In a world where cyberhype often substitutes for good educational
common sense, Professor Stephen Heppell of ULTRALAB has long
been an exception. The ULTRALAB site (www.ultralab.net)
says: Professor Stephen Heppell is director of ULTRALAB, Anglia
Polytechnic University’s learning technology research centre
in Chelmsford which has an enviable global reputation for creativity,
innovation and common sense - "eyes on the horizon, feet
on the ground"!
Stephen Heppell will be in New Zealand again in July - your chance to meet this genial man described by Design Magazine as "geek of geeks, this net-head of all times, this revolutionary who is yanking the British education system out of its Victorian slumber and shaping it for the digital information age..." Stephen and his colleagues walk the talk - with a series of successful teacher-friendly, student-friendly learning-focused projects. Several are summarised (from the ULTRALAB website) below.
Think.com ULTRALAB have been collaborating with Oracle developing and specifying online learning communities and a set of learning community tools which will empower groups to run and organise their own online learning communities (see Good Teacher Term 1 for New Zealand initiatives). The pilot for this project started in March 1999 and involved two schools, one in London and one in Glasgow, and a youth club on the Isle of Man. The children and adults in these organisations helped inform the software design. The project has moved into the early adoption phase with over 7,000 users.
Talking Heads (http://www.headteachers.ac.uk):
Talking Heads - the Online community of school leaders, was
a Department for Education and Skills (DfES) funded pilot project
which aimed to inform the design of the online community elements
of the prestigious National College of School Leadership. The
site is password-protected, but the key point for New Zealand
is that it’s not just a chatroom for principals.. The projects’
13 homebased online facilitators seeded the site with relevant
information and establishing conversations, as well as giving
heads support with technical problems, and networking people
with similar issues and/or interests. The software used for
the Talking Heads site (think.com) has evolved through the collaborative
partnership between Ultralab and Oracle.
Fast Track: This is an initiative from the DfES. From early in their careers, participants will typically take on a series of challenging posts, each lasting around two years. At the same time they will be offered tailored development opportunities focusing on professional excellence and school leadership, offered by the National College for School Leadership (NCSL), as well as study for additional and higher qualifications, and be involved in specific projects. The expectation is that the successful ‘Fast Trackers’ will rise to positions of senior management, including Headship...
Ultralab, as the leader in the field, was asked to implement an online community for the people enrolled in the Fast Track. Working in partnership with the NCSL and the DfES, and using the think.com software, that community is now available and continues to develop. Starting with just over 100 graduates (including job changers) at ten initial teacher training institutes across England, the Fast Track programme is intended to eventually include up to five percent of the teaching profession, at all 24,000 schools in England and Wales.
Having had the experience of creating Talking Heads (the online community of school leaders) and Virtual Heads (for those approaching Headship level), Ultralab is well placed to create this community for school leaders of the future.
The Stevenson Report (http://rubble.ultralab.anglia.ac.uk/stevenson/):
This was a significant ICT report to which ULTRALAB and Heppell
contributed that informed the curren UK government’s ICT policy.
The whole report is worth reading, but, as Heppell suggests,
"If you don’t have time to read the full report read only
the summary and conclusions."
And, in New Zealand where disenfranchised kids are making life tough, not just for themselves, but for their peers and their teachers, we all need to examine the potential of Notschool alongside the alternatives we are exploring here.
Notschool.net is a research project looking at ways of re-engaging
teenagers into learning when they have been out of school in
the long term. Remarkably, in the initial pilot of nearly 100
students, almost all remain engaged and individual progress
abounds. Students are becoming skilled in digital art, multimedia
design, making and sharing music, learning the saxophone on-line
and enjoying dance and drama.
Given New Zealand’s commitment to think.com (Good Teacher Term 1), every teacher needs to know about these related projects for teachers and principals and everyone needs to cruise around the ULTRALAB site and read some of the outstanding papers published by Heppell and his team.