- Beyond the school gate
- Improving student learning
- Let's teach maths and science
- What's real in a virtual world?
- Careers and transition
- Curriculum for the 21st century
- Early childhood education & care
- Teachers and Teaching
The ICT agenda
It's not just about the technology
Janice Youl considers how to ensure teachers and students are making the best use of technology and demonstrates how teachers in Victoria are being supported in doing so.
‘We are not working on having the best technology; we are working on having the best use of technology.’
(Michelle Tredenick, The Age, 31 January 2006) This statement was made about the National Australia Bank but it applies equally to education.
If we are to see all teachers and all students in all classrooms using information and communication technology (ICT) for powerful learning, we need to paint a picture of the potential to improve student learning. Teachers want to see how other teachers are using ICT in classroom practice. A recent contributor to the Times Education Supplement ICT blog site reflected on the use of technology such as interactive whiteboards. ‘It’s easy to say, “Let’s move on to the next big thing”. But there are lots of teachers who have not got as far as whiteboards—and we can’t afford to leave a single one of them behind. They need to see other people and get inspiration. When teachers are inspired, they will move heaven and earth to use technology.’
Between 1998 and 2001, in the first phase of Victoria’s notebook program for government schools, 36,960 notebooks were distributed to principals and teachers. While there was an obligation for teachers leasing the notebooks to complete 40 hours of professional development, more professional learning was needed to integrate ICT across the curriculum.
So what is happening to encourage and support teachers?
Victoria’s Minster for Education and Training has recently approved a five-part strategy to increase teacher use of ICT for teaching, learning and student reporting, and to better equip teachers to use student learning data. One of the components focuses on school leadership.
A professional learning community
Susan Montalto is the effective learning coordinator at Balwyn High School, innovation and excellence educator for the Boroondara Cluster, and a contact for the Leading Schools initiative. Susan believes that better learning for more children ultimately relies on the competency and collegiality of the teachers within the school—sharing common visions, values and objectives.
The main strategies of the cluster for improving teacher and school effectiveness are:
- a new pedagogy based on a community of learners
- consolidation and sharing of middle years research and recommendations
- extensive on-site staff professional development and professional learning teams, all self-managed by teachers using www.pdtrack.com.au
- development of student autonomy and efficacy by providing choice and scope in decision-making.
Showcasing good practice
In schools such as Debney Park Secondary College and Maryborough Secondary College, students use digital portfolios to present evidence of learning and achievements. Learning goals are recorded, learning processes reflected upon and evidence of learning is collected and included.
Victoria has introduced Creating e-learning Leaders (CeLL) schools—28 schools exploring and sharing the use of ICT to create new ways of learning— to showcase real teachers in real classrooms sharing their practice. This initiative is a partnership between the Department of Education and Training (DE&T) and Microsoft.
Leading the way
As a CeLL school, Barwon Valley School is leading the development of resources for students with special needs.
Perhaps the centrepiece of the school’s whole approach is the development of computer aided books for students (CABS) which won the school’s CeLL project coordinator, Chris Benke, a number of awards for using ICT to develop literacy skills in students with special needs. One teacher commented, ‘One of the strengths in this school has been the constant support of the principal. If that sort of leadership isn’t filtering down, then you can’t embed learning technologies in the curriculum in a consistent way.’
New technologies used include tablet personal computers, interactive whiteboards, personal digital assistants (PDA), and iPods. The iPods have communication symbols loaded on them, along with photos and students’ songs, and the school has arranged to pod-cast Friday afternoon concerts and story readings that can be accessed by parents and others outside the school.
The Principal, Anyta Crabtree reflected, ‘ICT is an equaliser that enables the students to communicate in valued ways that other students, students in regular schools, do—such as using the Internet and the like.’
Teacher support resources
Schools are being encouraged to develop e-learning plans. Victoria, like other states, has implemented the Intel® ‘Teach to the Future Essentials Program’ for integrating technology into lesson plans. Since its inception five years ago, the program has trained over 3 million teachers in 36 countries. The course includes material to assist teachers and web-based tools to engage students in activities that develop higher thinking skills.
Successful implementation of ICT depends mostly upon staff competence in the integration of ICT into instruction and learning (Venezky, 2002).
The Department of Education and Training will soon provide a teacher ICT capabilities online survey tool to assist teachers in identifying their needs. The survey will identify teacher attitudes and ICT skills. Teachers can then set ICT professional learning goals and schools can offer professional learning opportunities to support teachers in achieving those goals.
Exciting support resources, including examples of digital portfolios and a range of materials to assist authentic assessment, will also be available.
In some schools, long download times have made the use of online resources and multimedia very difficult. Broadband upgrade is being addressed in Victoria via a partnership between Telstra and the State government.
Jo McLeay, English teacher and founder of The Open Classroom http://theopenclassroom.blogspot.com, says ‘we need to teach students not just how to use the nuts and bolts of technology, but how to use it for communication purposes, and how to read critically online.’
The Victorian Essential Standards for Learning has an ICT interdisciplinary learning strand that incorporates three dimensions. These are ICT for visualising thinking, ICT for creating and ICT for communicating.
WebQuests a winner
Claire Bloom and Judy Steel of Warrandyte High School were winners of The Victorian WebQuest of the Year Award 2005. Their winning project, ‘Student Restaurant Rules’, is available at www.warrandytehigh.vic.edu.au/restaurant/
Warrandyte High School actively incorporates ICT into all areas of the curriculum. Claire Bloom, the ICT coordinator, says that creating a real-world scenario was highly motivating for the students. They were able to place themselves in the role of new business owners using a variety of software tools to run and promote their restaurants.
Her recommendation to other teachers is to use the WebQuest model to develop tasks that are real, relevant and meaningful to students.
Podcasting, blogging and wiki
John Pearce at Bellaire Primary School, Geelong, has his year 3/4 class doing easy web publishing, safe blogging and wiki—websites that can be easily edited. All are ideal for collaborative writing.
Blogging in the classroom is a powerful way to bring people together and negates the argument that online activities and computer games make kids socially inward.
Social bookmarking with Furl www.furl.net is the answer to organising all those fabulous websites. The students readily access ICT to connect their learning across the curriculum, their school and the world.
The way forward
Finally a word of advice to teachers from ICT expert Marc Prensky, who says: ‘How, then, do we move forward? First, consult the students. They are far ahead of their educators in terms of taking advantage of digital technology and using it to their advantage. We cannot, no matter how hard we try or how smart we are (or think we are), invent the future education of our children for them. The only way to move forward effectively is to combine what they know about technology with what we know and require about education.’
Venezky, R & Davis, C (2002). Quo Vademus? The transformation of schooling in a networked world, OECD/CERI, Paris, France.
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