Brief Report of the Project to date

The 14 week digital literacy course for general staff and trainee teachers is complete and due to feedback and requests additional sessions took place, taking the course to a total of 16 weeks. As the weeks progressed, the VLE developed and for each session there is a lesson plan, all activity instructions and resources, quick links to digital tools, further information and some showcase of achievement in that particular session. Each week a “take-away” homework menu was produced so participants could chose further digital literacy skill developments to practice and showcase ahead of the following session.

Many 1:1 sessions have taken place with staff and trainees from November 2012 to current and mini digital literacy projects have been delivered to specialist Dicipline teams, in particular equine and sport as a continuation of the project and to try and disseminate the use of Xerte beyond the original project group.

The hard part, but certainly not the toughest was to encourage and develop staff and trainee teachers to practice their own digital literacy skills within their discipline. At the same time, they needed to learn independence and look at innovative strategies, beyond the course content. Evidence has been collected through trainee lesson plans, lesson observations, audio recorded observations and some general discussions with qualified staff alone.

The toughest part has been the facilitation of staff developers creating their own projects with learners. It has been a battle between “project ethics” and “teaching ethics” in that participants from the course have only moved forward if they felt they had enough time, enough resources in addition to support. Not just from me but from collegues and management within the department.

I still have a bit of time to try and gather some more evidence and provide some more support, as I know a small selection of staff developers have been successful. They have facilitated learners in producing content with Xerte and other digital means, it is just a very tough time for most academic staff being near the end of a term, so I honestly have to say that it is not their priority right now to provide me with this information or evidence. I am sure that once assessments are completed, marked and the term has ended (11th April) I will gain a better snap shot of what we have achieved.

Tonight, I have managed to hold a focus group meeting (3 out of 12) that included some project participants and this gave a small insight to the project as we begin to reach the end. Our discussions are summarised as follows:

Skitch (iPad app) has been used by learners to create their own images and videos for content and expand on their own created images with notes and sketches to express understanding. Prezi has been popular for collaborative work between learners for formative presentation assessment. A particular focus with Prezi now is to ensure learners consider their target audience, that is a social responsibility in addition to considering the digital identity they can create with Prezi as a social media tool. Google+ accounts and in particular the google document app have been used by some FE learners in class for editing and amending items live as a collaborative tool and more explicitly during peer assessment activities. Other digital tools have been used for peer assessment such quizlet and triptico where some learners have created quizzes for revision etc and the content shared. The “my homework” app (which has been found by a member of staff using skills learnt through the digital literacy course) allows learners to keep diaries, files and create content within their lessons. This particular app which develops learners skills in digital software and social responsibility, has been popular in one Dicipline and has been roled out for all learners within that Dicipline to improve collaboration between tutor and student with regards to assessment and progress.

The SAMR model has had quite a big impact to allow teachers and learners to improve standards with technology, “pushing our selves with regards to moving up the stages”.

“When planning sessions I consider the SAMR model and try and think of alternative use of IT a step up the model than what I had originally considered to incorporate peer assessments and collaboration.”

Improved knowledge on data protection and copy right laws has been seen through out the college, according to the head of teaching and learning.

“I have integrated the google search knowledge that I have gained from the course through assignment workshops and producing a mat to support the learners when carrying out research.”

Some tutors used recording techniques for assignment briefs and workshops to disseminate to learners.

“I have presented to my team new methods and my experiences I have developed from the course such as the recording of smart board use when going through assignments with students and posting it on bloom for them to recap in their own time to ensure they include all of the relevant information in their assignments.”

Googles own apps page have been used in sessions and with learners to create a “bank of apps” on the desktop so sessions can be sped up and develop more efficient work skills. But it has not always been so productive..there has been some issues, especially when it comes to more learner led creation of content.

“I will be honest and say that I have limited my use with learners until sufficient resources are available to use as well as effective timing.”

Something that came to light during tonight's forum was that much of social media is blocked by the college systems. Although Xerte has its own server and access to Xerte is wide spread at both levels, trying to use some collaborative media is problematic. Staff and trainees really wanted to complete sessions regarding the learners awareness and management of digital identity and showcasing achievement through sites such as twitter, linkedin, scoop-it, Pinterest and wordpress but access was slow progress or even banned. At this point some staff and students became disengaged with some of the digital literacy project.

Digital identities of learners has not been something that we have developed particularly well. However some staff have trialed this idea with subject specific boards within Pinterest, but not a subject related account. Some staff use twitter to follow specific people but their own account is not subject specific.

Sharing and disseminating of projects and ideas for content creation or technology know-how is limited to only within the department, some ATPs and trainees will share practice between each other and are left to disseminate between teams. There are ideas for more collaboration between teams and their ATP s. So community boundaries are not being breached that often and this is partly due to the current college culture.

