For those who have never read my blog before my name is Brian and I am a head of ICT and #digitalstudies at a small independent school in Oxford. I am also studying towards my Masters in ICT and Education. For my final major piece of work I am conducting a critical study on the use of blogging in the classroom.
This is where you can help. In order to gain a picture of the use of blogging across multiple schools I have setup a survey which is available here.
The survey is about 30 questions long and is designed specifically for pupils to complete. Although there are a number of questions many of them are quite brief. In asking for some pupil details I am not seeking anything which would individually identify them. If you are going to get your pupils to complete the survey if they could please do it in the next six weeks before the end of term.
In addition if you are willing for your pupils to take part in the survey I would appreciate it if you yourself could add your name on this form as I would be interested in perhaps following up with a quick interview of yourself.
Recently I met with an app developer (who himself has only just set out but at least has a couple under his belt) about designing and creating our own school app. It was a very productive and creative meeting giving me a lot of ideas to work with.
The process so far will be:
· Design mock-ups using iMockups on iPad or Balsamiq on Desktop
· Download Titanium developer
All three will need to happen side by side and there is a lot of work to be done but hopefully it will lead to
I finally got a response back from the TPU member I have been talking to. Admittedly the delay was mostly my fault and Austen at the TPU has been very kind in bearing with me.
My criticism of the following as being a disappointing response is not directed at him so much as directed at general failure in government policy in actually taking some leadership. Essentially the response below boiled down to … we are the remnants of Becta, we have a policy statement coming at some point in the future and our Secretary of State says that mobiles and cameras are bad and we should all be using iTunes a bit more.
Slightly underwhelmed and not sure how I should respond. I’m considering inviting Austen to teachmeet at Bett next year but beyond that I don’t know. I will say that there are many people who I converse with on Twitter who could probably make a far better fist of creating government policy. The only problem is not having any funding or support to do so – but then we aren’t the people who founded the New Schools Network are we …
Please see below answers to your questions. Best wishes Austen
Q1: Are you able to define the remit of the Technology Policy Unit and if so what is it?
The Technology Policy Unit is responsible for providing policy advice on technology in schools. It was set up following the closure of Becta and transfer of some Becta functions in-house within the department. The Unit supports the effective use of technology to enable schools, improve teaching standards and meet the department’s wider objectives.
Q2: Will there be a forthcoming policy document on the use of Technology in Schools and if so when is it expected?
I would draw your attention to this article http://www.publicservice.co.uk/news_story.asp?id=17320 where the Secretary of State indicated some more information would be made available in the autumn
Q3: I am sure that you have some contact already with relevant individuals or organisations advising you on issues to do with edtech but would it be possible to open up that consultation to wider groups of teachers and others who work in the field through channels such as Teachmeets or online chats?
Over the past few months, we have been engaging with partners in education, research, business, academia, HE and industry. Not long ago, we met with the leading leader’s network who are a network of school leaders who excel in the leadership, management and use of technology) as part of this process. As things continue to develop we expect to continue to engage a wide range of interested parties through different channels
Q4: Lastly in response to the article listed below (which I now appeared in various forms in a number of publications) I would like to know how is the DfE and the TPU going to reassure schools that oyu do have a policy – especially in light of general department approach to policy.
I would again draw your attention to this article http://www.publicservice.co.uk/news_story.asp?id=17320 where the Secretary of State indicated some more information would be made available in the autumn
From: Brian Sharland
Sent: 10 October 2011 12:46
To: OKONWEZE, Austen
Subject: Finally got round to getting back in touch with you
I hope you are well. As you can well imagine new babies and the start of term do not mix very well …
If you are still keen on answering a few questions about the TPU that would be really appreciated.
1. Are you able to define the remit of the Technology Policy Unit and if so what is it?
2. Will there be a forthcoming policy document on the use of Technology in Schools and if so when is it expected?
3. I am sure that you have some contact already with relevant individuals or organisations advising you on issues to do with edtech but would it be possible to open up that consultation to wider groups of teachers and others who work in the field through channels such as Teachmeets or online chats?
4. Lastly in response to the article listed below (which I now appeared in various forms in a number of publications) I would like to know how is the DfE and the TPU going to reassure schools that oyu do have a policy – especially in light of general department approach to policy.
Thanks Austen – I hope the above are clear and I look forward to hearing from you
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Over the last few months I have been in contact with an Austen Okenweze of the Technology Policy Unit at the DfE. (see http://briansharland.com/continuing-the-edtechcampaign-and-my-contact) Recently my daughter arrived so I have taken a break from this until now.
