Retraining Australia

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Image: 'The Sentinel of the Sacred Path'

School isn’t broken; its just got patina and potential. It can be restored; but taking on a large project on your own is a little daunting.

Not all schools can afford to join a private coaching clinic or hire a consultant to provide them with specialist training. Most are totally reliant on their employer and their peers. Teachers may be aware of some benefits associated with adopting technology but can be reluctant to embrace it fully due to a general distrust of computers. This distrust is sometimes a result of a previous computer failure and can be exacerbated by a user’s inexperience in using a computer and/or application.

BUT, simple toolsets; though effective retraining can produce big differences. The real problem is that we are not focused on this; but reacting to the wider changes in read/write publishing; powered by the rapid advanements in technology. It is widely accepted that around 60% of us are visual learners; but unfortunately 60% of teachers are not visual ICT creators or even users. Not every student we teach is going to embrace each tool you give them, so don’t expect your education leaders to  either. Right now we are still awaiting any real definition of the 21st century attributes that are being illuded to in the draft National Curriculum – what exactly is it we have to do again? Oh yeah get Band 6s.

We can’t continue to work 1 or 2 teachers in public schools trying to support 60 forever. We need 10 or 20 to support 600 in a single community focused on retraining. Those 600 will interact with 6,000 – and the structure for this is horizontal, democratic and online, focused on foundational skills – that have low cost or no cost; that allows everyone to contribute something; but not everything. We can restore it; but we’re are not at the glossy paint stage; some are in their supa-communities, but over 90% need fundamental skills training. Its those teachers who are gonna be teaching my kids.

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9 thoughts on “Retraining Australia

  1. I’ve been toying with some of your ideas for a while.
    At times I’ve tried to explain why, after years of using, embracing technology to engage/enhance learning, why do I now find myself in a position where I am to provide what I know to others. It was a professional and personal choice to embrace technology with little or no support aside from empty policy statements, yet now we have something that could be great, and I feel pressure- professional and personal- to help catch other people up who for variety of reasons (such as lack of real support from our employer) have not included technology as another tool, aspect, area to help students…Yet, I think of the students in those classes that don’t have the variety of mediums or modes of learning, it is that idea that formalised partnerships, organised positive learning teams of teachers are so vital.

    • Thanks Troy. I think that co-opting early adopters has been a common practice for a long time; and the way in which ‘future leaders’ are selected has often left ‘tech savvy’ teachers in a kind of useful wilderness. You are indeed useful, but not value enough to be let of the training camps. I think while we hope that things will change, there is a high degree of moral pressure placed on teachers to provide training. Of course training can be provided, just as laptops deal can be struck or buildings raised. The reality remains that it has been a very long time since any mass retraining was offered (I think Bob Carr did it last in the 90s). I’m suggesting that we push all of this online and own it. So instead of doing it alone in one school; do it collaboratively online – and to me the start point is very low end. That might not seem Digital Revolution Sexy, but many teachers can’t used a tabbed browser; let alone run a learning community. We need to work towards it I think, on mass, using very simple approaches.

      • I love the term ‘early adopters’. I prefer the idea that by engaging students via ICT, I am fulfilling my job requirements, that I am following my syllabus, that I am following school policy, that I am following Department of Education and Social Conditioning policy, and heaven forbid, as a result, following government policy. The current method is like having a GAT student help catch up students who are behind…

  2. It all comes down to what we assess and measure. These things have not changed for a century, but the world has – continuously. We need to stop trying to cram new technologies into the curriculum only to have it ignored at the point of measurement. We need to work out how to assess creativity, critical thinking and problem solving. These are the skills we need for the future – not memorise and regurgitate.

    • I agree absolutely; but unpacking the syllabus and defining the 21C skills attainment descriptors then re-aligning with outcomes, activities and assessment is glossed over in favour of trying to do as you suggest. Thanks

  3. Personally having been involved in the system for about 20 years I believe it is the system. It needs a big shakeup. Not a restructure, which seems to occur every 3 to 4 years and results in basically nothing except a shuffling of the deck chairs. We need new people in management, with new ideas, new skills and the ability to plan and interact with the future. The current system resembles a way station for those who are on their way to retirement and just want to go out easily, with as little conflict as possible. That maybe over generalising but attend a few meetings and conferences and you will soon understand what I am talking about.

    • I think Will Richardson calls it “old wine, new bottles”. But if there is no big shake up – how do you see it playing out Darren?

  4. My boss told me today that of all of the coordinators we have at our school, my job with learning technologies is by far the hardest. Teachers will embrace and embed a program like You Can Do It within two years but staff are still resisting stuff that I’ve been pushing for much, much longer. Maybe it is because it is hard to figure out how to spoonfeed ideas, resources and tools that I’ve learnt in a far different context – the context of independent learning, connection with like minded educator/learners and constantly evolving practice. Technology is always in beta and maybe that’s part of the resistance – there is no preformatted formula, no set of unit plans to follow and no logical modules of instruction. It’s no wonder we (in roles like mine and yours) seek solace in our online learning spaces. I like your vision, Dean. I suppose in reality from an education perspective, we still are in a Wild West situation where the rules are malleable and the traditional colonial powers (ed departments, government ministers, etc) are still imposing imperial constraints from afar. I apologise for the messy metaphor but I think you get my drift 😉

    • I agree Graham, there is s postcard on a wall at work that says “Web2.0 is as excitable as a bag of ferrets and about as useful to most people”. I think the distance between bases – low skill to high skill is very significant. Some have never engaged at all; and the model has always been that technology is an add-on option. I’ve realised since being at Macquarie, with over 2000 teaching staff – just how diverse the skills base is, but also how competing priorities, policy and stakeholders mean that it is not simple a question of moving from Office Automation to read/write; there is so much policy, process and fundamental concepts about teaching itself that hamper efforts of the early adopters. It’s might not be ‘cool’ to admit; but even the entry level use of a browser is now a topic on it’s own; yet most teachers do nothing more with it now, then Netscape 3. My view right now (which changes), is that there needs to be less focus on the ‘top’ end of tech and much more support of the bottom; and I think to do that we need to have some online courses; built by you and I and everyone else trying to understand the issues; and use it to have a much better understanding of what is now an epic diversity of skills and ideology about educational technology.

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