying scheme for staff 2 years ago, and the interview was conducted to ascertain progress since then with the use of iPads within the college.

It was a great opportunity to have a round table discussion involving the Principal and it allowed us to explore the ways technology is supporting college life. We have an app for visitors to sign in, a set of iPads in the Employment Hub for job searches, iPads in Hospitality and Catering for table bookings in the restaurant and food orders and all SMT members have iPads. One of our Automotive lecturers uses his iPad in every taught lesson, by using Keynote to create presentations, Airplay to share them to the class PC and then Bluetooth to connect his iPad and iPhone. His students can use the iPad to hotspot or pinpoint the presentation and he uses the phone to control the pace of the presentation. This is now his standard in the classroom and he is adamant that by not using the technology, his students’ learning experience would be impaired. It is great to witness this teaching, and the added use of other apps means students remain engaged and challenged – with only 1 iPad in the classroom.

The are also sets of iPads across various departments, most noticeably in Hair and Beauty. However, use of iPads is still very much at the stage of PC alternative or paper replacement. Staff are not using their or college iPads to enhance their administration or make full use of the many apps that integrate with each other and streamline processes. The reason for this, like anything involving tech and FE is simply a lack of time. Many staff just don’t seem to have the time to attend training or develop their own curiosity with their devices. They also don’t know what is possible.

The answer to this problem is for time to be made available for staff to attend training and try apps out with their students. The Hair and Beauty team at my college have a fantastic manager who has carved out time in their busy schedule to demonstrate effective iPad use which she models in all of her meetings and teaching. She too is new to iPads but is keen to engage with her staff in a journey of discovery. Training with me was arranged and a subsequent iPad skills analysis completed by staff to ensure training can be targeted and therefore effective. Staff are now developing in their confidence and competence with devices and actively seek out ways to incorporate them in their teaching. No longer are these devices being used solely for internet browsing within the classroom, but for active learning, collaborative opportunities and peer assessment.

What came out of the panel discussion and is evidenced in the departmental use of iPads, is that running schemes or choosing technology to implement cannot be done in isolation. There needs to be a sustained and well planned programme of CPD and support available. Staff need to be given the time to develop their skills, their confidence and also to be able to call for support as and when required. Without this, the ability to fully embed technology within a pedagogical framework and use it to move towards outstanding provision is not possible. Let us make time for staff, let us not just expect them to work it out for themselves. By identifying a small number of apps and working with staff to support their mastery of these, and sharing good practice amongst teams, it is possible for a shift towards successfully embedded technology to occur.

Guidance on the apps chosen can be found here: http://twitdoc.com/2X9C

#MootUK14 Part 2

Today’s Moot was all short sessions and workshops rather than the longer events yesterday.
I have struggled today after an horrendous night’s sleep, but one thing that really did catch my attention, actually two things, were Checklists and Badges.
Both of these can relate to the gamification of online learning, and I think that’s why my naturally competitive nature is attracted to them.

Checklists allow for students and staff to mark off progress, either linked to activities in Moodle or externally, and see that progress in a wider context in a progress bar. Now’t wrong with that – intrinsically motivational and supportive of the learner journey. Ideal for induction and mandatory tasks.

Badges, well these really strike a chord with my competitive streak. What I am really excited about with badges is their use to make mandatory induction type activities for staff, and other CPD activities, exciting. Relevant and exciting CPD can be hard to find in the FE sector, so by making the mandatory stuff rewarding, we can at least make it less painful.

I am all for motivators, many staff definitely need them, so checklists and badges are my two new favourite things.

#MootUK14

Yesterday was the first day of MoodleMoot 2014 in Edinburgh and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. This is my first Moot, and what a great way to start it. A day of workshops starting with pedagogically driven quiz building and an afternoon of Gamification, which in many ways said what I said here but with a Moodle focus.

networking-300x230 What I have really enjoyed so far is the networking opportunity an event like this offers. Being a Learning Technology Manager in a small college without a large, or indeed small, development team can at times leave you feeling cut off from the rest of the e-learning community. Events like the Moot and Saturday’s event allow us to build bridges with people and organisations that will make the sector stronger. We can’t share good practice or drive change on our own, we need a collective voice. Those colleges who go it alone and are reluctant to work at a grass routes level with other organisations will struggle…I truly believe that. The Gazelle and 157 groups have been known to do great things, but they can be exclusive. Far reaching sector improvements are, in my opinion, far more likely to come about from the bottom up. Let’s get lecturers and middle managers passionate about having an impact, let’s help them feel like they can make a difference, after all, that’s why most of us work in this amazing sector. We just need to toss in that pebble and watch the ripples spread.