Wednesday, 23 April 2008

21st century learning - is it really just all about more and more technology?

I read a really interesting post today on LeaderTalk entitled "Shift Happens-Now What?" concerning the introduction of ICT in schools and the real need for the change of adult perspectives and behaviours to create student centred classrooms. I do recommend it.

It also advocates the need for teachers and other education support staff to see themselves as learners as we all move towards more personalised learning and project based approaches to education. Many people, myself included, have been arguing this for some considerable time. It really is not about just flooding schools with more and more technology - unfortunately not every sees this even now.

Many educators are reluctant to admit that they know less or are less skilled than the students in their room - it breaks their comfort zone and many people feel less confident and potentially not in the total control that some demand.

Flooding schools with technology has been done by institutions in many countries. So frequently the infrastructure to support it has been inadequate and failed to operate networks etc. in a consistently robust way. This leads to many teachers who were 'brave' enough to experiment and use computers being let down by slow connection speeds, unreliability and system 'crashes'. Nothing disrupts lessons and discourages teachers more! The problem is if staff have had a series of bad experiences then they are reluctant to try again.

In introducing any new technologies, the infrastructure to support it needs to be massively more than is initially needed - the pace of development, software, hardware and devices is just moving too fast. Trying to enlarge systems after the event is just not the best way!

Some teachers and authorities (see two posts below) simply ignore the existence of ICT, and whilst some teachers may feel more comfortable, it is actually disenfranchising the students. I've even heard one teacher say "I didn't have it so they (students) don't need it". It's a bit like going back to slates and quills really.
Teachers have to be helped to develop confidence in not only how to use technology, but also see the benefits to the teaching and learning opportunities that could take place. Additionally they do need a much greater awareness of how young people use technology now. For example many teachers that I have spoken to have no idea even how to use the full technology contained in their own cell phones, let alone hardware placed in classrooms.
There are also the very interesting benefits of students as teachers and mentors in helping educators, especially in developing ICT skills, is really a very powerful experience - one that I have used many times for my own use.
The LeaderTalk is an interesting and useful contribution to the ICT debate! We need to make sure that everyone gets engaged in it!


Stephanie Sandifer said...

Hi Gareth!

I'm glad you found my post useful and I love how you expanded on those ideas in your post. It is a shame that too often we (edubloggers) are seen as the ones who push for new technology purchases when in reality so many of us are actually advocating for a more thoughtful approach that involves adult learning around how to transform the entire system (beyond just buying a bunch of new tools that no one will use or be able to use.)

Perhaps if we all just continue to tlak about this in the face-to-face interactions we have in our own communities, more people will start to get the picture. I'm trying to remain positive in what we all feel is a very challenging situation!

Keep up the great writing!

Gareth Long said...

Thanks Stephanie. I shall also keep reading LeaderTalk