Starting in 2015, St Andrew’s College has created a new position to support teaching and learning with technology both in and out of the classroom. This role, called eLearning Integrator, has been filled by Mr Tom Adams and reflects the College’s continuing commitment to ensuring both staff and students are equipped to maximise the opportunities presented by technology.
To ensure this happens, Mr Adams will be teaching a single class (senior Geography) and using the rest of his time supporting teachers and students both in and out of the classroom. The interview below introduces Mr Adams and his role.
Tom, you have joined St Andrew’s College from Christchurch Girls High School. Can you provide an overview of how your role there supported eLearning initiatives?
My role at CGHS was twofold. The first aspect of the job was to oversee the continued development of a strong infrastructure; both wired and wireless. We all know the futility of trying to make meaningful progress with e-Learning without this aspect falling into place. The second aspect was to oversee the actual teaching and learning aspect of e-Learning. The main initiative predominantly involved the conceptualisation and development of a Moodle site which has, pleasingly, became relatively engrained in the teaching and learning programmes of most staff and students.
Of the various initiatives you introduced at CGHS, which were you most pleased with and why?
On reflection it would have to be the way that the Moodle site became ingrained in the learning culture of both staff and students. Our average hit rate of over 1000 site visits daily was evidence that students and staff were using it as the basis of their online learning needs. Early in 2015 the site will record its 2 millionth site visit!
You have experience with both Google Apps For Education (GAFE) and Microsoft’s Office365 (which StAC uses). Do you have any thoughts on the relative strengths and weaknesses of these products and how they can assist teachers and students with learning in the classroom?
I feel that this is an area that a number of schools are going to really struggle with over the next few years as both GAFE and 365 continue to develop their competitive capabilities in this growing market of eLearning. I personally feel that GAFE currently has certain advantages such as its ease of use and smooth integration between its complementary products, however, the new developments within 365 in the last 18 months have certainly brought that package into line, and 365 now offers greater functionality and the incredibly exciting potential of OneNote in an education setting. OneNote is a product that GAFE currently does not match. With 365’s impressive, recent developments it will be interesting to see GAFE’s response in 2015!
StAC has seen massive uptake amongst staff of Microsoft OneNote in the last 12-18 months. Some schools are now using this as their Learning Management System, whereas St Andrew’s remains committed to using Moodle as the primary LMS. Can you share your thoughts on the value of Moodle to both teachers and students?
I believe that the separation from 365 that Moodle allows is an important aspect. By using the Sharepoint platform as your LMS there is the risk of becoming insulated, self-congratulatory, and ultimately too reliant on 365 to provide a one stop e-Learning platform. Using 365 in the classroom should only be one aspect of a teacher’s e-Learning commitment. By having an intermediate platform, itself with many great features, allows a teacher, and their students, to have a central platform to feed other learning experiences into. It also allows the school to more fully involve its wider school community in the e-Learning process by making use of the public functionality of Moodle, as appropriate, to help give a more personalised feel than is provided by most school websites.
You’ve come to a few events hosted by StAC over the last couple of years and have had a chance to see how the College is resourced and the direction we are moving in with respect to eLearning. What excites you the most about this role?
This potential of this role is incredibly exciting. I am in the privileged position to be at a school that is committed to offering effective e-Learning to their students, and a school that is willing to create a position such as mine. The fact that, in the position, I have been allocated the time and freedom to really help shape the future of e-Learning in the school is something which I am really looking forward to!
The College is quite different from other schools you’ve worked in, being co-educational and also Year 1-13. What are some of the personal goals you’re hoping to focus on when you start?
The ability to work with staff and students Y1-13 was one aspect of the job that really attracted me to it. I have so much to learn about teaching at a primary level and that will be great fun. The other aspect of the position that will be an initial goal of mine will be to gain the trust and confidence of as many staff as possible, as quickly as possible! This will be a massive undertaking as it is a privilege to be allowed into someone else’s classroom, and it is not something that all teachers are comfortable with.
Finally, what other interests do you have outside of technology and teaching?
I am currently enjoying the pleasures of having a young family. Cait and I have two boys, Ollie (4) and Sam (1), who currently provide the entertainment at home. Outside of my family, I am an absolute sports tragic. As well as passionately supporting a number of, predominantly unsuccessful, teams across a few different sports I am a lower grade cricketer (who is a bit susceptible to an early straight delivery), and an ageing, and slowing, central midfielder for a local football club.
Moving forward, I anticipate Mr Adams will be posting blogs directly, sharing some of the eLearning stories emerging from his work with staff and students at St Andrew’s College.