Changing the SSTA view on Tech

President, Congress

The area of IT is one where this audience, like the society it reflects, have mixed experience and expertise.

Regardless of this, there are some things that are very clear indeed.

First, the social media genie is out of the bottle and it isn’t going back in.

Second, we are now living in what amounts to a post-PC world with computing increasingly mobile and based on apps on smartphone and tablets rather than clunky old style boxes that sit on our desks.

With this [holding up an iPhone] I can call someone; email them; message them. I can search the web, shop, read a book and watch a film.

I tracked the development of my, as yet unborn baby and now record her growth as a child and then stream the videos to the net or the TV.

She is 6 months old and is growing up in an evermore connected world – and is learning to use devices that were once the stuff of science fiction.

Such devices have brought about a radical change in how people, especially the young communicate with each other.

Where we as adults view private space as being in our own home, many of our children view their private space as online.

Yet, there are many who view such technologies as a threat to the young, a threat to morality – and a threat to society as a whole.

Now, each time that there is a paradigm shift in communications technology there is an inevitable moral panic about what threat it poses to ourselves and our children.

As it was with the printed press, the radio and TV; so it is with the internet.

The connected and wireless internet known as Web 2.0 offers to us connection limited only by our imagination;

that is except when it is filtered or blocked or censored from being so.

By and large there are two kinds of places where mobiles aren’t allowed – Taliban controlled Afghanistan and your local school.

That learning and teaching are seemingly threatened by pupils and their mobile phones is an attitude typified by the head of OFSTED Michael Wilshaw who would rather see all such mobile devices banned.

In response to this, Steve Wheeler, Associate Professor in Learning Technology at Plymouth University blogged:

“The fact is, many schools are already harnessing the creative potential of mobile phones to inspire and engage students, both inside and outside the classroom. It’s also a fact that in schools where mobile phones are banned, many students continue to use them, and often for disruptive purposes.

Where schools do allow mobiles as a part of their daily learning activities, the devices come out into the open, are no longer illicit, and can then be better controlled and used purposefully as a part of lessons. Which ever way we examine this issue, mobile phones are now a ubiquitous part in society, and are already playing a huge role in the culture of modern living.

Simply attempting to ban them from a place young people regularly gather is an impossible task. Schools should instead consider ways that mobile devices can be used to enhance and enrich learning, for in so doing, we prepare our children for the future, instead of rooting them in the practices of the past.”

Congress

Teachers are finding the benefits of that connected world too.

Many teachers now blog about their work in order to share successes and failures and benefit from the exchange of ideas that then follows.

Twitter is used to swap links to web resources ranging from a news article to a whole course.

In the era of cutbacks and lack of support, teachers are forming their own personal learning networks and supporting one another.

One such example is Pedagoo – a blog borne out of a desire to have teachers exchange ideas to the benefit of their pupils.

Every Friday, teachers share a strategy or an idea in a lesson that went well that week and share it online – with any teacher able to join in.

TeachMeets where teachers have organised their own CPD sessions – coming together to share snapshots of their practice to support and learn from one another – whilst many more people follow the sessions online via videolink or via twitter.

Or BeerMeets – where the virtual staffroom retreats to the pub.

There are many, many more examples that could be said to be revolutionary.

But there’s another use of social media that we have to pay attention to and that is as a tool for the association enabling us to reach out to, inform and involve our members – something we HAVE been doing, and could make much more use of in future.

But Congress, it’s not all sweetness and light.

There are many barriers – artificial barriers, placed in the way of this revolution. Whether it is the attitude of the great and the good, the blocking of technologies from being used; let alone fulfilling their potential; – to a simple lack of access for a teacher to play with and learn.

Instead, we are forced to adapt to stupid IT schemes to report, track our pupils and other things made more difficult due to bad design and whilst IT isn’t a panacea in education; the wrong IT, poorly run and executed is however an undoubted disaster.

These things have to change.

Routinely I spend too much of my time waiting on flawed IT just to work, forcing me to think around it rather than involving it.

The experience is jarring and as I consider myself to be more adept with IT than the average person, I can hardly imagine what it must feel like to those who are still uncomfortable.

This is of course, before we even get to the issue of software – which too often simply makes the matter worse.

