Saturday, May 29, 2010

Using Technology to Support Real Learning First in Alberta Schools

I have just read Joe Bower's blog that summarizes a document (Using Technology to Support Real Learning First In Alberta Schools) by the Alberta Teachers' Association. It states that

"since the early 80's, the Alberta government has spent $1.5 billion on information and communication technology (ICT). Spending on professional development and collaborative inquiry to help educators take advantage of these technologies has been paltry by comparison."

When I started teaching in the 80's, we had Apple IIg's (I think) and we used floppy discs from the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium to play math blaster and reader rabbit. I still see teachers using technology as "drill and practice" or as an electronic encyclopedia for research. The Alberta report states that

"technology has been used to supplemenent traditional teaching rather than transform the pedagogical process"

they go on to say that

"in other fields, digital technology has transformed the relationship between the provider and the end user, driven by the need for greater productivity and efficiency"

Many of us have felt the need for greater efficiency and productivity in our schools for a long time. The report also says that the effective use of technology in the classroom is more efficient than reducing class size or increasing preparation time for teachers.

In Alberta, technology is not being used as well as it should. Indeed, 50-60% of teachers feel comfortable with using technology in their classrooms. Social studies, science and language arts teachers are more likely to be comfortable using technology. There is not enough professional development, technology is expensive and teachers are not willing to take the risk of changing the way they have done things for years. Lower income and aboriginal Albertans have less access to technology in classrooms.

Coordination of efforts to use technology effectively in Alberta schools has been a problem.

"Too often, Altberta's efforts to integrate technology in the classroom have been fragmented, sporadic and backward-looking rather than comprehensive, strategic and transformative"

In my school and my school division, I often feel like there is no sense of urgency, no comprehensive, strategic and transformative plan.

In summary, there are many reasons technology is not being used optimally in Alberta.

1. schools are not organized to support transformative changes
2. teachers do not have the skills to use technology as a tool for transformative learning
3. access to technology varies greatly spent on technology and not professional development, innovation and transformative change
5. teachers moderately confident about using technology
6. so many learning outcomes that teachers rely on time tested methods instead of risk taking change
7. culture of compliance in schools that inhibits innovation
8. little recognition for teachers who use technology innovatively

The report goes on to say that 21st century schools should:

1. focus on meaningful learning tasks that challenge students to achieve results that are meaningful to an authentic audience
2. take a project-based approach to curriculum delivery
3. provide equitable access to learning resources and tools
4. focus on teamwork, collaborative learning and networks
5. encourage students to participate, both face to face and on-line, in the local and wider global community
6. provide students with ready access to a wide range of digital resources
7. encourage teachers to participate in communities of interest and to pursue professional development
8. restructure the day from several short periods to one to three long ones
9. engage students in the process of learning but also in the design of learning

This report helps us all to focus on the task at hand, to use technology to transform our schools and the way people learn. Thanks Joe and the Alberta Teachers' Association.

1 comment:

  1. This sort of report helps to frame what is happening and what we need to do. I'd love to see something similar in Sask., which has similar issues (but less infrastructure).