Envisioning an e-vision

Thank goodness for Irish non-Summers – they make studying that little bit easier!

Tonight I hit a bit of a block when I was trying to pull all of my ideas together for my latest assignment. Everything started to get a little hazy and nothing was making sense. My notes were a little more all over the place than normal and everything seemed quite disjointed. I may have panicked (a little).. I may even have considered hiding under the kitchen table (thanks for talking me down – or up @tbbrwn) – but in good old Irish style I put the kettle on and made a cup of tea (Lily O’Brien’s chocolates may also have been involved) and suddenly it all started to come together! The magic of tea!

One of the ideas I was writing about was how to encourage and support teachers in using technology in the classroom. I was looking at this idea in a whole school context and was exploring the use of an e-learning plan and a vision for supporting e-learning (and thus ICT integration)  in schools. The vision that I would hope for may be a little conservative… but here goes – I would hope that: e-Learning would make the best use of ICT to enrich, support and extend learning across and beyond the curriculum, working towards improving attainment, enabling personalisation of learning and ensuring the development of 21st century skills for both teachers and learners.

Although an e-learning plan and vision can be useful – they are only useful in the school is committed to carrying them through! The educational philosophy to which a school subscribes can influence how ICT is integrated. Principals and teachers are key to the success of these plans! The plans need to be living and constantly evolving – not just printed off and placed in a folder never to be seen again!

Not all teachers are comfortable with technology and using something you are not comfortable with can be a daunting prospect – but teachers need to stay current to engage their students. The role of the teacher is changing and we are no longer the fountains of all knowledge. Continuing professional development is a must and if teachers will not engage in CPD outside of school then it is the responsibility of the principal to bring that CPD into the school.

Supporting staff in the use of ICT is hugely important in ensuring that ICT is integrated throughout the school and across the curriculum. . If staff are not confident users of ICT they may choose not incorporate it into their teaching as they may not want to risk showing a lack of knowledge in front of their pupils. Papert (1999) envisions a school where teachers and students learn together. The role of the teacher in the traditional sense is defunct in this vision. The teacher is not the disseminator of information but a facilitator of learning who brings perspective to the task at hand.

Papert’s theory of constructionism reminds us that the gathering of information and the act of simply accepting the beliefs of others is much less important than the construction of  our own knowledge and the finding of our own voices. Papert’s theory builds on Piaget’s theory of constructivism. The theory of constructivism purports that learners build knowledge through internalising actions. Constructionism builds on this in that Papert believes that this internalisation of knowledge is enhanced by the learner creating an artefact to represent their learning. Papert refers to these artefacts as ‘objects-to-think-with’  and reasons that through discussion and sharing of ideas with others knowledge becomes deeper and self-directed learning is enhanced.

If I were given the task of creating an e-learning plan for schools and with creating a model of CPD for teachers I would hope to develop a knowledge building community (Chang, 2003) in a knowledge sharing setting (Scardamalia et al. 1992) with the support of web 2.0 tools. I would hope that staff would support one another and share best practice. I would anticipate that the facilitation of this support system for the integration of ICT would encourage reflective practice and nurture 21st century skills, such as collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving (in teachers and students).

These however are just my thoughts – and I would love to hear your ideas on this – so please leave a comment and extend my thinking further :).

By maggiemulrine