To conclude this brief report, I would say that digital Literacies of staff, trainees and learners are developing and their is a small amount of evidence so far. I know that there are many examples of Xerte projects from within the disciplines of Animal studies and Equestrian studies in addition to other content via other digital tools that are free and open source. I just need to collate them as the 2nd term concludes. I just wish I had put a little more thought into this final stage of the project to help me collate this evidence more effectively.



Week 4: Moving on with the conundrum and using digital tools

This weeks session was all about digital resources and as teachers and learners both have access to SMART boards in a classroom (and at the request of participants the previous week) I thought it would be interesting to look at the way we perceive SMART Boards. Would we get better use from them if we called them 'Giant Classroom iPads' instead? I show cased some great web browser apps for the participants to investigate, that were transferable from the 'Giant Classroom iPad' to smaller mobile devices to get everyone involved. I also thought it important to look at the SAMR model of effective technology use in education. This week really was an 'eye opener' to current teacher and student classroom technology practice.

We started off with a “food for though” activity

The staff and trainees immediately began to reflect on their own practice and concluded that at present they spend a lot of time demonstrating and promoting the use of different digital resources when teaching and leading sessions, but afford little time in class to their learners using these digital resources. It is when the learners are “doing” and tutors are “embedding” that digital literacy skills of learners can be improved. I think it was quite an “enlightening” moment for many of the participants and a great start to this particular session.

  • This weeks lesson is all about the way we perceive SMART Boards. Would we get better use from them if we ca

This was not the only “enlightening” moment in this session, we also investigated the SAMR model

I already knew at this stage, that staff and trainee teachers would be at the bottom half of the model. The majority using technology as a direct tool substitute and few using it at Augmentation level with fewer actually including learners effectively at this point. But with this model in mind, I looked to shake up their classroom a little and investigate some digital tools and analyse them with regard to SAMR model.

So we investigated the SMART board again, looking back a previous practice a few weeks earlier, then some google chrome apps and curation sites to take digital tools to the next level and eventually I showed them some examplar Xerte content just so they had an awareness of it. It seemed to go OK and when comparing tools with the SAMR model they could see the potential of Xerte being a tool that could “redefine” practice and learning. Obviously, we need a few more sessions to get the staff and trainees exploring Xerte more but I see this as being a spiral curriculum and aim to scaffold their skills with Xerte as we go along. Today was just the first step.

Week 3: Getting Started with Digital Literacies

After the initial two weeks of working with college staff and my own trainees to build confidence in the project and a little bit of bribery (SMART training) I have started to look at the first digital literacy skill “Find, Evaluate and Apply Information” with some internet navigation fundamentals. We firstly looked at some basic search terms for Google Chrome and Windows Explorer, highlighted sites that curate sources and materials into topics and themes in addition to the usual HE data bases and journals. We discussed how their learners would initially find information them selves, the importance of evaluating and 'vetting' sources of information and this debate left us very little time to delve into the relms of skillful application of information into their own content.

Staff and trainees reflected on the benefits of developing this skills with their own learners and the difficulties faced when not making a conscious effort to alter their habits when using google as a first point of reference. My own personal reflections on this session are that it was quite interesting to see that the staff and trainee teachers within this session did not have the basic digital literacy skills of “find, evaluate and apply information” in some cases. Where some participants in the session did, they were not as effective as they could be. Which made me think 'how can staff and trainees develop their learners digital Literacies in class when they do not have the ability or confidence them selves?” Again I felt like this was a another “back step” in the project and something I will need to consider further.

With this in mind, I think there is potential to change the projects phase 1 strategy and scheme of work to build on staff and trainee skills before moving onto more complex skills and even using Xerte for that matter. I think that Xerte can be brought into the 14 week programme at week 10 and almost fast track participants and the project through at that stage. No doubt I will conclude on this concept as the weeks go by.

As this session concluded, we created something of a “take a-way menu” to try and put some of this learning into practice and this was the result…

  • Options
    • Create a 'Help Mat' resource on effective internet searches for students to use in class
    • Create a top ten list of 'Brilliant Teachers Websites' to share with your collegues
    • Find an 'Outstanding Lesson Resource' and share it with your collegues
    • Get your students to use an 'interactive resource' on the SMART board and record evidence of this
    • Evaluate your learning today and create three actions that you will complete to improve your skills

It was quite interesting to see that there is little activity on “evaluating” information but much focus on “finding” so this skill needs much more development. If staff and trainees are doing little of it them selves, how can we expect the learners to pick up good habits? Without physically going into their own lessons, how can I improve staff skills quickly so that they can work on digital Literacies skills with the variety of learners the college admits each term? I think I have my work cut out.