Austen and I had been trying to setup a meeting between myself and one or two twitter contacts and himself either in London or in Coventry but due to scheduling conflicts (apparently DfE personnel don't work during school holidays – do they not realise how much work teachers do during holidays?) we have been unable to setup a meeting. I have suggested to Austen that we initiate some digital contact hopefully leading to him taking part in an online meeting such as #ukedchat or a Google hangouts chat.
I will therefore be emailing him again to set out a first set of questions to him to start eliciting some information regarding the technology policy unit. I think this may be an ongoing process which could hopefully yield some positive results.
So what should I be contacting him about?
I think the easiest thing to do is start with fairly straightforward issues mixed with some key concerns.
On the fairly straightforward questions I will asking Austen the following:
- Are you able to define the remit of the Technology Policy Unit and if so what is it?
- Will there be a forthcoming policy document on the use of Technology in Schools and if so when is it expected?
- I am sure that you have some contact already with relevant individuals or organisations advising you on issues to do with edtech but would it be possible to open up that consultation to wider groups of teachers and others who work in the field through channels such as Teachmeets or online chats?
- Lastly in response to the article listed below (which I now appeared in various forms in a number of publications) I would like to know if schools can expect detailed guidelines rather than a hands off approach evidenced by other policy decisions by the DfE
Comments always welcome
Some of you I know are following what seems to be a developing 'campaign' with the DfE (or at least a good opportunity to open some dialogue with them).
After a short 'holiday' I was prompted to get cracking with something so I have written a very short email to Austen at the Technology Policy Unit introducing myself and seeing whether we can open a line of conversation. Obviously if I get anything back I will blog it.
In the meantime I have begun to think about what policies or issues should be brought up if I am able to begin a dialogue with the members of the Technology Policy Unit. This may be a good way of being able to frame discussion and measure progress. This list should be a short one as I think it would be a wise idea to avoid the political version of development-hell which would therefore be 'campaign-creep'
This therefore is my list of issues so far:
- ICT to be incorporated in a future DfE method for measuring schools (future ebaccs basically)
- ICT skills to be re-incorporated into required skills for Teachers
- In light of DfE comments about more autonomy for schools I feel they should be pushed into acknowledging that they need to educate schools in being autonomous and therefore when it comes to issues like usage of technology and information services online schools should be made aware of the fact that they can now push forward with the usage of this technology (eg YouTube)
That should be it for now
After the mention of the technology policy unit in a letter I received from the DfE recently (read further back on the blog) I thought it might be a good idea to investigate who or what they were. Since the demise of Becta the DfE has not been showing much leadership in this area and this unit seems to be operating under the radar. I have been offered a meeting with a member of this unit (which unfortunately doesn’t acronym as well as the CIA … but is just as secret ) and I think before taking this meeting up (which I hope to encourage some others to join) I think it might be a good idea to find out a little bit about who they are especially if they are in charge of defining the future role of technology in education. This blog post is therefore a summation of links and findings about them.
Members of the Unit:
Vanessa Pittard linkedin profile http://linkd.in/pEov9Y
Head of Technology Policy Unit, DfE
Vanessa is Head of the Technology Policy Unit at the Department for Education which has responsibility for the development of technology in schools policy in the context of the Department’s priorities for education. Prior to her role in the Department, Vanessa was Director of e-Strategy at Becta, building Becta’s strategic role and leading its work on research, evaluation and innovation. Before joining the government sector in 2002, Vanessa had a career as an academic, leading the Department of Communication Studies at Sheffield Hallam University and researching in the areas of technology and literacy. (from
Mentioned in letter: Austen Okonweze
So not much information so far – there is no information I can find on the DfE website but then again there aren’t any other policy units mentioned on the site. I am considering some further ideas about how to take this forward. (comments always welcome)
In researching this technology policy unit mentioned in my recent exchange with the DfE I came across this outstanding blog post summarising the issues present in the ICT and education debate today. A brilliant, detailed and very worthwhile read. http://www.agent4change.net/policy/ict-provision/1050-mluds-and-luddites-poli…
I’m going to save the commentary for later – partly because I want to see what everyone else says
Transcription of letter:
Dear Mr Sharland