Click – hang – slow response – crash.

Ctrl-Alt-Del-Hope-And-Pray.

Contrast this with my iPad. I click on the home button and swipe-to-wake.

I then point at an icon on the screen and ‘boom!’ I am doing the thing that I want to do and soon am immersed in it in the same way as a reader is soon immersed in the story in a book. The hardware has blended away to become simply an unnoticed conduit to the experience brought about by the interaction with the application.

This is the future – mobile, app-based technology linked to the Cloud. The days of the desktop PC in people’s lives are numbered – indeed laptops are now outselling desktops left, right and centre – with the growth in iPad sales outstripping them all.

Unless and until schools can have IT ‘solutions’ that allow staff and pupils to immerse themselves in the task they are seeking to perform,
rather than immersing themselves in the inevitable frustration of hardware and software created without any thought of the end-user-experience – we will never see a genuine IT revolution.

It never fails to amaze me that the same people who seem to dictate IT policy and procurement – are the same people who simply do not understand it.

My daughter has been born into a post – PC world however, the educators she will be taught by have not.

They need the tools and the support to be able to adapt and adopt because we simply cannot expect teachers to use 21st century learning technologies if they are still trapped by 20th century frustrations.

Please support the motion.

For Want of a Nail, the Shoe was Lost. For Want of a Shoe, the Horse was Lost…

Michael Cook, Cosla spokesman for human resources, said: “No-one would pretend … that educational outcomes are purely dependent on teacher numbers.”

It started with a cough. Then a sneeze. Then a throbbing pain in the throat and the head and the familiar signs of flu returned to the staffroom.
At risk from the forthcoming annual bout of teacher (and pupil) winter-related illness are not just the usual victims: colleagues who have to cover classes, business managers kept awake trying to fit less staff in to more empty lessons or the pupils enjoying their ‘curriculum for excellence’ from a textbook or a worksheet or a DVD.
Try telling the PTs spending day after day setting cover for classes where there is no teacher and no supply available due to ‘vacancy management’ and the pay cut for supply staff that there will be no impact on outcomes. Or, for that matter, on their health, their workload or their ‘professional development’.
This year, the pressure will be on to see if those who commissioned, signed and supported the CoSLA/EIS sell-out-agreement will be correct in their assertion that it was a success.
As schools have seen staffing numbers reduced, vacancies unfilled and supply unavailable the chances are that this winter will be the most challenging yet in our schools. An increasingly demoralised profession now coming up against the consequences of a deal struck to maintain teacher numbers at a slower rate of decline – for this year only.
On the horizon local councils are currently setting budgets that may well see overall teacher numbers kept but support services slashed, departmental and school budgets butchered and that’s just the good news, as council leaders seek to minimise the bad news this side of the local council elections. Shorn of the pressure to get re-elected what will the real post-election budgets reveal?

If (or possibly when) Scotland’s teachers say ‘enough is enough’ and start to work to their actual contract, Councillor Cook may well be proved correct because it is often the case that so many teachers go beyond their duties to ensure the best for their pupils. When CoSLA only get what they actually pay for, perhaps the good Councillor will join us in the real world.

The Behaviour Guru

Tom Bennett nails the false hopes of so many senior managers:

But with some students, who persist in their self-destruction, there has to come a point at which a school says, ‘OK, we’ve tried. Cheerio.’ People who howl at this as some symptom of faithlessness are invited to consider this: do you realise what the cost to the other students is, by allowing such people to remain? I’ll tell you for free: it means that the other kids learn half as much. I promise you this. You can have one or the other. Take your cat calendar aphorisms and your rainbows and ponies about every child being a bundle of dreams and fairy wishes, and stick them up your arse. We teachers have no time for your fantasies. The children have no time for your fantasies.

Why IT will not replace the book – until the iPad rules the world.

