Saturday, April 24, 2010

Does using ICT's in the classroom increase student achievement

I've been asking myself this question "Does using ICT increase student achievement?" for a very long time. When I did my first assignment for this course on Digital Story Telling I came across no conclusive evidence in answering this question. All I could find was anecdotal evidence from teachers' observations in the material that I reviewed. The common themes that I found out was that Digital Story Telling promoted student engagement, increased motivation, enabled students to take ownership and responsibility for their own learning and encouraged collaboration and reflection among students.

Questions lie: How do you measure these aspects.

I believe there are so many variables that need to be taken into consideration. There needs to be a distinction between whether it is the change of teaching practice that is making the difference or whether it is the tools that make the difference.

From my own experience with using ICT's in my programme over the years and integrating E-Learning into my classroom practice these are some of the variables that I've found out:

* The tools are a novelty for students, they may not have used them at school before so it is a whole new experience for them
* It is hands on learning-great for those who are tactile kinesthetic learners
* Due to it's newness attitudes seem to be positive
* It's a move away from traditional teaching approaches
* It's interactive
* Prior knowledge and skills can be utilized

I'm glad this week's study guide has some readings to do with the above question. I look forward to exploring this question further.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

What's been done to address the Digital Immigrant Teachers issue in schools?

In Bolstard & Gilbert's (2008) article School ICT innovations: 21st - century learning or digital busywork? Wellington Girls College, has addressed the Digital Immigrant Teacher issue by providing students with training to work with highly skilled Information Technology (IT) professionals. The students were taught how to use the software packages suitable for teachers and in return worked with individual teachers in giving them training around using the computer and software. The students were known as the Tech Angels. In some ways the students were attending the professional development workshops on behalf of their teachers, as their teachers were not at the same ability, experience and confidence level as their students.

This was seen as a win- win situation for both the students and teachers. The students' knowledge was being extended, they were taught new up to date skills and were exposed to the latest ways in using technologies and the teachers' were developing new skills in using ICT's in the classroom from their Teach Angel in an informal sort of way.

Upon reading this article, a lot of reflective questions and issues around implementing Tech Angels came out for me:

* Parents:- If you were a parent would you be happy for your daughter or son to work with IT professionals / attend professional development workshops in using ICT on behalf of their teachers?
* Shouldn't this be the teachers job?
* Shouldn't the principal / Board of Trustees be a lot more stricter and cautious around employing teachers who lack the necessary ICT skills?
* Attitude / Buy in from the teacher. Makes it very hard if you're an enthusiastic student and you're working with a teacher who has a very negative attitude towards using ICTs' and is very reluctant to use ICT. This does test out relationships between students and teachers
* Decisions:-Who makes the decision for teachers to be trained by the Tech Angel
This can create tensions if it was a mandatory decision made by the principal versus a decision made by the individual teacher
* Personality clashes between Tech Angels and Teachers-
* Time: Students could miss out on valuable learning time in other curriculum areas through training their teacher with using ICT's in the classroom
* What times of the day would the students be trained to work with the IT professionals and to work with their teacher? Would the students' get released or would work be done before / after school?
* What sacrifices would the student/s have to make?
* Payment & incentives: Students' could be easily exploited by their teachers being on call during school hours. Besides knowledge and new skills what other incentives would there be for the students?
* If the Tech Angels programme was to be implemented into High Schools, it would probably be best to train the younger students in the school e.g. Year 9 (third formers), as there would stability knowing that the student is likely to stay on for at least five years.
* Cost:- It is a big cost with investing money into students as they can leave anytime leaving their teacher Tech Angel less.
* Staff turnover-this can be an issue in all schools, but if a staff member has been trained by a Tech Angel suddenly leaves / retires then it could have been a waste of time for the student training that particular teacher?
* It could also be a waste of time for that teacher, if they are never going to use that particular software programme again?

Would be keen in getting your thoughts on this article and initiative.


Bolstad, R., & Gilbert, J. (2008). School ICT innovations: 21st - century learning or digital busywork? Computers in New Zealand Schools, 20(3), 42-51.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Does E-Learning promote equal opportunities

Over these last few days I have been asking myself "Does E-Learning promote equal opportunities for all people?". This question came about when I went to see my travel agent around booking some flights to the USA. She said you would need to go online before you leave New Zealand and get a VISA. This documentation will allow you into the country. I am very lucky as I have a computer and have wireless in my flat. I have access to these tools and I have knowledge around using a computer and going on the Internet. It made me think about equal opportunities for all people. It made me wonder about these situations:

* What if you are a ninety year old person who wants to visit family in the USA and has never used a computer before?
* What if you owned a computer, but you are not too confident with using the Internet and you don't feel comfortable about giving your credit card details online?

