What is a fifteen minute forum?

I hear you cry?  Well, let me tell you.  A 15 minute forum is a brief opportunity to gain a bit of CPD on the run, so to speak.

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You know how in the past you would gear up for a whole day out of school for some training, have to check train times, prepare your cover, leave earlier in the morning, not expect to get back at the same time and then have to pick up where you left off?

All this has changed!  Due to recent advances in our understanding of the brain, we now know that we can learn as much in a couple of short sessions as we might in an entire day.  If we come with an open mind and can engage in learning culture, who knows how one brief, dynamic or thoughtful input might help to improve your practice?  What is more, you do not have to leave the comfort of your own school staffroom, your favourite brand of coffee on tap, and colleagues you know and are confident with, but perhaps do not get to bounce ideas off as often as you would like!  In this way (see below), it even has some improvements on the recent CPD phenomenon known as the Teachmeet.  No cover required, no travel time, AND negligible impact on after-school marking or planning time.

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Teachmeet, which according to Twitter and indeed to Wikipedia takes place all round the country.  A West Sussex organiser explains that:

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every TeachMeet I’ve ever been to – it’s never felt like a burden. I’ve come away from each one with a tonne of ideas to use in my classroom, new friends who are in the profession and a full belly from a very decent pub meal.

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Well, perhaps we’re not getting as far as the pub meal here, but essentially this is grass-roots CPD we are talking about with no threat.  We know that practitioners are best placed to help practitioners, and let’s face it, as teachers we do not need a vast amount of preamble, or build-up, but simply the ‘meat’ of the idea itself.  We can very quickly in our heads scroll through our current groups, or subject topics, and see whether what is being offered will be useful for us or not.  Find out more about Forums by checking out Marginal Gains and MrBenney.

So what’s the snag?  Will you remember to come?  How will you know that attending the 15 minute forum will help to improve your practice?  Here are some recommendations for how to take responsibility for your CPD and know that you are giving yourself a good deal:

1. Prioritise attendance of the 15 minute forum.

2. Make sure that you talk to someone else about it and commit yourself to trying something out that is new for you

3. Bring back to the next session something that you have discovered.

4. Aim to make a contribution yourself – this could be anything from a comment on the blog, or a retweet, up to offering to present something from your practice as a forum session. 

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Using Cloud Storage

I am sure that it has happened to everyone at some point, that important document that you have on your memory stick will no longer open or even worse the memory stick will no longer be recognised by the computer. I know it has happened to a number of students this year and as a result has placed them under considerably more pressure to meet the assignment deadlines.

The unfortunate truth is that memory sticks are not invincible, they will inevitably stop working at some point. So the question is what is the best option available to you in order to make it easy to transport important files between home and college?

Fortunately recent changes to the Internet filtering policy of the college have meant that staff and students now have access to a range of new services, including cloud storage.

Many people are still unsure about what exactly cloud storage is, I can think of at least five different descriptions which I could use at this point but I settled on this one:

“It is that hard drive which is accessible from everywhere you have an Internet connection.”

Seriously if you think of it in those terms, suddenly the idea of the ‘cloud’ becomes a lot easier to get your head around.

Let me give you a real life example, I regularly prepare worksheets for my classes at home and save them as PDFs ready to be printed. Once they are ready for distribution I just save them to a ‘Print’ folder on my cloud storage drive. When I get to work, I just log into my storage providers website and download the PDF. I don’t have to remember to grab my memory stick and put it into my bag, the file is just sitting there ready to go.

There are three main providers I would suggest looking at, below you will find a brief overview of each one.

Dropbox

Dropbox is a simple service and until recently possibly one of the best options available if you wanted quick access to cloud storage. They offer a number of different storage tiers, starting with a free 2GB account (although there are various methods of getting some extra free space).

The biggest advantage of Dropbox is that many mobile apps can use it to sync your data, which means that your settings and information is always safe.

Sign up to Dropbox

OneDrive

OneDrive (formally known as Sky Drive) is Microsoft’s cloud storage system. Again as with Dropbox they offer a number of different storage tiers, however their free plan starts with 7GB (although there are various methods of getting some extra free space).

OneDrive also provides you access to an online version of Office. While this is a cut-down version of the full office software, it will meet most peoples needs and will allow you to create Word, Excel and Powerpoint files.

It is also worth noting that many of you may already have a OneDrive account, if at any point you have created a Microsoft Live account for e-mail or the Xbox Live service – you should have access to a OneDrive account. Depending on when exactly you created that account, you maybe one of the lucky ones who has a 25GB storage allocation!

Sign up to OneDrive

Google Drive

Google Drive offers the largest amount of free storage and with changes to their storage tiers recently also the cheapest option for gaining large amounts of online storage. Their free plan will give you access to 15GB of storage, which in most cases will be more than enough for any member of staff.

However if you are looking to upload large quantities of photos and other important files on your drive ready to be used at school, you can upgrade your online storage to 100GB for just $1.99 a month.

As with OneDrive, Google Drive provides you with some other advantages, providing you with the ability to create a Document, Presentation or Spreadsheet. Once you have created these documents you can also download them in a Microsoft Office formatted document ready to be shared with students and other member of staff.

Sign up to Google Drive


Ok, so what about the inevitable concern about security, after all we are dealing with a huge range of information and we want to make sure that it is kept safe and sound. Well all three services recommend that you use a strong password which includes a full range of letters, numbers, capital letters and special characters. However they also allow you to enable two-step verification, by enabling this you are essentially saying that entering just one password isn’t enough and you want even more security!

Each of the above providers will ask you to provide your mobile number, whenever you try to log into your cloud storage, you will be sent a verification code via text message. You will have to enter this code in order to access your storage. The important thing here is that the code is only usable once and for a short period of time, it is also completely random (in other words no one is going to be able to guess the code!).

If you have any questions about using cloud storage, feel free to send me an e-mail or pop into the media centre to have a chat.

 Dale Manning