The ubiquitous use of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) in schools is the biggest change in education in the past 20 years. While we have dabbled with open learning spaces, integrated curriculum, standards based assessment, vertical timetables and extended teaching periods, not much of what we do has really changed. Our school, like most others, still consists of buildings similar in design to what we learnt in during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. It has classrooms with 20 to 25 students and one teacher delivering a subject based curriculum. A trip in a time machine by an observer who moves forward from 1995 to 2015 would actually notice little change in the “what is taught”. Our students still study Maths, English, Science, Humanities, PE, Art and the traditional subject based curriculum. Our Year 7 Wood Technology students still make a pencil box. Our Year 7 Science students still get their “Bunsen Burner Licence” and spend a lot of time boiling water. In terms of “how” the curriculum is taught though, the observer would notice a huge difference.
The major difference in how the curriculum is taught is the omnipresent use of ICT.
In 1995 our school had three computer labs. Students would see it as “a treat” to have a class booked into a computer lab for one or two of their thirty lessons in a week. Classrooms had televisions and video players. We were cutting edge.
The major change our time traveller would notice now is that all students bring a netbook computer to every class. Every room has a data projector. The college has wireless access to the internet in every classroom.
In 1995 the teacher was the major source of knowledge in the classroom. In a Social Studies class, if a student wanted to know the date of, or the background to the Cuban Missile crisis the teacher or textbook was the only hope of finding this information. If the teacher didn’t know the answer to your question you could ask to go to the library and look up the answer in Encyclopaedia Britannica. Now at our school, most of the information and knowledge collected in human history is a few mouse clicks and a well-executed “google search” away from our students at any time in any lesson. Thousands of pages of information on the Cuban Missile crisis are a few clicks away. This is a profound change.
It is worthwhile to reflect on how we have moved our school from occasional computer use to a school where students use ICT most lessons in most subjects.
Like many schools, we started with a computer lab based network. As wireless technology developed and staff use of wireless laptops developed, we began to consider the option of putting portable devices in the hands of students.
We set out on a journey to become a 1:1 school in 2009. We started with optional laptop classes where students bought their own school-approved laptops, and then followed this by school subsidised purchases of netbooks for all students in 2012.
What follows are our top 11 tips for schools who are undertaking a similar journey and where we think that journey will go next.
1. Have a clear vision and restate it often
We are a 1:1 School:
- We put our courses online
- We put our due dates online
- We put our assessment results online
- We get our students, parents and teachers used to working this way.
We first translate our current practice into an online environment, then we transform how we educate our students using ICT.
We put this vision statement at the top of every document to do with our 1:1 program for teachers. It was the first slide of every presentation given to staff. It was part of the induction process for new staff. People behave their way into new visions and ideas, not just think their way into them. With this in mind, much of our work was directed at developing staff capacity to use ICT. Changing behaviour would change beliefs and make the vision a reality.
2. Your LMS-(Learning Management System) drives everything
We use Moodle. The brand of your LMS doesn’t matter. Ensuring all staff and students use it every day does matter. We put everything on Moodle: worksheets, quizzes, tests, resources, weblinks, feedback. We have eliminated as much paper as possible. Without an LMS, teachers will use ICT for Powerpoint presentations and “internet research tasks”. Some teachers won’t use IT at all. An LMS is central to your 1:1 program.
An LMS also allows you a window into what is actually happening in the classroom. With Moodle we can see what tasks are being set in classes and what is actually being set by staff and submitted by students. An LMS has been vital in allowing our professional learning teams to work on common assessment tasks. Having everything in one place is essential for students, staff and parents.
3. Make sure your IT support team is customer focussed
Keeping staff and student computers running well is essential to the success of your 1:1 program. Your IT support team needs to share your vision and needs to be increased in size as the number of machines in your school increases. Customer service is essential.
Our ICT support team get regular feedback via the ICT support survey that all Educational Support and Teaching staff complete annually. This has helped encourage the development of a “friendly, customer focused support team.”
4. 1:1 means everyone has to have one, preferably the same one
The type of device you choose is important. Cost is obviously a factor but durability is paramount. Computers in the hands of students get dropped, often. We have benefitted from having a standard operating environment across the college. The staff and the students all use Lenovos. They have the same keyboard layout, the same chargers and a very similar software image. This has made support and repair much easier for the college. Staff know that what they can do on their computer, the students will be able to do on theirs.
