A Look at the Digital Strategy for Schools:
A Three-Part Series
The Four Themes
In this second article of our mini-series about the Department of Education’s Digital Strategy for Schools, we focus on the four areas/ themes that the Department uses to explain its vision for developing 21st Century Learning skills in Ireland. These four themes include:
1) Teaching, learning and assessment using ICT
2) Teacher Professional Learning
3) Leadership, Research and Policy
4) Ensuring Effective Implementation
1 - Teaching, learning and assessment using ICT
Schools around the country are expected to look at ways for using ICT as a tool for teaching, learning and assessment - this is exactly what ICT is - a tool. It’s not something magical or mystical. It is simply an evolution from other tools (pencil, paper, encyclopedias) that allow us access learning.
Primary teachers are finding great success with iPads as they are such flexible learning tools - giving students easy and instant access to photography, videography, recording voice, creating movies, eBooks and much more! They are reliable and the battery lasts all day.
More and more post primary schools are joining the 1:1 revolution every year - where each student has their own device that contains all their books, as well as the capability to immediately receive, share and collaborate on work from anywhere and of course all managed remotely to ensure safe usage.
2 - Teacher Professional Learning
This is overlooked far too often when schools think about how they are going to introduce new and exciting learning methods (through ICT) at their school. School leaders often don’t realise the necessity for building the skills and confidence of the teachers that will be expected to use these new tools to drive learning.
If teachers aren’t shown how to use the devices, if they aren’t shown integration opportunities and best practice, or a development plan then it is almost guaranteed that the school will not see the real benefits of their investment.
This can then lead to school leaders becoming disillusioned, having spent money and not seen any 21st Century Learning or other significant changes in the classrooms.
It is therefore vital that you have a development plan and a reliable support structure for implementing it. If, as many schools do, you decide to avail of external support - be sure your chosen company understand your needs and have a track record in supporting school development over time.
3 - Leadership, Research and Policy
The Leadership theme is directly relevant to schools in that it refers to leadership both at Department and school level. The Department and its agencies will provide leadership - the PDST and Education Centres offer some excellent support. This theme specifically targets leadership in schools as being a necessity to the success of the Digital Strategy.
This can be a source of concern or worry for schools who suddenly find themselves being expected to have a progressive digital strategy/ development plan for their school.
I personally, have worked with around 100 schools and trained over 1000 staff with all different starting points as well as skills and confidence levels. The keywords there are starting point and development.
Schools need to find their own starting point, assess wants, needs and skills of their staff and start to create a SMART plan for developing ICT at the school. A SMART plan should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. See our articles on developing eLearning plans for more information about this.
4 - ICT Infrastructure
This refers to all elements of your infrastructure including whiteboards, servers and staff computers. In order to achieve real 21st Century learning we need this solid foundation to build upon and this means getting devices into the hands of students.
Will you be a 1:1 school? Will one set of devices fit your needs? How vital is wireless connectivity for you? What areas of the curriculum will take priority? These are some simple questions to start speaking about to get the conversation started.
Once again, your school needs to first consider its goals - consult with external agencies and other schools to find out what’s working well elsewhere and discuss these with your staff.
Next you need to look at your existing hardware and skillset of your staff and consider what hardware and training is going to help you achieve your goals including, most vitally, a realistic timeframe and development plan.
See our follow-up article ‘Is the Digital Strategy bringing change to education in Ireland?’
Article by Gavin Molloy, Education Manager at Edanu
Gavin is a qualified primary school teacher that has taught in Dublin & London as well as lecturing in Digital Learning at St Patrick’s College. He has a BSc in Multimedia, an Ma in Globalisation & a PGCE from DCU. Before working at Edanu, Gavin owned his own education consultancy, Get Smart Media, & managed a team of education experts at the City Learning Centre in London.
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