Reflections on introducing a discussion on ‘multimedia’ within a school

cc mic phone photo by m.keefe

Photo by M.Keefe, used under cc license

This photo seems to address my mood ahead of delivering the staff inset issue. While it was nice to have a ‘loudspeaker’ to the whole school, I was very conscious (as a lowly English teacher with no other responsibilities), of making the most of the opportunity to encourage others to share and develop good practices associated with multimedia.

This is a reflection on a session I gave to the staff in my school on a whole school session, on a baking hot Thursday afternoon, fairly close to the end of the school year. My intention was simple; I wanted in a way to show that I was doing things in the classroom with multimedia. I also enlisted the help of another colleague, which I felt would help strengthen my argument that it was possible that more than a tiny minority of teachers within the school are trying to use multimedia to enhance teaching and learning.

The talk itself was based around showing quickfire examples of multimedia usage, mainly based around website used. As I have done extensively on this blog, I summarised my use of diigo with Key Stage 5 students. I felt that I was careful not to English-ify my talk and I deliberately gave quick demonstrations of sites such as wordle and freeplaymusic which I felt could have applications accross more than one subject area. I then asked my colleague to speak and I thought she did a fantastic job with a small slot of introducing the concept of ‘podcasting’ to the staff. She spoke honestly about the positive and negative experiences (the negatives were mostly about the problems with computers!) of taking such an approach. Afterwards I bought the session to a close and introduced the next stage of the session – the staff would now split off into groups to discuss how they felt about the issue of using multimedia in school. The discussion would be shaped by a series of questions that I adapated from Pan’s (1999) ‘Using technology to promote teacher action research’, a great paper which can be found (partially) on google books if you search for ”Information Technology in Educational Research Statistics”, itself an excellent book! Here are a few of the prompts:

  • Is multimedia used to impact on student learning in your classroom?
  • Do you think multimedia can be used to solve real issues associated with learning?
  • Can you name a particular student who is benefitting from using multimedia?

Reflections wondering around

So after I’d delivered the sheet and the talk, it was time to ask the staff to split off into four groups, all mixed-subject and reflect on what their own experiences with multimedia were like in our school. This was an opportunity firstly, to get out of the sweltering heat, but more importantly for me, to witness any impact that my words or my colleague’s words had produced.

I decided early on that instead of staying in the group I had been placed, I would give myself an opportunity to have a peek at what the other groups were upto. By no means did I see this as an opportunity to walk into the other three rooms and tell them exactly what they should be doing – rather I saw it as a way of observing the differences in how the groups had absorbed the short lecture they’d just been given.

One room was particularly organised and arranged themselves in a circle and were working their way through each of the prompts on the sheet by having an open discussion. Meanwhile in another room, all of the teachers went straight to computers and seemed engrossed in examining the websites on the list I’d handed out. Given the limited time teachers have to consider this issue anyway, I found myself reflecting that the different approaches of different groups was perhaps a good thing, in that it seemed clear to me that people were finding different ways to react to what had been said. I had been deliberately unperscriptive about exactly how the ‘discussions’ should take place – the only thing I had asked for is that staff take the time to feel in a final reflection on what we had done on a sheet of A4 paper, that was essentially to be their responses to the various prompts that had been adapted from Pan’s work. So, some of these responses were filled in at the end of the discussions, others were filled in after they had been looking at the various reccomended websites individually. This variety, although not wholly intended has led to interesting responses which I intend to put up in my next entry – they are interesting enough to warrant their own blog entry, I promise!

Conclusions drawn

You always build up expectations for things like this – for me it was the culmination of a year of intensive experimenting in my own classroom with multimedia. I genuinley felt like I had found interesting and engaging resources that could be applied accross a variety of subjects. Thinking ahead, one of my main aims was essentially the simple way of showing my colleagues that I knew something (hopefully) worth knowing about multimedia – I hope this will play into my hands as I begin to try and encourage collaboration with our ICT and multimedia throughout the year.

Watch this space for some of the responses from staff in future blog entry and an analysis of the implications they have for my own work and how they might reflect wider perceptions of positive and negative thoughts on the use of multimedia to promote teaching and learning.

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