Paying for your technology

(Last Updated On: March 3, 2014)

Technology presents many challenges and obstacles. Here INTERFACE discovers ways schools are getting staff interested and excited about using ICT.

With the speed new computers, software and other ICT equipment comes out, it can sometimes be daunting for teachers to get their head around it all. This is particularly true for those who, having been doing things the ‘old fashioned way’ for a long time, may find learning new skills a little bit intimidating.

So, what are the key challenges? And how are schools going about creating a more ‘can do’ attitude? This is how some are promoting the use of ICT, and getting their colleagues interested and excited about using it… and, ultimately, making it work for everyone.

It boils down to money

My response with regard to a ‘can do’ culture is that we need to seriously resource the professional development required. Then teachers need to be given the time, the infrastructure and the hardware to put their PD into practice.

For instance, teachers attend workshops on blogging, digital stories, and so on – which really get them fired up and excited about using ICT in their classrooms – only to return to their schools to find no money for the hardware, software, data shows, etc., required to fulfil their goals. I guess it all boils down to money in the end.


Opportunities for up-skilling

It’s taken a while for teaching staff to start exploiting ICT in their classrooms – probably five years to actually use the network and the computer facilities to their fullest extent. Even now they’re not completely utilised but it’s a lot better.

One of the things that has helped a lot has been the laptops for secondary teachers. It’s meant that teachers are prepared to actually have a go. Being in an ICT cluster group has also provided emphasis to give staff the opportunity to up-skill in their particular subject area.

We’ve showcased what other teachers are doing, provided teachers access to speakers from the outside and brought them in, and had meetings between schools to see what other teachers are doing in other schools. We’ve gone from the computer labs not being used very much to having just about every computer lab booked up for the next two weeks. The teachers are fighting to get into them!


What’s in it for teachers?

In my experience teachers like to know what’s in it for them when it comes to using ICT in classrooms. How is this going to help them improve student achievement levels and is it going to be more work for them?

Those who have little experience with computers are often anxious that they don’t know enough to ‘teach’ computer skills. It’s hard for them to get their head around the fact that they don’t need to know more than the kids, they just need to give the kids the opportunities to explore within a meaningful context.

To get teachers excited and motivated we have ‘Techie Brekkies’ – workshops run by teachers sharing ICT tips, successful classroom activities, etc. with each other. We provide something yummy to eat and try to create an informal, collegial environment.

Over time, teachers become more confident and are able to see the potential for using the technologies with their students. We also try to send groups of teachers for professional learning opportunities outside of our school, such as Learning@School, ULearn, and iSchool Extreme, as well as visits to other schools. We have found teachers appreciate the time away from the daily pressure of the classroom, to concentrate on learning new skills and getting practical ideas for implementation.

ICT is a part of our students’ lives when they are out of school – mobile phones, computers, digital cameras, PlayStation – and if we don’t provide them with similar access when they are at school we are failing to utilise some powerful learning opportunities in a medium that is very motivating for them.


‘Release time’ is the key

The school must have a leader who is enthusiastic and passionate about ICT, someone who follows the trends and models these within their school so that the staff benefit in the most productive way.

Staff members at our school are most enthusiastic about ICT when they have ‘release time’ to learn ways to use ICT and further time to practise what they have learnt. That’s probably the key to overcoming obstacles – ‘release time’.


Knowing what’s available to them

It’s actually getting teachers released to have time. I have one principal at a country school who, when I go in there, releases her staff for the whole afternoon and she takes all the kids to singing.

I’ve got 10 schools. We go in and work with teachers and demonstrate for them ways of using ICT. Initially, technology hurts because it’s just another thing to do until teachers can see the power behind it and the reasons why they’re doing it. Once they can start integrating curriculums they find it actually becomes easier. A lot of teachers don’t know what’s actually available to them.


And why it’s all worth it …

I am a video-conferencing teacher. When I was first asked to train in this type of technology, I felt I would not be confident to do such a thing. Five years on, I am taking exchange students to and from Italy!

To begin with, I video-conferenced to England, USA and Australia. All the people we spoke to were so enthusiastic and our Maori boys were so admired when they sang their Waiata, did the Haka, showed their tribal tattoos, and talked about all kinds of things that youth would be interested in.

Video-conferencing has opened the world to my students. We are able to make videos and DVDs of the places we visit and show the culture and lives of other people to other pupils. This learning experience is valued highly and proves to be a fantastic way of interesting students in the history, religion, arts and culture of other people. All the students I have taken to Italy plan to return as soon as they are able to do so. I have students lined up for many years already keen to make the journey. So, I can truly say that ICT skills have led me and so many others to excitements beyond our imagination.


Clearly, one thing that’s demoralising to teachers is when there is a heightened expectation that they will be able to do something new, interesting and exciting only to find there is a lack of resources. ICT in schools is much more than broadband and computers. Teachers need the time, resources and ambition to learn and implement new teaching strategies. It’s not always an easy or smooth process but when it all comes together there are some exciting experiences to be had by all.

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Categories: Article, Issue 1