Tuesday 12 January 2010

An ICT teacher’s perspective

Here I offer the reader my opinions and beliefs around the issues of a lack of efficacy of ICT for teaching and learning, perhaps to include: time, skills, encouragement, requirements, support, training from a teacher’s (person, first person) perspective, i.e., “Ethnographically speaking”. Adopting a similar approach to “Informal Chats" I had with teaching staff about their experiences of using ICT in their practice, I answer the general question " Tell us about your experiences using New Media in teaching and learning”. The driver behind such a reflective question was to illustrate to the readers of my work my observations of mainstream secondary school (classroom ICT teacher 2002 -> 2007) and academic support at university. Such experiences undoubtedly inform this blog, so perhaps to make them explicit might help the reader and shed more light on discussions in postings.

After 20 or so years in the ICT industry I trained to be an ICT teacher in 2002 and spent the following five years in 11 -> 18 education at an all boys catholic comprehensive school in Liverpool. I worked full time, 40 weeks of the year, and was contracted for 1288 hours per year.

As soon as I joined the school in June 2003 I was dismayed at the lack of technologies for teaching and learning. I experienced this acutely in my subject area, ICT, where relatively low tech solutions such as using small web sites to host documentation like as “How To” guides and previous exam papers was “Pie in the sky” – the school had only just begun to use the shared network drives for that purpose. Thus basic affordances which eliminated both the need for photocopying and the risks of obsolescence, all well within the technical abilities of the technical staff, were not in place.

The schools ICT situation contrasted with the massive investment in ICT infrastructure (ref laptop for teachers et al), the provision of a wide ranging ICT skills training program for existing teachers (NOF training), and contemporary online initiatives from the Open University (refs).

It is interesting to note that the first two initiatives have been widely slated by commentators, both the investment in ICT infrastructure (Cuban 2001) and the NOF (ref) - whereas the OU initiative has been widely praised both by students and academic journals (ref). It is beyond the realms of a blog post to explore these.

Moving on to my experiences as a Learning Technologist at university, I was first involved in a CPD team developing a new approach to teaching and learning, one which adopted an approach of blending within each session – that is, the tutor was required to construct an online learning environment to deliver a similar learning experience to that which they would experience face to face, and then the tutor was further required to deliver the face to face session as well. The central tenet of the “Mode Neutral” (ref) approach was that the student decided whether to attend the face to face session, do that session on-line, or just not bother with that week at all (perhaps because they are experts in that week’s content).

The CPD team had excellent support from a team of learning technologists, in fact an order of magnitude better resourced than for similarly sized faculties – therefore the quality, consistency, academic rigour and alignment (Biggs) were perhaps a similar magnitude better than those in other faculties’ courses. This extended to the discussion boards that the CPD team read, contributed to and policed in a very methodical fashion following the models for on-line moderating first described by Salmon (2001).

Re-visiting my thoughts on hearing about “Mode Neutral”, my colleague who introduced me to the term did say “It’s like doing it twice” – and note that this is supported by one of my interviewees.

Further, following directorate level meetings evaluating on-line provision, I was intrigued by a lack of awkward questions I had anticipated, and then sat (rather smugly) as those questions were aired by the academic team as they left the room. Perhaps these questions were known by all, as it might have also been “Known By All” that it had been unwritten somewhere that they were not to be asked?

What are my current “informal” thoughts? I again go back to time, skills, support, status, reliability and awkward tools.

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