You pick up a book; you open it and just read. Immersed in the story you easily get beyond noticing the book itself – the pages, the typeface or the binding. You might flick to the cover  and compare what you see with the story that the author has brought into your mind.
However, just imagine that the next age is stuck to the one that follows. It jars because you have been removed from experiencing the story to experiencing the book and its failings. As you attempt to prize the pages apart you fume a bit about cheapskate publishers or shoddy workmanship but soon, you are back in the story and you move on. Unfortunately, a few pages further on it happened again and more pages are stuck together, and then later still it happens again. Soon, the failings of the book start to cloud your experience and your interest in the story starts to wane. Ultimately, you might throw the book away or move on to another book or move onto another activity altogether.
The vast majority of our experiences with books are not like this, and our reading is seldom disrupted in this way. Indeed, we take it for granted that this will be the case – which is why a ‘faulty’ book is so frustrating. Imagine for a minute the impact upon readers and reading if suddenly all books were made with pages stuck together – or covers that simply didn’t open – or pages from another story inserted in them. Yet, this is exactly what seems to happen with much ‘modern’ IT.
The average classroom PC takes a good wee while to boot-up, you then face a log-in to fully start and you can access the desktop. Another log-in might take you online whilst a further password allows you to read your email. All of this comes after the PC has started-up and run whatever antivirus software and incidental bloatware has been installed on it.
Then you can log-on to GLOW or wait, that’ll be after you have registered you class having had to log-on to E1 or whatever.
This is my experience and I am sure I am not alone.
Routinely I spend too much of my time waiting on flawed IT forcing me to think around it rather than involving it. The experience is jarring and as I consider myself to be more adept with IT than the average person, I can hardly imaging what it must feel like to those that are still uncomfortable.
This is of course, before we even get to the issue of software – though I think that people will see that too often the software simply makes the matter worse. Click – hang – slow response – crash.
Ctrl-Alt-Del-Hope-And-Pray.
Contrast this with my iPad.
I click on the home button and swipe-to-wake.
I then point at an icon on the screen and ‘boom!’ I am doing the think that I want to do and soon am immersed in it in the same way as a reader is immersed in the story. The hardware has blended away to become simply an unnoticed conduit to the experience brought about by the interaction with the app.
This is the future – mobile, app-based technology linked to the Cloud. The days of the desktop PC in people’s lives are numbered – indeed laptops are now outselling desktops left, right and centre – with the growth in iPad sales outstripping them all.
Unless and until schools can have IT ‘solutions’ that allow staff and pupils to immerse themselves in the task they are seeking to perform rather than immersing themselves in the frustration of hardware and software created without any thought of the end-user-experience – we will never see a genuine IT revolution.
That so many school/LAs still invest in low-quality bloated Wintel desktop PCs and frown at the mere thought of wifi is a sign that we will continue to fail to catch-up with where pupils are at. Far less ‘skate to where the puck will be’.

What CoSLA think about the last ‘deal’ and what they’ve told McCormac

If you select the attached and paste it into your browser, it will take you to the cached Google docs version of what CoSLA thinks of the EIS cave-in-causing ‘deal’ as well as their response to McCormac.

Let there be no doubt that the cuts already made are but the beginning.

http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:LEJ7XGPNXIkJ:www.cosla.gov.uk/system/files/documents/ey110513item10.pdf+http://www.cosla.gov.uk/system/files/documents/ey110513item10.pdf&hl=en&gl=uk&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESiPyeIjlGL0cxN7ggjXV1vH6sOZE4vsp5MEYEb1GHlAAw9o7GXOGtnFR8Qj5CAfzyd4oldRdDUkiN7SvSzJ_kedxHNh9ZQVbiEqZ05Zs-0RJwmZOQ55dY6_omxdDcgp8BfKQSqk&sig=AHIEtbQrcjzytLGl1Q4JxIpge_b3L_XbQg

Opposing Pension Cuts

Remarks to SSTA Congress, moving Emergency Motion on Cuts to Teachers’ Pensions:

“The SSTA believes that the most recent reforms to the UK Teachers’ Superannuation Scheme resulted in a scheme which is sustainable, actuarially secure and represents good value for the UK tax payer. The Association will resist by all legal means, any further changes to the scheme which are not supported by an independent actuarial valuation.”


