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Looking Back to Look Forward

During the week I was asked by the principal to represent the Middle Years (5-9) on a new ICT Committee. Although the school has invested in a lot of ICT, there has been very little explicit leadership to drive it. Often ICT was the last dot point of many on the list of responsibilities allocated to various leading teachers in the school. Instead it has been driven by leadership with a little l, those staff who have a passion and interest in the area. 

The first task set for the group is to develop a three year plan. Thinking about where the school might be in three years time got me reflecting how far things have evolved in the past three years. Here are just a few changes:

Collaboration and the Cloud

Three years ago, staff and students were dependent on the school share drives to share resources. The only way to really collaborate was through email. As I have stated elsewhere, the problem with this is that the 'original' document often gets lost in the process, meaning that everyone ends up adding their information to the files on the share drive. The move online began with detentions and reading conferences. Since then it has included sharing a wider range of resources, including planning documents and lesson activities.

Listening to Students

Gone is the dependency on hands up and sticky notes on the board, there are now so many interactive ways to involve students in their learning. Whether it be using ActivExpressions attached to the whiteboards or websites like Socrative and Answergarden on the web, there is an array of technology available to engage students.

Interaction vs. Presentation.

Although projectors and interactive whiteboards were around in the school long before three years ago, there use in last few years has progressed from simply delivering presentations to being an essential part of the lesson. Whether that means embedding hidden videos to improve the flow of a lesson or sorting information to promote discussion. More teachers are using them to actually create content that sparks conversation and student learning.

Online Spaces

Starting with the Ultranet and since moving to Edmodo, online spaces are progressively being used to not only convey information, but also celebrate student learning. Whether it be setting a quiz for homework, rather than giving out a sheet, or providing students with regular feedback, these spaces supplement learning and provide an option for students and teachers that was not available three years ago.

Portable Devices

The only portable devices available three years ago were digital cameras and Flip Cams. Since then, iPads have progressively been distributed amongst principal class and leading teachers to aide with administration, as well as support in regards to teaching. In addition to this, more and more staff are utilizing their smart devices, such as tablets and phones to support their work. This has made a considerable difference to communication, for when the server is down, teachers are no longer in the dark. Many simply access emails and other such information via their phones. In a school with 60+ staff, this is significant.

Supporting Teaching, Learning and Administration

Whereas in the past staff would have to sort through various excel workbooks and create their own formulas, there is now a whole range of tools and programs available to support teaching and day to day learning, such as Student Management Tools and Student Performance Analyser. These applications allow teachers and administrators to not only share information, but also set a range of formulas that lets you sort through a various data sets in a more functional manner.

eSmart

One of the significant changes over the last few years has been to go through the process of becoming eSmart school. This has involved a range of processes including reviewing and refining school policies relating to wellbeing, developing an explicit curriculum educating students about the appropriate use of ICT, as well as connecting with members about the perils of cybersafety.

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Looking back, it is interesting to consider how much has changed in such a small amount of time. I think therefore that the challenge over the next three years is not necessarily bringing in a whole set of programs and practises, rather it is building upon those foundations that have already been set so as to continue to redefine teaching and learning in and out of the classroom. 

One of the biggest issues within the school is that too many of the good things that have happened have done so in isolation. Therefore, in my view, moving on, it is an imperative that as a team we create a plan with clear goals for everyone, provide more personalised professional development and get more staff on board. For as +Dan Rockwell suggested in his post, "help is not helpful when it creates dependence." At the moment, too much is left to too few and it just isn't helping anyone.

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