Sunday, March 7, 2010

You Can't Buy Change (part 2)

Recently our school started a Fund for Excellence, a yearly fundraising initiative to improve core projects to enrich the academic programme. This year it was decided the Fund for Excellence would support technology. As IT teachers we were asked for input into the "wish list" which included SMARTtables for the Early Years students, digital microscopes and probes, graphic tablets, digital cameras and a colour plotter. The school managed to raise all the money for these items from parents, teachers, board members and local corporations, including a bonus challenge grant given by a partner that was based on the percentage of parents who participated. Of course this is a truly wonderful achievement, but it brings me back to a post I made earlier, which is that you can't buy change.

This week I was reading Kim Cofino's Always Learning blog about her reflections on the ASB Unplugged Conference. In this post Kim discusses a session she attended by Scott McLeod, where he stated that international schools spend a lot of money on technology, but that vision, pedagogy and leadership may be missing. Kim said:
Clearly, it’s easy for our well-funded schools to buy hardware, but it’s not so easy to develop and articulate a clear vision for what to do with those tools, or to implement long-term, effective professional development in order to make the most of the things we bought, and many of our school leaders prefer a more “hands off – let the tech team take care of tech” approach, rather than a true understanding of what this hardware should be creating in our schools.
Once again we are back to the question of what has the biggest impact on improving teaching and learning - curriculum, assessment or pedagogy. To my mind, the clear answer is that all are important, but for me it is the pedagogy that has to have the most immediate impact on our students.

Another post I was reading yesterday was on the excellent Langwitches blog by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano about Curriculum 21 - Essential Education in a Changing World. Based on Heidi Hayes Jacobs book by the same name, Silvia's excellent graphics show that we need to replace dated content, skills and assessments, not simply to integrate technology into what is there already. That this change involves new roles for both the teacher and the learner, as a result of a shift in the curriculum, the teaching and the assessment. The culture of teaching and learning needs to change, and this isn't done by throwing money at it, and it isn't done by buying lots of new technology, the real impact will come from the professional development of the teachers who will be the ones driving this change.

Photo Credit: Img_1991 by Scratch


  1. Of course, I couldn't agree more! In the end it all comes down to how the teacher teaches in the classroom - with or without the tools. I'm just reading Building a Better Teacher from the NYTimes, thought you would appreciate the article as well:

  2. I fully agree, while all are important, without the pedagogy the rest falls down. The whole culture needs a major shift. Our focus has moved to the wrong things (tools, assessment, money), these things will assist good pedagogy but they cannot make up for good pedagogy.