Thank you for your letter of 18 July, addressed to the Minister of state for schools, written in response to the speech made by the secretary of state to the royal society on maths and science on the 29th June. As I’m sure yopu van appreciate, ministers receive a vast amount of correspondence and are unable to reply to each one personally. On this occasion I have been asked to reply. The government agrees that when used effectively, technology can help to support good teaching and learning, raise standards and address educational challenges. Over the years, schools have made progression integrating technology into teaching, learning and management and we would wish to see this continue even more and for there to be more confidence in using technology pedagogically. Though becta has closed, there is an array of support and advice services and organisations for schools (ie Naace, FITS, regional broadband consortia and charitable organisations). We continue to support such good work that is why following Becta closure we set up the Technology Policy Unit within the Department and brought some of the Becta functions in house to ensure continued expertise to support this very important area. The department is currently developing its thinking and strategies on technology in schools, engaging with a wide range of stakeholders including school leaders, professional bodies, educational charities, industry, academics and other experts. The strategy will aim at enabling schools and teachers take advantage of opportunities presented by technology to deliver technology and improve effectiveness And efficiency including around the purchase of technology. Further details will be published in the autumn. Thank you for the issues you have raised which I will address individually below:
We will raise the website issues with the relevant team. We believe that it is critical that as much day-to-day decision making as possible is devolved to the front line and that schools can operate with more autonomy. As a result we believe it is not for the department to over prescribe to schools and that the use of YouTube and personal devices needs to be decided at local level. We welcome your support for the use of games to support learning and we are also talking to UK organisations, industry and monitoring evidence around this.
Finally we encourage the collaboration and sharing of ideas and best practice and departmental officials will be happy to meet with you to know more about this. Please contact Austen Okonweze in the Department’s technology unit: Austen.Okonweze@education.gsi.gov.uk
Once again thank you for writing
Public communications unit
May be minor grammatical and spelling errors – banged out on my iPad
Recently in collaboration with a couple of colleagues on Twitter I wrote a letter to Nick Gibb, the Minister in charge of schools. It was in response to a section of a speech by Michael Gove in which for the first time seemingly acknolwedged the role of technology in supporting education. That letter was sent a couple of weeks ago and as of today the 1st of August I have yet to receive a response. Obviously any response I get will be blogged.
I have been thinking (and did receive some prompting online) about a letter to Andy Burnham, the shadow secretary for education. Andy is on twitter at @andyburnhammp and he seems to be an amiable chap who tweets occasionally about educational matters and a fair bit about football. He has responded to a tweet or two in the past but seems to be careful about picking his responses. More crucially though (and this may be symptomatic of general Labour shadow cabinet context) he doesn't seem to be leading in terms of credible alternative options and policies regarding education in the UK.
What I am going to propose is therefore to send a letter to the Labour shadow secretary of education to outline firstly what we wrote to the Tories about and see whether we can open up discussions with peers and fellow colleagues throughout the UK. I have a further idea which I will outline below but at the very least I hope the letter will at least be able to enlighten Labour to the potential and possibilities available to them in support, consultation and ideas from the wider teaching community in the UK.
I do have a further idea which could be incorporated into a letter to the Labour secretary. I have been thinking about how Teachmeets could be used to support any possible collaborative work with politicians. I think politicians have been invited in the past and I am not sure whether any have come or not. If they have I am sure they would be impressed at what is on offer however what is demonstrated is often very inward focussing ideas which can only really work on a smaller scale dependant on another teacher's enthusiasm and often creative use of a budget. These ideas therefore tend to be very micro scale and so they should be as the vast majority of attendees I would assume are normal teachers each with only a few classes and a school to influence.
I think Teachmeets could therefore be used for macro scale ideas where educationalists could demonstrate or pitch ideas and projects which could impact schools positively across the country. I envisage presenters therefore giving their ideas not only to an audience of fellow peers but also invited politicians. How the evening would be run and who would come up to speak are other issues which can be discussed another time if this idea has legs.
As for the next letter itself I will be wait to see whether this blog picks up any reaction and then probably begin it in a few days.
I wish to firstly say thank you to @jamesmichie, @daviderogers, @joga5 and @grumbledook for your help in drafting the letter below. I apologise if I have not been able to include everything (partly due to length) and also partly because I am trying to maintain a positive line without hitting the DfE over the head with what they should be doing. After all I am not a full time campaigner so in a sense I am simply trying to fulfill what I think is an appropriate philosophy in life that sometimes one needs to action. I do hope that something positive will come out of this as I see this letter as something to hopefully force that crack a little wider (but probably fantasising!)