The simple answer is let the travel agent apply for a VISA on your behalf. Yet the travel agent would charge you on their behalf for this luxury service. I do not know how much, but this would be a hidden cost part of the service. If I was organizing to get my VISA online, I would pay nothing to do this.

Another example, is to do with Television. You might be watching an interview of someone and then it suddenly finishes. The presenter may say "To see more of the interview, visit our website".
In a way people without computer and Internet access, knowledge and skills are at a disadvantage. Today we are living in a society where there is a lot pressure to keep up with others and it expected that we would know how to use these modern day technologies such as the Internet.

These situations relate well to Marc Prensky's research on "Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants". Prensky (2001) has acknowledged that there is a common divide among learners who were brought up using technologies and know the language versus those that were not brought up to using these digital technologies. The gap is widening between the Digital Natives and the Digital Immigrants. This links well to the situation of a ninety year old versus a fifteen year old in getting a VISA online to go the USA. The ninety year old would struggle getting a VISA because they have not been taught at school how to use a computer and the Internet, it is new to them, the language is new and in a way they learn / require step by step instructions on the process. Prensky (2001) identifies these types of learners as Digital Immigrants. On the other hand, a fifteen year old who was asked to go online to get a VISA would find it much easier as they have been brought up to using the Internet, and would learn to go through the online steps at a much quicker rate. Prensky identifies these learners to be Digital Natives.

In schools this is pretty much the same. Students that we teach are classed to be the Digital Natives and Teachers are the Digital Immigrants. According to Prensky's research teachers are finding it hard to keep up with their students especially with the way they think and process information. Students are getting bored in the traditional way learning is presented to them as it is not stimulating or challenging enough. Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants can be summarized below, from Prensky's research:

The 2010 Student Learner (Digital Native):
Learns by:
* Receiving information fast-less of the step by step
* Multi Tasking-could have a number of projects running at once
* Prefers graphics before text
* Self satisfaction and rewards
* Prefers games rather than heavy paper work
* Hands on, interactive
* Can learn with background noise such as TV, music playing etc.
* Net working together
* Attitude towards learning should be FUN

Digital Immigrants learnt by:
* Step by step
* Individually
* Attitude towards learning should be SERIOUS
* Perception: students can't learn while background noise is playing

Prensky suggests teachers to move forwards under the Digital Natives umbrella rather than holding students back under their Digital Immigrants umbrella. For this to happen successfully teachers would need to change the way they think and the way they present information to their students. Teachers would need to change speed in which they teach: less of the step by step. Integrate the Legacy (reading, writing, maths, thinking) traditional curriculum with the Digital which includes: software, hardware, robotics, nanotechnology, genomics (Prensky, 2001)

How Prensky sees Digital Immigrant teachers tailoring to Digital Native student needs is through adapting their materials to be in language of Digital Natives. An example of this is through the use of computer video games. Prensky recommends teachers to change their attitudes and to become inventive so that their teaching aligns with Digital Native methodologies. This could mean teachers creating / presenting content in a video game format to their students, at all levels, in all of the curriculum areas.

The challenges of integrating Digital Native methodologies are:
* The amount of support and professional development teachers would need in using digital technologies e.g. video computer games in presenting content to students in a visual interactive way
* TIME:- to learn to use the software, in class time to implement it and teach it to the students, after hours time for preparation, to be creative
* Technical Issues:- software incompatible, server issues, web site issues
* Attitude: from staff especially in moving from traditional approaches. For some teachers adapting their teaching practices. Attitude can either be positive or negative around: digital technologies, group work / networking, ownership of learning

Prensky argues that students learn best through creating games and learning content from a game that the teacher has prepared:
What's been done at Colleges and Universities to address this, with training of teachers?
Shouldn't our professional development in schools be based around learning software in creating interactive games to present our content on to our students?
At what age should this start? As I believe the early years of school, new entrants need to be exposed to face to face teacher modeling and scaffolding
What game making programmes are out there for students and teachers?-keen to know might try it out myself on my class

Here is a You Tube Video defining Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants, based on Marc Prensky's research. This video summarizes the above information in an interactive presentation-aimed for those Digital Natives out there.