We work persistently at the beginning of the year ensuring all students have a netbook and are bringing it to class. Any students who cannot afford the parent co-payment are placed on a payment plan.
We have a fleet of “loaners” ready to go to replace those of students who have their device in for repair. A key to being 1:1 is the certainty that when a teacher says “Get out your netbooks and log into Moodle”, every student has a netbook and can do that.
The one or two that “don’t have them” are students that have either left them at home or have them “with the techies” getting fixed. In this situation we say, “go borrow a loaner”, and the student is ready to go within minutes.
This also means staff will be confident they can use computers whenever they need to. As this chart shows, our staff have students using their netbooks most lessons. Staff who come to Drouin from other schools comment that while their previous school claimed to be 1:1, many students did not have computers or did not bring them to class so you could not rely on being able to use them. This guaranteed access also allows teachers to plan for short periods of the lesson where computers can be used. A 15 minute “break out” activity on the computers then back to written work is possible.
5. Allow teachers to translate first, then transform
For many teachers, using ICT in an innovative way is not easy. In our experience innovative use of ICT is just as common, or uncommon in more experienced teachers as it is in younger staff. We have encouraged staff to translate their current practice first onto the computer. It may seem a “cop out” to have students doing what is essentially a worksheet or some text book chapter questions on the computer rather than with a pen and paper. You may ask in this situation, “What has really changed?” For many staff this is a vital first step.
We have used Ray Nasher’s 3 carriage train analogy as a model for moving our staff from translation to transformation. Moving teachers on from translation to transformation is an ongoing challenge.
What students actually do most of the time is difficult to track. The Data below is from a survey done in 2007 and 2011 and 2015. The 2007 version had “use Encarta to do research”. We removed this question from the 2015 version. Our current students would ask “What is Encarta?” Change in the ICT world is rapid. We are now encouraging students and staff to use ICT in more collaborative ways so we added “Used Google Apps to work collaboratively” in 2015.
The changes from 2007 to 2015 are interesting to look at as well.
It would be fair to say that most of our use is ICT for producing and for technical administration, for example, submitting work to a teacher or looking up marks. The rate of what we would consider as “higher skill level” ICT tasks like Programming or Web design are still not being carried out as frequently as we would like at our school.
6. Build an expectation of classroom ICT use into the Performance and Development process.
Staff receive feedback on their Online Moodle Courses as part of their annual review process. This sets up a clear expectation that they have courses online. It took seven or eight years to get to this point. Some of our staff were reluctant at first but as more got on board the change became inescapable for all.
This is our Performance and Development (P&D) feedback process.
Staff get feedback on their Moodle course development via a rubric. We were very specific about what we wanted to see in people’s courses.
This was based on our vision.
We are a 1:1 School:
- We put our courses online
- We put our due dates online
- We put our assessment results online
- We get our students, parents and teachers used to working this way.
As well as staff getting feedback from Leading Teachers and Principals on their Moodle courses in 2014, we added some ICT and Moodle questions to the Student Opinion survey that all staff have to complete with one of their classes each year.
Students now give staff feedback on ICT and Moodle via these questions on the Effective Teacher Survey.
- The Moodle course in this subject was easy to follow
- The Moodle course in this subject was always up to date
- The progress bars on this Moodle course were up to date
- The due dates were always on Moodle for this course
- I could see from my grades on Moodle how I was going in this subject
- In this class I get the chance to use what I know about computers and other technologies.
Staff receive feedback on all aspects of their teaching as well as their Moodle courses from the students.
7. Create a “Certification System” for staff who are high end users of ICT
It was serendipitous when a silly “throw away” idea in a brain storming session becomes, within 18 months, an established part of the college culture. We wanted a way of spreading the organisational knowledge of Moodle among the staff. The idea of the “Super Moodler” was born. Staff who on their P&D reviews scored consistently above a certain level were given the title Super Moodler. They were presented with their Super Moodler sticker in front of the staff. My initial thoughts were that this would be “pretty lame” and a minor amusement for the recipients. It has taken on a life of its own. Some staff have set as one of their P&D goals “to become a Super Moodler” this year. The title is sought after.
Super Moodlers are identified with stickers on their laptops and desks. This has had the effect of putting 50 “help desks” around the school. It is essential that new staff get this help when they start at our school. Super Moodlers have been vital in helping new staff get up to speed with Moodle.
We have even plotted the rise of the Super Moodlers.
