The task of supporting teachers to integrate ICT into teaching, learning and assessment practices is as big an issue today as it ever was for Irish teachers at all levels of education. Though thousands of teachers have been “trained” many feel they are not sufficiently competent to use digital technology in their classrooms. They appear to want more help and support and as new technologies appear this task seems to get more difficult. So what can teachers do?
One way is for teachers to share their professional practice knowledge in relation to the use of ICT in their classrooms and in their schools. Lee Shulman had this idea some time ago when he developed the Inside Teaching resource, a living archive of practice.
Here teachers can join a learning community where they can view and learn from their fellow teachers. Though Shulman’s idea did not focus specifically on sharing practice around the use of ICT it showcased ‘good’ practice from teachers around the globe. Shulman and others have noted that there is not enough sharing of ‘good’ practice in education when compared to other professions such as Medicine and Law. We seem to place a higher premium on ‘theoretical’ knowledge which he felt was a pity.
However recently I came across what I consider the ICT version of Shulman’s Inside Teaching Resource, the Microsoft Partners in Learning website.
This site contains a wealth of teacher created resources and tutorials on using Microsoft tools in education. Interestingly many of these tools are free to education and in particular the Office 365 suite of software. It is well worth taking the time to register on the site to view some of the projects teachers from around the world have created and there are a number of Irish winning projects in there too. Recently I was involved as a judge at the Microsoft Global Forum where over 100 teacher projects were showcased. It was a wonderful event and the winning projects were of a very high standard. Again by registering on the site you can view the winning projects which can be downloaded.
Each project comes with an overview page, a VCT and a video. One of the projects I particularly liked was the Cans for the P.L.A.N project. Though not a winner at the global event it showcased how teachers can use ICT in meaningful ways across the curriculum. In particular it shows how teachers can use everyday digital tools to support good teaching and learning – it is doable.
The project focused on Grade 3 children in Moody Elementary School who wanted to raise money to purchase extra IT equipment and they devised a scheme where they collected aluminium cans. This then allowed the teachers to use a project-based learning approach with the children which was hugely successful. This is just one of over 650 projects that you will find on the site that can provide ideas and inspiration for teachers at all levels.
In addition Microsoft has also been working on a research programme, Innovative Teaching and Learning, that now underpins much of their work in the field of primary and second level education. This research is being led by Maria Langworthy and a team from SRI, a world renowned research organisation based in the United States. In particular the ITL research is designed to investigate the factors that promote the transformation of teaching practices and the impact those changes have on students’ learning outcomes across a broad range of country contexts. Dr. Deirdre Butler from St. Patrick’s College Drumcondra has been a member of the research team involved in this cutting edge work.
So all in all this is a very comprehensive resource and learning community where teachers from around the world can find and share ‘good’ practice. There is now a growing number of Irish teachers on the site and in 2013 there are plans to expand this even further. So if you are looking for good ideas on the use of ICT pay Partners in Learning a visit and see is there something there for you or even better why not post some of your ideas on the various forums.