By Anthony Ryan.
One blink and the digital future you thought you were heading towards has changed again. There are new products on the market that are faster, more powerful, slimmer and the improvements continue. So where do we start when setting about changing the culture of our school to incorporate this digital revolution? We can plan and plan and create new strategies but as Professor Sohail Inayatullah (Tamkang University, Taipei) informs us “culture eats strategy for breakfast!” Establishing a culture I believe is the first and biggest challenge for us in leading a new vision for learning in a school.
Many classrooms now use interactive whiteboards to engage students with digital support materials. My question is though, what has this really added to the learning environment? Many educational theorists talk about the benefits of class discussion, group work and individualised learning to raise higher order thinking skills. Yet many classrooms I walk into with interactive whiteboards are not interactive at all. In fact where class furniture had been arranged into groups and where there were areas for reading, talking, discussion and quiet reflection, these areas have now returned to the past; students are again sitting in rows and facing the front so they can see the interactive whiteboard. How is this any different to classrooms of the 1950’s with students all facing the board? However, those schools that have invested time and effort in working on pedagogy and challenging teachers with new ideas and reconceptualising their ideas of teaching, find students are more engaged in their learning and use the technology that is available.
My vision is that technology is used as a tool to inspire and enthuse students to gain a deeper knowledge of their learning.
To implement this vision at Currajong State School we ask the students to trial the new ‘toys’ and then they teach the teachers how to use them. This challenges the assumption that the teacher has the knowledge and the students gain that knowledge from the teacher. For those less tech savvy teachers, it is important to not dump technology onto them; they need to be part of the discussion if they are to adapt their teaching to incorporate technology. We also have some teachers who have already made the change and are at the cutting edge of the technology revolution. These teachers coach those teachers who are less tech savvy.
As school leaders, the administration team demonstrate the use of technology as any opportunity. We use smartphones to make appointments or check emails when moving around the school.
When setting a budget it is important to remember the hidden costs of technology including switches, servers, technicians, power points, software licensing and teacher training. Some schools I’ve worked with forget these hidden costs and focus on the end product. They buy the latest product then are disappointed when the infrastructure fails and their purchase can’t achieve its full potential.
As you move along your journey to drive a digital revolution in your school focus on the culture to develop a new future and take time to reflect on the changes to ensure you haven’t inherited a second-hand future.
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