Anyways here is the full text of the letter plus the signatories – their contact details have been removed from this post for obvious reasons. I do need more signatories though! DM me what you would like added under your name for contact details. As for the letter itself I think it is complete. I even have posh konqueror paper to print it on as well!
Nick Gibb MP
Minister of State for Schools
Department for Education
Castle View House
Dear Nick Gibb,
I am writing on behalf of a small group of colleagues at other institutuons in the UK in response to comments made by Michael Gove to the Royal Society on Maths and Science on the 29th of June 2011. We are all in one way or another deeply involved with the use of technology in our workplaces and we all are motivated to see technology and digital resources used effectively within schools. We would like to comment specifically on the section on 'Harnessing Technology within the classroom' contained within the speech and its implications for the educational technology community. We feel that writing to yourself as the Minister in charge of the reform of the National Curriculum is the best course of action for ensuring an effective response.
On the one hand we welcome the positive comments Mr Gove has made regarding the use of technology in a classroom however we are dismayed at the fact that this is as far as we can tell the first time Mr Gove has made substantive comments on this issue. Furthermore we feel that his comments on certain aspects of technology usage raises further concerns which are highlighted below.
Mr Gove begins by stating that ' We need to change curricula, tests and teaching to keep up with technology, and technology itself is changing curricula, tests, and teaching.' Although we welcome a drive by the DfE to acknowledge the role of technology in teaching and learning we see no evidence to indicate that this is taking place or will be taking place. On the contrary with the closure of Becta and an extremely poor lack of resources on the usage of ICT to support learning in the classroom supplied by the DfE we feel that your words are not being backed up by actions. We note in particular that searching for ICT on the DfE website produces a result for 'Using ICT to support teaching and learning' which when clicked leads to an error page. This lack of thought for a valuable and motivated community of educators is worrying especially as there are many ICT, Computing and other teachers skilled in the usage of ICT who could contribute to effective teaching and learning of all subjects across a school curriculum.
We welcome the mention of iTunesU and the Khan academy as two examples of high quality resources available for pupils in schools. However this raises further issues which Mr Gove may not have been aware of. The Khan Academy delivers its content through YouTube videos and the vast majority of maintained schools do not allow access to YouTube in the classroom for pupils and even teachers to use. iTunesU as a content delivery network is also difficult to implement as the devices which would be useful for accessing them which are the range of mobile devices made by Apple including the iPhone are not allowed for usage in the classroom. These and other information services if used properly though can have an impact on pupil literacy in a wide range of subjects.
We also welcome the mention of computer games based learning to deliver subject material. This is something which many of us are quite supportive of as it is a useful tool for delivering not just Science and Maths but also other subject material such as English, History and Geography. Computer games based learning can also teach analytical and thought processing skills such as design, requirements analysis, iteration and basic logic skills. We note the mention of foreign institutions providing the lead on the development of programmes for usage in class however we would have liked to see the mention or inclusion of some of the work which is being done locally to meet the needs of pupils in the UK such as JISC or Futurelab. The inclusion of Marcus Du Sautoy in his comments was good to see though.
In conclusion we would like to pick up on the concluding paragraph of the section on Technology:
"These developments are only beginning. They must develop on the ground – Whitehall must enable these innovations but not seek to micromanage them. The new environment of teaching schools will be a fertile ecosystem for experimenting and spreading successful ideas rapidly through the system."
The positive nature of what he had to say was encouraging however we would now like to see actions by the DfE to back up Mr Gove's words. Mr Gove stated he has no wish to micromanage however at least some management and direction on the usage of technology and digital resources would be welcome from the DfE to ensure that Heads and senior leadership teams recognise government backing for the work we do in our own schools. We would also welcome further clarification on legal issues surrounding the usage and purchase of technology to support learning in schools.
Finally as educators we are already spreading successful ideas on the use of technology in schools through various channels such as Twitter, Teachmeet's and regular works of collaboration online. We therefore would welcome the opportunity to meet with yourself and some of your colleagues to discuss and demonstrate some of the collaborative work we do as teachers to support our craft as well as some of the work and learning methods which our own pupils produce and use in class. We are motivated by seeing our pupils deepen their digital literacy in meaningful ways which will lead to constructive use of the technology available in society and ultimately lead to improvements in their own attainment.
The following individuals of asked for their name and personal information to be attached to the letter as fellow signatories. Their signatures are absent as they are spread across the UK.