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants: On the Horizon, Vol. 9 No. 5. University Press

Shapiro, C., Wallerstein, C., Brown (2009, December) Digital Natives Vs. Digital Immigrants IST 110, Retrieved from

Knowledge changing the face in learning

Recently learning has had a huge transformation in the classroom. There has been movement from traditional approaches to modern approaches, especially in the area of knowledge. In the past knowledge was stored by the individual and the main sources of information came from books, or people we knew. Today due to the integration of E-learning, knowledge is shared in a collaborative global environment. There is no age restriction as to who can share knowledge. An example of this comes from my class blog. The blog shows examples of student's writing presented as podcasts and movies. This site can be a great source of knowledge to Teachers in New Zealand and Overseas. If a teacher was not sure how to teach the structures of Haiku poems or limericks, then the blog would be useful as it would contain exemplars written by students. If other students want to learn how to speak clearly, fluently or to explore genres of writing, then the blog would be a valuable tool in meeting these areas. There are exemplars for everyone to view and to learn from.

Another sample of knowledge sharing is when students are doing inquiry learning. They may use a Google search to find information on their topic of interest. The student may find the answers through an expert in their field of interest online. The expert may not need to write a book on their subject, but can share their knowledge, expertise and experience online so it is accessible for children and adults. Also students could use a number of sources to get information on their topic such as: email and Skype. They could also create forums which invite people to contribute / share their ideas

In the classroom there is an emphasis on the process of learning. Learning is one long journey. Learning tends to focus on the how and why. An example of this is in the area of maths. In the past when I was at school the emphasis was on answering the questions correctly from the text book and to get as many exercises done within the time limit. Now, the focus is on encouraging all students to share their strategies (How did you you get that answer?) with their maths group and with the class. There is no right or wrong strategy as long as the student can justify their understanding. Through students' sharing their answers individually it enables others to try out their strategy and it also allows students to have a range of strategies when they are solving problems. The onus is no longer on the teacher to give out all the answers, but the teacher's role is to guide the students' thinking and reasoning. I believe that what I am doing in the class room relates to the new work order as described by Gilbert (2005).

Gilbert's article on Catching the Knowledge Wave compares the Industrial Age to the Knowledge Age: Capitalism old and new. Gilbert highlights a number of themes that I feel strongly about:

* Knowledge is something produced through the relationships of others and that relationships are the essence to an organization
* Successful organizations are those which focus on learning as an integral process and promotes learning together
* Bosses to be seen as "Knowledge Managers":-who ensure the workers are given knowledge and skills to be innovative
* The sharing of knowledge and circulation of ideas and implementation of new knowledge within the organization
* Utilizing contacts:- this includes corresponding to the wider community through Internet and communications technologies. Contacts may not necessarily be in the same profession but they could be used excellent sources of knowledge.

An area I feel strongly about after taking three leadership papers is on the area of Relationships. Relationships from all parties e.g. Principal, Deputy and Associate Principals, Teachers, Support Staff and Students are critical, if there is to be a knowledge sharing environment. If there are relationship issues e.g. staff members feel threatened if their idea is put down by senior management or students feel scared of the teacher, then knowledge would be stored and not shared with others. We are all great sources of knowledge, but for it to be shared the environment and morale needs to be positive.
I also believe that it is up to the Principal of a school to initiate the knowledge sharing and to ensure staff are equipped with adequate knowledge in keeping up to date with modern teaching practices. An example of this could be sharing of ideas in literacy in staff meetings, where staff bring along samples of student/teacher modeled work, or it could be sharing of ideas in teaching practice. Teachers can gain a lot of new ideas from each with their teaching practice, if knowledge is shared. Another aspect of knowledge sharing is reflection. Reflection is just as important as it promotes thinking skills such as questioning, evaluating, synthesizing of ideas etc. When an idea is reflected upon changes could be made, areas of it could be explored further and new ideas can be developed from it.

The utilization of contacts outside of education are great sources of knowledge. This could easily be through social networking or setting up forums which invite people to contribute their ideas. An example of utilization of contacts relates to my own personal practice, more the face to face variety. Back in 1996, my class were studying the topic "Around the World in 80 Days". My classes country was Scotland. At the time there was an advertisement in the paper wanting members to join the Scottish Country Dancing group. I rang up the group and asked them whether they could perform to my class. The group consisted of retired people whose love was of the country Scotland. When they arrived they bought posters, wore their cultural uniforms, bought some home made Scottish shortbread for my class to sample, sang songs, shared stories, performed in front of my class and actually got my whole class to dance with them. This was a valuable experience because it was adding reality to their learning and the children could see that the best sources of knowledge came from the visitors who were from Scotland and had lots of experiences to share.

Reference: Gilbert, J. (2005). Catching the knowledge wave: The knowledge society and the future of education (pp. 23-46). Wellington:NZCER