Feeling your school should introduce innovation and enter the digital era but you are not sure how? Do you dream of using Interactive Whiteboards, computers, the Internet and gadgets on a daily basis in your lessons but you are afraid this may turn into a nightmare?
Here’s a brief survival guide to integrating technology into the school’s curriculum in 10 steps:
Graph1 "Making electronic dreams come true" D. Primalis 2012
Share your vision with your teaching staff and be prepared to modify or enrich it. Set clear aims -this will instill a feeling of security and act as a compass. Invite teachers to contribute with ideas when designing the syllabus. Their creativity and experience can be the key to success.
Even though teachers may be familiar with technology, training from both technology experts and teacher trainers will give them the necessary qualifications and insight to actively implement innovation in class.
Allow ample time for piloting activities and material using technology in class. Teachers are like pilots. They need time and practice to feel confident to use the equipment and new activities extensively rather than showing off once or twice a year.
Receive feedback in various forms such as observations, questionnaires, interviews and assess what works and what doesn’t. Modify the syllabus accordingly.
Present the changes to parents and students separately. Parents can be powerful allies if they perceive the benefits of technology. Be receptive to their fears and concerns. Provide training sessions to acquaint them with what equipment and tasks their children will be using. Technology stirs enthusiasm among students and increases motivation.
Set clear rules from day 1 in class and define what is acceptable and what not. E.g. uploading photos with derogatory comments about your classmates is NOT acceptable. In the case of one-to-one (1 computer to 1 student) propagate the idea that computers are valuable tools apart from expensive toys.
Implement innovation on a large scale. What seems to be working when piloting with a smaller group may need to be modified or diversified in order to accommodate the needs of other groups.
Reward effort and good practice. Teachers and students go out of their way to implement change and often feel that their previous achievements seem to be at stake. Acknowledging their effort, keeps them going. Encourage teachers to work in groups and share material and experiences (peer support group). It relieves the workload and creates team spirit.
Receive feedback from all stakeholders (teachers, students and parents) in various forms.
Like a good orchestra conductor, based on feedback, make the necessary modifications and redefine the aims for next year.
Here are 10 more practical tips that will facilitate innovation and transition:
1. Involve all stake holders (parents, teachers, students). Inform, discuss, take into consideration their fears and apprehension. They are not the last cog in the wheel. In fact, they are the steam engine of innovation if they feel they are part of it.
2. Educate parents, train teachers. Knowledge of the subject keeps away fear and hysterical reactions to minor problems that may arise.
3. Provide ample time for piloting of new ideas. It all needs time to fall into the right place.
4. Receive feedback in various forms and from all stakeholders. This will give you a better picture and help you prevent future repercussions.
5. Provide technical support for teachers, students, parents. Technology is fragile and lets you down when you need it most.
6. Be open to discussion and modification of curriculum. Keep what works and scrutinize what doesn’t. The final outcome may differ significantly to your original vision but your top priority is to ensure that the whole project is functional and effective.
7. Reward effort and good practice. Teachers and students go out of their way to implement change and often feel their previous achievements seem to be at stake. Acknowledging their effort, keeps them going.
8. Encourage sharing of knowledge between teachers and students. The latter’s contribution often saves time and effort when using gadgets and computers. It also builds bonds and bridges the teacher-student gap.
9. Ensure that you create a working environment that promotes innovation. Dispel the fears of teaching staff that this will endanger their employment. Stress the benefits they will gain as professionals in terms of professional development.
10. Innovation takes time, patience, effort and an open mind. It can be slow and laborious but can eventually be extremely rewarding for all stakeholders.
Don’t bluff your way to innovation. Experience it!!!