Promoting a Culture of Change in Schools

Teaching Strategies

By Michael Hilkemeijer

There are many factors that influence the development of ICT capability. In addition to the school’s ICT policy, a school’s culture must be one that has a strong belief that using ICT can promote teaching and learning. It also needs to understand that it can also “increase the efficiency of the day-to-day activities within the school and generally improve the quality of the school’s performance” (Kennewell, Parkinson, & Tanner, 2000, p. 59). The strength of an ICT culture within a school is a very powerful force in determining the direction of a school.

Today, various cultures exists and while some are open to change and have an experimental approach others have an approach that favours traditional methods with an emphasis of tried and tested techniques. Both have positives and negatives, however, if a 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, Parkinson, & Tanner, 2000, p. 59). These days more and more industrial, professional and business occupations require a basic understanding of ICT rather than specific knowledge, which has a short working life. There is a need to prepare students for a life of constant change resulting from the progress of technology.

Change, as Harrison (1998) states, is an intriguing part of the human experience. In schools, it can be met very differently with teachers disliking it and finding it difficult to accept it and thus entailing poor results. The other side of teacher attitudes is more successful in the implementation of ICT.  Despite this, 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). Furthermore, we cannot separate the internal problems of schooling from the external changes in society on a global scale. We need a new kind of school for the 21st century. In Abbott’s (2001, p. 46) discussion about the need for change he quotes Postman and Weingartner (1971, p. 13) in relation to schools resistant to change:

“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.”

 

Achieving Change

For change to occur in schools, there needs to be more than just exposure to ICT when using it to enhance learning. Although, having the equipment and meeting the technical requirements is necessary, it is not sufficient. Change can only be achieved through the use of tried and tested teaching strategies to support ICT. Sutherland et al. (2009) emphasises that teachers are the key and therefore require effective professional development in ICT. She states that there is much for them to learn when exploiting ICT in the classroom and that “incorporating ICT frequently challenges well-established ways of teaching” (p. 6). For some, it can be painful experience.

Learning can only be enhanced with ICT when teachers are able to “analyse and understand the potentialities of different ICT tools as they relate to the practices and purposes of their subject teaching, and when these tools are deployed appropriately for their students” (Sutherland, Robertson, & John, 2009, p. 6). It is worthwhile noting that through professional development in ICT, your teachers will be able to orchestrate the use of ICT, the interactions around it and their own interventions.

As an ICT coordinator, you then need to ensure that you look after your own needs in order to deliver the best advice and support to your staff. Be sure to keep up-to-date with the latest technological developments, curriculum resources and your own ICT capability. Research has indicated (Kennewell, Parkinson, & Tanner, 2000) that many of your colleagues in leadership roles in ICT valued opportunities to explore and discuss resources with the aim of disseminating to others.

The ICT coordinator is the vital link between the school’s initiative and drive that should be provided by senior management, on one hand, and “teachers who will bring about the improvements in the classroom, on the other. It is important to identify exactly how that linking role might best be achieved in each particular school” (Kennewell, Parkinson, & Tanner, 2000, p. 87). 

The culture of the school plays a strong role in how the community views the success of the school in terms of ICT capability. Today, with the integration of ICT into classrooms is becoming more widespread amongst educational institutions making more difficult for schools to compete in the area of digital literacy readiness. As the ICT coordinator, your role in the development of student ICT capability at the school is crucial not only for the students' well-being but for the schools too.

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