Thursday, January 12, 2006

Ingle Farm IWB Research & Implications For Our School In 2006

Before Christmas, Ann, my new principal sent me a link to the PLICT Grant Research that had been conducted by Beth Measday at Ingle Farm Primary School here in Adelaide. Her research titled 'So you've got an Interactive whiteboard! Now what?' is posted on the TSOF website. Ann was particularly keen for me to peruse it and consider any implications for our school as we went further into our IWB program.
Last year in August our school purchased six IWB's (of the ActivBoard variety) placing them in three upper primary classrooms, a science room and two junior primary classrooms. The teachers were supported by an initial training session with Peter Kent from Commander, a school closure day spent exploring more of the IWB's capabilities and ongoing support from the coordinator (whose learning was only a few steps ahead of his colleagues). Our initial experiences have been well documented on this blog and at Teaching Generation Z.
This report starts in similar fashion, describing their journey and the challenges along the way.
We are probably at the equivalent of their second stage, the early adopters have had four or so months to get accustomed to the new technology and the next batch of six or seven IWB's arent too far away. Beth points out that the next group of teachers are going to need and expect more support as they start out.
The next important point the report made was the impact ICT had made on staff skills prior to the IWB's. She points out that their staff had exposure to all of the department's ICT initiatives geared towards improving teacher competency but the results weren't showing.
Ingle Farm Primary is a good example of a school where there had been an ICT Co-ordinator in place for some years to assist teachers in their ICT take up. The infrastructure was working well with a good network, good computers and a blossoming intranet. Given all of this, the results of the ICT Skills and attitudes survey taken by staff in 2003 were alarming. With all of the money spent and support given, staff were still not readily using ICTs in their work with students.

Now our results on this same survey were quite encouraging but a skills focus won't tell you how those skills translate into improved classroom practice. But our staff, in general, will have better than average teacher skills when starting out with a new IWB. Beth points out in her results section that improved staff ICT skills was visible to see.
There are a lot of staff testimonials in the report which is to be expected with reseach that is not data based. It does raise the point about staff reflection of their progress and I guess that's where this blog comes in. Late last year I was almost ready to pull the plug and transfer personally authored posts over to my own blog but Meredith, our Science teacher, expressed the view that it needed to be kept as an important component of our journey and that others would get on board and use it in 2006. Maybe it would be better if all IWB teachers had their own blog and all IWB posts were collected in the one site linked onto our own school website.
Training and development opportunities showed up as being key to the successful implementation of the IWB's. There was an identified need to provide different methods for staff to develop their skills - a one size fits all training method will not work well. That's a challenge for me as someone who learns by try it and see what happens when others will want step by step directions and others may need a more collaborative approach. Time to do this training is a big issue. All over the place, educators I read are saying that for technology to work, a substantial investment in training has to come with it or you are wasting the resources.
Ingle Farm talked about the use of USB thumbdrives for the transference of files between home and school - with our laptops for each board, we would have that aspect well covered. CEGSA research says that teachers' ICT skills improve when they use a laptop designated as their own. There are issues with tandem classes sharing a laptop as Nat and I found out last year but that can be sorted out.
Technical support was an interesting point as we only have two days of ICT SSO support allocated currently - with my time commitments with PBL, there could be times when technical support is needed (especially with so many new IWB users) and not available. That should be looked at carefully.
Another direct quote we need to keep in mind:
Having someone to lead the project and take responsibility for troubleshooting was given a high priority by the surveyed staff. Staff need to know that if they come across a problem, someone is committed to helping them work through it. The answer may be in the form of a simple instruction or “I’ll work it out and get back to you” or “I’ll email the company and ask them”. Whatever the problem, staff felt it was essential to have someone who would take responsibility finding a solution.

Beth was really positive in her summation of her staff's improved technology skills and the consequent flow-on to improved teaching and learning opportunities for their students. If we can achieve the same sort of results over the course of 2006 with our pioneers supporting those coming on board, then we will giving our students learning experiences in tune with their connected, interactive multimedia world.

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