I am often asked my opinion about what to buy or how to organise technology in schools. I am in a privileged position working with 17 ITCPD cluster around NZ. That is a lot of schools I am lucky enough to visit and a lot of teachers and principals I converse with. I see an huge range of different set-ups in schools from the traditional computer suite to 1-1 programmes.
What works best and what would I recommend? Well that’s a really hard question to answer as I have seen every scenario work really well and allow for the integration of technology into learning but equally have seen the other side of the equation where the same set up in another school is not effectively used. We know that it is not the technology that makes for effective elearning pedagogy. Sure the access to technology is a factor but it is the understanding of and deliberate acts of teaching using technology that make it happen successfully and seamlessly.
It is hard to recommend any particular setup. Do you have 2 or 3 desktops in classes supported by mobile pods of laptops? Do you use netbooks as learning is increasingly happening in the cloud? Are laptops the only way forward? I know schools that only have 1-2 computers in each class that do amazing stuff, and then know schools that have huge almost unlimited access to computers who do pretty ordinary stuff.
What leading schools are clearly doing is projecting the way the want technology being used in classrooms in 2-3 years which is predominantly cloud based and increasingly mobile. If you look at the trends from Horizon reports, UNESCO or BECTA they support this direction as well.
My current line of thought is a little different. I am really keen on giving teachers the flexibility to makes these decisions themselves. i.e. If you have a clear budget, why not ask a teacher how they want to spend their allotment, so that the purchase clearly aligns to their pedagogical approach. They may choose laptops or even ipads, whatever. While this can be complicated and comes with lots of questions, is there really a one size fits all to a technology roll-out or should a teacher have the flexibility to choose what they use, just as they do with every other resource they use in their teaching?
Does every classroom need to have an equal share. I know that in the past I have certainly gone about strategic planning by stating, “Every class will have 3-4 desktops supported by a mobile pod of ten laptops for each team.” etc.
But should we have moved beyond this now?
I had a recent conversation with a principal who is establishing a new school. He can’t decide on IWBs or the flat screen teaching stations, so instead appointed staff will possibly get an allowance of $4000 to use either way they see fit. I think taht is just fantastic.
Sure there are lots of questions raised by using this approach. What happens when the teacher moves on? How do you manage and support a range of different technologies? What if a teacher makes the wrong decision? What happens if the need for a certain technology is no longer relevant? and so on.
But I am looking at it from this perspective: They whole process of deciding what to buy fits directly in the ‘teaching as inquiry‘ approach and would really make teachers examine their elearning pedagogy. The use/purchase of technology would be directly related to the needs of the students and the teacher’s approach/pedagogy. The teacher would be required to research, visit and answer any questions to reinforce their decision.
30 ipod touches may be a much better investment for students lacking fluency and comprehension skills rather than 6 laptops and a projector.
Have we depersonalised our teachers own elearning pedagogy by deciding what technology they should use?
What do you reckon?