Developing sustainable change programmes

How do you ‘mark’ blogging, wikis etc.,? – A question I am getting a lot right now. My EdTech professional development programme for staff is actually based around the notion that ‘digital literacy’ is in fact just literacy.

In order to show teachers how go about developing online learning communities, I am running a sequence of sessions with staff to model how to rethink how they use and embed ICT into their ‘normal’ classroom activities. I firmly believe that this is the only way to get greater acceptance of it’s importance and greater use in the classroom.

Heres how it works. Firstly, I base the initial stages firmly in literacy. It starts with setting up a learning community, discussion of what should be ‘normal’ ICT based activities – selecting the appropriate central mechanism for this – and sending home permission notes to parents.

I then model how to use it as reflective practice. I don’t think that ‘tool use’ is effective, and serves to silo activities, so the learning community extends out into ‘digital story telling’.

To me this is the act of ‘showing’ – it is the application of ‘content’ into higher order activities. I ask teachers to use 3 tools to do this – that best suits the age/skill of the learners and the time they have in ICT rooms.

We have to begin all this with the end firmly in mind. So by selecting 3, I can them model how to use just about any Web2.0, MUVE, gaming type scenario into a classroom. Each time, we are looking for the same key performance indicators. I have identified 8 ‘digital story telling’ tools, each based on the idea of developing ePortfolios and digital reputation.

Finally, we use the existing standards/outcomes. This means that the reflective writing process and the story telling is geared to meet the outcomes. Teachers seem to find it really hard to relate how Web2.0 information processes map to standards and outcomes.

You can see that this is a big spreadsheet! – Given the last 4 columns are really what we used to report on. In Australia we use A to E reporting. This rubric is flexible to allow teachers to apply definitions to the A to E, but still gives them a scaffold and rubric to deliver it.

The key PD skill in all this is not ‘tool’ focused at all. In fact I don’t teach ‘tools’ to teachers. What is important is the reflective practice that both staff and students are now engaged in. The PD skill is to move them away from assigning ‘marks’ and to get involved in learning. To be able to observe in an online community the pedagogy. Teachers are learning to comment reflectively, and weave the conversation between students. I have developed a set of ‘marking’ guidelines that are matched exactly to the activities that students are now asked to do – daily and weekly. Each of the things students do in the collaborative and individual sense, are mapped to a ‘feedback’ scaffold, which in tern relates to this rubric.

Changing the classroom, is not about new tools to me. I think it would be a ridiculous vision to see kids ‘blogging’ in every room. That would change nothing – apart from maybe delivering new mastery skills.

My approach is to change learning. To change the reflective nature of learning and to provide ways in which teachers can do this without significantly adding to the overhead. If you want to get more than a few adopters in your school, then don’t ask them to ‘learn and use’ a new tool, but show them the how the output of that tool represents learning outcomes. Show them how to scaffold activities such that they are neither too simple (boring) or too complex (frustrating).

This diagram won’t solve the issue, but by starting to change the reflective nature of classroom literacy and focusing on ePortfolio and digital reputation, I am able to allow teachers to maintain their ‘style’, but to now focus more on the learning than the content. Staff are now not rushing to spew out content and then ask kids to sumarise electronically.

Reflective Learners who are given interesting activities are engaged learners which in turn leads to teachers having MORE time to observe and support them. The down side – you have to set it up, manage it, support them and the kids, model new methods until such a point that the original ‘norms’ that the teacher and kids want are second nature. Its about changing the very nature of student/teacher interaction and learning processes – not about the ‘tools’ or how many IWB resources you’ve created this week.

Change starts with curriculum and pedagogical approaches – then you can access the thousands of widgets, gadgets and tools (if you know where they are).

3 thoughts on “Developing sustainable change programmes

  1. Thanks for the post Dean. There certainly is much to think about here. I know i am still at the teaching tools stage but am trying to move in this direction of reflective learning for my staff.

  2. Hey Dean,
    Great post I agree kids blogging for the sake of blogging is plain ridiculous but is something we see alot of. Too often do we see “tools” ruling the classroom instead of students and student needs. Teachers are scared of new tools because to add a tool in most teachers mindset means we need to either get better or let something else drop off. Thats where fear factor sets in.
    How are your teachers responding to this? I can see the benefits of the sheet and it is a lot simpler than some of the documents I put together. Are you beginning to see a shift in practice or just a shift in documentation?
    Thanks for the food for thought
    Lauren

  3. Thanks Dean- this is a very thought provoking post. At HFS we’ve tried to change practice in all sorts of ways…admittedly sometimes we’ve walked down the paths you’ve noted,- that don’t lead to changed practice! We keep asking the questions though!! We’re always trying!!

    Your post helped to clarify where to focus…isn’t it interesting that we know to plan with the end in sight in other areas, yet with ICT we can forget & sometimes focus on the tools.
    Your insights have helped to clarify the next steps in our learning journey. Your sharing is appreciated

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