A school’s ICT culture can be a very powerful force in determining the direction of a school. It is a combination of a realisation of relationships, beliefs, attitudes and the ideologies of all those who work in the school. By this, of course, I mean not just the teaching staff but also senior management. For it is without their support that you will not be able to ensure the effective integration of ICT in students’ learning – a key role of being a teacher-librarian.
This poses a challenging task for you. However, if your school is to move forward along with the changing nature of the world of work, “it must be prepared to adopt a culture that prepares its students for change” (Kennewell et al., 2000, p. 59).
A common issue in many schools today is the mix of these attitudes, beliefs and ideologies especially in the teaching staff as it is they who will ultimately help you achieve your goals in ICT. Those resistant to change need to understand that the more traditional structures and modes of teaching are becoming less and less responsive to the challenges of our turbulent times (Semenov, 2005). Innovation and transformation are being expected of educators everywhere, especially in Primary education, which is “the most crucial stage in the development of a human being” (Semenov, 2005, p. 18).
- First year teachers – come with a whole new range of teaching practices in ICT integration;
- Teachers who have been there for a couple of years – sometimes have mixed beliefs and attitudes and;
- Teachers who have been there at the school forever and have a long experience in teaching – at times, can be stuck in the teaching strategies that they know will work for them.
Your school might have a mix of these or could just include one of these types of people. Which one sounds familiar to you?
In whatever the case, they are not helping your cause.
Teaching ICT and writing about ICT teaching strategies for a number of years I can certainly sympathise with you.
Part of making change happen is challenging the teaching practices of teachers at your school. This is great for those who are stuck in the past. You will learn more about this when you enrol in our accredited ICT leadership course.
Let me tell you a story of a primary school principal called Dr. Spike Cook. His story highlights how good ICT leadership can shift change at a school. Spike embraced innovative technological integration strategies and set an example for his colleagues and students. He realised that for change to happen, he needed to set a vision for both himself and the school.
Spike began by taking a reflective look at the school’s ICT culture. He saw himself as a visitor to the school and thought about the things he would see and those he would like to see.
“The institution we call ‘school' is what it is because we made it that way. If it is irrelevant, as Marshall McLuhan says; if it shields children from reality, as Norbert Wiener says; if it does not develop intelligence, as Jerome Bruner says; if it is based on fear, as John Hold says; if it avoids the promotion of significant learning, as Carl Rogers says; if it punishes and creativity and independence……in short, if it is not doing what needs to be done, it can be changed, it must be changed.”
Postman and Weingartner (1971, p. 13)
What Spike found was exactly what he had expected – a mix of beliefs and attitudes towards ICT integration at the school. He identified the five stages of technology adopters listed by Rogers (2012). These included:
- Innovators, who see technology’s potential and take risks to incorporate it
- Early adopters, who model successful integration of technology
- Early majority, who think carefully before incorporating technology, and usually do not collaborate
- Late majority, who are influenced by peers and external incentives
- Laggards, who resist change and have few resources to support change.
As a result, he implemented a strategy for late adopters and reluctant technology users.
Another thing which he carried out was the modelling of technology integration to encourage his teachers and staff members to use technology. He understood that be a digital leader, he needed to commit to reading information about technology integration strategies daily to set an example to his teachers. He felt that the consistency of his commitment would not only lead to increased personal knowledge, but also build capacity among his teachers.
These were his tips:
- Focus on the teachers and staff, students and the community to explore the importance of building the school;
- Purposeful peer interaction is important along with developing relatable goals and associated outcomes with every change initiative;
- The most effective strategies involve helping teachers and principals develop the instructional and management of change skills necessary for school improvement;
- Teachers are the key and therefore require effective professional development in ICT. Online PD courses is just one input for learning and that ICT leaders must model lifelong learning to their teachers themselves;
- Seeing effective and innovative practices where teachers embrace technology is necessary for success.
I think what I learnt from this story is that achieving change is not ever going to be easy. It’s going to be hard. A long journey and there will be many people who will be reluctant and resistant to it. When I think of your goal in ensuring effective ICT integration in student learning, it reminds me of how important your role is as a teacher-librarian. A strong school ICT culture needs a leader like yourself to demonstrate to your colleagues that change is achievable. Don’t let the excuse of ‘lack of time’ get in your way. In the words of Dr Spike Cook:
“We are in a profession with the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children, leave a lasting impact, motivate them to achieve, instill a sense of lifelong learning, and prepare them for success once they leave our schools. If someone says they don’t have time to work toward change that helps to achieve these goals, then they should question why they are in the field of education. Dedicated educators make the time because it is their job!”
Managing Change in Schools
Learning how to change the culture of a school in the digital era is important as it has a direct impact on student learning. The conditions for change in schools need to be right and include such factors as:
- Readiness for change.
- Knowledge of the current situation.
- Vision and perception of the change in schools.
- Resources and support capacity to support change in schools
- Leadership and commitment to change.
- Cognitive and affective factors impacting the change process
- Reinforcements and incentives for change.
- Factors to ensure sustainability and integration.
Technology adds another dimension to the change process. Technology in schools can vary, however, the effective integration of digital technologies can be achieved with a single computer or digital camera. We encourage the use of this technology in schools that are content-free and generic:
- Word processors.
- Desktop publishers
- Coding programs.
- Web creation programs
- Graphics programs like drawing and painting software.
Yet, technology in schools can serve as a focal point for deciding whether to embrace technology in the classroom or resist change in schools. So leading the change can be very difficult for those leaders in education.
Here are a number of reasons to point out to those who resist change in schools why classroom change in teaching practices is needed today.
No more excuses
We can no longer sustain a school structure built for a time long past. You must think and reflect upon the ways to accomplish established goals as opposed to worrying about the challenges, roadblocks, and pushback that one will surely experience.
Jobs have changed
Globalisation has radically changed over the decades and so change in schools must occur in the face of the challenge if they are to create the next generation of entrepreneurs, scientists, politicians, and engineers who work in a technology-rich and technology-driven world.
The time is right to embrace 21st century pedagogy, curriculum, and instruction
You need to ensure that teachers are provided with the freedom to take risks, knowledge of effective practices, ICT resources to make it happen, and flexibility to incorporate innovative teaching strategies for primary school. You must “lay the foundation to ensure that our students evolve into critical consumers of content; understand the importance of digital citizenship; and possess the ability to create, analyse, and interpret an array of media messages” (Sheninger, 2014, p.57).
I can go on, however, I guess that since you are reading this blog you probably are ready for change. The next step will be learning how to achieve and sustain change at your school through this ICT leadership course for teachers, principals, and ICT leaders at the school.
Completing this course will contribute to 7 hours of NESA registered PD addressing 2.6.3 and 3.4.3 of Australian Professional Standards for Teachers towards maintaining Highly Accomplished teacher accreditation in NSW and Victoria.