In this third and final article of our mini-series about the Department of Education’s Digital Strategy for Schools, we attempt to answer the question as to whether the strategy has brought positive change to education in Ireland or not. There has been without doubt a shift in attention toward the benefits of ICT in the classroom.
School spending has seen a shift toward investment in ICT as the benefits of 21st Century Learning are extolled from every nook and cranny of the country.
So, the question is, is the shift in attention and increasing investment enough to suggest there is a positive change in education?
I would argue that there are definitely green shoots of positivity that indicate real change is coming but that it is too soon and too much is left to do for anyone to reach a definite conclusion.
We have done well to not rush into this - you may remember in the first part of this mini-series I mentioned the issues caused by the sudden expectations that came upon UK teachers with the introduction of the computing curriculum in 2015. I think we have avoided that pitfall, we have been patient and I think the time has now come to demand more.
These green shoots now need to start becoming trees and forests - we need to set solid expectations and goals for ourselves to grip onto and aim for.
It’s time for the SMART stage of our strategy; we need Specific - Measurable - Achievable - Realistic and Timely milestones.
There is so much technology can provide teachers with to prevent the ‘lámha suas’ and encourage students to support their own learning with more effective strategies - giving teachers their time back and allowing them to focus on creating an environment of constant and never ending improvement in their approach to teaching.
One thing that the Digital Strategy certainly got correct is the need for leadership because there is significant CPD and infrastructure investment involved in getting teachers and classrooms to this point - but it is definitely achievable for all as long as the individual school’s approach includes a patient and structured development plan - it needs to be SMART.
We need our leaders at Government level and locally at schools to push onto the next stage now - we need to be SMART.
Schools need to find specific ways of integrating technology across the curriculum and using it to drive learning.
The Government needs to provide leadership and support for schools as they do this. Principals and ICT leaders need to understand what hardware they are investing in and why, and they need to invest in their staff if they are to develop the skills and confidence required to use the new technology effectively for teaching and learning.
There needs to be some form of accountability on teachers to put received CPD into practice or it will be forgotten very quickly - even if it’s something as simple as showing students’ work at an assembly or staff meeting.
Schools need to work together and with available agencies to develop a school plan that will actually be delivered by their teachers - a plan that recognises the need to start at the skills and confidence level of the staff and build from there. If we all work together with a clear vision for the country and for individual schools then we can look forward to some exciting and game changing years ahead.