Organising an activity that uses ICT is easy, the challenge lies in proving it actually improves learning outcomes for students, writes Deidre Senior.
Over the last few years I have seen what ICT does for students: it engages them; it enriches learning experiences; it allows connections to be made that couldn’t happen otherwise. For many, it also diminishes barriers to learning that are often present in the traditional pen and paper form.
However, while I find that teachers can easily organise an ‘activity’ in which ICT is the process or the product, the biggest challenge lies in being able to justify it – to prove that the activity actually improves learning outcomes for students.
I have seen ICTs transform learning for students in my classes and I’d like to share what I’ve learned with others at Oamaru Intermediate School. I’m working towards this in a number of ways:
- Working directly with teachers;
- Establishing school-wide structures/resources;
- Working with students from a variety of classes; and
- Providing online resources for teachers to access at anytime.
Working directly with teachers
Teachers need ‘hands on’ opportunities – the chance and time to explore, ‘play’ and get comfortable with the resources. For this reason, we have regular ICT staff meetings, where teachers spend time using the tools. One example is our IWB group. Last year, teachers with IWBs (and some without) participated, sharing not only their flipcharts and other resources, but also how they were using them – the pedagogical aspect. This was a valuable way of sharing and developing the expertise of all staff involved.
Establishing school-wide structures/resources
The focal part of this is the development of our intranet to support teaching and learning in classes. For example, teachers plan for the use of interactive sites in their maths programme. Groups of students have targeted teaching, then continue with focused, follow-up activities and are directed to specific websites that further support the concept they are learning. These sites come from a variety of sources and are a constantly growing resource. As teachers find sites that are suitable, I add them.
The pages create a portal of links and documents that are accessible throughout our entire school network. They also allow teachers to use ICTs without having to spend hours setting it up each week, while most importantly, enhancing the teaching and learning programmes in classes.
Working with students from a variety of classes
Kids are much easier to teach than adults! For that reason, I work with students from classes throughout the school to maintain our school blog (http://oamaruint.edublogs.org) and our Reading Log Blog (http://oisreading.edublogs.org). Students work with Web 2.0 tools (online slideshow creators, blogs, etc.), photos, audio programmes and the odd bit of html coding. They’re then able to go back into their classroom and share skills and abilities with their peers and their teachers. The Reading Log Blog sees capable readers mentoring reluctant readers to review books in our schools. It has also created online conversations about reading across our schools – conversations that otherwise wouldn’t have occurred.
Online ‘anytime’ resources for teachers
Both my blog (http://mylittlespace.edublogs.org) and wikispace (www.deidre.wikispaces.com) provide support for teachers. The blog is an online journal of things that I’m seeing and doing, and the wiki is a place where teachers can access resources to support their use of ICTs. Both are ‘ever evolving’ and always a work in progress!
Overall, my hope is that teachers can be open to a variety of ways of not only using technology in their classroom but also in learning more about ICTs. We need to remember that its use and the pedagogy behind it, go hand in hand. Both need to be present in order to enrich learning for students. There lies our challenge!
Deidre Senior is deputy principal at Oamaru Intermediate School.
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