How long have you been a teacher, what is your role now, and how long have you been in this role?
This is my eighth year of teaching and my sixth year at Epping Views Primary School. We were a brand new school when I started here, so I was given the added responsibility of ICT coordinator. Over the six years, that has grown into the position I’m in now, which is the school ICT leader. I’m now out of the classroom and my role entails working with staff through the coaching model–so in classrooms coaching support of unit planning. I have a small teaching load of ICT, which we have as a specialist subject at our school.
What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
Seeing the implementation of rich purposeful digital tools in the classroom with staff and students. I get a buzz from seeing teacher practice improve through the implementation of new tools or ideas, and continued follow up of these in their practice. In terms of students it is exciting to work in classrooms to see students engaged in their task.
One of my mantras is around ensuring that students are successful with whatever ICT tool they are using. As a teacher of ICT, my biggest passion in specialist teaching is the use of games-based learning and this is through the eyes of a gamer and a developer. I get excited to see students utilising games within the classroom and drawing learning out of those games. So games that fit nicely into the integrated curriculum.
And, what is the most challenging part of your job?
The growth of our school. From six years ago with a student body of 100 through to the 950 we have now. Trying to keep up to maintaining a 1:2 whole school ratio is a challenge. Also ensuring our teachers are sufficiently skilled to effectively incorporate ICT in our Year 4 to Year 6 1:1 program.
Which school ICT project are you particularly proud of, and why?
I’m really proud of our approach towards using ICT in writing. So with the changeover to the Australian Curriculum, I did some research around what ICT looks like within the Australian Curriculum and something that kept coming up and jumping out of the curriculum was around multi-modal text. So we really looked at the structure of writing and how it’s taught at our school and we’ve gone through a process where our students use ICT to plan, compose and publish their pieces of work each week.
And with that we’ve really looked at moving our kids away from using just Microsoft Word or Publisher to publish their work. So our students from Years 1 to 6 are engaged in that process where they’re creating procedural text using Powerpoint, but using all of the elements of Powerpoint such as animation and audio tools, through to the upper end of our school where students are developing multi-modal texts and narrative using Kid Pix. We’re using Adobe Voice on the iPad to create explanation text. So I guess, as a whole I’m most proud of how our kids are using ICT to publish text in writing.
Which piece of technology or gadget has had the most impact on your role in the last five years and why?
It’s probably the iPad. We started off as a trial a few years ago now just bringing them into Prep, and that started off with six iPads. As our cohort’s grown to 200 Preps, we’ve now got class sets in each of the grades. What we see on them is the impact of the apps and how much they engage the kids.
The kids come to school knowing how to fully operate an iPad now, whereas on a Netbook we’ve got to teach them how to log in and access web-based applications, as well as school-based applications – so the kids have that knowledge of how to use an iPad, so I guess it’s the power of those educative apps that we invest in through to we’re now starting to see the iPads being used school-wide up to our Year 6s.
As I mentioned earlier, we’re now getting kids to use them to publish pieces of work for writing using Adobe Voice and iMovie. We’re also incorporating them in our specialist program where kids are designing using multimedia tools. They’re making videos and graphics and we’re now looking at getting our kids to develop infographics through the use of the iPad as well. So the one tool is being used in lots of different ways.
If you could visit another country to study their use of ICT in education, where would it be and why?
That’s an interesting question (laughs). I was talking to staff yesterday about an ICT conference that we attended last week and through the conversation we were talking about what ICT in education would look like in Japan. And I guess why that comes up is that Japan is a country that from the outside looking in seems to be leading in their use of ICT in industry. I guess we were talking about whether that translates to the classroom and that we’d be keen to see what learning looks like in Japanese classrooms and how it is used to support student learning.
What is the best IT-related PD workshop/session you’ve attended and why?
Back in 2009 I was involved in the Department of Education’s ‘Games Based Learning Trial’. Within that we had access to 12 months of ongoing PD which allowed us as teachers to see the effect that gaming had on the classroom. From there it was networking with other schools and finding out what games they were using in the classroom, finding out what sorts of activities they were drawing out of the games and sharing that knowledge within that community of teachers that had similar approaches and views on ICT and how it can be used within the classroom.
From that PD we had exposure to work with a local-based coach who came in and supported what we were doing within the classroom but also supported us to see links within games that concepts could be drawn out and used in literacy and numeracy as well as the integrated curriculum.
What do you think a classroom will look like in the future?
I certainly see there being more of a shift away from paper and pen to digital devices, particularly touch screen devices. We’re starting to see, in terms of standardised testing, there’s a lot more trial around students being assessed with their ICT competencies through literacy and numeracy.
So given the way the department’s now thinking about the way students are being tested with these standardised tests, I think we’re going to see a shift away from paper and pen. I see a real focus on mobile learning, and whether that be through iPads and Netbooks, the designs of new schools are based around open plan learning, so the major focus I see will be around mobility and access to ICT, not having fixed resources in schools.
If you weren’t an educator, what would you like to be doing?
I certainly think I would be in the IT industry, given I’ve got a passion around games and how they’re used within the classroom. I think that I’d likely go down the gaming path, whether that’s actually being at a development level … one of the little projects that a colleague and I are working on is developing web-based applications that can be used within a school context. That’s something that we’re actively pursuing as a little side-venture for us. It’s not necessarily us being the developer ourselves but more bringing the educative ideas to the fore then working with developers.
What is the most common IT-related question you’re asked by staff at your school?
‘I can’t log in to this...’, ‘My access isn’t working’ ‘Youtube won’t work,’ and,’When are we getting iPads?’
And by students?
‘I’ve lost my password!’, ‘I haven’t charged my netbook, what do I do now?’
What are the school’s major ICT targets for 2014 and beyond this year?
Effective, purposeful and seamless use of ICT across the P-6 curriculum. Staff will continue to be coached with their use of ICT and how to use it effectively within the classroom. The focus on viewing, responding and creating multimodal texts in the reading and writing of the Australian Curriculum has seen a pedagogical shift in the way we incorporate ICT into writing. My coaching focus is on providing teachers and students with tools to effectively plan, compose and publish multimodal texts across a range of text types.
Cameron Black is ICT Leader at Epping Views Primary School in Victoria.