Which school do you work at?
Hawkesdale P12 College, a small rural, geographically and culturally isolated school with 250 students from prep to year 12. It is a one-tone school from years five to 12.
What is your greatest challenge as the school’s ICT leader?
To equip all staff with the skill, confidence and knowledge to use online and offline technology, enabling them to immerse technology into their classroom and empower learning. Time is one of the biggest factors. Teachers need time to play.
How have you set about overcoming that challenge?
Ten-minute spot sessions at staff meetings and dedicated professional -development time – sharing tools that could be used on a personal basis as well as in the classroom. Walk In Walk Out Wednesdays (WIWOW) after school, too: staff come and go on a needs basis, asking questions on any aspect of computer use.
What do you see as being the most significant challenges with the adoption, management and integration of technology into the education environment?
Technology moving at an ever-increasing pace that is near impossible to keep up; the resistance of many teachers to embracing technology, as it is too hard and time consuming and it is safer to stay with the status quo; the lack of supportive networks; and the fear of cyberbullying and online predators rather than the encouragement of responsible online learning. Twitter, Facebook, virtual classrooms, videoconferencing tools and other networking sites enable global connections, communication and collaboration. The ability to join learning networks online is allowing collective knowledge. There is now incredible power for the networked learner.
Have you implemented any significant projects within your school recently?
Global videoconferencing in real time with countries from across the globe via linkup with our sister Geopark in Hong Kong, e-cultural learning adventures with a school in Malaysia, a linkup with an author from New York for Australian Bookweek, and globalstorytelling, a wiki sharing book trailers created by students from Malaysia, Bulgaria and Australia that culminated in a grand videoconference with the Malaysian school for the Melbourne Writers Festival at Federation Square.
If so, what challenges did you encounter and how did you overcome those challenges?
Low bandwidth and poor infrastructure is typical of rural locations and is always a problem. Time-zone differences mean that we work mostly with Asian schools but then there are language and cultural barriers. Tools that are known to mostly work are used. Blackboard Collaborate and Skype are usually reliable. Equipment is always pre-tested and back-up plans put in place. Students are used as tech helpers. To overcome language problems, we pre-practice communication skills. Wikis and blogs are used to continue conversations. Appropriate online behavior, cyber safety, plagiarism and so on need to be taught constantly.
What can ICT leaders in other schools learn from what you have done?
Take risks, get globally networked, play with the technology and join free online webinars and conferences with others across the globe who share the same passion and need for immersing technology in the classroom. Equip the students with skills to bring to other classes and so drive the use of technology across the school. Take small steps with staff initially but then involve them at an escalating scale, forcing them to use the technology for communication, roll marking, report writing and the like.
You can connect with Anne Mirtschin on Twitter @murcha
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