Much of the first part of the meeting was spent discussing where we were at the beginning of this school year, where we are now and how we have moved and made progress during this school year. It was only after each of us had talked about where we had come from that we started to discuss where we were going.
As mentioned in previous blog posts, I've had several discussions this year with our librarian and with various members of the administration about merging the Library and IT departments into one. The teachers in both departments agree that our roles have changed in recent years because the whole nature of finding information, viewing it, validating it and communicating it has changed so much. We have seen that our roles currently overlap in many key areas and that it would be good to work together on the digital literacy skills our students will need for the future. There are some areas of difference - for example literature appreciation is taught in the library, e-safety is taught in IT - but in general we are moving along parallel paths and therefore would benefit from closer planning.
Back in November I had been involved in a strategic planning meeting about IT. At the time it was impossible for me to come up with a single vision for IT, instead I drew up a vision for the teaching and learning, for IT professional development without which teachers would find it hard to move forward, for staffing and the provision of technical support, for purchasing additional hardware and software and for using IT for interacting with our entire school community. As I've been thinking about drawing up a three year plan, I've returned to that original vision and have been asking what we need to do to bring that vision to reality.
For me the main themes when thinking about the future of IT in teaching and learning involve embedding the technology into the curriculum in an authentic and meaningful way, using IT to help differentiate learning and giving students a choice in how they learn and how they show their learning. In a PYP school this involves using IT to promote the transdisciplinary skills (thinking skills, communication skills, social skills, research skills and self-management skills). I did a bit of reading around the future of technology last week, looking again at the Futurelab report Digital Literacy Across the Curriculum as well as looking at the British National Curriculum for ICT and the ISTE standards for students. What I wanted to do was to see how each of these fit with the PYP transdisciplinary skills. I drew up a table so that I could see the similarities and differences:
Everything that I had read pointed to the fact that our roles as teachers are changing - we are shifting to become facilitators, coaches or even a co-learners to guide students' explorations and inquiries and as a result of this teachers need to focus less on acquiring technology skills themselves and more on the role the technology can play in improving student learning. In addition I have always believed it is important to give students the choice of using a variety of technologies to support their work. Teachers, therefore, need to be happy with the idea that learning won't look the same for all students.
We also discussed how we could encourage our teachers to integrate technology and transform learning over a 3 year period. Clearly ongoing support is what is needed, not just a couple of in-service days a year where we have teachers learn things like iMovie or GarageBand out of context. We discussed how we could actually assess the level of technology integration using the LoTi levels and the Technology Integration Matrix. I also suggested that it would be useful to have an all school committee set up that could meet perhaps three times a year to discuss future plans - such a committee could be made up of administrators, tech support, teachers from primary, middle and secondary school, students from primary, middle and secondary school and parents, so that each could contribute from his or her own perspective and suggest ways for moving forward.
Clearly technology will only be used effectively if it is supported by staff professional development and in-service opportunities that are explicitly linked to student learning. We had a look at the ISTE educational technology standards for teachers and for administrators and agreed that staff development is the key to integrating technology. In particular we talked about how teachers need time to develop their pedagogy as well as their IT skills.
Recent years have seen the purchase of a lot of new hardware: IWBs, laptops, document cameras, digital cameras, proscopes and so on. We felt it was important to make sure that there is adequate technical support for these new purchases and that staffing needs should be taken into account as part of any plans to purchase new hardware or software. We do need more technical support, and we also need to make sure that when teachers are recruited one criteria should be that these teachers are open to innovation and are capable of applying technology effectively and adapting it into their teaching strategies.
At the end of this long meeting - over two hours - I have to say I did feel a little disappointed. I felt that there had been a lot of talk about where were were at the beginning of the year and how we had managed to get to the place we are now, but I felt that more time should actually have been spent planning where we are going to go in the future. However I am telling myself this is just a start. Both the library and IT teachers are looking in the same direction and saying the same things. It's truly a case of two monologues coming together to produce a dialogue.
Photo Credit: from the set Hey Teachers Leave Those Kids Alone by FotoRita