Trainees First Use of SMART Board October 22 0335

I set a homework challenge for the ‘Improving Digital Literacies’ group where they had to provide evidence of their use of a SMART board within a lesson. Here is one of the submissions

The First Two Weeks Are Complete: IT Fundermantals

I held the first ‘Improve Your Digital Literacy’ Session on Thursday the 3rd October 2013 during the twilight hours of 5-7. The decision was made to hold it on Thursday between 5 and 7 so that I could maximise the attendance of trainee teachers and the college academic staff and this has proved successful. In this first session I simply completed some diagnostic assessments on the trainee teachers to find out what level of technology use they apply within classroom and day-to-day teaching duties. This was based around the SAMR model of technology effectiveness. Activities included a survey, small group discussions on personal skills, work skills, their learners personal skills and learner classroom skills. We also created graphic organisers of these discussions to see how connections can be made. We also learnt a few simple IT skills such as managing emails, calendars and creating short-cuts to support trainee teachers along the way. A piece of homework was set which encouraged trainees to record and reflect upon discussions within the session and also evaluate their findings from their digital literacy diagnostic assessments.

In this initial diagnostic assessment session, I found that most trainees where at the simplest level of ICT use, personally and within a classroom environment, so I need to work or some basic IT skills before I can move into more digital literacy focused sessions and before we begin to create content with Xerte.

On the 10th October 2013, I held the second ‘Improving your Digital Literacies’ Class. The trainees firstly identified safe and secure uses of technology before we investigated how to handle routine problems with technology. This was completed as a paper based ‘thinking hats carousel’ but I believe this would also be helpful as an Xerte learning object which I might have the trainees create as their first Xerte object later in the course.

The most engaging aspect of the session was when trainees investigated SMART boards and their capabilities in the classroom via guided discovery. Groups were provided with ipads and a quick links to you-tube videos and then broke off into small groups working in separate classrooms to get to grips with the software packages and evaluate the learning that has taken place.

I felt it was important in the second week to allow these trainee teachers to build confidence and skills in fundamental uses of IT for teaching before moving onto higher levels to create content and use digital literacy skills.

In the next session we are going to continue with the SMART Boards and iboards  but consider the students use and how they can create content with a beginners look at digital literacy skills.



Only two weeks to go before the 14 week programme

So, the course is now full, I have 15 ‘trainee’ teacher representatives and one assistant principle from various curriculum areas around the college. This includes Animal  Studies, Farriery, Inclusive Learning, Sport and Leisure, Sports Turf, Teacher Education and Vet Nursing. I am now very excited about the potential impact this project can have on the digital literacy skills of the trainee teachers and their students alike.

I have nearly completed my scheme of work as you can see below.Image

I have had to make a few amendments to the delivery due to the diverse technical abilities of the ‘cohort’ so I am going to start with a few fundamentals of ICT before we start creating and developing content with Xerte. I really do have to improve some digital literacies of staff before engaging with this specialist software.

Terry McAndrew from the HEA suggested that students should be afforded the right to share their views on this learning via a forum and suggested a few questions which might facilitate this:

What are good examples of students using digital means to develop and express their academic understanding?

What are good examples of research and teaching staff integrating digital know-how into their scholarly activities?

What useful ways have we found of defining subject-specific digital identities (perhaps in relation to research and scholarship as well as teaching/learning)?

How are subject communities sharing methods, insights and experiences, within and across community boundaries?’

I am hoping to embed this within the initial 14 week course, so that the trainee teachers can share their views. I believe at this point I will use the forums provided on Moodle, which I will create and link to the project area. After the 14 week period, it is hoped that these questions will be put to the learners within each curriculum area, although they may have to be differentiated carefully so that similar responses are achieved at all levels.

The DLiD Project is on the way!

After a winning DLiD proposal to the HEA, I took some time to reflect on how I could ensure this project was effective and had the most impact for our college. 

The aims of my digital literacy project are:

  • Deliver a 14 week training programme on the use of FOSS with specific use of Xerte  to enhancing digital literacies (DL) with trainee teachers and new advanced teaching practitioners (ATP) so they can become staff developers within the discipline of Social Sciences and Education.
  • Support for the facilitation of FOSS and DL use with learners within the trainee teachers or ATP’s subject discipline, this will be a multi-discipline approach.
  • Support for learners who will be the main creators of learning objects in Xerte and publish them for the VLE and mobile devices for use within their specialist discipline.
  • Support the college improvement agenda and ‘Digital Shift’ group for consistent use of ILT to support and help students achieve their potential, including their employability prospects. 

The call for staff participants at the college went out this morning, and I have had 10 respondents so far. This is exciting! The 14 week training programme starts on Oct 3rd, 5-7pm. With the XOT installed at the college, I have four weeks to prepare a SOW and a VLE area. Wish me luck!