Well, today I attended a South West Metro District ICT Meeting held @ Blackforest Primary School just off South Road here in Adelaide. I haven't been a regular attendee at these due to my teaching commitments during the regular Friday timeslot. But a renewed commitment to making these meetings a work priority and a visit from Wendy Legge and Russell Phillipson from DECS to inform us about the future directions of our esteemed education system in ICT was an important lure. We all settled in the staffroom of the largest R-7 primary school in SA. The meeting was chaired by Judy Anderson, one of the Learning Band Coordinators from the district office and after round the group introductions, it was down to business.
Can't recall how it unfolded but the topic swung around to interactive whiteboards and the DECS official position (or lack of). Wendy made the comment that she didn't believe IWB's would make a difference unless practitioners are going to use it well. Hard to disagree but you could argue that could apply to any new piece of technology. There are of plenty of unused computers sitting in classrooms but there's no talk about taking them out for effective re-deployment. Wendy even said (and I'm sure that I'm not misquoting here) but she was still to be convinced that the job of an IWB couldn't be effectively covered by the use of a data projector and a good multimedia computer. I could feel the karma of last night's blog post coming back to get me - I immediately thought of Will Richardson's Tablet PC program. There's still a lot of convincing to do. I soon had my opportunity. Judy called me out as being from a school in the midst of an IWB rollout and before I really got my thoughts into gear, started to describe, and justify at the same time, our program. I mean there was a mixture of interest and healthy skepticism from the othe participants but that's good. I do have to be prepared to defend, no justify, my school's decisions and in forums like this, everyone's technological savvy is pretty even. So they want to know - what led you to your choices, what proof do you have of improved learning for students, where do you find the money? So that was my ten minutes in the spotlight. I don't think I was too much of a rabbit.
Anyway, Russell and Wendy then gave us the lowdown on a lot of what's high on the DECS agenda. There was a plug for CEGSA - their quarterly journal Rampage was acknowledged as a good way to keep abreast of things ICT. I've just joined CEGSA. Well, sent my application form in anyway. I've never depended on one source for keeping up to date and so I've been loathe to tie myself to an official professional organisation. But as my dabbling in blogs has shown me, there is infinitely more to gain by interacting with others compared to just working things out by myself.
Next stop was the latest on the Learning Federation (a lot of federal money sunk into this) where they hope to have 4000 learning objects available for free download from mid 2OO7. Russell talked about emailing us details about the BELTS server to access the 1000 objects that are currently housed there.
Objects are searchable via the LMS, using key words or SACSA reference points. Interestingly, the Learning Federation resources are available to non-government schools. I suppose it's because of the federal funding angle.
There was a mention of a learning gateway Scholaris from Microsoft. Didn't really know anything about that but blogging educators might be able to inform me.
Vicki, from Cowandilla PS, expressed some of the frustrations with accessing DECS resources for Mac schools. While my school is very much PC based, I can sympathise with her sentiments.
In '03, all South Australian schools participated in a statewide online ICT skills survey. I recall my staff coming in above the state average which was a bit worrying from the point of view of other schools. I still see a lot of basic skills on site that have scope for heaps of improvement. However the 2006 version will have the capability to generate individual reports, or to identify key areas across the staff profile. I think you can choose to take out site-irrelevant sections as well. Still it is only the first step towards the main goal. Russell talked about the 4 steps to integration of ICT into teaching and learning. (1) Skills, (2) improve performance, (3) making changes and then (4) transforming practices.
The remainder of the meeting involved touching on a variety of issues. They involved:-
- a new tab on our Educonnect system called EdCap which could become part of Performance Management within schools.
- feedback from educators is being sought on draft Statements of Learning and the new E-learning policy.
- the flagging of the NetAlert package on internet safety.
- a look at the ACT Emerging Technologies policy.
The meeting wound up with one attendee expressing some frustration in knowing what was coming out from DECS. Russell pointed out three websites of importance - E-learning, TSOF and MCEETYA. Actually if these sites all provided a rss feed then anything new comes straight to you. Web 2. 0 will solve the problem.