Thursday 14 July 2011

Reflections: ICT in schools

Last week I was alerted, on Twitter, to an article in the Guardian entitled 'Is Michael Gove's concept of learning in the digital era outdated?' by Keith Stuart on 5th July 2011.  A very interesting article which looked at Michael Gove's endorsement of the use of video games in the classroom and which then moved on to consider ICT in general.  The report raised a very interesting point however which was that it appeared that Gove's impression of ICT in the classroom was limited to that of 'carrot and stick' or 'work hard and then you can use the computer'  "do the equation and get ammo to shoot the aliens". This is completely at odds with the way in which I and my colleagues (here at my school and nationally) use ICT to support learning and teaching, therefore I decided to take this opportunity to reflect on our practices.

A qualified Librarian, I have been the member of staff responsible for the LRC (operational as LRC Manager until recently and then strategic management only) for the past 10 years.  Using PCs as an information retrieval and presentation facility is an integral part of our services to students and staff, however as stated in the report "computers are a tool for developing and exploring ideas" *and it is this practice which I want to reflect on.

As my school is a Cooperative Academy and a member of the Cooperative Society, collaboration is an integral part of all teaching and learning which takes place here.  I have always endeavoured to keep the LRC at the front of cooperative learning through membership of the Learning SIG, although I have since replaced this by becoming a member of the Digital SIG which I believe is more appropriate and relevant to my position and chartership.  I have used and witnessed ICT to encourage students to work collaboratively when undertaking research tasks, e.g. Scribe, Sage, Serf, Crusader, delivering training on this as well.  This allows students to cooperate on a single task, each bringing their own strengths to the group, i.e. writing (scribe), leader (sage), e-research (serf) and generating ideas (crusader).  However well this works when researching, it is still only touching the surface of what ICT can achieve in terms of creativity and interactivity.  

This year I have really explored Web 2.0 both personally and professionally (not just dallying with it).  This blog has allowed me to reflect on my progress with digital literacy and my Twitter account has been invaluable to me in terms of professional support and networking.  Add to these my membership of SLN, a Yahoo group for School Librarians and my small and limited network of fellow professionals has grown in a way I couldn't have forseen ten years ago.  So why should my students be limited to just those they sit next to, or in the same class, or year or even school?  I am sure this is what is meant by a globalised learning community and one which enables "a more entrepreneurial approah to learning...[with students becoming] more active and independent learners with the teacher serving as consultant, not chief executive"*  Certainly this is the way in which much of our cooperative teaching and learning is carried out with the Guide (teacher) on the Side and not Sage on the Stage.  

I am now focusing on bringing my involvement in teaching to life with book group blogs on My Big Campus and to allow true collaboration of ideas and answers.  I have trained and then watched the LRC Manager use Animoto and Glogster with students in the book group and Manga Club and I see real possibilities for Glogster in curriculum subjects; indeed I am planning to work alongside a Science teacher to introduce Glogster with the help of one of his students who is a keen user of this resource.  I follow several school library accounts on Twitter and am currently undecided as to the best place for my LRC's (and CEAIG/Sixth Form) online presence in terms of social networking; Twitter, Facebook or something different?  In the last day or so I have explored Google+, but have decided that I need to wait and see as to whether Google's answer to social networking is going to be truly 'across the board'; there is no point in using a social networking site purely because everybody else is or it is the latest thing, at least in professional terms and by that I mean teaching and learning as well.  However I am determined to use the homepage facility offered through Oliver, the LMS we have recently upgraded to, to form the basis of our online identity with links from our website.

I have attended staff CPD sessions and seen demonstrations of Mouse Mischief in Windows and online mind mapping sites (as an keen advocate of the Thinking Maps we use at school, I am not keen on using this as I prefer a whole school approach) and as part of the interviewing panel for the Learning Technology Manager's post I have seen demonstrations of Prezi (which I have already used), Google Docs and online whiteboards.  My task next year will be to begin evaluating the impact of using ICT for collaborative learning, looking at ability ranges and differentiation, success of learning outcomes e.g. coursework results and assessment for learning.  I am sure that this embedded approach is how we should be using ICT in our teaching and learning and not just as a 'carrot and stick' or a basic information retrieval facility.  

* Stuart, Keith. 'Is Michael Gove's concept of learning in the digital era outdated?. Online: Guardian Newspaper. Accessed 12/07/2011

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