The word of the morning was ‘unrivalrous’ (to quote David Wiley). And working with colleagues to present a panel discussion at the IFTE (International Federation of English) conference was easily one of the most rewarding – and least ‘rivalrous’ experiences I’ve had as a presenter.
A central theme of this conference was exploring the idea of ‘new technologies, new practices’.
With Claire Amos (Director of e-Learning, Epsom Girls Grammar) and Hamish Chalmers (HoD English, Albany Senior High), I was invited to participate in a panel discussion exploring the use of ICTs in English; a wide brief that we refined to address three areas of concern to English teachers: digital citizenship/cybersafety; copyright and ownership of IP; and teacher professional learning. A heady mix, I’m sure you’ll agree, with a peppering of YouTube/TED clips to stimulate chat and plenty of thoughtful contributions from the flatteringly large audience.
In essence, the following ideas and questions emerged…
Digital Citizenship and Cybersafety: Is it worth swimming with the sharks?
- If the prevailing default advice is to open up access, whose role is it to support the students to develop ethical and thoughtful attitudes. For some, this was a role that sat outside their classroom practice; for others, it sat at the heart of the key competencies.
- Can social media support learning? It can be a distraction, and not necessarily a teachable moment worth managing, but there was an advantage in using it to support collaborative, peer-supported learning, especially if the students drove it themselves.
- Open access brings a whole new raft of issues, and engaging the wider community support is vital. If parents ban Facebook at home, what happens when you have access at school? (And, with web-capable phones in many students’ pockets, who are we kidding anyway?)
Copyright and IP: If it’s free, it’s mine.
This section provoked some enthusiastic discussion, ranging from the students’ use of online materials to teachers’ ownership of their own work.
- If students combine a track from iTunes with a raft of well-chosen images from Google, where does creativity end and plagiarism/piracy begin? The importance of fostering ethical and responsible use of materials is part of a (English) teacher’s business, with making and creating meaning at the heart of this learning area, and with the use of ‘Language, symbols, and texts’ a curriculum key competence.
- If teachers are employed by their Board of Trustees, where do their rights to share material lie? It was generally agreed that collaborating on resources was worthwhile, but teaching is often an autonomous occupation. Technology, such as the English Online community forum, could be leveraged to help the teacher in Dunedin find the teacher in Auckland who is exploring the same text, to set up collaborative partnerships for resource development.
Professional Learning: What comes first – the teach or the tech?
Claire Amos revisited her work that she shared via CORE’s EDtalks, in which she describes using the inquiry cycle to inform professional learning at Epsom Girls’.
- Teachers need time to play, to become familiar with the tools in order to use them deliberately as part of a learning cycle. The inquiry framework, and the TCPK model provide useful underpinning structures to help define and evaluate the effectiveness of professional learning.
If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well, It were done quickly; 90 minutes seemed to be a long time – until we began. But the thoughtful comments and brisk pace meant we done before we were done.