Some Thoughts on – The 7 Current Trends in ICT and education – Gary Putland

A few weeks ago I attended the CEGSA AGM 2010 and was  lucky enough to hear Gary Putland speak about his research and what he sees as the 7 current trends in to watch in IT in education.  Among those trends were:

  1. Better ICT skills for teachers
  2. Changes in Professional Development being brought about by blogging and social networking
  3. Assessment
  4. Learning Spaces
  5. Bringing communities into schools digitally
  6. Emerging Literacies
  7. Personalisation.

Each of these points was very interesting particularly to someone, like me, who is hearing this with the knowledge and culture of an entirely different education system in her head.  Conversations about how to develop the I.T. skills of teachers are clearly universal and affect schools all over the world.  The idea that the states have set up sites which ask teachers to complete a survey which rates their abilities seems intriguing to me.  Particularly if that information is then used to make intelligent choices on how to further that teacher’s development in that area. I am sure alot of teachers would welcome that kind of support.  Especially if they were given the time and resources to actually make the changes happen.  Those resources, Putland suggests, are changing too.  He muted the point that perhaps we are moving to a more “in house” style of CPD; something I had already started to see happening in the UK.   What was new for me was the idea that it was the teachers’ responsibility to network online, research and read blogs to find solutions to their own I.T. related development.  Now this is something that really appeals to me.  Indeed, that is the center of a lot of my development as a teacher.

There have been so many conversations about how to share best practice amongst schools both in a local authority (UK) and inside one establishment.  Blogging, forums and Tweets are a great way to share resources, ideas and inspire each other.  It’s how I’ve found out most of what I’ve taught myself.  It’s interesting that the government here are talking about that in terms of CPD.  Usually, you have to go on a course, collect the certificate (and the T-shirt if you will) before those hours count.  How much development time have I gathered just reading the net, talking to people at conferences and in forums?  Just imagine if that counted.

Taking that one step forward was the idea that teachers who contribute regularly to that cycle of shared good practice through regularly blogging or sharing their expertise with others should be able to gain credit towards higher educational certificates such as a masters.  Now, in Australia i have heard it suggested that the papers I have written could be credited towards such a thing but never my blog or teacher technologies.  When you consider it though, what is the real difference between a well written, well sourced blog and an official white paper? Apparently, in some parts of the U.S. teachers are already gaining credit for their work.  After all, they are a valuable resource and they should be rewarded and encouraged to continue their efforts. He cites MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resources for Learning and Online Teaching) as a great place to start if you’re looking for some CPD yourself.

Assessment is a particularly interesting topic for me.  What with the new National Curriculum for Australia being discussed and re-written at the moment it is also a very important one for Australian teaching professionals.  Putland reminded us that if “assessment reflects what you value in learning” perhaps we ought to rethink the way we assess? The new SACE curriculum is providing secondary teachers an opportunity, as one CEGSA member put it, to ” reinvigorate the subject” {science and maths} The idea that we are teaching a student to get to from A to Uni is one that is starting to cause concern and debate as the value of creativity and innovation in pupils work rises in the world outside the classroom.

A massive question about what 21st Century learning looks like has to be raised here and it is at this point that I found myself feeling that familiar buzz of interest, engagement and excitement.  The Partnership for 21st Century Learning (based in the U.S) have developed this model as a framework for 21st Century Learning.

Framework for 21st Century Learning

Framework for 21st Century Learning

The arch on the outside of the standard academic subjects is what excites me most.  The idea that pupils will be developed as more than just academic machines aiming to hit target grades and scores (alot of pressure in this regard in the UK  -heading that way in AUS). The new national curriculum for England and Wales has, in fairness, begun to address one of these issues (life and career skills) after recieving a lot of pressure from the workplace about the inadequacy of school to prepare pupils for work.  The Every Child Matters agenda and the integration of PLTS (personal learning and thinking skils) has helped to ensure that schools are at least accountable for the personal development of every child in their school.  Not all schools, however, pay as much attention to this area as they ought.  Shenley Academy is one example of a school in the West Midlands (UK) who does this really well. Their website currently has a video playing on it’s home page in which the students will, after explaining about how they created the school’s new logo, talk your through their Learning for Life programme.  In fact, I’m in it too teaching a session!  As a former employee, I know from first hand experience that life skills are something that is way up on Shenley’s agenda.  Each pupil in the school completes a course in Learning for Life.  In Keystage 3 (Years 7-9) pupils are given a one hour tutorial in these skills everyweek.  All pupils also have a 20 minutes tutor lead tutorial every week where they are asked to practice or develop the skills that they will need in every life.  The school uses the Student Coaching, Learning for Life program and seems to be reaping the rewards as pupils are explicitlty taught team work as well as independent learning, reflective learning, Creative learning and many more skills needed to be sucessful both at school and in their everyday life.  A very positive step in the right direction.

what the Learning for Life skills sessions do fail to cover however, is Information, Media and technology skills.  These are taught as part of the National Curriculum in English, ICT and (optional) Media lessons. The next question this raises was point 6, the idea of emerging literacies.

If you say “Literacy” to a teacher from the UK it is quite likely that the first words that spring to mind will be “Reading and Writing”. Born from years of “Literacy strategies“, “literacy hours” and literacy across the curriculum I am yet to see anyone in a school think about Literacy in the way Putland described it.  Literacies have changed, he suggested, to mean a lot more than just reading and writing.  These days you have to be computer literate. Indeed most of the reading my students do is online or on their mobile phone.  Should the over arching term literacy change to include these important skills? Charles Leadbeater’s What’s Next presentation is an incredibly interesting read on this subject whilst looking at what schools are for and how it is possible to see things a little differently.

Flexible learning environments and the idea that every child will have their own point of access with a net book, Ipad, Ipod Touch etc were also discussed along with how this could impact on personalised learning.  All in all this was very interesting talk which gave me a rare insight into how Australia seems to see itself in terms of technology.

Thank you Gary Putland 🙂  You got me thinking 🙂

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