Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A Vision for 21st Century Learning

Thanks to Jeff Utecht I am not having an early night.....not that I ever do anyway these days. His blog posting today has stirred me into action and I feel the need to write a response here.

Jeff writes about a school vision for learning in 2012 that incorporates digital literacy ideals. He describes a vision that will "Use technology in innovative and authentic ways to enhance learning and communication", and then goes on to explore ideas that include flexibility, staffing and support that will enhance the teaching and learning environment.

He asks: Could you create or make change in 2006 so that it could be called “The year to remember”?

Great work Jeff!

OK, what do I think? Here at International School Dhaka we have a vision for a learner centred environment and focus on inquiry-based learning. Our key words for the one-to-one eLearning program are Mobile, Ubiquitous and Digital. We have implemented a handheld (Grade 6-7) and a laptop (Grade 8-12) program in the secondary school. We have a wireless network and staff incentives to come on board with mobile computing. We have spent hours planning, implementing and developing this environment. It is hard work and it is not 'finished'. I think our major 'change' year was 2004, our first full year of both programs running simultaneously. This year there was a buzz about the place. Students were excited about their new gadgets and what they could do with them, teachers were attending PD sessions for integration of digital literacy ideals using mobile computing. Since then we have had ups and downs. As an international school with a large staff turnover every year is different.

One important aspect of seeing a vision through to reality is to be able to live the vision and have enough funding to support it technically and professionally. In 2004 I had a desk calendar of 'Who Moved My Cheese' from Dr Spencer Johnson. Everyday I would flip over a new page and read about the mice in the maze and how they searched for their own reality. As Johnson teaches, the three stages of change are Preparing for change, Gaining change skills, Achieving a change. What I have learnt about change is that some people cope with it better than others, however the way a plan is put into action and the leadership skills employed in doing this make an incredible difference to the morale and motivation of the team you wish to change. This is so true in a school. If a team spirit and a feeling that we are all working towards a change for the better does not exist, if the leadership is weak and unsupportive, there will be no change that benefits learning outcomes. Teachers are the worst creatures for hiding in their own maze and running around finding the same cheese each day...why bother changing if the cheese is always there and it tastes OK?

What will ISD look like in the year 2012? I offer this diagram to reflect our technology plan:


The students are at the top of the structure as they are what we are here for. The Vision must then feed down into the three main areas of action: Curriculum, Professional Development and Community Engagement (interaction with the outside world e.g. parents, online information). All of this is supported by the Infrastructure, being the IT Department (tech support, hardware, software and personnel). I agree with Jeff that the IT Manager and IT Head (education) need to communicate however I am going to stress here the need in a school for the education head to have veto over the non-education head (be the one calling the shots essentially). This is the only way it can work, I speak from experience on this one.

Support systems include a strong tech team who administer quick response to problems and support the mobile program effectively. With a one-to-one program (especially in a country such as Bangladesh with no external contract for devices) a laptop to tech person ratio needs to be balanced so that students and teachers have their tools in hand. Support also comes in the form of IT specialists who have time to foster teacher development and encourage classroom initiatives. Yes there is a push, of course, for all teachers to become more IT savvy but there is still a great need for integration specialists to lighten the load of the curriculum specialists. They must work hand-in-hand to ensure that information and digital literacy ideals are being met without stress. Another important feature of a futuristic school (or now?) is 'leading by example' by teacher administrators. There is no room for digital immigrant woes. If a position of responsibility is reached in a school this should mean a high level of digital literacy and a willingness to seek change throughout the school.

In conclusion.......the most important change we will see by the year 2012 is that we will not be using the words 'technology', we will not be spending hours talking 'hardware and software' or Internet bandwidth, as these will have settled into being reliable and always-available. In 2012 we will only talk about 'learning' and engaging students 'learning by doing' in a ubiquitous environment where skills are aquired 'just in time' and students never have to copy anything from the whiteboard with a pencil into their notebooks (OK, it's late and this is a soapbox issue of mine). Teachers will be given enough time to develop and plan rich experiences for their students that involve amongst other things, commnity interaction (local and global).

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1 comment:

Jeff Utecht said...


Now I'm not going to sleep tonight and it's only 5:30 in the morning! Thanks so much for your insight into your program and your recommendations. This is what I'm trying to gather. I want to contact other International Schools and see what type of system they have in place. I'm forwarding this post onto our committee for their review. Thanks again Julie!