8. Train the staff but don’t water the rocks
We put hours of time and resource into ICT staff development. For two years we ran whole staff ICT Toolbox sessions twice a term. We would have five or six different sessions running on these nights and staff would choose which they would attend. They were run largely by our “Super Moodlers” but were not entirely Moodle related. The staff resource was our own. We didn’t use external facilitators for training. There is enough expertise within your own building.
We cultivated the early adopters and innovators by grouping them together in Laptop Teachers groups in the early years of 1:1 implementation. This allowed expertise to develop more quickly in what would soon become our “Super Moodler” group.
We still have a vibrant E-learning committee whose members are encouraged to innovate and share new practice.
It is inevitable that there will be staff who are slow to come on board. Resistant staff have been overcome by the push and expectation set up by other staff, students and parents. Eventually they just have to come on board. We didn’t waste too much energy trying to convince them to get their courses online. At the end of the year their student survey results and Moodle feedback showed a very clear area for improvement and they could not avoid it any longer. For some of these staff the major impetus for change was when students gave them the feedback, “We need a Moodle course for this subject.”
9. Don’t assume the digital natives know what they are doing
Mark Prensky’s pervasive term, Digital Natives, is in our experience slightly misplaced. Students may have grown up with ICT but that does not mean they know how to use it effectively. We have set up ICT bootcamp courses that give students the skills they need to manage their devices. Our students have full admin rights to the computers so they can, and do, manage to clog them up with “dodgy” software and viruses. They struggle to manage the operating system and keep the device running efficiently. We have fluctuated between “lock them down and not let manage the device” to “let them learn from their mistakes”. We have tried both and there are definite benefits wtih the latter.
10.Monitor your progress regularly
“What gets measured gets done.”
“Without data all we have are opinions”
“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes
We have been careful to track our progress every year.
Each year we administer our staff computer use and ICT support survey. This gives feedback to our ICT support team and also allows us to track “staff reported” computer use.
Every three years we carry out a whole school computer use survey where we ask the majority of the student population about their ICT use at school and at home.
We give staff feedback on Moodle use via the P&D process and this data is tracked to look for trends.
This creates small wins, allows staff to see the progress they have made.
11.Create a culture of sharing
Sharing is not optional at our school. When you put something on Moodle it is available for all staff to use. We have no IP at DSC. We don’t want new staff to have to set up a Moodle course for Year 8 Maths from scratch. They simply grab someone else’s course and modify it as they go. All staff have access to all courses. The system is very open from a staff member’s login.
So are we there yet?
We are now at the point were more students are telling us they would like to use computers less rather than more. Our next challenge is to focus more on the quality rather than quantity use of ICT.
Feedback from students indicates that they want to use ICT more for collaboration and less for independent learning. We are making extensive use off google apps for education students are asking for more. This is usually a sign that we on the right track.
In terms of keeping staff using ICT our challenge now is to hold the gains. It cannot be underestimated the desire for some staff to “back slide” to the old ways of working. While we are confident that use of ICT and Moodle are part of our culture and culture is defined as, “the way we do things around here” there is always a danger in assuming that a change is embedded before that is actually the case. We will keep the foot on the accountability pedal awhile longer.
Contributing to this challenge of embedding a new way of working is the influx of new staff. New staff at our school do find the learning curve of Moodle steep. Our teacher training institutions are not doing well in skilling staff with the ability to use a Learning Management System in their teaching. Our graduate teachers have little or no experience of putting curriculum online and seem more versed in 20th century pedagogy than they are in the use of ICT when every student has a device that the students expect to use for learning.
For new teachers classroom management in general is always a challenge but their ability to manage a class using ICT is an added test. For some it is easier to just revert to pen and paper, worksheets and text books as they seem more in tune with this method of instruction than using 1:1 devices.
Has it worked?
Our aim was not to become a 1:1 school for the sake of becoming a 1:1 school. Our aim with using technology was always to improve student learning. Student learning is still largely measured by pen and paper based standardized tests; VCE and NAPLAN in particular. How has the push for online learning affected VCE and NAPLAN results at DSC?