I’m moving Emergency Motion 2 on behalf of Salaries Committee the Convener of which enjoys the confidence of this association.
I move this emergency motion because the attack on our pensions and those of the wider public sector are becoming an emergency – they must be opposed and they must be defeated.
As detailed previously, the Hutton report published in March proposed sweeping changes to the pension arrangements for every public sector worker in the UK. 
As Congress knows the Hutton Inquiry was set-up in response to an apparent pensions crisis.
The so-called pensions crisis is only a crisis for the millions of public sector workers who are going to see contributions rise, whilst they have to work longer and at the end of it all receive only a fraction of what they would otherwise have done.
It is a scandal that will affect many in later years – but which has to be challenged now.
The government has still to publish its response to the findings of Lord Hutton, but let them be clear.
We will oppose any detrimental changes to our pensions schemes that cannot be proven to be actuarially justified.
What do we face after a lifetime at the chalk face? A gold plated retirement?
It’s poorer pay now and a poorer pension later.
Government proposals would see a pension payment increase of 45% at least
Not being able to claim it until you are 65 or older.
Having a pension based not on final salary – but career average.
Congress, the public sector pensions scheme has already been reformed in recent years, it is achieving targets in cost savings.
These new changes represent nothing other than a theft from and of our deferred wages.
On their own, the changes pose a risk to the very existence of the scheme as people are given a huge incentive to opt out.
When added to a pay freeze and cost of living increases any large hike in contributions will make many younger teachers – the group least likely to pay attention to discussion on their pensions, more likely to withdraw from the scheme.
And no wonder – what an opportunity cost: hiked-up pension payments now;
or more pressing bills like student loans – or in saving up the huge deposit needed for a house these days.
The campaign to prevent this theft is continuing but we face the challenge, as we know of the propaganda of the private sector – who target the public sector pension in order to evade attention being focussed upon the often-scandalous pension arrangements for their workers.
The way forward is not further reform aimed at slashing the benefits of a pension that people pay for themselves  – a pension scheme that is already sustainable, already secure, and already good value. The way forward is to ensure that any changes are supported by independent actuarial evaluation and offer an appropriate reward in retirement.
Congress, be very clear.
When we say we will oppose these changes we mean it.
This association will never, ever, ever raise a placard with one hand and a white flag with the other.
The Government seems set to betray public sector workers.
But we will never betray our members.
We will defend our members because that is what this association exists to do. 
On this matter, like the cuts being brought about by CoSLA and the Scottish Government. this association should, must and will defend its members by any means necessary.
Please support the motion.

Teacher Working Conditions are Student Learning Conditions

Address to SSTA Congress in moving the following Motion:

“The SSTA is committed to the highest possible quality of education for our young people. This Association believes that the way to achieve this aim is to invest in the teaching profession and its development not through the erosion of teachers’ conditions of service, the casualisation of the teacher workforce, or the devolving of further staffing matters to headteachers.

Congress totally rejects any proposals to save money by means of changes to teachers’ conditions of service believing that these will be detrimental to the education of young people.”

