Over and Out


I’ve been reminiscing a lot recently, particularly as I prepare to write my final article for SWGfL.  

It’s funny how some things stick in your memory.  One of my earliest memories is hearing the screeching and beeping coming from by brothers’ bedroom as he waited patiently for the programme on his Commodore 64 to load. 

In the early 80’s I was listening to my growing vinyl collection including Wham, Madonna and Dollar (yes, I know!) and perfecting my roller skating technique.  Computing was way off my radar, something for my brothers to do, something that didn’t feel relevant to me. 

At school, the ‘state of the art’ computer room was kitted out with BBC computers.  The room was hot, stuffy and didn’t smell so good.  I only recall one lesson, using logo, we explored how to PU (PENUP) PD (PENDOWN) and ST (SHOWTURTLE)…show the turtle? Why? I didn’t know why.

At University, training to be a primary teacher, I was introduced to the ‘PC’ and I visited the World Wide Web for the first time.  It was predominantly text in those days, it was…interesting.

And then I started teaching. And things got very interesting, very interesting indeed.

We had 2 BBC B’s and an Acorn, they were housed on enormous unwieldy trolleys with an old curtain draped over each.  The students were really keen to explore Granny’s Garden and Badger Trails. Students, those who didn’t get engaged in traditional activities, were eager to learn, focussed and engaged. Wow, this technology could enhance my teaching and their learning!

Shortly after I arrived at the school we were given the opportunity to participate in an IT project. This would include connecting the school to the internet, new ‘PC’ style computers for each classroom and training for all staff.  

I was given the opportunity to lead ICT and I was very excited. I became the master of fixing printers and plugging cables into the right holes (no tech support in those days either!) I revelled in the opportunity to create a scheme of work, to choose software and to start to see my students developing new skills and approaches to learning.

And it was at this time that I started to learn one of the most valuable lessons that I’ve learnt so far.  You see, not all the adults in my school were as excited about the new technology as I was.  It didn’t seem relevant, it didn’t seem interesting and it certainly didn’t seem exciting.  Familiar? Yes.  You see, I had been on that journey myself.  My colleagues needed time to understand what this new stuff was, time to get their heads round it. And they needed the opportunity to explore how it could make their learning environment even better.  And that is the key, it has to be relevant.

And when I joined SWGfL in 2009 it was my job to help teachers across the region to explore how the online world could impact positively on teaching and learning.   Do you remember Merlin? I’m so proud of the Merlin project; it brought online learning spaces to around 2,500 schools in the SW and was the largest implementation of its kind, outside of the US. I was privileged to work alongside some immensely talented educators and share some remarkable journeys as students and teachers had their own lightbulb moments with technology.

I’ve learnt so much from so many. People like Steve Kemsley at Magicka in Plymouth and Ben Forte at Devonport High School for Boys who continue to innovate and inspire, remaining resolutely focussed on impacting positively on outcomes for students. And the team here at SWGfL, a truly inspirational bunch, they are behind initiatives including the Barefoot Computing Project, UK Safer Internet Centre,  Professionals Online Safety Helpline and Revenge Porn Helpline.  This team work tirelessly to deliver our vision of the safe and empowering use of technology for young people and for everyone.  And I am humbled to have been part of it.  And next, I’m off to pastures new and an exciting opportunity with BCS, Chartered Institute for IT.

And look at us now! Can you even imagine teaching without tech? Planning lessons without the internet?  What no #? Can you imagine your life without tech?  No click and collect? No Instagram?  It impacts each and every one of us every day. It continues to impact on how we communicate, we learn, we teach, we parent, we are.

And today, as my daughter’s school works with the Google Expeditions team for a day of immersive VR, I realise how exciting this journey still is.  How I am fascinated by it, and can’t wait to open the next chapter.

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