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PLE . . . the best of things, the worst of things? May 20, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in Management, TELIC.
Tags: , , , , , ,

One of the final tasks of this module of study on my Master’s course is, as you might expect, the reflective element. IC2 requires us to take on the role of change agent, charging us to plan, deliver and evaluate a project for a notional ‘client.’ I chose to undertake a pilot study in preparation for a year-long project we’re undertaking next academic year.
Multiple roles

More than once during this project I’ve felt some measure of discomfort, struggling to retain a degree of perspective and feeling I’ve lost the handle on what I’ve been trying to achieve. Now that I look back on my role, I can begin to appreciate why that might have been, for I’ve been wrestling with multiple personalities;

  1. Change agent – the person tasked with moving ‘us’ forward as a result of adopting this innovation
  2. Client – I’m the one who conceived and commisioned the project.
  3. Project Manager – the person who marshals the resources (human & technical) to realise the project
  4. Researcher – someone who determines the success (or otherwise) of the project and suggests routes forward.

From Denise Cross on Flickr

Whilst it wouldn’t be fair to say that these roles conflict with one another, each demands you view the project from a slightly different perspective; that you slip on a different pair of specs. And anyone who wears specs knows that requires a shift in focus . . . which can be quite disconcerting! I’ve often found myself working in an area of the project whilst wearing the wrong specs., for instance trying to view elements of change whilst wearing the project manager’s specs – it doesn’t work and I find my thinking going round in circles. But why so many roles? Why client and project manager?

In school I’m involved with the ‘nitty-gritty’ like getting classroom projectors working and providing, supporting and guiding colleagues with ICT CPD. I also lead the ICT Support Team, manage the ICT budget and ensure our estate is fit for purpose. I advise the SMT on ICT strategy and have the role of school ICT Leader, helping find and map out possible future directions. It’s not that that’s too much for a single individual; swapping a hard drive one minute and writing a development plan the next provides an excellent overview. No, my worry is that in looking for opportunities to explore innovative uses of ICT, I’m on my own; there’s no-one to bounce ideas off or set me a target. I blame my PLE for causing me to feel like this. Many of the people within my PLE are incredibly innovative in how they use ICT in their classrooms and with their pupils. They work at the bleeding edge. They’re inspirational. They provide a constant stream of stimulation from which I draw ideas . . . like @tombarrett‘s Tweet which lit the spark for this project.

Unfortunately there is a small part of me which hopes for a similar experience back in school as that which I get from my PLE . . . and it’s disappointing when that doesn’t come to fruition. There are (to my knowledge) no other colleagues who use Twitter as a learning tool, who blog as part of their professional development, who use social networking tools of any aspect of their work . . . despite my best efforts of encouragement. But then should I be surprised? I’ve come to the conclusion that people in my PLE are quite unusual; they aren’t found everwhere and in fact are spread few and far between. The more I think about it, the more I realise that I’m unusual too; I think differently from other people in school. Is there something particular about edtech enthusiasts that sets them apart?

Anyway to return to the point, multiple roles. In this unusual position, I find I’m the one who taps into channels which provide inspiration for new ideas, but then I also have to explore the possibilities and potential pitfalls, devise a plan, form the necessary coalitions (is that word still allowed in this post-election environment?), execute the tasks and evaluate the outcomes. This isn’t a whinge at all; I love doing it . . . but is it best for our organisation in the long run?



1. whatedsaid - May 28, 2010

Thanks for sharing your reflection, Ian.

The ICT coordinator at my school has multiple roles too. The trouble is she spends so much time getting things to work, supporting teachers who don’t take the time to improve their own skills, testing and setting up reports… that she doesn’t have enough time for implementing innovative ideas. She too has talked about how isolated she felt with no-one to bounce ideas off and how thrilled she is to have me on board with her. It’s not my role, but it’s my passion! Can you find someone in your school?. I think schools having one ICT practitioner to cover all the roles, is no longer feasible in this day and age.

I totally agree and identify with your point about the discrepancy between what goes on at school and the incredibly creative,innovative educators we engage with online. It sometimes makes me despondent as I think my school has such a long way to go. I know I think differently from most of the people at my school and I am trying to initiate change one tiny step at a time. One teacher told me (when I offered to set up a global connection to help her students with a unit) that she is not as obsessed with technology as I am, uses her time for other important things and draws her inspiration from other sources.

I’m reading Seth Godin’s Linchpin and loving it! Highly recommended, if you haven’t read it.

ianinsheffield - May 29, 2010

You’re absolutely right on all counts Edna. As you say ‘small steps.’ To be fair, it’s not that there’s no-one in school doing anything; far from it. It’s just that there’s no-one like those in my PLE who are really pushing the envvelope and asking questions of themselves and of us all. Although I do occasionally get alittle dejected, the PLE quickly refreshes and reinvigorates my enthusiasm.

Don’t know whether you ever came across the ‘Weebles’ and their marketing tag line “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down!” I guess I’m a bit of a Weeble.

Thanks for the pointer to Linchpin … feel an Amazon search coming on . . .

You’ll also have noticed more than a nod in your direction with the inclusion of a cartoon in this post. They may be simply eye-candy to a reader, but I found it encouraged me to think how to capture a story in a single image . . . bit like compressing the essence into 140 chars. So thank you for that inspiration.

whatedsaid - May 29, 2010

Cartoons: Most times that’s been the case with me too. The process of creating the cartoon is part of the reflective process. That’s why I like it as an educational tool too!

2. janwebb21 - May 29, 2010

This sounds very familiar – I wrote about multiple facets of a primary ICT coordinator’s role in my own blog recently and – believe it or not – am also looking at the implementation of change as part of my own Master’s studies!! And, like Henrietta, I have Seth Godin’s book on my bedside table (though other reading has had to take priority lately)!!!!

I think understanding the complex role ICT plays is really important if we are to be effective change-agents, sensitive to less tech-confident colleagues, remaining as team players. And our colleagues need to understand the complexity of the role, too, so we are not isolated in our role. Because being a team player means colleagues understanding us, us understanding colleagues and us all understanding ourselves and why we may/may not be open to those changes.

ianinsheffield - May 29, 2010

So true Jan.
The process of relection you describe is crucial to self-development and improvement (of individuals and organisations) I feel. It’s an integral element of studying at M-Level . . . perhaps there ought to be an expectation that all teachers will undertake further study as a natural part of their development as a professional?

(Going to stop there and wait for backlash!)

3. whatedsaid - May 29, 2010

I don’t think it’s the M-level degree that does it, Ian!! I know teachers who have studied further and yet don’t seem to have shifted their thinking or made great change in their practice. It’s the reflection itself and the resulting action that cause change. Educators who ‘study further’ by simply engaging online with other educators, participate in twitter, #edchat , blogging… are more likely to drive change,in my opinion.

ianinsheffield - May 30, 2010

Absolutely! The level matters not one jot Edna. As you say, it’s the reflective process arising from engaging with others, whether online or in the staffroom, that encourages change. I just worry that a significant number cease their personal/professional development upon completion of teacher training … or that any further development they are involved with is perceived as something they have done to them, rather than something they take responsibility for. I’d just like to see more people doing what you and others we know do.

(Climbs down from hobby horse before upsetting too many more folks)

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