Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Can I have some 'training' with that please...

At mLearn 2007, I was amazed at the great innovative teaching practices being adopted at Stow Heath Junior School, UK ("21st century assessment for 21st learners", by Gavin Hawkins, Sarah Corey, Lynn Ball"). One innovative practice at Stow Heath Junior School is the use of ‘Synchroneyes’ software. This software enables students to share work produced on their PDA's synchronously, via the classroom interactive whiteboard (IWB).

However, my excitement was quickly dampened by the thought that my son's public South Australian primary school didn't even have ONE IWB.

This saddening thought stayed with me, and about a week later, I 'bumped' into the ICT teacher/co-ordinator at my son's school. Our conversation started around how the boxes being stored in the Finance Officer's room were a new class set of Tobisha laptops, recently purchased by the School - wow, this sounded promising. So I couldn't help but ask about whether the School was considering purchasing an IWB ... and to my delight - his response was "yes - 7 of them"!!

Amongst a number of other questions, I enquired what training the staff might be receiving, and he proudly told me that the suppliers of the IWB would be doing the training during the summer holidays (and I might be able to join the group when it happens!!!). I left the school satisfied that my son's School might be finally moving into the 21st century.
This was also very pleasing, considering that the only IWB I'm aware of in TAFE SA, Adelaide North - is one in a 'Directorate Board Room' on one of the nine campuses. Seems like IWBs are good enough for use by our decision makers, but not so much for the lecturers and clients? and I'm not even sure how often this one has actually even been used....

So, over Christmas lunch I asked my Junior Primary teacher sister whether her school had any IWB, and she replied "that $30,000 would be spent in the next 12 months on IWBs" - but much to her disgust. She couldn't understand why that amount of money would be spent on IWB when:

- there was a greater need to fund Maths and Literacy resources and other learning programs?
- 'physically' her 5-7 year old students would not be able to 'write' on the IWBs if they're to be mounted on the wall, and
- what benefit an IWB would have to her current teaching practices?

I then enquired whether any of the $30,000 was going to be invested in training the teachers to use the IWBs or in creating networks with teachers in other schools who were already utilising IWBs and developing resources for them. Not surprising, she said she was not aware of any. She felt the School Principal was more concerned about the technology, then how the staff might actually learn how to utilise them.

So from these recent encounters about the use of IWB in South Australia, and from Times Online article "
Technophobe teachers wasting millions" (which was posted as a del.icio.us link by Ewan McIntosh via Twitter), I have some more questions to pose:

Why is it that as we near the end of the first decade of the 21st Century, that we still have technophobic teachers/trainers, who still do not understand how technology can enhance their teaching/training environments - let alone their own professional development?

If there is a Performance Management system in place within an educational institution, then what training should the 'manager' of the performance been given in area of staff development, especially in e-learning?

Why there is not a unit or two in every teaching/training qualification covering: "How to manage your own professional development" - as well as: "How to utilise technology to enhance your teaching practice and networks"?

How can educational decision makers and leaders help their teachers/trainers develop online/ICT skills, when they themselves don't understand the benefits of social networking and web 2.0, to lead their staff in this area?

And finally, when an educational institute is investing in new technology, what percentage of the investment should be allocated to training staff and allowing these staff time to develop resources and networks - to ensure the organisation is maximising their investment?
I think this all goes to show that an investment in pedagogy/methodology is as equally as important as an investment in the technology ... excellent teachers will provide excellent learning opportunities ... not the technology they're using
"only way to improve outcomes is to improve instruction"

10/1/08 since writing this post I've read Karl Fisch's 'Is it ok to a technologically illerate teacher'. Karl made the following statement

If a teacher today is not technologically literate - and is unwilling to make the effort to learn more - it's equivalent to a teacher 30 years ago who didn't know how to read and write."

I agree with Karl. What do you think?


Sue Waters said...

Those are really good questions you have asked Allison because they are really hard to answer.

So I am going to write as I ponder. Sure it is 2008 but lets reflect on progression of technology. The world wide web came into existence in 1994 but was fairly basic. We didn't have Google until 1998 (hopefully my dates are okay). So progression of computers in homes developed in the '90s but it wasn't until the late '90s that it became really common for people to have Internet connection in their homes. Unfortunately the reality is people are still learning how to use this technology which makes them technophobic as it is easier to stick to what they know then to go with something that they are less certain of. Our unfortunate reality is most educators don't realise the potential of technology.

Good point about the professional development - wish they would take that on board.

Regarding your last question - we will struggle. We need them to get it - so that they appreciate the need to have in place long term strategies for staff development. If I had charge of the funding it would be focused on the professional development and not purchase of the technology. No point having the technology if it sits in the cupboard not being used.

Sorry I haven't answered these questions well.

Sue Waters
Mobile Technology in TAFE

Paul Hamilton said...

These are important questions. I believe the key lies with resolving the question about educational leadership. All other hurdles will prove exceedingly difficult until educational leaders are onside.

I find it extremely frustrating that here in my part of Canada, decisions about using technology are too often not being made by educational leaders. It is the non-educators, the people who should be in a support role, who are setting the implementation agenda. Network managers may understand the technology very well, but they often have a limited grasp of what is really needed by learners in classrooms.

This is why I believe we need to focus on educating the educators. Sadly, there are too many educational decision-makers who are resist learning and changing!

MadMiller said...

Thanks Sue & Paul for responding into my questions. This is very much appreciated.

It appears that we need to be 'targeting' educational leaders and engaging with our ICT Managers - and work as one big TEAM.

What strategies have people been using to enlighten their decision makers in their institute in the area of e-learning?

Does your educational institute have an e-learning strategic plan - and if so, what does it include and what might it be missing?

I still believe that if we can 'engage' all educators (teachers and leaders) into understanding the importance of their own professional development - then it will become a natural course for them to move along the e-learning path.

Educators call themselves 'professionals' but are they always professional in their own development?

Should educators be like some of the other professions, where they are required to continue to update their qualifications to remain in the 'profession' (and be given the support, whatever that may be, to do so)?

Sarah Stewart said...

We have some exciting stuff happening where I teach and some very excited teachers. At the same time, I am quite anxious because there is a lot of emphasis on tools and not how we use them and integrate them into our teaching. There appears to be little comprehension of how much time it takes to learn and properly utilise the tools.

My feeling is we need to look at our cirriculum and philosphy of learning before we throw in all these tools such as blogs and so on.

Not sure if I am making sense, but enjoyed your post anyway. Sarah