Classrooms online: The new ICT gap

This past week I had been scheduled to speak at another TeachMeetWA event and I'd chosen to talk about the advantages of setting up a class website. Unfortunately the 'back pain' powers that be felt differently and I was unable to present in person. Rather than be totally defeated, I was able to record some narration over my keynote and still be able to get my message across. Gotta love technology!

Unless you've been successfully living under a rock for the past five years, you would be aware that the quantity and diversity of technological skills first encouraged and now, dare I say, expected from teachers has exponentially multiplied. For some this is an exciting challenge and for many, it is simply a challenge.

As much as I am confident I'd fit into the former category I would comment that if the tables were turned and the topic of expected knowledge was, let's say, learning to speak 'Cantonese' fluently; I'm not sure I would be as excited and I would certainly understand feelings of doubt, insecurity and even intimidation at others if they were able to speak it seemingly easily and quickly.

Creating a class website during my mid year holidays last year, was without a doubt, one of the most professionally fulfilling and technologically challenging things I've ever achieved. I had so much fun and I still am, each time I update, tweak or discover a new way to embed media or share information successfully. It's even been good for me in a self-promoting sense because it enables me to put my expertise out there. As teachers, we are accustomed to doing fantastic things; albeit inside a classroom where only those you speak to or work with are able to get a sense of the amazing learning that occurs. Having my website has begun to change that, which was one of my original goals.

Many teachers and schools are currently in the throes of the practical implications of the technology revolution. And make no mistake, the revolution is knocking on every educator's door, and knocking LOUDLY. Soon I will be presenting to staff at my school some ideas and ways for getting their own class website up and running - a driving reason I chose to explore the topic for TeachMeetWA and so that I could really examine what the advantages are.

I go into specific detail about the positive aspects of making a class website in the keynote above so I won't repeat them here, but what I will say is this; 'Education Luddites, your time is up'. Be brave, be confident, be unafriad of self-promotion, be engaged, be positive, be proactive and really, BE A LEARNER. We teach and work hard, don't make the mistake of thinking you know enough - we'd never encourage this complacency in our students, so why allow it of ourselves?

Being ICT savvy isn't about magically knowing how to fix tech issues (although this helps!), it's not even about substituting pen and paper for BookCreator and AudioBoo apps. It's about complementing your teaching expertise and content via digital means to collectively improve the learning experience. That's it. It's not about making a presentation pretty or recording copious amounts of iMovies. Is what you are using the technology for, improving student's learning outcome and addressing the curriculum content?

In website creation terms, what's your real purpose? For me, I wanted to share both the digital and handmade work of my students with a wider audience. Simple. I just used technology to do that. I learn something new from ICT every week. I learn because I want to and because I seek out strategies and I accept that I don't know everything there is to know. I ask questions, I Google technological problems, I talk to colleagues and I engage in lots of trial and error. This is my professional commitment, not some talent I was just born with.

So, how do you close the ICT gap in teachers? It's not about skills training or one-off PD events or even supplying schools with fabulous mobile devices. It is about commitment. And that's something I'm still figuring out how to teach.

JS

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