Taking a measure of ICT Integration.

ICT is an abbreviation for Information and Communication Technologies. This is a vast variety of tools and technologies encompassing personal computing, the internet, phones, fax and everything inbetween.

The key question

How do we take measure of ICT integration or implementation? Its not something we can score on a scale of 1 to 10 or measure as achieving with excellence or just passing. The benchmarks for every school and every classroom are different.
In preparing our students for the 21st Century, we must prepare them for the ubiquitous use of technology. We must enable them to adapt and change. But how do we get a measure of ICT integration?
I believe there are three factors or enablers that work together to facilitate integration. If any of these factors are in short supply, then the level of integration will be reduced or impaired.

The three factors

The three factors are resources, skills and curriculum. They form a triangle and the area of the triangle is level or degree of integration. The bigger the area, the higher one is on the LOTI scale (See also http://www.drchrismoersch.com).

What are these factors or enablers?

1. Resources:

This is the physical and electronic tools and materials available to the teacher in the classroom. A well resourced room or school is considerably higher up the ladder than a low decile school which has to fund raise for a new computer. The availability of tools like:
  • Interactive whiteboards
  • Classroom desktop computers
  • Pods of laptops or one to one programs
  • PDA’s, ipods and cellphones
  • Educationally focused software
  • Learning and content management systems
  • Video and audio conferencing
  • Media production facilities
  • learning spaces for the 21st Century
Coupled with ubiquitous access to resources, high speed internet access, suitable and appropriate communications tools are great enablers. If with this you also have resource materials for teaching and learning, tailored to your curriculum (see also curriculum) then ICT implementation is easier.

But even with a high level of implementation it is not assured. The other two factors, Skills and Curriculum, must be available in equal volumes.

But what of the classroom that struggles with one computer or perhaps has a lab between a school, are they condemned to poor integration. Certainly not, but they are obviously hampered and limited.

Resources are also Professional development and time (see also skills). Time is a precious and limited resource. Time to play and experiment is hard to find when teachers are prescribed a number of non contact periods and management judiciously fills our timetables. In managements defence, they are hamstrung, by the need to teach classes and restrictions in funding beyond there control. When was the last time you and your colleagues had time to experiment and play?

Tied to the resources, is the limitations of the “one size fits all” model of ICT management. How often is experimentation limited by draconian measures by ICT support departments. How many of you, as classroom teachers, have administrative rights on your computers? How many of you are encouraged to experiment and play? How many of you would be supported and understood if it all when wrong and you returned to your support staff asking for help?

2. Skills

Skills, I consider fall into two categories; Technical and Pedagogical. Of the two, I believe that pedagogical skills are more important.
By Technical skills, I am referring to the ability to operate the resources provided to you. The ability as a 21st Century teacher to adapt, adopt and modify. The confidence and competence to teach and facilitate the use of these technologies.
The second category, pedagogical skills, is the more important of the two. Strengths in Pedagogy can and will make up for deficits in technical ability. The classroom teachers ability to use a variety of suitable pedagogical strategies is key to integration. The teacher who sees little value in the use of ICT’s, even if they have high technical ability, will always limit the level of integration. Where as the teacher with a understanding of21st Century pedagogies, who recognises that these technologies are enablers and motivators for our 21st Century learner, is able to use the learner’s own skills and abilities to enhance their learning and the integration of ICT.
Indeed, strengths in technical skills and pedagogy can also make up for short falls for the other two sides of the integration triangle. The classroom teacher, who manages their limited resources, structures their lessons to enable all students to access these limited resources; who by careful planning and management enables all of their charges to be involved, to have hands on time; who structures the learning to have higher order thinking skills - to create, evaluate and analyse - is I believe, a better integrator than those with all the resources who use the computers for word processing.
Brilliant learning and ICT integration often comes out of classrooms with one computer, facilitated by a teacher with passion and vision. Imagine the outcomes possible for them with suitable resources and a supportive curriculum.
Characteristics of the 21st Century Educator21st_Century_teacher.jpg

3. Curriculum.

Does our curricula reflect 21st Century learning? Are our assessment models reflective of the world our students are in or will be in?
Alas, the answer more often than not is no. The New Zealand curriculum has recently been revised. This revision does start to reflect a new paradigm in teaching and learning, one that considers the world our students will graduate into, but it is still hamstrung by assessment models more suited to an older age of teaching.
Schools too, are not free from blame here. With in our unit planning do we truly integrate these technologies, these enablers of learning? Is it lip service or is it truly integration, expansion or refinement? Are we striving for integration or settling for infusion (See LOTI Scale)? What of cross curricula studies? Do we leverage the teaching of our peers, build on the skills and processes they teach reinforce, their teaching and they ours?
An integrating curriculum (and drilling down into the integrating curriculum - subjects and unit plans), which support ICT integration are dynamic. The use of ICTs are mandatory and ubiquitous, inclusive and specific. The selection of tools and resources are curriculum driven. These units are constantly reviewed. Teachers and students contribute to the development and revision of the learning experience. They are student centric.Teachers encourage to use digital approaches
Teaching drives the technology rather than technology driving the teaching.
Staff are provided with time and support to review; time, tools and technology to experiment; opportunities to watch other practitioners and in turn be watched. Not in the “Crit Lesson” mode, rather in a supportive collegial manner. A former colleague of mine, Gary, came back to school and spend a morning with me. He came to my classes, observed me teaching and entered into the teaching and learning experience with my students. He also reflected with me on how he had approached similar tasks and actions. The conversation was open, frank, affirming and fun.
The curriculum must reflect the world our students will emerge into. Continuing to teach a 20th century curriculum into the 21st century, prepares our students for a world that no longer exists.

The measure of all three of these factors gives us the level of ICT integration in our classroom and in our school. If anyone factor is in deficit, then amount of integration (and our progression up the LOTI scale) is inhibited.

Some Questions to ask:

What are your schools identified ICT objectives and goals?
Are these goals administratively focused or educationally focused?
Where does your school want to be ICT wise in 1 year, 5 years or 10 years?
What level of consultation and buy in did key groups have, namely students, staff, the community?
How are these goals integrate into your budgeting and curriculum planning?
How are these goals supported by professional development for staff?
How are these goals resourced?
How are these goals implemented in the school, departments/faculties and the classroom?
Do you have peer review of your curriculum, subject, unit plans and of teaching practice? Is this collegial support or appraisal?
In Industry implementation of a new product and the training of staff are usually dollar for dollar. What is your ratio of ICT investments to training investment?
What revision and review process do you have in place for your ICT goals, investment and training? To what degree are your students, community and staff involved in these reviews?
To what level is the implementation of ICT into teaching and learning mandated? Is there any mechanism for checking or accountability?
What accountability is in place for technologies put into the classroom to ensure they are utilised?
What decision making process is involved in setting student and staff access and administrative rights to computers, networks and the internet? Who established your policy, your board, the principal or the technician(s)/support staff? What are the rationale for this decision - technical, administrative and educational? Who and how is this reviewed?
Are your pedagogies reflective of 21st Century teaching and learning?