Archive for the ‘ICT leadership’ Category

Innovate through connections

connection

Recently I watched an interesting interview with Harper Reed who was the chief technology officer for Barack Obama Presidential election campaign.

Reed describes himself as ‘an engineer who builds paradigm-shifting technology’. He also loves ‘using the enormity of the Internet to bring people together’.

What I really found interesting in this interview is that a self-confessed geek thinks the time has come for innovation to focus less on technology and more on people.

Reed says that technology has been mostly solved. Sure, technology will continue to move at a rapid pace with many more innovations to come. However we at the point now where we need to focus more on how people work with each other. As Reed says, how do you innovate on working with people?

Part of what Reed is interested in here is connecting diverse groups of people. He sees these connections and collaborations as the seeds of innovation.

I once worked with a history teacher who connected his students to the United Nations via live webcasts of the General Assembly. What a simple yet powerful way to connect his students to the world’s foremost organisation for peacekeeping and human rights! What a powerful way to learn at the same time as history is being written!

Connecting people is one of the key components of Jacaranda’s digital products. assessON, Knowledge Quest, myWorld Atlas, myWorld History Atlas, ProjectsPLUS and studyON connect students with their teachers. This enables teachers to track the progress of their students and to diagnose the strengths and weaknesses.

And there is also scope in myWorld Atlas, myWorld History Atlas and ProjectsPLUS to connect students, and their work, with not only their class mates but with students and teachers all over the world!

The technology has largely been solved.

Now the time has come for us to innovate powerful learning experiences by making the connections between learners.

The Semmelweis reflex

I’ll believe it when I see it!

This is our defensive response when we are asked to believe in something. Show me the visible evidence and only then will I believe you.

Evidence before belief.

Ingaz Semmelweis was a Hungarian doctor who noticed high incidences of infant deaths in Vienna’s maternity hospitals during the 1840’s. He was puzzled as to why there was a much lower incidence of infant death with women giving birth at home.

After conducting a controlled experiment, Semmelweis concluded that mortality rates would improve ten-fold if doctors would wash their hands with a chlorine solution between having contact with infected patients and non-infected patients.

Sounds like common sense, right?

But Semmelweis couldn’t convince other doctors that washing their hands with chlorine solution would dramatically reduce the incidence of death. The other doctors said that his theory lacked reasoning and evidence.

Two decades later Louis Pasteur confirmed the germ theory of disease – that microorganisms are the cause of diseases. Only then were Semmelweis’ findings accepted by the medical establishment.

The reason why doctors didn’t believe Semmelweis two decades earlier is because he challenged the established scientific and medical opinions of his time. He challenged their belief system. The doctors didn’t believe because they expected to see the evidence that fitted their own belief system.

This became known as the Semmelweis reflex – a metaphor for our reflex-like tendency to reject new evidence because it contradicts our beliefs.

School principals and eLearning Coordinators face a similar dilemma. They believe that using technology can add significant value to teaching and learning. They want to convince teachers. But some teachers first want to see the evidence. It is a natural reflex-like defensive response from teachers.

What principals and eLearning Coordinators need to do is start with existing belief systems. This means serious conversations with teachers about their existing beliefs as to what does effective teaching and learning look like. It means asking teachers to first explore and think beyond their own belief system. Challenge them to test and experiment with new ideas outside their own paradigm before passing judgement.

When teachers believe first that technology can add value to teaching and learning then they will proactively seek further possibilities. No more reflex-like defensive responses.

Belief before evidence.

I’ll see it when I believe it!

Connecting the dots…..

Connecting the dots!!

I’m just back from another two weeks on the road in Melbourne and Perth running professional development sessions for teachers.

There are many seen factors in a professional development session that help you to gauge its effectiveness. How do teachers react to your presentation? What does their body language tell you? What questions do they ask you?

However it is the unseen factors after your presentation that will determine whether you have really made an impact.

How much knowledge will teachers retain? To what extent will they process the information and skills you presented?  How motivated will they be to act on your great ideas? How will they behave after your presentation? Will they actually try to implement your ideas?

In other words, will teachers actively connect the dots between your presentation and the classroom?

Donald & James Kirkpatrick in their book Implementing the Four Levels: A Practical Guide for Effective Evaluation of Training Programs point out there are four levels that presenters (including eLearning Coordinators) need to evaluate when delivering professional development and training:

  1. Reaction – Did learners enjoy it? Did they think it was effective? Did they think it was a good use of their time?
  2. Learning – Did learners learn the knowledge, skills, and/or attitudes needed to close a performance gap?
  3. Behaviour – Did learners apply what was learned?
  4. Results – Was the performance gap closed? Was the investment of time and money in training teachers effective?

One simple but effective strategy that will help teachers to connect the dots is projects. In other words teachers are encouraged to initiate and design a project that puts their new found knowledge and skills into the real world context of the classroom.

Once your PD presentation is done and dusted, it is the context that teachers work in (not the content of your presentation) that will actually connect the dots and make a difference.

What strategies do you have in place to help teachers connect the dots?

What does ‘digital’ mean to you?

I have a problem with the word digital.

The word digital is used to describe technologies that digitise content e.g. digital cameras. No disagreement here.

Sometimes the word digital is bandied around to describe pedagogy. I have a problem here.

When schools promote a digital curriculum, are they referring to the technology being used? Or are schools referring to a pedagogy that facilities interactive learning?

A focus on technology as a means to distribute information is narrow and limits teaching and learning. PowerPoint is an easy way to sequence information into bullet points and distribute en masse – but a classroom as a place for bullet points is not teaching. A PDF is a convenient and easy way to distribute content – but it does not necessarily provide learning experiences which enable rich and engaging interaction.

The 21st century teacher advocates a wider view where technology is a tool that can be used to create conditions for interactive and collaborative learning. This teacher places a greater emphasis on the context – the learner (instead of the information) and the various ways he/she interacts with his/her learning and other learners.

This is when the word digital can used to describe and promote curriculum. No problem here.

How is technology used at your school?

Are students and teachers at your school really reaping the benefits of the Digital Education Revolution?

Below are some recent statistics on technology use in US colleges and universities:

  • Only 59% of students agree their institution uses its technology effectively?
  • 40% of students think their institutions don’t use the technology they have effectively
  • 47% of students agree that technology makes professors better at their jobs.

Source: Online Colleges Guide

How did students and teachers use the technology at your school this year?

More importantly, how will students and teachers use technology to facilitate powerful learning experiences in 2012?

Technology Use on the College campus

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