Our way of life is changing rapidly, and we no longer live the way we used to. To teach as we have always done will not develop relevant skill sets nor prepare students to succeed in the 21st century. If we aspire to be effective teachers we must challenge our educational paradigms. We need to see through the eyes of our students and embrace new modes of information and communication technologies.
Principals are better equipped to bring about a shift in teachers’ educational paradigms when they consider themselves as instructional leaders. As Principals focus more on the core business of schooling, that being teaching and learning, rather than administrative tasks, the Principal positions him or herself as a model, mentor and initial driver in the process of change.
The effective Principal identifies a clear sense of purpose for the school. In a digital context, that purpose could incorporate a focus on learning in the global classroom, 24/7 internet access to online curriculum, 1:1 mobile device programs as well as active local and global 21st century community member; and preparing to compete in a global workplace. Key stakeholders may then develop a shared vision and goals, based on the school’s purpose. As the vision is explicitly articulated, understood and demonstrated through daily practices, the vision materialises and goals are realised. Appointing leaders who are committed to the purpose and vision of the school allows the Principal to distribute authority and responsibility, while continuing to raise the profile of vision within the community.
Transforming traditional classrooms into stimulating 21st century learning spaces can be achieved on a modest budget. Students, teachers and parents can instantly experience and appreciate the positive impact of de-cluttering and the rearranging of furniture and newly painted walls. But most importantly, the deconstruction of outdated computer labs, where students once visited on a weekly basis, and the distribution of computers and mobile devices throughout the school, allows teachers and students greater access to ICT throughout the entire day. The tools are at their fingertips.
Thirty years ago, we had the television. Information and the variety of technologies were limited. In 2012 children go home and switch on the TV, computer, iPad, iPod Touch or phone. They get limitless information, 24/7 access, when and increasingly where they want it. Effective teachers know how students learn and build on the knowledge that their students already have. For our students to meet the demands of an ever changing digital context, we must engage them. Teachers need to be prepared and confident to teach students relevant skills, with today’s tools, to meet their needs now and to prepare them for the future.
High expectations must be held for all learners. We as educators must question the expectations we have of our students and ourselves. By challenging ourselves to teach and lead in relevant and new digital forms through evolving modes of ICT, we should come to understand and acknowledge that our students can teach us to teach them.
Finally, rigorous systems of accountability, by which school and student performance can be evaluated, are fundamental in showing value added and future learning pathways.
George Danson has been an educator for 24 years and worked in independent, Catholic and government settings. Before becoming Principal of Parktone Primary School, he was a classroom and specialist teacher and an early years consultant for the Department of Education in the Southern Metropolitan Region. George was awarded a Victorian Principals Association ICT study grant and in 2010 was invited to conduct a two-year research project as part of the Bastow Institute of Educational Leadership’s High Performing Principals’ Program.
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