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Management post-16

Post-16 management winner Marion Miller is ILT development manager at Dewsbury College in West Yorkshire. (What schools call ICT, FE calls Information and Learning Technology.) She works at the strategic and operational level, looking at systems, planning for the future, "selling" ILT across the college, writing and monitoring policies.

Her focus is on how ILT contributes to teaching and learning. "I look at things strongly from the academic point of view," she says. "I want to know how we can support lecturers."

Originally a maths teacher in a comprehensive school, Marion's been involved with computers in education since the early Eighties. "I got interested in the programming side," she says, "I eventually did an MSc and got a job lecturing in computing."

From there she progressed to be IT programme manager at Dewsbury. She realised, though, that there was a need for a more strategic approach that recognised the place of ILT in all parts of the college's work. Her vision coincided with the publication of the Networking Lifelong Learning Report published by the the Further Education ILT Committee in 1999, which called on colleges to produce strategies for ILT. As a result she was given her current strategic role.

She monitors progress of Dewsbury's ILT Strategy Action Plan, supporting staff as they work on the tasks that the plan sets for them. She's very aware, to start with, of other pressures on FE staff. "There's been a lot of change in FE in recent years, with shrinkage and job losses - a lot of nervousness."

It's also true to say that FE colleges are often far-flung empires, with departments that teach very different subjects from very different traditions, in very different ways, and often on different sites.

That's the nature, and in some ways the strength, of the system. Against that background, achieving any kind of unified approach to the use of IT is, to say the least, a challenge. One of the keys to selling ILT to staff has been her contribution to the development of Marion's college's staff and student intranets, used to share information and learning resources.

Internal email is another unifying factor. "We use Outlook," she explains, "and that's been key to involving all staff - not just lecturers but caretakers, receptionists and admin staff. Everybody has an email account and we have a regular workshop on email once a week. Post trays are much emptier now."

Throughout, it's clear that two principles dominate Marion's work. One is that of listening to the needs of colleagues. "I do a lot of consultation and sending out questionnaires," she says. The second is ownership; the idea that people will really only make progress if they feel in control of whatever innovation they are taking on. "That ownership of everything is key," she says. "I want them to own every system, and then they will use it."

Gerald Haigh

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