For those who have been working for years to ensure schools can serve and enable a knowledge society, there has been quite a lot of positive indicators and encouragement in recent months.
Digital technologies are now common in schools. How common, and how effectively they are used is increasingly difficult to judge. It is clear from blog posts, news feeds and recent publications that in Australia, most schools have used funding from government initiatives to put electronic whiteboards, and computers – particularly tablets – in the hands of students and teachers. Many schools are trying Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) or Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies to try to work with the reality of their students’ lives.
In the USA, Forbes Business reported in October 2012, that 70 of the top 100 Enterprise and School iPad deployments in the USA were in high schools, with the San Diego School District deploying 26 000 and the McAllen School District in Texas deploying 25 000. . While this is no educational indicator, it is a sign that school communities now know digital devices and technologies are essential tools for contemporary schooling.
It goes without saying that there are multiple challenges for educators in this transformation and approaching device ubiquity. For this writer, overwhelmingly the most important challenge is how to ensure that schooling continues as an equalising force in our society – building cultural, social and human capital for the whole community and providing pathways out of poverty and disadvantage. It is not just the availability of the device that makes the difference, but the intellectual and cultural capital that connectivity, linkages, conceptual leaps that familiarity with the medium bestows.
As a result of presentations at the recent CoSN conference in San Diego, a sneak preview of the technologies, trends and challenges emerging for this year’s K-12 Horizon Report was published on the New Media Consortium’s website. While none of these will be new to those who have followed Horizon Reports over the last few years, it is salutary to see their distillation.
A couple of the reported challenges were:
- Faculty training still does not acknowledge the fact that digital media literacy continues its rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession
- Too often it is education’s own processes and practices that limit broader uptake of new technologies
In the light of these it was uplifting to read Eating the Technology Elephant One Bite at a Time by Deborah D. Sachs , Colleen T. Sheehy , and John W. Somers of the University of Indianapolis. The authors had their teaching candidate students use the Technology Integration Matrix (TIM), as a framework to develop and teach within their field experience. The results as outlined are inspiring. Elementary school teaching candidates, for example, challenged their students to create visual representation to demonstrate understanding of a range of target Maths concepts using the iCreate to Educate website. A Spanish language teaching candidate used ESLvideo.com to construct a quiz for students to answer while listening to a Spanish song, A Chemistry teaching candidate had students use VoiceThread to construct their lab report collaboratively.
The lecturers constructed an online Professional Learning Community to support their cohort of teaching candidates through this exercise and reported:
Our eyes opened wide as the climate evolved into one of active learning in which candidates questioned the value of particular technologies, the assumptions underlying their use, and ultimately their efficacy. By employing a PLC as a support to help teachers work through the integration of technology, you can ignite forums of crucial conversation, create opportunities for action research, and build a schoolwide culture of collegiality
This simple example shows how teaching candidates can be educated to be creative, to analyse and assess, to collaborate and evaluate – building professional attitudes and skills while benefiting their students and engaging with digital technologies. No doubt there are Australian examples of Education faculties applying such thoughtful practice. It would be great to see these written up and communicated widely, to help others, to build our professional profile and to shape our community’s expectation of schooling.
As the Horizon Report makes clear, good practice in technology integration is not ubiquitous. At least until it is, we need to disseminate every example.