At the Partners in Learning Forum, I was with a small group of the media who received an overview of the results from the 2011 ITL Research Report. A summary of the research findings appears below.
- Innovative teaching supports students’ development of the skills that will help them thrive in future life and work.
- However, students’ opportunities to develop these skills are typically scarce and uneven, both within and across the sample of schools in the study.
- While ICT use in teaching is becoming more common, ICT use by students in their learning is still an exception.
- Innovative teaching practices are more likely to flourish when particular supportive conditions are in place:
- Teacher collaboration that focuses on peer support and the sharing of pedagogical approaches
- Professional development that involves the active engagement of teachers, particularly in practicing and researching new teaching methods
- A school culture that offers a common vision of innovation and consistently encourages new types of teaching
- Researchers observed examples of innovative teaching at the classroom level.
- However, coherent and integrated support for the adoption of innovative teaching was lacking in most of the schools and all of the systems in this study.
The entire report is available at the link above and is interesting reading. Schools from seven countries participated to generate the research data that lead to the report and this summary. While the focus was on innovation, I suspect that the results above could be drawn from most research into the use of technology in the classroom.
During the overview, I took a picture of one of the slides. The question was “Why is ICT Integration Hard?” (Please excuse the light fixture creeping in on the picture.
My first reaction, and I made the point to the presenter was the word “integration”. It’s one of those words where I think we know what it means but its very use implies something else. It’s the implication that it’s something added to the educational process.
We don’t talk about integrating pencils or paper or basketballs or lathes or calculators or so many other things into classroom instruction. It’s just the way that things are done.
I showed this picture to a friend of mine whose reaction was interesting. He indicated that, as long as we’re researching this topic and presenting these results, they serve as an excuse for not using technology. As we talked, we went through the list and substituted “basketball” into the chart.
Why is Basketball Integration so hard?
- lack basketballs for students – we can’t do drills unless we have 1:1;
- insufficient time to prepare for the use of basketball – what happens if a student comes up with a unique way of dunking a baseketball?;
- not enough professional development on the use of basketballs – we need to fully understand everything that could happen with a basketball before we use it;
- lack basketballs for teachers – how can I teach it if I can’t prepare at home?;
- basketball nets are not reliable – often they’re torn;
- outdated basketballs – these things are often up to 10 years old – I know they still bounce but not as well as the newer basketballs;
- difficult to access basketballs – the other phys ed teacher has them booked;
- lack basketball-supported resources – we need a source of best practice lesson plans for the use of basketballs;
- weak basketball courts – some are wood, some are rubberized, some are tiled;
- not enough technical support – what happens when something goes wrong? There is absolutely nothing I can do with a basketball and students if one of the nets is broken;
- basketballs vandalized – they are often under-inflated or dirty;
- basketballs not supported by my vice-principal or principal – dribbling is not on the standardized test.
As we were creating the list, we were laughing at the images that came to mind. In reality, we would never accept any of those excuses for not using basketballs in a physical education program. And yet, somehow it’s perfectly acceptable to use these as excuses for not using technology in the classroom.
Now, obviously, there are some scenarios that make it difficult (like not having any technology at all) but when I think of people who are successful, they don’t consider that they’re integrating anything. It’s just the way things are done. Very few people have the luxury of a 1:1 program and the resources needed to sustain it. However, good and powerful teaching methods make technology an integral part of everything that happens. It’s just the way they do business. There are times when things go wrong but that’s real life.
The report is focussed on innovative use of technology but that will only happen when the technology starts being used in a meaningful way. Schools can’t sit around waiting for the perfect combination of everything; chances are it will never happen. If we really believe that technology has a place in the classroom, it needs to be used and celebrated for the success that it can have at the readiness level of both student and teacher. That makes it so much easier to ask for more and for better.
The next Michael Jordan may just be sitting on the bench chomping at the bit to show what he can do.
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