Successful choices for ICTs don't just happen
When the choice of technology is driven by the needs of the learners, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have the potential to transform learning and teaching. However, this does not, and will not, just happen. The introduction and implementation of ICTs needs be thoughtfully considered and strategically planned for, executed, and consistently reviewed. In other words the focus needs to be on the WHY.
Self review helps schools understand themselves now for future self-improvement
Schools where ICTs are making a significant difference to student learning and achievement have undertaken a comprehensive process of self review and strategic planning. These schools have a clear and shared understanding of their educative purpose, their vision, values and beliefs about learning. These are highly visible and enacted as the school operates as a learning organisation, modeling a learning culture where learning programmes are personalised and specifically designed to meet the needs of learners.
These schools know their people and place students at the centre of the learning. They have:
- debated and explored ‘what is powerful to learn’ and ‘what is powerful learning?’
- invested time to develop learning, thinking and teaching strategies to align and reflect this in their curriculum design.
- developed assessment and reporting processes to assist students with learning
- explored the possibilities of ICTs to assist students with their learning in accessing information, creating new knowledge, sharing, collaborating and communicating
- have identified the best options available to meet the needs of their students.
- provided their teachers with the professional learning and support to ensure that the ICTs will be used in a way that will enhance student learning and achievement.
- worked to develop a culture of learning that recognises and values open-mindedness, informed risk taking, communication, collaboration and critical reflection.
- examined the necessary organisational, technical and physical infrastructure required to ensure that ICTs can be used discerningly and integrated seamlessly into learning programmes.
The challenges of self-review are daunting
While this sounds like a logical process, the reality can pose considerable challenges to educational leaders. How can we ensure that we have a rigorous process to review our current reality and guide our future development? How can we place the ‘lens on learning’ examining our school as a learning organisation to ascertain whether we really do:
- have a shared understanding and awareness of our educative purpose, vision, values and beliefs about learning.
- enact our educative purpose, vision and values and use these to guide and direct decision making.
- ‘walk the talk’ of our shared beliefs and understandings about learning to guide the seamless integration of ICTs.
- ‘walk the talk’ of theory in practice
- have the technical and physical infrastructure to support 21st century learning
- value and cultivate reflection, collaboration, open-mindedness, communication, and informed risk taking to promote 21st century learning
- critically reflect on the impact of ICTs on student learning and achievement.
- critically reflect on our learning and performance
A comprehensive framework for formative self-review
I have found, during my work with schools, that the online Educational Positioning System (EPS) developed by CORE Education in conjunction with Dr Julia Atkin offers a comprehensive framework for formative school self-review. The EPS has been developed following extensive research in NZ, UK and Australia and focuses on 18 key elements that are fundamental to future school growth and development.
This comprehensive framework combined with an online data gathering tool and facilitation support enables schools to identify their ‘current reality’ and assess where they are in relation to the educational landscape. The online survey provides a non-threatening, anonymous method for capturing the perceptions, ‘voice’ of the school community, enabling schools access to ‘rich relevant data.’ The survey results illustrate where the school is positioned in relation to the current educational landscape and can be used interactively to explore data, explore next steps and at a later stage to provide evidence of where progress has been made. An immediate analytical report, both online and in print, identifies relative strengths and areas for development, providing a sound basis for strategic planning and future development.
School leaders have been quick to identify the ‘depth’ of the data gathered from the online survey. They highlight how this data can then be used to engage their communities in professional dialogue about future focused development with the EPS framework acting as a guide for strategic planning and review.
As we look at the ever-changing development of ICTs it is important to have a rigorous review process to guide future development. I believe that the Educational Positioning System provides schools with this process, empowering them to create the future that will best meets the needs of their community, ensuring that the focus is on ‘LEARNING.’