Yesterday I wrote briefly about my school going google and it prompted me to think about the things I missed most and the things I took for granted that I now don't have access to yet. It's not that the technology isn't here, it is. It's just that people haven't yet thought about what it could do for the school and the students here.
I have my year 10's working on a data analysis project where they need to find some data relevant to an area of interest to them or relevant to one of the suggested topic. They have to work out a research question and then respond to this question using the data they have found. It's quite a challenging project when students haven't been exposed to raw data sets before and their understanding of how technology can help them wade through to find and manipulate the relevant data is limited. Just showing them a simple =counta formula has simplified their task and they are amazingly grateful for this. It just highlights for me that as an IT teacher from the past (don't tell anyone!) I may have had to teach formulas when I was 'teaching' Excel but now when there is need for the technology to do a job their desire to learn the formula is much higher. I know this seems like I'm stating the obvious but this is the main crux of the power of technology in education.
This project also requires the students to work in teams and communication between team members is often a challenge. They have class time and then another week to submit their poster but inevitably when there is a team member missing the others aren't sure who is doing what and the communication is lacking. In today's age the mobile phone and a simple txt or facebook message or an email should do the trick but there seems to be barriers here that I didn't encounter in my previous 'high tech school'. One of the boys arrived and his partner was away on a school excursion. He had no idea what needed to be done so I suggested he send a txt to find out. In this school though, phones are banned during school hours. There's probably very good reasons for this and it does seem to make everything more orderly but it does limit the options for communication. I had to persuade this student that I would have his back if he got caught sending the message. I take for granted that a students phone is a useful means of accessing information. It still is but there's work to be done on 'appropriate use' before it can become the norm.
The availability of technology does not solve the problem or enhance the learning but the understanding of when it is best used does. There's a number of things I miss that technology enhances. Mostly this is around communication and collaboration. And mostly it is about the work that can be done with students as they embark on applying their knowledge and understanding.
As I reflect over the past couple of weeks I know I'm looking at this school through a different lens than most that are here. It is often easier to see the possibilities when you are not ingrained in the culture of your work environment. I see many possibilities here and am searching for my own solutions where I can use technology to make things better.