When John Hattie, the godfather of evidence based, know thy impact, data analysis looked at our NAPLAN and VCE results his assessment could be paraphrased as “you appear to punching above your weight”. Since becoming a 1:1 school our SFO and ISCES number, as measured by the myschool website, has headed in a “more disadvantaged” direction. Our student cohort has become poorer and more disadvantaged. Our NAPLAN and VCE results have improved though.
|2015 7 to 9 Growth
||GRAMMAR & PUNCTUATION
|2015 State Growth
|2015 DSC Growth
|Us vs State 2015
While we know that NAPLAN and VCE are not the “be all and end all” in terms of measures of student learning they are indicators that what you are doing is working on one level.
Where to next.
We are 1:1. Every student has a device. They bring it to every lesson. Their curriculum is online, their results are online and their due dates are online. But what do we do next? What do we see as the next challenges and innovation in the use of ICT?
This seems to be a new “buzzword” in the education industry which always makes us tread carefully. We have dabbled already in gamification with interesting results. Read about how we “Gamified NAPLAN Preparation” this year. Adding game elements to courses is something we will encourage staff to experiment with. It shows real promise in cultivating engagement.
Again it seems to be a “flavour of the month” term. “Are you doing flipped learning at your school?” The concept appealed to me. I tried it with my Year 10 Science Class on the topic of learning how to balance chemical equations.
My traditional approach to teaching this is to explain the concept to class. The class listens, takes notes and comes to grips with the concept. I then move into the guided practice phase of the lesson. Some simple examples of equations to balance are provided and the students work on them. I am there, at hand, to help the students when they get into difficulty. The class then moves into the independent practice part of the lesson. I give them 20 or so equations to balance that gradually increase in complexity. By this time the bell normally goes and most of the independent practice is carried out at home. If the student gets stuck they are on their own.
The Flipped model works like this, (in Theory). Teacher finds someone on YouTube who can explain the concept well. There are some amazing teachers on You Tube who can certainly explain balancing chemical equations as well as I can. I actually used a “Lazy teacher tactic” and asked students to find 2 videos themselves and post them in a discussion forum on Moodle. I then picked the best one for the whole class to watch for homework. The students then learn the new concept at home by watching the video, taking notes or doing a simple quiz set by the teacher. The new direct instruction is actually done at home. The students then came into class and were supposed to go straight into the guided practice phase of the lesson and independent practice phase in class. This way if they have difficulty there is a teacher, a guide on the side, there to help.
My initial trials of flipped learning with my own classes have had mixed success. For the students who do the “flipped learning” and watch the video and do the quiz at home, it was a winner. Unfortunately many of our Year 10 students didn’t take that opportunity. Ah well. Another silver bullet misses the mark but flipped learning definitely has some promise.
Competency based certification (badges).
A defined skill or competence like the example above “Ability to balance chemical equations” can be set up to be taught and tested on moodle. When a student completes this competency they can be awarded a badge. Badges can be used to qualify for other courses. By earning competencies and certification the theory is that students will be more motivated and will take more responsibility for their own learning.
The national curriculum now includes some forms of coding as a compulsory skill from grade 3 onwards. We need to plan what this will look like in our school.
An ongoing challenge for us is to get parents more involved in the online education process. We have experimented with a Parent Role in Moodle but have had little success. We now just share the student’s login with parents so they can login if they want to and see what the student sees. Linking Moodle to our student admin system still remains an unresolved problem. It is fair to say we have not had great success getting our parent community to significantly engage with online learning.
We make little use of student’s mobile devices. They have them. They bring them to class but we don’t allow them to connect them to our network. Many staff are reluctant to let students use phones in class at all.
|Q14. Do you have internet access on your phone?
|Don’t own a phone
|Q15. Do you regularly bring your smart phone to school?
|No, don’t bring it to school.
|I don’t have a smart phone
Social Media is another untapped resource that most students access every day. Can we integrate Moodle or our admin system, Sentral, with Facebook? That would certainly increase student interaction with the systems.
Q13. What sort of social media do you use (Can be at home or at school, on your computer or your phone.)
||Use a couple of times a week.
||Use a couple of times a month.
||Have an account but rarely use it.
||Never heard of it or don’t use it.
The other major challenge for all schools is simply to keep up with the rapid advances in both the hardware and software that are constantly emerging. There are fads to be avoided and innovations to be adopted and always the choice between the two to be made.
Is flipped learning a fad or a positive innovation that will improve student learning? Is gamification the next big thing or just a flash in the pan? Can we use facebook, twitter and snapchat as a powerful learning tool or will this be another dead end or a distraction?
Who knows, but as educators we must remain curious and open to innovation.
The content we teach has not changed much but the way we can teach it certainly has.