Change is caught, not taught
This week, I created and presented a brief video to recognise the achievements of our staff members in integrating ICT into their classroom practice. The video received a very warm reception among our staff and I thought I would share it in the spirit of collegiality.
Here is the background to the clip.
In my new role as a Teacher/ ICT integrator (ah those weasel words like ICT coordinator, ICT mentor…) I have struggled to find a succinct, memorable message on ways our staff could engage in developing their ICT skills and working with ICT in class. In fact, I could not even get much of a voice. An e-mail or two about something very remotely interesting to most staff busy surviving the classroom jungle simply clogged the inbox – “yeah nice but I am busy, thanks”. Click ‘Delete’!?
I am passionate (and now even paid) to promote greater integration of ICT in teaching and learning – my dream job! But all of this passion is hardly going to get traction on the ground when teachers are busy and, frankly, often have much more pressing things to attend to than what they would probably see as ‘computer training’. In addition, school administration, restricted by departmental priorities, allocated just one half-day, whole-staff event for the entire school year to improve ICT integration as one of the school priorities.
Despite the survey finding that most staff felt that they would ‘like to improve their ICT skills’, the ever reducing time for teacher PD and the growing pressure on teachers to ‘go digital or lose out’ have caused a division among teachers. The ‘for’, ‘against’ and ‘indifferent’ positions on greater use if ICT in teaching at the school seemed to have cemented at the start of the year. A whole-staff, half-day ICT PD session was not going to change that – no matter how brilliant.
So what do we do? How do we make more teachers pick up the metaphorical ICT tools and start working with them? Sit them down, deliver some teaching/training and expect, even hope, they will simply apply what they learned? Not at all.
Earlier this year I came across an interesting article by Charles Jennings, Global Head of Learning for Reuters (2006) about professional learning in organisations and his idea of professionals now “needing to know less and learn more” in their work. His words articulated a gut feel I have had for years I worked as an assistant in organising large staff PD events and attending dozens of staff PD sessions on a range of topics as a teacher. The injection myth, conspiracy of convenience and 70-20-10 principle were the gems Jennings articulated and for which I had been looking for get the message across.
About 70 per cent of organisational learning takes place on the job, through solving problems and through special assignments and other day-to-day activities. Another 20 per cent occurs through drawing on the knowledge of others in the workplace, from informal learning, from coaching and mentoring, and from support and direction from managers and colleagues. Only 10 per cent occurs through formal learning, whether classroom, workshop or, more recently, e-learning.
I ran the idea of 70-20-10 past the staff members in a 3 minute item at the staff meeting. “Why bother with ICT PD when all we pretty much need to do is have a go and ask someone you know if stuck. Isn’t that the only thing that has ever really worked for you anyway in other things you do at work?” was my broad simplification of the idea to my colleagues. Well, I got a round of applause and a bunch of nodding heads for it!? That does not happen very often at staff meetings I thought, particularly at the end of an arduous teaching day. We were on to something good.
We have now scrapped the idea of a formal, large, single-venue ICT PD for staff. The one half-day, whole-staff slot will be run as an ICT expo and a “show & tell”, networking opportunity rather than a formal training session.
As the school ICT mentor, I have been giving our early adopters and ICT enthusiasts as much of my time and support as I can. This has been the case particularly with Moodle, which has become a true backbone of greater ICT integration across the school. These teachers are now spreading the expertise and goodwill with far greater credibility than a pep-talk from a ‘technology nut’ ever could.
Four days a week, any staff member(s) can book a workshop with me during the last period of the day and talk about/ learn on any ICT-related topic they wish (I provide a list of 40 different workshops as a guide). This way they don’t have to rush off to a class and are genuinely much more relaxed and willing to actively try and learn. Staff members are encouraged to come in with a buddy (but can come solo too) to support each other during and after the workshop, and alleviate the often present feeling of fear, inadequacy or even guilt for ‘being so behind and doing nothing much about it’.
Banter and ‘show and tell’ are encouraged as is asking the students about ICT and suggestions on best classroom use.
The results of this very informal 70-20-10 approach have been very promising. The use of Moodle among staff and students is increasing at a rapid pace. Our LCD projectors, computer labs, digital cameras, software, microphones, even mobile phones, MP3 players and other ICT items have been used with increasing volume, skill and constructive purpose across the school. The students are increasingly seeing Moodle as ‘their own’ and login numbers confirm that.
We have a long way to go but in the parlance of a popular video clip, “the shift is happening” and it’s caught, not taught.
Finally, while this trend is very positive and encouraging, it needs to satisfy two criteria at all times:
– are students more motivated and engaged through greater use of ICT?
– are teachers’ jobs more meaningful and satisfying through greater use of ICT?
If not, greater ICT integration is but a nuisance getting in the way of art of teaching. Because it is not about the technology, it is what we do with it.