Congress we meet at a time when Scottish education stands at a crossroads.
On the one hand a route to improvement that invests in teachers and their development and thus invests in the education of our young people.
On the other – a race to so-called efficiency, pre-occupied by saving money.
When we hear of ‘improvement’ in education – all too-often it’s based upon every dodgy dossier and flawed analysis that can be found. So what’s the alternative.
In 2002 in North Carolina the then Governor Mike Easley started the Teacher Working Conditions Initiative – a systematic study of teacher working conditions through asking the people that matter – teachers. 
The survey itself covers issues such as time to work with colleagues in improving learning and teaching, the degree to which teachers feel empowered, the quality of professional development and of course, the efficacy of school leadership.
As Governor Easley said:
“Armed with this data, North Carolina will better meet the needs of teachers and in turn, our students, because teacher working conditions are student learning conditions.”
Because teacher working conditions are student learning conditions.
Research based-upon the survey concluded:
‘To do their best work with students, teachers need supportive working conditions that provide the best opportunities to be effective. Creating positive work environments for teachers in every school…is an essential element to creating the learning environments that will maximize student success.”
Because teacher working conditions are student learning conditions.
That truism was stated in SSTA HQ recently, by non-other than Graham Donaldson.
Indeed, in his report Teaching Scotland’s Future, recommendation number 1 is:
Education policy in Scotland should give the highest priority to further strengthening the quality of its teachers and of its educational leadership.
The report goes on to propose a whole series of improvements to initial teacher education, as well as support for high quality CPD – career-long in order that the profession meets the challenges that lie ahead.
The report was welcomed, endorsed and accepted almost in its entirety by the Scottish Government –
Congress, accepting the report is one thing, implementing it is quite another – as this is the same Scottish Government that has put cuts in teacher’s conditions at the forefront of education policy.
Donaldson gives us hope – CoSLA and the government make us depair.
I mean, why have the best training in the world if it’s wasted as we move from pillar to post covering classes for absent colleagues because the two-tier workforce has left for better paid alternatives?
Why develop the capacity of our staff if, instead of spending time planning better outcomes for pupils, time is spent covering classes brought about by a failure to fill a vacancy?
Why invest in masters level training to have a teacher waste time inputting data into e-assessments systems, or tracking systems that measure nothing other than which staff have inputted which data?
With these cuts the price that will be paid will be the collapse of teacher morale and with it, the quality of education for our young people…
Because teacher working conditions are student learning conditions.
Many councils are now stripping out functions previously provided centrally, and replacing them with outsourcing or simply putting them at the door of schools.
We’re still waiting on Annex E of the McCrone agreement 10 years on, and yet, councils want to go full steam ahead putting more pressure on existing or less admin staff with the inevitable result that teachers will spend more time not less on admin.
Another mantra is the idea of devolving everything but the kitchen sink to schools and headteachers.
Now, I thought that HTs were like us, worried about information and initiative overload – are we going to add further to the demands upon them? A HT I know, spent an entire Saturday afternoon writing reports on PSA staff as part of a local authority review on their posts. Is this the best use of a HT? I shudder to think what the impact on them – or us would be of devolving further staffing matters.
But just as HTs might fear being devolved an ever-increasing bureaucracy as they lack the skills to cope – far less prosper. We fear HTs having greater powers – as they lack the skills to cope, far less prosper.
Let there be no doubt, the desire to devolve may, despite its best intention end up having little to do with improving the educational outcomes for schools or the pupils they serve. It may even be used to attack collective bargaining.
For councils, it’s efficiency: making more out of staff for less. Or simply, to have less staff.
For us, we know in these cuts to conservation, cuts to maternity leave and the creation of a two-tier supply system, that if you tolerate this, your conditions will be next.
We know that what affects some staff ends up affecting us all – but in our rejection of the CoSLA proposals we have a clear understanding that each cut, each erosion of our conditions has a damaging impact on the education of our pupils.
Because teacher working conditions are student learning conditions.
In recent times, the benefits to the profession brought about by McCrone have been called into question, and some seem to think that the professional freedom we enjoy is somehow unprofessional – because it cannot be monitored.
The TESS recently reported that in their submission to McCormac, SLS and AHDS: “wants to see the removal of teachers’ right to spend non class-contact time at a time and place of their choosing…”
“it also wants reduced class contact time to be quality assured to demonstrate its impact.”
Quality Assured to demonstrate its impact?
How about quality assuring the cuts to our conditions?
How about quality assuring the theft of our pensions?
How about quality assuring the impact of violence or abuse at work – when the school leadership turns a blind-eye?
How about quality assuring the creation of a two-tier workforce?
Or, how about quality assuring the impact on a school, its staff and its pupils of a hapless headteacher? SQ-Hed up to the eyeballs yet without the basics in collegiality or common sense.
The changes we see coming are but the thin-end of the wedge.
The management goal is clear:
we cut, you complain,
we fail, you get the blame.
Be an empowered professional – where you are free to do as we tell you.
Congress another way is possible. Another way is essential. There is an alternative. It is to invest in teachers and their conditions and this association will fight for that alternative:
Because teacher working conditions are student learning conditions.
Please support the motion.

Unnecessary Cuts – Necessitates Unity

Yesterday, I successfully moved the following motion at SSTA Council:

“Council, believing that teachers’ pay and conditions of service are now clearly under unprecedented attack resolves to work collaboratively with other teaching and trade unions to form a united front to act collectively to resist actions detrimental to the education of young people in Scotland”

Here is what I actually said:

Council

This motion has grown out of the anger that we all feel at the attacks upon our wages, our pensions, our conditions of service, and has grown also out of the need to collectively defend these very things.

