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Why Isn't it Happening?

I hear schools say "We have spent heaps on computers, cabling, networking, high speed Internet access and professional development ... but we are not seeing any real benefit of this in the classroom. Why?"

Firstly: There is no easy, one off solution.

One suggestion: Look at Mandinach's  stages of development with ICT, this can be helpful to identify where teachers are at, and provide an indicator to help with the "where to next".

1.    Survival Stage

      Struggle against technology

      Assailed by problems

      Status quo in classroom

      Cannot anticipate problem

      Teacher-directed

      Unrealistic expectations

      Management problems

      Chaos

 

2. Mastery Stage

         Developing coping strategies

         Increased tolerance

         New forms of interactions

         Increased technical competence

         Increased experience and confidence with new classroom structure

         More engagement

 

3. Impact Stage

   New working relationships and structure

   Learner-centered

   Teachers as facilitators of learning

   Less threatened by technology

    Technology enhanced curriculum coverage

 

4. Innovation Stage

  Restructuring of curriculum and learning activities

  Modification of learning environment

 

 

When there seems to be little progress in terms of the integration of ICT into the classroom I find there are generally 4 major aspects that need to be examined:

1: Infrastructure  .. If your computers (system) is unstable, unreliable and/or slow you have a problem for all but your enthusiastic adopters. All the PD in the world will produce little growth and development when hit with the cold winds of frustration caused by technical problems and issues.
If you think you have addressed this, do a check though, and get the teachers to talk, see if there are still technical barriers to good quality basic usage.

2: Attitude
There will be some teachers who just don't want to know,  the appraisal process can be a tool to push the issue where all else fails
Often there will be hangover reaction to pre-existing technical problems, If teachers have experienced lots of frustrations with the technologies over preceding years there will be a built in latency in terms of their response to a more reliable system. What usually solves this is seeing a teacher break new ground with ICT use in their class and others observing that teacher's success, their enthusiasm, the pupils and parent reactions. This is more effective if the teacher gaining the success is not the one who has been tirelessly propounding ICT.  I suggest identifying one teacher, and facilitate them into a successful quality experience. Then capitalise on the reaction and cascade it to another teacher.

3: Understanding
I find we still have many teachers who have not yet grasped the concept that the major philosophy behind ICT in our education system is that it is viewed  as a tool to facilitate teaching and learning. Many still hold the view that the objective is to teach pupils a range of technical skills, the fact that this view is not supported by our curriculum documents seems to be ignored. The most common thing I am asked for is a list of skills to be taught at each level of the school. Such a list seems to give security, "Ahh.. now I know what to teach."  Sadly, unless schools have a computer suite, this ultimately becomes a problem because of a number of reasons:
a.. to effectively teach a series of skills within the classroom becomes a nightmare when you have 30 or so pupils and 1 or two machines. 
b..  if the school sees skill teaching as important and creates a document listing the skills and the appropriate levels for their achievement then under NAG1 you would be expected to:

 

1.. deliver the contents of that document,

2.. assess and evaluate the learning and development of those skills,

3.. report to parents and BOT, and

4.. review the whole process.

My feeling is "Who needs it? Surely we have enough on our plates without adding to it?"


c..  For teachers to deliver those skills effectively they need to be confident and competent in terms of those skills themselves. This places certain demands on the school in terms of Professional Development.
Note, teachers can often know and use the cliche clauses like "facilitate teaching and learning" but still not have grasped what that really means. I heard this from a teacher the other day, who then asked in the next breath for a list of skills because she needed to know what to teach to her pupils and what they should have leant before they came to her. She found it difficult to see the discrepancy between the two views, so listen to all that they say and ask for.

4: Professional Development.
This is a must, but there are two major factors that need to be addressed in unison.

Skills.
Yes we do need to develop our technical skills in terms of running and operating the software, so we do need to provide skill based professional development aimed at increasing confidence and competence.

Ideas.
Teachers are BUSY people, doing planning and thinking at the tail end of long, physically and mentally tiring days in the classroom. To use ICT effectively in a way that does enhance my teaching, and does enhance a pupil's learning and thinking takes creative ideas. We can't just say go and do it, we need to have ideas and suggestions. I find teachers usually latch on to these and then start to bring their own creativity and thoughts to bear, come up with twists that suit them, come up with other ideas and alternatives. These ideas act like seeds to actions and to new ideas, but the seeds are needed, most of us find it difficult to be creative in a vacuum.
We can deliver the technical skills to teachers as much as we like but unless we deliver good quality practical ideas for the implementation of those skills then all we will develop is teachers who are ale to deliver the same skills as were delivered to them, then we are back at skill based focus again.

A simple framework I find by which to evaluate integration of ICT into learning is to look and ask "What is the learning that this ICT based activity is fostering?" Sadly a lot of apparently flash ICT when examined this way returns a nil answer.

A simple question I use to ascertain if there is an effective way of integrating ICT into any learning session is to examine the learning objective of the lesson and then ask "Is there any way ICT can help us to achieve this objective?"

If the answer is no .. that's fine, we don't expect a carpenter to use a hammer when he needs to cut a piece of timber, so don't expect the technologies to be used in every learning experience
and during every part of the teaching day .


A simple guideline I use to govern the development of ideas is to construct an activity that has:
A maximum of thinking for the pupils involved.
A maximum of discussion for the pupils involved.
A minimum of typing for the pupils involved.