Recently I was involved in a Twitter discussion about the different types of ICT Coordinator out there. In my differing roles I have met many people who do this job and there are some for whom it is a vocation and they would probably die for their subject. While at the other end of the scale are those who do the job because they missed out on getting that Numeracy job or maybe because they have been pushed into it. I think I am sadly closer to the die for it status, though Dr Who would also cause me such obsessive tendencies too. Whatever the motivation or reason for the appointment it is important to distribute the leadership of the subject. In some shape or form the whole school has to own ICT.
Some ICT Coordinators are Lone Rangers, they may well operate on the cutting edge of technology and be loud on Twitter. Their lessons with ICT could well be outstanding and something for other colleagues to admire. However, their impact within the school is often minimal, unless of course they inspire and support their colleagues. And to reiterate, I don’t think this is something that can be done alone.
An effective strategy for achieving impact, building vision and purposing direction that works very well for myself (and others) has been the establishing of an ICT Team. By this, I mean a group of about five to six staff who met once a month or even more if they can. Everyone talks about their progress towards the school ICT priorities and there is both greater accountability and a deeper knowledge of what is actually happening on the school floor.
The other reasons for building team are surely obvious. Firstly you are building capacity, so that should you have to move to another role, then IT continues to move forward in your school. And my favourite reason is that you realise you don’t have all the answers and neither can you single handedly develop ICT. During our recent Ipad programme myself and my shadow ICT coordinator jointly ran an Inset session. I talked about the apps that had excited me, while my colleague pushed and promoted the area of digital music creation with Figure, Garage Band and other apps. His enthusiasm for this area of digital creativity was infectious and it was clear that he had spent longer than the initial five minutes he had spent with me being introduced to the apps. This is the exciting bit for me, seeing when someone is enthused by an aspect of technology and giving them the space and permission to develop across the school.
The danger with a group like this, is that the group can get lost in the small things or caught up with the distraction of another new piece of kit or an app. If however, there is any point to meeting it is to evaluate the IT priorities and progress. These can often be summed up by asking – Are we supporting the use of ICT to make a difference to our children?I really love the truths brought out in the TED video below by Margaret Heffernan.
The business relationships she describes work well because there is fight and conflict. I think this is healthy and very relevant in times of little money. I want people in my team to be asking me and each other tough questions why have we bought this? Perhaps as alluded to in the video, the team should also look to disprove any link between performance, motivation, home engagement and a class full of Ipads. There is of course a link, but by trying tp prove the contrary your stance becomes more local and more secure.
Meeting like this is ok, but you would need to think about something more regular if you are having to manage in-house tech support. In my previous managerial role in 2Simple, I was taught a technique for focus and communication within teams, which I now use at school. Groups of programmers will often meet on a daily basis to share their progress to date and update everyone on their priorities for the day. This is not a blue sky or moan session and the pace is fast and focussed, signified by the group standing up together and moving post it notes of priorities on a whiteboard, this sort of meeting is known to some as a scrum session. Such meetings were where we would talk about what we intended to work on during the day and reflect on the day just gone. In turn, this would help us to prioritize, look for ways to help each other and ultimately improve efficiently.
Quite simply a daily focussed 5-10 minutes with your school technician can be invaluable. Not just because you tick off a list of IT problems that he or she has resolved, you also show value and support to each other. There will always be something for both technical people and ICT coordinators to be doing in school, but prioritising together means what actually really needs to get done happens faster
And of course alongside this you would want to look to include your pupils too. Many schools are affording more responsibility to a core group of tech savvy pupils their “digital leaders” as curriculum consultants and co subject leaders rather than digital helpers.