Improvement – the Challenge to be Challenged.

 I’ve just had my first glance at the new Elements of Learning resource and whilst I need to dig a little deeper, this seems like a fantastic resource for a school’s leadership team who is looking to leverage the use of Digital Technologies in their teaching and learning program and are looking for a pathway to follow.

 Our school’s journey (Stirling East Primary School in the Lovely Adelaide Hills – South Australia) in this space began way back in 2011.  The iPad 2 had dropped and a whole new world of creative based possibilities opened up in the education space – a true paradigm shift in Digital Technologies engagement, where for the first time, true ‘just in time’ learning could occur with Digital Technologies (the iPad).  When students and teachers identified the iPad as being the best tool for the job – it could be quickly and easily accessed.  This was just one of the many potential opportunities and benefits we saw in using the iPad. 

 Since then our iPad program has evolved and grown.  We now run a BYOiPad program with all students in Primary school encouraged to bring an iPad to school – which equates to just over 90% of our 530 students.  We have been an Apple Distinguished School since 2012 and as a leader I am constantly amazed by the ability and commitment my staff make in leveraging the iPad as a powerful learning tool.  Utilising the iPad in our learning programs is today well and truly embedded in what we do.  Yes – it is an amazing and powerful tool with an endless amount of potential, however my goal has always been to create a culture (and a level of staff expertise) where we view it as being ‘just another tool’ – paper, pen, books, iPads, maths equipment etc etc.  Have we achieved this?  In many ways I believe we have.  A visitor to our school at any given time could wander the corridors (mind you….we don’t actually have any corridors) and would observe classes engaging with their iPads in a variety of ways, for a variety of purposes across a variety of subjects – sometimes with the iPad being front and centre to the learning, other times a supporting resource and of course at other times, not used at all.

 The Challenge to be Challenged

A common terminology across education spheres is the ‘teacher toolkit’ – that virtual bag that contains all that a teacher knows and does.  As I have highlighted above – I am proud of the rather large section of that virtual bag that my staff have filled with their Digital Technologies knowledge.  The challenge, and certainly my challenge as a leader, is to ensure that we continue to fill that toolkit with new opportunities and new learning – to expose my staff to the ‘latest and greatest’ ways to leverage the technology.  In the busy world of a classroom practitioner where time (both in and out the class) is a precious commodity, a teacher could be forgiven for building a skillset and sticking to it – tweaking their utilisation or ways of engaging with their favourite apps or activities – still delivering quality experiences but ultimately playing in a known and safe space.  

 There are a multitude of priorities that compete for a teacher’s time – Departmental demands, Literacy and Numeracy improvement, student wellbeing, students with needs and the (more than worthy) list goes on and on.  As a leader you constantly strive to find a balance that stretches the knowledge of your staff – striving for improvement, but also being acutely aware of their wellbeing and ensuring that as a school we don’t end up doing many things poorly as opposed to a few things really well.  Throw a COVID pandemic into the mix and the last couple of years have been a delicate balance in this space.  The question is not about the teacher’s willingness to engage in challenging and new learning in the Digital Tech space but more so their capacity.  As such, knowing how and when to provide this challenge needs to be a strategic and carefully considered approach.  

 

Recently two of my class teachers attended a two day Apple event around leadership – which they can back buzzing about.  The day focused around the Elements of Learning and Elements of Leadership books.  As part of the training they were introduced to the Elements of Learning Rubric – an engaging, yet simple rubric, that can be used by teachers to critically appraise lessons/units of work where digital technologies are utilised and reflect (or plan) as to whether they are squeezing the most out of the tech.  Both myself and the two teachers saw this as a brilliant tool for our staff to critically reflect on our current engagement and potentially identify common elements across cohorts or the school that could do with a spotlight of improvement.  They highlighted that whilst in-house run professional development where staff are exposed to new apps or ‘new ways of doing’ are great – they can be hit and miss in their effectiveness.  A targeted strategic approach, facilitated by the Elements of Learning Rubric, would provide clarity of specific PD relevant to all.  What’s more – they were keen to lead and drive its implementation (always better coming from peers rather than someone from Leadership!).  We have just started this process – introducing the rubric to our members of our Digital Tech Improvement team with a view to each of them then heading back to their PLC’s (Professional Learning Communities) to ‘have a go’ at completing the rubric against a lesson.  The Challenge to be challenged starts here!

 Whether you are a school at the beginning of your journey in this space, or ten years down the road, the challenge to build and maintain capacity, enthusiasm and quality is ongoing.  I feel like we are about to embark on an exciting process - watch this space!

Chris Bennie

Twitter: @cbennie

Tagged in: iPad, Leadership

All Comments

Posted on October 29, 2022

I'm looking forward to hearing more about how this process is going! I really appreciated the focus of your post on the "challenge to be challenged" when it comes to consistently searching for innovative ways to use the edtech tools available to us for instruction. You've got me feeling inspired to use this as a reflective lens for my own work. Thanks for your post!

Posted on November 07, 2022

I agree, the elements of learning and leadership books are great to have in your toolkit. I think it will also be important to emphasis that not all lessons can have all elements - teachers would burn out.

Looking forward to hearing how the PLCs go.

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