Embracing technology…

It was another great tech session with @lindawollan at our Year 4-6 campus on Friday. This time the topic was effective internet searching, equipping teachers with the knowledge and skills they need to support their students in the inquiry process. We’ve been having similar voluntary sessions for a couple of years, exploring web 2.0 tools, setting up class blogs, discovering alternative presentation tools, learning about copyright and the like. The group has grown to the point where almost every member of staff participates.

We used to have:

  • Computer labs with desktop computers.
  • An ICT teacher teaching a computer lesson each week.
  • Teachers afraid of technology, teachers who lacked expertise, actively resistant teachers.
  • Lots of notebooks, ring-binders, posters.
  • Learning limited to the classroom.
Now we have:
  • Sets of laptops that students can use anywhere, carry around, get when they need.
  • An ICT facilitator with a flexible timetable, available as required to work with classes or groups
  • Teachers blogging and collaborating on googledocs, comfortable to have a go and willing to learn.
  • Less paper, more on-line presentations, class blogs and wikis.
  • Learning via Skype with people in other places.
A little more than a year ago, we set some goals:
  • The implementation of technology across all learning areas to support learning and inquiry.
  • The use of technology to support creativity, collaboration, communication and critical thinking.
  • The use of technology for global connections to promote authentic learning, not limited to the classroom.
  • Familiarity with a range of tools to document, share, organize, create and present.

We wanted teachers to understand that:

  • Learning is not limited to the classroom. Technology provides opportunities for meaningful global learning outside of the classroom.
  • Technology is an integral part of learning.
  • Integration of technology is not optional. The school is educating for the present and future in which our students will live. Each teacher needs to take responsibility for their own learning and that of their students.
  • Literacy today includes the traditional literacies such as reading and writing, as well as technological literacy.
  • Implementation of technology should always be driven by learning requirements.
  • There is a wide range of tools available to share, organize and present learning.
  • Web 2.0 allows for communication with and feedback from a wide-ranging authentic audience.
  • Web 2.0 provides opportunities for practicing trans-disciplinary skills such as communication, collaboration, creativity
  • Technology can provide access to a broad range of sources of information, through both primary and secondary sources.
  • Technology creates opportunities for natural differentiation and multiple learning styles.
  • Technology provides opportunities for student choice and facilitates students taking responsibility for their own learning.
We thought they should be able to:
  • Use word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation software  tools efficiently
  • Read/use email regularly. Know how to set up a group in email.
  • Use the school intranet proficiently.
  • Use the multimedia tools that come with the interactive whiteboard. Make it a student tool as well.
  • Be confident users of hardware and peripherals such laptops, printers, scanners, photocopier, still and movie cameras, flip cameras, iTouch/iPads.
  • Download and manipulate images and digital movies.
  • Be confident web users
  • Be able to search efficiently.
  • Understand copyright issues on the web, and make sure students are copyright aware.
  • Know how to locate the wide range of tools available for learning.
  • Use a wide range of web 2.0 tools to create, share, organize and present learning.
  • Create a class wiki or blog and use it to support learning, including reflection, communication with and feedback from a wide-ranging authentic audience.
  • Be able to embed from web tools.
  • Make global connections and collaborate with people outside the school, using eg Skype or Voicethread.
  • Use digital technologies as part of the information process
It all seemed a bit out of reach at the time and it’s rewarding to see just how far we have come, without ever creating a formal plan of how we would get there. Not everyone is at the same level. Some teachers (and students) are more confident users than others. We all still have a lot to learn and the rapid advance of technology means we will always be learning.  But it’s exciting to see that every single teacher has taken steps forward to embrace technology and change the way we think about teaching and learning at our school. I wonder where we’ll be in another year…

PS. Participating in #elemchat this morning and hearing how teachers are using Google docs in their classrooms, I was momentarily overwhelmed by both the possibilities and the obstacles. But then I remembered that we got where we are through an approach of trying one tool at a time, working with one person at a time, having one conversation at a time, overcoming one obstacle at a time… slowly but surely… it’s the only way.

 

11 thoughts on “Embracing technology…

      1. I thought you would enjoy that quote, I’ve heard it used a lot and I think helps anyone involved in change, whatever the medium feel less daunted. As teachers we must wield our teaspoons as if they were a mighty shovel!

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  1. I would love to chat about how your technology facilitator is working with the teachers using flexible scheduling. I am a K-5 technology facilitator going from scheduled weekly classes to flexible-scheduled classes. Your post describes exactly what we are looking to achieve this school year. We too have moved from desktop PCs to laptop carts and are now hoping to be using technology seamlessly throughout the day with my help.

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    1. Hi Debra,
      I think the key to a flexible tech program for me is to plan with the teachers, so that I am really familiar with the units of inquiry at each level. This way, ICT is built into the students’ learning in a meaningful way. Last year, when we had one lesson per week in the labs, I often found that at some times during the inquiry process we were scratching around to make ICT meaningful. At other times far more input than this was necessary. I now focus time where its needed, so perhaps working with students of one level a number of times a week, but not necessarily every week.It depends on the needs of their inquiry cycle, and where we have planned ICT to fit in.

      Although we do not have a 1:1 laptop program, we are well equipped with laptops, and students have good access. We are finding much ICT learning taking place on an ‘as needs’ basis. At times I work with individuals, at other times groups, whole classes or even whole levels. Edna and I have run sessions with the whole level at both Year 5 and Year 6, where students have been introduced to a number of tools, which they have explored for a whole afternoon. Students could then choose the tool that best suited their learning, and be supported along the journey.

      Another important factor in our program is my collaboration with other teachers. There has been steady improvement of classroom teacher ICT skills. It has been really gratifying that many teachers have voluntarily attended ICT professional development sessions, and are also able to support students in their ICT learning. Our library teacher also works on a flexible timetable, so sometimes we work with the students together, eg recently we co-taught about the issue of copyright. We are developing a program for our iPads together as well.

      It hasn’t all been easy – we are in a new building, with a new wireless network and new laptops. Often my time has been spent troubleshooting and liaising with our technical staff. However the flexible timetable allows me to work with both teachers and students in a way that is more meaningful than the once a week model. I hope it works for you too. You’re welcome to get in touch via Twitter – I’m interested to hear about your plans and journey.

      Linda (@lindawollan)

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  2. Wow! Congrats on how far you have come! We are still far away from where you are but it’t great to have a resource like your blog to help us guide our journey. Thanks for sharing and I can’t wait until the day that I can write a similar blog and celebrate how far we’ve come!

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  3. Thanks everyone… let’s not get too excited! There is still so much to learn for all of us. And…we have to get to work on P-3 now. Debra, Ill connect you with her on Twitter.

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