We are in the midst of an unprecedented attack on public services, public servants and the public that they serve, with we teachers very much in the firing line.

For the UK government’s ‘We’re all in this together’ – read: “so long as I’m alright Jack.”

A new coalition, new politics but the same old story of the poorest paying the price of the folly of the rich.

Instead of standing up to the bankers, this coalition has stood up for them.

These cuts are not only damaging, they are unnecessary. Whilst our public services are bled try, the banks receive yet another transfusion.

According to UK Uncut Vodafone, HSBC, Barclays are just some of the companies “employ[ing] armies of lawyers and accountants to exploit legal loopholes to dodge billions in tax” amounting to some 25 thousand million pounds.

Whilst the probationer in my department wonders if she will even have a job next year, one man alone, Philip Green the boss of Topshop has managed to dodge close to £300 million pounds in tax.

£300 million.

Instead of closing off the prospects of our probationers they should be closing off the tax loopholes – each and every one of them.

What is sickening, is that whatever the Westminster-imposed cuts are they being jumped upon within Scotland by an unholy alliance of CoSLA and the Scottish government seemingly united though not necessarily competent in their desire to attack teachers.

We are as an association, correctly non-partisan but I have to say that I for one don’t see the benefit of a council tax freeze to a school office worker, a school janitor or a school teacher who has lost their job to bring that freeze about.

One thing is clear, the best way for secondary teachers to protect their conditions of service is to join the SSTA but we must show the leadership and the maturity to work with others to achieve our goals.

We are all in this together, we are all facing attack.

The fact that it possibly supply teachers, probationers, conservation and the Chartered Teacher scheme first does not mean the rest are immune.

It seems that the minister would have us believe that it’s the local councils that have him by the throat,whilst CoSLA complains of a domineering executive forcing its agenda on them.

But it doesn’t matter who is the monkey and who is the organ grinder or whatever the tune is that’s being played both government and CoSLA are waltzing along arm in arm.

This motion calls us on us to give a clear message to them both: you’re not on and we will work with others to protect and preserve the conditions of service that we earn through our hard work, that we earn through our dedication and our commitment to young people.

Last Autumn in common with many other public sector unions we marched to take action against cuts but in the period ahead we may have to do much more than march.

Last May I moved a Congress motion saying that, “whilst the general election campaign had just ended; the campaign to save Scottish education had just begun.”

That bit was easy to predict, but I don’t know what lies ahead.

Though, whatever attacks do lie ahead…locally or nationally they must be faced, fought and defeated by collective action.


This motion gives us a way forward to ensure that that collective action, that co-operation with others not only continues but also expands.

That action may not be easy to achieve but doing nothing nothing is no longer an option. 

Leadership and Management

Everything that I have ever learned about ‘what makes a good leader/manager’ is exactly the same as ‘what makes a good teacher’.  Too often, those teachers that are not in promoted posts tend not to think of themselves as either leaders or managers – any teacher has to lead and direct the learning and development of hundreds of young people. In doing so, they have to manage resources and people, set aims and policies – in fact ALL of the things that we expect leaders and managers to do.


For me in reality in Scottish education, the difference between ‘leadership’ and ‘management’ is that we pay managers but not leaders – and there seems to be no requirement on managers to lead effectively.


Teachers are too often denied the opportunity to innovate and I think that this has not been helped by managers who think that they are the be-all and end-all.


When a colleague comes to me with an idea I think that I’m fairly consistent in asking them to run with it,  evaluate it and learn from the experience. The worst thing that I could do is place in their way some of the barriers that I have too-often faced – neatly summed-up by Seth Godin:

That’s not the way we do things around here

Please don’t underestimate how powerful this sentence is.
When you say this to a colleague, a new hire, a student or a freelancer, you’ve established a powerful norm, one that they will be hesitant to challenge.
This might be exactly what you were hoping for, but if your goal is to encourage innovation, you blew it.


Put simply, how can we expect teachers to develop the four CfE capacities in our young people, if we do not develop these same capacities in our teachers?

The challenge is to see and open-up the potential in all of our human resources – teachers and pupils. For a lot of managers, this means having to face up to the fact that often, the best ideas come from someone else.