20 May 2013

Guest Blog, David Ashworth - Planning for the Unexpected

David Ashworth is a freelance musician, teacher and education consultant. He is recognised nationally as a leading figure in ICT in Music Education and as the Project Leader for the ground breaking website, teachingmusic.org.uk 
A real worry for those music teachers, who run single person departments or are in a department of two, can be seen as the music teacher’s nightmare……”if I was taken ill and off work for a few weeks……”

Here are some thoughts on how teachers might cope with some of the problems that are bound to arise.
What work would pupils be given/be able to do? I think that the more you can build a a self directed learning ethos into the work you set, the more likely it will be that you and your students can cope with this challenge.  Schools where the curriculum takes a project based learning approach, should find it much easier to manage this issue.
Would they be able to carry on with their work/coursework? They would, but they will need to know the ‘plan’ for a unit of work in advance plus access to relevant learning resources - almost like a distance learning scenario. This might involve radical change and you can’t do it all at once. You probably need to prioritise exam classes and work out from there.

Who would know where to find the resources etc if I wasn't in school? When I was over in Cramlington recently, I was able to witness a superb system for managing musical equipment. The music department had appointed a team of “Roadies” [trustworthy senior pupils] who managed all the equipment borrowing and more importantly ensuring it was returned safely.  These music students had special badges and keys for cupboards etc. I’m sure they were granted some privileges in return for managing the stock.
I feel that the answer lies in the use of technology… yes converting all your materials into digital formats is the way forward. First, discuss with your ICT support how best to optimise storage/retrieval of content by teachers and pupils. Push for students being able to access these from home. Perhaps you can delegate some of the work here. Once you have decided what you are doing, digitising resources [worksheets , mp3 extracts etc] is fairly straightforward and perhaps can be passed over to clerical support, keen students etc. Your long term aim/dream would be to have a completely online scheme of work which other teachers and students can access. The other advantage of this is that students who cannot get into school for whatever reasons, can still continue with some of the work from home.

Technology can be a great help. In addition to the above you might still be able to manage some of the work from home if you can access student work via the internet, Skype conferencing etc.,

Technology is important but it cannot address all the concerns, for there some situations that will always require a human presence. I’m referring to activities like the leading of ensembles and choirs. Perhaps now is the time to start thinking seriously about delegating ensemble management to older students, suitably qualified parents, retired teachers etc. Why not go further and set up a ‘Friends of ………….School Music Department’, who could function in much the same way that a Music Service’s Friends Group does. And while we are talking about music services, perhaps it is now the time to talk to colleagues in your local hub re possible contingency support strategies.
David Ashworth May 2013

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