Planning for the future when the future is uncertain …

In the wake of a slightly terrifying weekend and with nothing but further anxiety on the horizon, I entered a DER Planning for the Future meeting with my HT of T&L this morning.

The events of the weekend (hung parliament) has caused much concern for many, many good people around New South Wales. These people are teachers and educators who have been working tirelessly to champion the government’s Digital Education Revolution. These are the people that have faced the flak of countless teachers, executives and support staff who recoiled from the notion that technology has a place within the 21st century classroom. Because of these people the culture of Australian schools is starting to change.

Of course change in education is a slow process (lasting and meaningful change, that is) and requires constant monitoring and reinforcement. This explains the need for the latest DER meeting.

My assessment of DER at my school is that there has been a meaningful shift towards online communication with students and sharing of resources via edmodo. This has been a big personal achievement for me, having introduced this as our VLE in August last year. Almost every teacher in the school uses it for classes from 7-12. The amount of paper being used is slowly diminishing as a result and teachers are more connected to the needs and capabilities of their students. The actual use of the netbooks within the school – and by ‘use’ I mean meaningful use of software and apps other than google and MS Office – is stagnating.

Despite having set up OneNote folders for students to use and modelling how to use it to teachers, fewer than 5 teachers are using it consistently in their classes. Despite modelling the use of web 2.0 apps, very few teachers are including these in their day-to-day lesson plans. Despite modelling the ‘Tight-Loose-Tight’ program and lesson structure, only a handful are attempting to use it to enhance student engagement and students outcomes.

From discussions with students it has become clear that they are being discouraged from using the netbooks in class. This is not (for the most part) being made explicit – it is implied in the lessons they experience. Teacher-talk and worksheets have returned to the classroom. Teacher-centred lessons are now being ‘enhanced’ by the magic that is the really cool electronic board at the front of the classroom – the IWB. It’s no longer chalk and talk – it’s project and talk.

As such, I find myself in the position of once again taking on the job of ‘slow and steady’ and refocusing from a 1-1 dream to a IWB and data projector reality. Discussions today centred on the future of DER (understandably) and the need to prepare teachers for Stage 6 and 1-1. My HT of T&L has suggested that I focus ‘safe’ and ‘simple’ ways in which ICT easily be incorporated into the pre-existing Stage 6 programs each faculty has. This is, of course, a sensible approach.

I left the meeting feeling flushed with ideas and arguments for just WHY the inclusion of ICT into the 21st Century classroom is not a box-ticking exercise, nor simply an election promise gone awry. My task is to create a list of ways in which teachers can incorporate ICT into their programs to enhance learning outcomes and student engagement. I believe that these netbooks can significantly both as well as ensuring students are achieving personal best, being organised, completing all assessments on time and having lessons, activities and assessments differentiated to suit individual learning styles and competencies.

I just have to create the list. So, how are YOU going to be integrating technology (netbooks, IWBs, hand-held devices, connected classrooms, internet, web 2.0 apps) to enhance engagement and learning outcomes for your Year 11 and 12 students?

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3 thoughts on “Planning for the future when the future is uncertain …

  1. I think your post just put in to perspective what I’m going to be feeling and experiencing next year when my school implements the laptops. The staff at my school use IWBs in class AT LEAST as a glorified overhead projector if not as an interactive tool.

    My best guess and observations as to why staff stall on ICT is that innovation, netbooks and ICT are synonymous with a heavier workload; or in teacher speak: re-inventing the wheel, the so called domain of prac students and overly keen first year outs. I don’t think there is an unwillingness to use technology, but a overriding fear of being inundated by ‘innovation’.

    At the moment my plan/goals and grey areas in this:

    – Try to observe as many of my colleagues as possible so I can suggest apps/devices that suit their teaching style

    Grey area: how do you facilitate constructivism AND ICT at the same time without offending the teacher-centred pedagogy?

    – Make ICT a part of most of my assessment tasks for Stage 6 and set up any infrastructure I can for other teachers to use.

    Grey area: Will leading by example be effective? What is required to show other staff that good use of ICT improves student achievement/outcomes: action research? word of mouth? painfully slow institutional change from the top?

    – Motivating students to motivate teachers to try technology: I haven’t read any research on this, but I’m sure they influence us as much as we influence them.

    I’m fairly new to the game so I may be banging on already used pots, but I think we have inevitability on our side. Computers aren’t going anywhere, and I’m not going to stop pushing the gauntlet until I’m the old cad and some youngster is telling me I should get into Web 12.0 circa 2050.

    • I agree with the reason why teachers are apprehensive about integrating technology into the classroom. A great deal of it is to do with the unknown and the realisation that there isn’t much time to explore the possibilties of something new. Whilst modelling is really good, it’s also important to have patience and be willing to hold people’s hands as they walk into new territory. Work out which teachers are already tech-savvy or who are the type to give something new/different a go – target them first. Get a couple of ‘firt followers’ and then be patient.

      Patience is the HARDEST part about being a leader. You’ve just gotta give people a chance to come to terms with culture change and help them to ‘gently’ see the benefits of this change for themselves and for others.

      When it comes to assessment – it might be easier to ‘sell’ it to the staff if the tools you select are used for planning/organising tasks more so than executing them – this could scare away a number of teachers.

      Good luck!

  2. Pingback: Stage 6 DER – What are you doing to prepare? « Bianca's Blog

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