By Daniel Groenewald
Every school has strengths and weaknesses but there are some common themes when technology isn’t working well. As part of a technology company working in education across Australia, in all kinds of schools, I get to see many different approaches to technology integration. If your school is struggling, it may pay to step back and consider this simple six-step checklist.
- Have a clear vision and rationale for learning with ICT.
This vision should outline how ICT will enhance learning. For example, your school might wish to ensure that all teachers and students use ICTs to create and share resources. The rationale for this? That all students have multiple opportunities to learn and staff have access to quality resources and time saving strategies. Where does the IT come in? It facilitates the sharing and storage of resources. The school’s ICT vision must be developed with staff and must address the ICT capabilities in the Australian Curriculum. Once this vision for learning with ICT is established, it will frame decisions about devices, applications, systems, resourcing and professional development.
- Plan your approach to ICT.
Trial technology innovations with small, well-supported classes. If they don’t yield the results you are looking for, don’t be afraid to dismiss the technology. If you see progress, trial the technology with new year groups to assess its best fit. Plan and rehearse in small steps. Don’t be too ambitious too early.
- Engage your parent community.
Parents can be your greatest ally or your worst enemy – ignore them at your peril. Involved parents who understand a school’s reasons for implementing an ICT program are much more likely to be supportive than parents ignored in the process. Don’t hide costs from parents. If a device costs more if it is bought through the school because it includes professional learning and support for teachers in classrooms, tell them. Explain how this is enhancing their child’s learning experience. Engage parents early as critical thinkers and key stakeholders. Run programmes that upskill parents in ICT skills and trends.
- Develop your staff to be effective integrators of ICT.
Schools sometimes focus their staff’s professional development on learning apps or operating systems. This kind of training may improve teachers’ basic confidence but it has little impact on student learning. If you want to have more impact on student learning with ICT, focus your professional development on curriculum design, lesson planning and peer coaching.
- Get the ICT infrastructure and support right.
A technology programme is dependent on a host of resources outside of a teacher’s control, and teacher professionalism is dependent on what the school provides. You can’t expect teachers to persist with unreliable systems. So get the wireless right and don’t buy a stack of computers with screens so small teachers can’t read them. If you want a successful tech program, everything must work, and when it fails, support must be a click away. Support staff must be customer facing and customer focussed, ready to solve problems efficiently with a smile.
- Things go awry pretty quickly when you try to do too much under stress. Do less.
Simplicity reduces anxiety and complexity and is likely to result in more success and build staff confidence. Don’t try to do everything at once. Each staff department should choose one ICT capability to master each semester. Make time for professional learning, for staff to share what they have learned with each other, to ask and answer questions, to brainstorm, suggest solutions and build on shared knowledge.
Daniel Groenewald is a Professional Learning Consultant at Datacom.