(Please note – these musings are my own thoughts, and while I have done my best to accurately portray what was said, they are my interpretations and I have possibly misheard or misrepresented. Please get in touch if I have. I am happy to provide any more info, or put you in touch with people who might know, if you would like any more information. And I am really happy to take any concerns, questions or success stories you have to this forum)
Friday April 7 took me to Wellington for the first PPTA ICT meeting for the year. This group of the PPTA meets 3 times a year, as well as e-mail correspondence in between times, to took over any ICT issues that PPTA members may have, or to provide a sounding board for various agencies, government departments etc. It is a varied committee, with representatives from all the different regions, PPTA exec and field officers, Te Kura, low decile etc. On top of that, it seemed that everyone’s school was using a slightly different system or had a different policy, so I think the group is reasonably representative, even if they are not able to gather voices from lots of places (I know from my brief experience on this committee of 8 weeks that it is hard to get your voice out there)
The agenda was as follows
Round robin – using a shared doc, each member highlighted key issues or ideas relevant to them. It was a great way to get a lot of information and ideas out quickly. The points that I picked up were
- Online moderation – how do we get files to NZQA? What about large files, or ‘fussy’ files like garageband?
- SMS compatibility is still a large issue in some schools – sharing information a challenge
- Wireless access in schools is still an issue – N4L gets to the gate, but the infrastructure isn’t always within the school.
- Still concerns with teachers not keeping themselves safe in online environments – digital citizenship is not just for students.
TELA – representatives came from TELA to again talk about device choices in schools for staff. This is an ongoing issue for me, having initially raised it last year and I have learned a lot more about it, as well as learning more at the meeting and being reminded that TELA is NOT responsible for staff PLD!! It would seem that the issue around equitable devices for teachers is a multi headed hydra of regulation, funding and departments.
That said, the contract renewal process is underway, so it is a good time for them to be talking with us. Some basic stats – TELA has over 47,000 laptops in the scheme, 99% of schools in NZ (27 schools don’t and they don’t know why). Almost half of the devices are HP, with around 30% Apple and the rest Toshiba. Schools are FREE TO CHOOSE – but many staff in schools are not. There was an animated discussion around are teachers in school digitally literate enough to know what device would best suit their needs if they were given a choice, or would everyone just want ‘the best one’ regardless of how they used it. The flip argument being that ‘innovative’ teachers are being restricted by this policy, or (more often) an overworked IT admin is a school makes everyone the same because it makes their job easier. Ideas were mooted around allowing teachers to order there own devices, but this would make it hard for schools to budget around devices. There was also issues with the devices being tied to the school rather than the teacher when teacher changed schools – often staff will inherit a machine that may not be suitable to them but not have an option to renew for a year or 18 months.
And then there are some schools who charge teachers.
So it is a difficult issue. But an important one, and TELA are coming back, but I am thinking about others ways I can raise the device issue (and lack of training provided for devices given)
Update on Digital Technologies Curriculum – This again was an interesting discussion. It would seem the many schools are simply ignoring the update and the ministry has not yet answered the ‘compulsory’ aspect. However, there are roadmaps in place for digital tech Achievement standards, so it may well (sadly) be the cart that leads the horse in the curriculum strand implementation in schools – or a visit or scolding from ERO!!! There is confusion around digital fluency – what exactly is meant for this term. Also big concerns around infrastructure and staff PD. Sadly (In my opinion) there seems to be some resistance to this becoming a more academic subject as robotics or ‘ICT’ classes which are more about formatting word documents and secretarial skills are ‘dumping’ grounds for less able students. There are also concerns about ‘teachers’ to teach the courses – what PLD is available and how will schools access it. And of course, as nothing it being taking out of the curriculum, what will have less time if digital tech is bought in.
Personally, I think there is a need for these courses. In terms of junior school, it is not hard to incorporate some hour of code (or similar) into a course, a wee bit of robotics here and there, something small like a microbit could be incorporated in maths really easily – even just making a dice for ‘chance’. For seniors, there is more need for a specialist teacher, but more importantly teachers who are willing to learn along side their students, as many students are far more skilled than teachers know. I learned this last year with my yr 10s setting up a minecraft server – they left me far behind. Which was ok.
Stephen Carr came to talk to us about changes occurring – but many of them were confidential so I can’t talk about them here.
One thing that I can share is the spark jump modem. Which is a subsidised modem to help breach the digital divide. It is prepaid, doesn’t require a deposit or credit check, and could be really useful for families, or in situations like school kids going to stay with their grandparents for a short time, so rather than get a permanent internet connection you can get something like this.
BYOD resourcing – There was a discussion around BYOD resourcing and how to manage this. Legally, schools can not insist that a device is part of a students stationary, as every student is entitled to a free education. Practically, this is a really difficult issue, as different schools and different deciles can (and do) have different policies, access and requirements. This lead to some interesting discussions around lots of side issues – for instance, some schools do not allow laptops to be charged at school as the power chords have not been safety tested. (I wondered about this for our school – I know all the ‘Science’ gear like hot plates and soldering irons get tested every year, but I don’t think laptops do….). Other issues, like WINZ will forward a payment so a family can buy a device on a stationary list, but not cover it.
And then there is the idea of what device specifications are ok. In a truely heart breaking discussion (fro my perspective) it appears that in a perfect example of the cart leading the horse, the device choice could be decide by the digital assessment requirements once digital assessment is online (2020 is still the aim I think). (I got a bit frustrated with this)
It again highlights the lack of training for staff and direction for schools – saying a school is BYOD is one thing, but implementing it and having staff well trained in both technical aspects as well as the big broad why do it is seemingly still very distant. I know myself I am guilty of using a digital textbook as a substitute rather than a transformative learning experience.
Cools update – was a slightly heated discussion – mostly based around the fact the online learning communities already exist and work very well. Why change them you ask??? I don’t know. (A really key idea I took from this was a move by ‘online educators’ to start calling their courses online learning, rather than ‘video conferencing’. VC is the tool, not the learning. I thought this a really subtle but important point.)
But it seems this idea is gathering steam and rolling on through. It seems clear the government wants COOLS to be regulated, there are accessibility issues (eg you need to have internet access, so it might immediately exclude students without this, either due to geographical location (I hadn’t thought about kids living on boats before…)or lack of funds). Who will staff them, who will attend them and how they will work is still up in the air I think.
Other random thoughts/ideas/news
There was a small amount of talk around SMS databases and SISI (student information sharing initiative) which all sounds like it is coming from the right place – although maybe limited to COLS. There was also some talk of RTLB teachers being linked to COLS also, but I am not sure where this comes from and/or when it would happening.
Teacher council criteria was briefly discussed – as always when you give examples there are some that seem to restrictive and some that seem to vague. But streamlining the criteria seems like a good idea to me – you can check it out yourself HERE and feedback (before April 21 2017) HERE
So it was a really interesting meeting for me personally, I have had a lot of thinking about it over the last few days, and I can see there is still a lot to do.
Again I welcome any comments, issues or ideas if you would like me to take them to this group, and again repeat that these are my own thoughts on the process and I am happy to be corrected or put you in touch with people if you like.