When I began my computer hard drive was a maze of folders containing plans, photographs, samples of children's work, PowerPoint learning stories, scrutiny summaries, documents in progress, Excel Spreadsheets and the usual downloads I thought would be useful at the time, but had not got round to looking at again... My key task was to consider how I could organise this wealth of material into something which was useful to me, and accessible to others who might want to see it as part of the school's self evaluation framework.
At the moment I am also mindful of a Masters Dissertation project, which is pining for my attention, a process I really want to complete by the middle of August or earlier. Over the last couple of years I have found myself engaging with the ideas of Neil Mercer, Wenger and Lave and Jerome Bruner among many others, but who particularly have helped me to begin framing thoughts about how teachers and learners work together to create shared meaning and understanding in ICT mediated learning contexts. Using and exploring the use of ICT as a teaching and learning tool, it is becoming more apparent to me just how much of a learning event or process is transient and "missable" as it is not neccesarily manifest within the files and paper based outcomes students produce as a result of their activities. Using video data of students and teachers working with ICT particularly, I have frequently found that evidence of learning is often manifest in their actions and the discussions they have, or in the review and feedback stories they tell. These shared stories have common themes, because the lessons have a common structure, and we use these to construct shared meanings from our diverse engagements, and to lay foundations for future learning. The interfaces created between teachers and learners seem to act as spaces where we use talk about our common experiences to think together and negotiate common understandings, developing shared starting points for future learning, within the ongoing journey or story we share as a community of practice. Building on this during my MSc Course, I began to wonder how I could capture these events and journeys in a meaningful way, and began using digital photographs, in combination with PowerPoint and SmartNotebooks to help me explore, organise and share the learning events I and my students had engaged in. These "Narratives of Learning" became an integral part of my classroom practice providing feedback and feedforward, acting as assesssment for learning tools, enabling children to discuss and review previous activities, and me to plan for future learning based on what had gone before. Classrooms as "communities of practice and discourse," are created to develop shared learning experiences. Teachers and their students work hard together to achieve this establishing shared group identities and cultures embedded in common histories and manifest in the works they produce. So what has this to do with what I set out to do last weekend, well, this has a striking resemblance to me of the purposes of school self review and evaluation, where we share a journey as an organisation, evolving a culture of learning from our shared practice as we go, engaging in a journey of continual improvement towards shared goals and aspirations. I have begun to believe that all learning journeys including that of a school as an organisation is an iterative series of events, and policy statements, action plans and monitoring activities should be seen as snapshots in time, part of this ongoing developmental process. Very much like classroom learning narratives, I want within this self review framework, my subject leaders file reflect progression and continuity over time. So my thoughts last weekend moved towards how I might develop a format to begin telling the story of how ICT as a subject culture is evolving within my school. Redeveloping my Subject leader file and portfolio of evidence as a "Narrative of Learning" for the school. I decided I could best achieve this by creating a web page based navigation system, which would allow me to organise and structure the digital material I had begun to develop, using my web browser as a means to display and access my data and enabling me to open frequently used files for editing and saving, by hyperlink. This will also allow me to show progression in work as it evolves by saving, highlighted, annotated or significantly updated files in a hierarchy, through the instalation of new hyperlinks to open these as new documents are added. Also since much ICT based curricular work will be computer based, linking these into the portfolio means that they can be viewed in their native format, rather than on paper, where access to the process or dynamic content may not be readily accessible, visible or complicated to evidence. (eg hyperlinked powerpoints, or spreadsheet files involving the use of formulae). Essentially I have begun to create a navigable filling system where everything I need is in one place, organised and categorised for ease of access. To enable use of this structure as a Learning story, the web page interface affords the possibility of adding dates, commentaries and so context to the link, through reflections and additional text support about how and why the particular activity was carried out, or to enable cross reference with other sections of the portfoio.
Within this system I have initially set up 5 main folders.
- Assets where I am housing things like Spreadsheets we have created to monitor and audit software, how many licenses we hold, ELC spends, etc annotated with comments about why the kit was bought, and how it relates to curricular use and our scheme of work, as well as the very useful BECTA ICT Investment Planner.
- A CPD folder, containing details and evidence of training and support work carried out within school , and CPD questionaire data.
- A policies section, which is fairly self explanatory, although as I reviewed above, I would like our ICT related policies to reflect a change in ICT culture. By renaming our existing policy an ICT Curriculum Development Framework, I would like to aline this set of documents more closely with the SIP, BECTA self evaluation framework and make them flexible enough to be adapted in response to our vision and the technological and social changes which emerge constantly around the uses of ICT. Making them more dynamic documents, will enable us to adapt as an organisation in response to identified needs and changes, not only within the school but from the world outside.
- A scheme of work area, in which to house and create links to our evolving existing documentation, and resources developed in support or relating to how we are adapting to bridge evolving curriculum policy and practice, and a growing portfolio of how ICT looks in practice across my school, as we respond to the challenges of Self Evaluation, CPD and the changing curricular landscape and culture. Also within this section will be a school assessment portfolio with evidence of student work.
- And finally a self review folder, which houses an adapted Word version of the BECTA Self evaluation Framework, to be annotated and referenced to other areas of the portfolio, or our school website, which is also a source of rich data about what has been happening. Within this section are also our last OfSTED report, progressive annotated and highlighted existing SIP documents, which represent the state of play when I assumed my role, and those which have and are developing in response to the self evaluation framework and school needs.
Hopefully this will eventually represent a "service History," and learning story for subject based and cross curricular ICT development within the school. It has been abit of a chore, but as with all things like this, moving paper based systems to the computer takes time to establish, and as it develops hopefully it will become more manageable as we are able to simply drag and drop new evidence to the file system and link it in with supporting annotations, and seek to establish the idea of a toolbox approach to teaching and learning with ICT. Hopefully it will also mean handing a CD Rom to visiting school improvement officers, inspectors or external assessors, rather than the sack truck, my colleague needed when she met with OfSTED on their last visit. Since the system is currently housed on my laptop, it also means when I meet with colleagues or the leadership team, I should be able to access what I want when I need it, or link in material we develop there and then. The files should also be uptodate versions of works in progress.