Monday, 1 June 2015

ICT in Primary Education - Week One Reflection

So, right at the moment I have a lot on my plate but I couldn't resist doing this course through Coursera (thank goodness for my understanding husband!).  It is a free, online course run by the University of London and the UNESCO Institute for IT in Education.  I did my Gamification course through Coursera in 2012 and found the six week course length an achievable one (I've tried several longer courses since but haven't managed to finish any!).  There are students on the course from all over the world and it is interesting to see their viewpoints in the discussion forums.

Week One was about "ICT and the 21st Century Primary School".  I'm going to keep this quick by bullet pointing what I found interesting:

  • We were given a definition of the six learning types - acquisition, discussion, investigation, practice, collaboration and production.  Then we were shown what these learning types look like with conventional technology and with digital technology.  For me, this is a different way at approaching what technology can do. (Definitions are taken from Chapters 6-11 in Laurillard, D. (2012). Teaching as a Design Science: Building Pedagogical Patterns for Learning and Technology. New York and London: Routledge).
  • In terms of the learning types an interesting distinction was made between what a student gets from discussion and from collaboration.  With discussion you can 'agree to disagree' but when you are collaborating and have to produce something then you have to agree about what you are doing together.
  • Learning through production is important because presenting their learning and showing it to others is a big motivator for students.
  • I really liked this quote from one of Diana Laurillard's videos - "If we only ask ‘What can we use this technology for in teaching/learning?’ then we go along with doing whatever it is good for; we don’t sort out the problems we need to solve.  So instead we say ‘Here is the teaching/learning problem – How can technologies help?’  And that way, we challenge the technology to help with the really important learning needs".
  • We watched an interesting video showing some great learning with technology:

  • The video prompted an interesting point, which is that you need to be careful when planning lessons that you think about what you are focussing on and whether the technology you choose takes time away from that.  For example, if your focus is science how much time should you spend learning about iMovie?
  • We read a number of chapters from this UNESCO publication, which is based on the experiences of 37 schools in 20 countries and is well worth a look.  Here's a quote I liked from a U.S. school - “In our experience it takes a cycle of support and inspirational activities to keep staff motivated to integrate digital resources and to keep learning in the ever-changing field of technology for teaching and learning. The cycle begins with inspiring teachers with ideas for student learning and project examples, collaborative planning time for the teacher and instructional technology coach, classroom mentoring and modelling, support for teachers with professional development, the opportunity to reflect on learning and share successes and challenges” (pg.39).
  • There was a lot about supporting teachers in the report.  The importance of professional development came up several times.  Teachers' confidence in their own use of IT was said to have improved but finding ideas to integrate it into the curriculum and their teaching in the classroom was where they needed help.  "Examples of ICT-based learning activities" and "supporting teacher peer learning exchanges" were recommended.
  • The schools in the UNESCO report were asked about what lessons they had learned.  Here are some of their thoughts (from pg.38):
    • Give a greater role to ICT in development and assessment, as it is very motivating for learners to get immediate feedback.  
    • Give teachers and students one-to-one access as soon as possible. (In the discussion forum I shared this study, which found that young students performed better if they shared an iPad than if they had their own device.  Something to think about!). 
    • From the earliest opportunity, provide consistent and frequent technology training sessions for staff members, so that they feel comfortable incorporating the technology, which can be uncomfortable or overwhelming, making some teachers hesitant to use the technology.
    • The best way is to talk to the teacher, to understand the critical curricular topics they want to explore. Then present some suggestions and build a learning unit, or a project the teacher feels is important and really fits their needs. 
  • A key point was that teachers need to have the time to collaborate, to work out how best to use a technology together, and to re-use each other's ideas and lesson plans.

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