My boss forwarded the above mentioned policy for me to read through and evaluate a while back. It outlines the South Australian education system's proposed view forward in the world of educational technology until 2008. The draft policy is open for feedback until November 3O so my goal here is to create my own blog review which I may or may not send in to DECS Head Office.
The cover letter puts the proposed policy in context by reviewing The National Goals for Schooling in the Twenty-first Century, published in 1999 which stated:
All students will leave school as confident, creative and productive users of new technologies, including ICT [information and communication technologies] and understand the impact of those technologies on society.
Now whether that goal reflects current reality in South Aussie classrooms is open for debate. A lot of initiatives have come and gone in that 1999 - 2005 timeframe, and what was important for kids then has certainly evolved to today where Read/Write technology, social software and open source solutions are just nibbling at the edges of mainstream. Educational change cannot occur without teachers to provide the momentum - but let's face the facts, if you're reading educational blogs (let alone posting to your own), you are in the group of educators commonly referred to as "early adopters." Anyway, let's see what it says.
This sets the scene. Mention is made of students growing up is a digital world and there is a line drawn defining the technology (ICT) and what learners do with that technology (e-learning). This should help clarify the differing terms bandied around in schools over the last few years. IT sounded like a business term and Learnirg Technologies was too vague. (My friend, Lindsay would point out that a photocopier was a Learning Technology!) There is also reference to international research that backs up the use of ICT but surely there is Australian research that is more relevant. Why not reference the action research work done by our own teachers in the PLICT program? But I definitely agree with the final sentence in the section:
All educators have a responsibility to engage in e-learning to improve learning outcomes for today's children and tomorrow's global citizens.
In my view, there are still too many teachers who see ICT as an optional extra in the classroom, who think the teacher-librarian is the sole provider of information literacy skills. They have to accept the responsibility or re-evaluate their commitment to education.
VISION and POLICY STATEMENT
I'll review these two statements together because they represent the ideals not the implementation. The vision rightly focuses on the pedagogy and is open enough to include opportunities still to appear or be developed. Both statements acknowledge the need to participate in learning beyond our own Australian borders. How much interaction with the outside world that translates to in the classroom will be interesting to see.
CRITICAL SUCCESS FACTORS
This is an interesting section where the varying factors - educators, leaders, parents, content and environment - are all lined up with their critical dot points. Now I fall clearly into the first section so it's interesting that five out of the six dot points can be demonstrated via blogging. I think I would like to see the fourth point:-
· encourage participation and identity in online communities amended to
· encourage and model through active participation and development of own identity in online communities
It's a bit unrealistic for us to expect that students will develop participation and community identity through encouragement alone. Through our own experiences, we will be more effective guides - it's a bit like having a sports coach who's never played the sport he or she is now responsible for. It's interesting that one of the dot points for leaders is :
· participate in online communities
Why wouldn't that be a requirement for all educators from the Chief Executive down?
Most of the points are in recognition of the challenges in the immediate and longer term future. Recognition of keeping students safe online is a very important and topical issue at present and it would be very helpful to acknowledge the need for the teaching of skills and strategies to address this, rather than focussing solely on filters and firewalls.
The e-learning environment has an interesting reference to appropriate bandwidth which is separate from another point which talks about:-
· online connection anywhere and at any time
-: I'm not too sure why these two points have to mutually exclusive, and if the latter point is a vague way of addressing students who only have online access at school. There is definitely a digital divide amongst students in our schools and the more there are expectations of student learning shifting to an e-learning environment, the more disadvantaged the students on the wrong side of the divide. Any policy has to do more than just hint at this issue.
Now I'm not in the position of deciding where DECS funds should be spent but I'd hate to see expensive LMS solutions, restrictive software agreements and excessive investment in large scale Learning Objects taking preference to finding real solutions to address teacher expertise in e-learning and ensuring strategies are in place to give all learners equal bite of the e-learning access cherry. Get that right and this policy should guide DECS in the right direction.